Sunday, January 4, 2009

Foggy hike to Piney Falls

On Jan. 3, we took our son Curtis and his girlfriend Jeanie to Piney Falls State Natural Area in Spring City. It was a very "iffy" day, we drove through rain showers off and on most of the way down there. The fog was quite thick up on the plateau, so we didn't have any views of the valley as we drove up Hwy. 68 to Grandview.

Upper Piney Falls is an 80-foot drop from the cliff above. It is possible to walk behind the falls on the hiking trail, but be prepared to get a little damp and muddy. The falls can be viewed from the top too. Since there are no safety rails, this is not a good trail to take small children.

Click here to see a movie of Upper Piney Falls

We saw a splash of color on the ground with these pretty red Wintergreen berries. If you crush the leaves, they have a pleasant spicy aroma. Being in the Heath Family, these plants like acidic soil and thrive in pine forests. There are also lots of Mountain Laurel bushes and Trailing Arbutus vines growing at the top of the falls.
We also saw a few patches of red Partridge Berries.

Lower Piney Falls is located a short way downstream. It requires a very steep hike to get down to it and then this is the best view that you can get. There is no trail to the base of this waterfall. I guess you could rappel down to it if you wanted to lug climbing gear back there.

The hike back up from the Lower Falls is STEEP!

The Cumberland Plateau is made up of ancient, thick deposits of sandstone. It is very common to see "rock houses" like this along the cliffsides. In many places there is dry sand or soil, a good place to look for "doodlebugs" (antlion larvae) or to wait out a rainstorm. The sandstone erodes in strange patterns in some areas beneath the cliff. These holes look like giant fossilized honeycombs! Birds, spiders and wasps often use these holes as nesting sites.

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