Friday, June 14, 2024

Wilderness Road State Park (Blog Hike #1011)

Trails: Indian Ridge, Wilderness, and Pioneer Trails
Hike Location: Wilderness Road State Park
Geographic Location: west of Ewing, VA (36.63364, -83.52508)
Length: 2.1 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Date Hiked: March 2024
Overview: A round-the-park loop passing several historical sites.
Park Information:
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:
Hike Video: (coming September 26, 2025)

Directions to the trailhead: From the intersection of US 25E and US 58 on the south side of Cumberland Gap, take US 58 east 8.5 miles to the state park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park, pay the entrance fee, and drive the main park road to the large picnic area parking lot at its end.  Park anywhere in this lot.

The hike: Located in extreme western Virginia less than 10 miles east of Cumberland Gap, cozy Wilderness Road State Park protects 327 acres along Daniel Boone's famous Wilderness Road.  The road was built in 1775, but 6 years earlier a man named Joseph Martin settled in this area and founded a town named Martin's Station.  The town was abandoned after only 6 months due to attacks from natives, but Martin returned in 1775 and built the only station on the Wilderness Road between the road's start in Virginia and Crab Orchard, Kentucky, a stretch of nearly 200 miles.  Martin's Station was later relocated from its original site, and the reconstructed settlement can be toured by park visitors today.
            After the area was fully settled, this land was farmed.  One farmstead on this site was the Karlan Mansion, which was built in 1878.  The park was established in 1993, and today the Karlan Mansion is one of the park's rentable structures.
            True to the park's name, the historical features take center stage at Wilderness Road State Park.  The park has limited amenities that include a playground, a primitive campground, and fishing on Indian Creek.  For hikers, the park features 4 trails including 6.4 miles of the Wilderness Trail, a multiuse trail that follows the historic Wilderness Road.  The hike described here is a true loop that uses part of the Wilderness Trail but also uses 2 of the park's shorter trails and passes some of the park's historic sites, thus offering a grand tour of the entire park.
Crossing Baileytown Road at trailhead
        From the picnic area parking lot, head east to cross paved and moderately trafficked Baileytown Road on a marked crosswalk.  A large sign at the top of some constructed stairs tells you that this is the Indian Ridge Trail, and it is marked with orange paint blazes.  The trail climbs gradually through young forest dominated by red cedar trees, but some redbuds were just starting to bloom when I hiked here in late March.
Climbing on Indian Ridge Trail
        At 0.25 miles, the Indian Ridge Trail forks to form its loop as a farm field comes into view across the park boundary to the left.  Continue straight to begin a clockwise journey around the Indian Ridge Trail's loop.  The gradual climb continues, and at 0.4 miles you reach this hike's highest point, which is only about 100 feet of elevation higher than the trailhead.  A pair of benches here provides rest for the weary.
Low rock outcrops
        The trail curves right to begin a winding downhill course through an area with many exposed rock outcrops.  0.6 miles into the hike, you reach an overgrown "overlook," which is really just a flat area with a fence and a few benches.  The rock outcrops uphill from the "overlook" are interesting to look at, but dense trees obstruct any view.
        Just past the "overlook," you reach a trail intersection.  The Indian Ridge Trail turns right, and you could go that way if you wanted a short 0.8 mile hike on just the Indian Ridge Trail.  This hike angles left to start following yellow blazes.  A short moderate descent brings you to the Wilderness Trail.  Turn right to begin heading west on the Wilderness Trail, which is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrian users.
Wilderness Trail
        As its name indicates, the Wilderness Trail follows the route of Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road, but this trail has absolutely no wilderness feel: it appears to be an old railroad grade.  Going this direction, you are going the same direction settlers would have traveled over 200 years ago to reach Kentucky.  Just past 1 mile, you cross the park road you drove in on.  Some 
daffodils in bloom greeted me here, and the forsythia looked like it was getting ready to bloom.
Buffalo pen
        At 1.3 miles, you reach the overlook for the park's buffalo pen.  The buffalo were clustered on the other side of the pen when I came here, and I got a better view of the buffalo on my drive out.  Just past the buffalo pen, you reach another trail intersection.  The wide and straight Wilderness Trail continues straight and exits the park, but you want to turn right to begin the blue-blazed Pioneer Trail, the final leg of this hike.
Re-created native camp
        The single-track dirt Pioneer Trail follows a winding course that alternates between young dense woods and open grassy fields.  The fields give great views northeast toward the mountains of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  At 1.45 miles, you pass a re-created native camp before climbing up and over a low wooded ridge.
Martin's Station
        1.8 miles into the hike, the rear of historic and relocated Martin's Station can be seen across the field to the right.  The station is hard to access from this trail, but you can tour it by making a quick side trip on your drive out after the hike.  At the next trail intersection, where the Pioneer Trail turns right, continue straight on an unmarked trail.  Crossing a creek on a wooden bridge returns you to the picnic area to complete the hike.  On your drive out, Martin's Station and the park's buffalo pen are worth quick stops to get the most out of your visit to Wilderness Road State Park.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park: Flint Creek Battle Site (Blog Hike #1010)

