This weekend was a scouting trip of sorts to check out accommodations for an extended group trip later on. Raven Point overlooks Grundy Forest, part of the South Cumberland State Park that we visited earlier in the year for the canoe trip (when I drowned my camera) and then recently returned to for our swim at Sycamore Falls. We had made special arrangements with a property owner that was able to provide us with a place to stay and also access to the trail-head on private property that leads directly to Raven Point. Many hiking and area guide books mention parking at this trail head and walking to nearby Anderson Falls, but as you can see by the signage below this is currently not allowed.
Our host has also constructed a campsite for those folks wishing to break up a long hiking trip along the Fiery Gizzard Trail with a stay overnight in the Adirondack-style shelter built from native poplar.
|The shelter with teenager for scale|
Anyone wishing to make arrangements with the land owner to either access the falls from the property or to overnight in the shelter can call the number below and ask for Carl. Feel free to tell him Matt and Esther sent you.
Further down the trail is the access point for Anderson falls, a 200+ step staircase that provides an improved route to the canyon floor.
|The stairs looking up...|
|...and looking down.|
The state park also maintains a primitive campsite .5 miles from the overlook at the intersection of several trails in a large clearing.
|Raven Point Campsite|
We walked to the point and enjoyed the view and got a bonus "encounter with nature" moment by way of a 2-foot timber rattler that has taken up residence at the point. In the picture below he was in a crack below the "L" shaped tree at the edge of the cliff. Ben had practically walked over the snake on his way to where he's sitting in the picture. Esther was moving in to get a picture of Ben when she spotted the very active rattler by sheer luck while navigating the crack in the rock. I knew what she had found instantly because she made the universal alert sound for being surprised by legless reptiles in the woods. Actually, it's more of a word than a sound. If you've nearly stepped on a snake, chances are you've said it too.
The rattler popped it's head up to check us out then started rattling his tail and retreated further into the crack. Of the handful of rattlers I've seen in the wild, this was the first that had actually rattled. We retreated and let the snake have the overlook.
Having not slept very well the night before we all headed back to make lunch and relax a little. Ben was plagued with a hacking cough the whole weekend and was a little worn out so he took a nap. (Chan left him a friend to keep watch.)
After a bite to eat we drove over to the South Cumberland Visitor Center to watch Ranger Park (again, that's his actual name) give a presentation on... snakes! He brought three corn snakes of three different color morphs. The largest is named Ruby and she's extremely patient and relaxed around small kids.
|Chan and Ruby|
|Timber rattler skin|
On our return we hit the trail again. Esther and the kids took it easy near the top of the trail and splashed around in the creek. I headed out further past the point to find a couple of geocaches. It was a couple of hours before sunset and as the temp began to drop, the fog rolled in. Pretty soon the trail looked like this photo in most places.
Also found some cool mushrooms along the trail.
I found Werner Point and a second overlook where I could look down into the canyon and really see where the fog was coming from.
Realizing that I had walked about an hour down the trail and that it was about another hour till sunset I quickly returned to met up Esther and the kids to watch the sun go down from Raven Point. The fog rapidly formed to block the sunset and eventually swallow up the point itself, but before it did I managed to get a few pics.
Oh, the rattler was still at the overlook; Esther checked. This time instead of rattling it hissed loudly as a warning. Luckily the snake's home was on the side opposite the setting sun.
Tracklog of my hike, with points of interest marked!