Thursday, February 22, 2024

Big Ridge State Park, 2-21-2023: A Real Hike This Time (published 2-22-2024; article #457)


I had an itch. I had to scratch it.” That's what I'd told Mrs. Appalachian Irishman, when I'd called her, at 4:32 PM, yesterday. We'd need to have baked taters, not mashed taters, with our supper. My truck and I were fixin' to head home, from Big Ridge State Park. Normally, about 4:30 PM, I start peeling taters, for my wife to mash, once she's home.

Tuesday's article -- with the embedded Appalachian Irishman - Podcast (YouTube) episode -- was about my walk down memory lane, last Sunday afternoon, at Big Ridge State Park. I'd picked up a paper copy of the the “Park Map Brochure,” which shows the various trails and the distance, of each trail. That started the itch. I wanted to explore those trails! Yesterday, I scratched that itch! I explored trails!

This article, as the 64th entry, in the “hiking” topic section, encapsulates yesterday's real hike, at Big Ridge State Park! My 2006 Frontier and I took the longer route (Highway 441 north, to Norris, then east, on Highway 61). The last five miles, on Highway 61, in Union County, are curvy. It's far less curvy than the shorter route, mentioned in Tuesday's article. Having left the house, at 12:30 PM, we arrived at the park, at 1:13 PM.

The hike in and up, including four photographs, is followed by the hike out and down, with four photographs. The total time, hiking, was three hours and eight minutes, from 1:20 to 4:28 PM. I hiked at least 7.8 total miles. The weather was mostly sunny, with a light breeze. The temperature rose, from the mid 50's Fahrenheit, to the mid 60s. I'm glad that my upper layers were only a T-shirt and a short-sleeve shirt.

The Hike In & Up, with Four Photographs

After parking my truck, I started hiking in, at 1:20 PM, on the Lake Trail. (It begins, just off a paved road, behind the visitor center, and heads north.) I hiked the first six-tenths of a mile, which led to a foot bridge that spans a lake inlet. That segment was fairly easy, with gentle ups, downs, and curves. Much of the trail offers views of Norris Lake.

Having crossed the foot bridge, I turned left (or west), onto the Dark Hollow Trail West, for a two-mile hike. (From that trail intersection, the Lake Trail continues east, about 1.2 miles, and comes out, near the Group Camp, on a paved road.) The first part of the Dark Hollow Trail West winds northwest, offering views of Norris Lake. I met one couple, about my age, as they were hiking out. We conversed briefly and pleasantly. Later, the main part of the trail turns northeast, just below several ridge lines. The trail is fairly level. I stepped across a few narrow mountain streams.

On October 4, 2008, my wife, our niece (age 20, at the time), our niece's female friend, and I overnight camped, at a backwoods campsite, on the Dark Hollow Trail West. The next two photographs show that campsite. I found it. A foot bridge crosses a creek, just before the campsite.

I took the above photograph, looking northwest, at 2:11 PM. Two minutes later, the next photograph shows the campsite, from the opposite direction.

Back in 2008, we'd pitched two tents, behind that fire pit area. I'd fixed camp stew, as I call it. We ate well, and we enjoyed a wonderful camping experience! I wouldn't mind camping there again.

Shortly after taking the two previous photographs, I met a younger man, who was hiking out. We conversed briefly. I didn't meet any other hikers, during the rest of the hike.

Along the trail, I saw where a few homesteads had stood, a century or more ago. The rock foundations, of houses, were still visible. This trail is long but relatively easy. I enjoyed the few instances, where the uphill climb increased my heart rate a little! I saw some human and canine tracks, in the few muddy areas.

The last section of the trail is steeper, leading north and up the ridge. At 2:45 PM, I took the following photograph.

The two-mile Dark Hollow Trail West was behind and below me. I turned left, or northwest, to continue onto the Big Valley Trail, which is 0.45 miles long, at this segment. The trail is steeper, as it heads up, to the ridgeline. I enjoyed the workout!

Having reached the intersection, I turned left, continuing northwest, onto the Indian Rock Trail. It's a 2.4-mile loop trail. I hiked up the 1.3-mile west section, which turns northeast, to reach the ridge top. At 3:03 PM, I took the following photograph, while on that ridge top.

I enjoyed the view, of Norris Lake, in the background. Due to the time of day, I decided to hike down and out.

The Hike Out & Down, with Four Photographs

I hiked back down (southwest and south), on the same 1.3-mile section, of the Indian Rock Trail, and then the 0.45 segment, of the Big Valley Trail. I stayed on the Big Valley Trail and passed where it intersects, with the Dark Hollow Trail West (up which I'd hiked).

I took the following photograph, at 3:45 PM. I'd already hiked down the first, 0.75-mile segment, of the Big Valley Trail.

At that juncture, the trail intersects, with the 1.25-mile Ghost House Loop Trail. I didn't see or hear any ghosts, in that area! I only saw and stepped around a few muddy spots, on the trail. The smell of the nearby pine trees was pleasant.

Having hiked down the final 0.70 miles, of the Big Valley Trail, I took the following photograph, at 4:04 PM.

A paved park road, which isn't visible, is behind me. I'd returned to modern civilization. During my hike, I'd speculated how folks, who'd lived in the area, a century or so ago, must have lived. I wondered why they'd chosen such remote locations. Old cemeteries mark the passing, of some of those people.

After a brief visit, to an outdoor urinal (behind where a large pine tree had fallen), I took the next photograph, as proof of civilization, at 4:09 PM. The view looks southwest.

The mailbox is for the park ranger's house, which is up that paved driveway. The Norton Gristmill is visible, at the distance, in the left of the image.

Wanting a closer shot of that mill, I trekked the distance. Four minutes, after the previous image, I took the following close up photograph, of the mill.

This is a replica of the Norton Gristmill. As the 2/20/2024 article states, “The original mill was built in 1825 and operated until 1930, three years before TVA started construction, on the nearby Norris Dam.” Before taking the photograph, I asked a man, who had been standing at the entrance, if anyone was inside, selling corn meal. He laughed and said no.

I decided to hike, back to my truck, on the Old Mill Trail, which starts beside the mill. It's a 0.25-mile trail that winds below the paved road. Leaving that trail, I still had to walk past the cabins and the beach area, to reach my truck.


Just after my truck and I had crossed the Anderson County line, back into Knox County, the odometer reached 190,000 miles exactly! Arriving back home, at 5:27 PM, supper was almost ready. The smell of baked taters welcomed me, into the kitchen.

Early into the hike, I felt my “bionic” (surgically repaired) right foot, as it “talked to me.” I think that the left side of that foot, around the ankle, must be undergoing further recovery. Early this morning, once out of bed, standing, with that foot on the floor, was a “wonderful” experience. As the day continued, the repaired right foot step began to return to it's “normal.”

I'm thankful, to the Good Lord, that I am still able to hike. Hiking at least 7.8 miles, on five trails, was a real hike, at Big Ridge State Park!

Today, the clouds and strong wind should bring rain, sometime this evening. Yesterday, I'd noticed the light clouds forming and felt the light to moderate wind. I'd figured that rain was coming, in a day or two.

My feet still need to discover a few other trails, or sections of trails. Who wants to hike Big Ridge State Park, with me, the next time? I'm awaiting at least one reply.

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