Trails: Rocky Fork and Flint Creek Trails
Hike Location: Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park
Geographic Location: southwest of Erwin, TN (36.04858, -82.55713)
Length: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Date Hiked: March 2024
Overview: A creekside out-and-back to a 1789 battle site.
Park Information:
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:
Hike Video: (coming June 6, 2025)

Directions to the trailhead: In eastern Tennessee, take I-26 to US 19W (exit 43).  Exit and go south on US 19W.  Drive US 19W south 1.1 miles to SR 352.  Continue straight to head west on SR 352.  Drive SR 352 southwest 4.8 miles to Rocky Fork Road and turn right on Rocky Fork Rd.; there is a sign for the park at this intersection.  Drive narrow and winding but paved Rocky Fork Rd. 0.9 miles to the gravel road that accesses the trailhead parking lot on the left.  Park in the gravel trailhead parking lot.  There is room for only about 15 cars here, and this lot can fill on nice weather weekends.

The hike: Established only in 2013, Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park is one of Tennessee's newest state parks.  The park is tucked deep in the east Tennessee mountains south of Johnson City, and it protects 2256 acres of classic mountain terrain.  The park was originally named just Rocky Fork State Park after the stream that drains the main part of the park, but in 2019 the name was lengthened to honor the state's former governor and long-serving Senator.
            Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park has very much a rustic wilderness feel with limited amenities.  Indeed, the park offers only fishing in Rocky Fork and 19 miles of trails, most of which are open only to hikers.  Many excellent hiking routes are possible, but I came here on my way to a business appointment in Knoxville.  Thus, I had to keep my hike short, so I chose to do this park's shortest and easiest hike that still leads to a destination of interest.  That destination of interest is the historic Flint Creek Battle Site, and I had a nice hike on a sunny early afternoon in late March.
Main trailhead
        From the rear of the parking lot, head west on the wide gravel trail that parallels Rocky Fork with the creek flowing against you on the left.  Marked with red plastic trail markers, this trail is called the Rocky Fork Trail, and it serves as a common entrance trail for most of the park's trail system.  The forest is a mixed broadleaf forest, but a dense layer of rhododendron populates the understory along the creek.  Some small cascades and waterfalls in Rocky Fork entertain you as you climb gradually.
Cascades in Rocky Fork
        After 0.6 miles of gradual climbing, the trail forks.  Both options look like continuations of the old road you have been hiking on, but they lead to two very different destinations.  The White Oak Flats Trail exits right to climb out of this ravine and eventually leads to adjacent Cherokee National Forest.  You want to turn left to begin the Flint Creek Trail, which is marked with green trail markers.
Hiking along Rocky Fork
        0.8 miles into the hike, the trail curves left to cross Rocky Fork on an excellent footbridge.  Rocky Fork is a classic clear water Appalachian stream, and the bridge gives a nice view from high above the stream.  Just after crossing the bridge, look to the left for what looks like an old homesite.
Old homesite
        Next you pass through a wet area to reach the Flint Creek Battle site, which is marked only with a small wooden sign.  Sometimes called the Flint Creek Massacre, the "battle" occurred in January 1789 when John Sevier led his militia to attack a group of Chickamauga that was camped here for the winter.  The attack was in retaliation to Chickamauga attacks on white settlements, but the surprise attack was brutal: 145 Chickamauga died, and the camp was destroyed.  Today only an open meadow sits here, so take some time to ponder the solemn history of this site.
Flint Creek Battle Site
        The Flint Creek Trail continues past the battle site, but I chose to turn around here and retrace my steps to the trailhead to complete my hike.  Continuing up the Flint Creek Trail and turning left on the Flint Mountain Trail would form a 7.7 mile loop with about 1400 feet of elevation gain.  Alternatively, the Whitehouse Cliffs Trail starts at the same parking lot and leads steeply uphill for 1 mile to a fantastic overlook of the entire Rocky Fork ravine.