Originally uploaded by TheTurducken.
Today we did a classic middle Tennessee hike, Virgin Falls. (Most of this entry will be about hiking. If you wish to not read about coffee and go straight to the hiking, skip the next paragraph.)
The plan was to meet east of town at 8:30, which means I had to leave Eaast Nashville before 8. I was out of coffee beans, and much to my horror neither Sweet 16 nor Bongo Java opened until 8. What is wrong with this city? In Seattle, everyone leaves town on the weekend to go hiking, cycling, kayaking, etc. And of course you need an espresso first thing, and you must get started well before 8, or you will never get back down Mt. Si before lunch. (The fact that I never made it down Mt. Si anywhere near noon gives you all the proof you need that I am a slacker.) I ended up drinking gas station coffee, which was a shame, since the rest of the party was running late and I would have had time to wait for the coffee shop to open.
Anyway, we eventually made it to the trailhead, along with every youth group and scouting troop in the neighborhood. Virgin Falls is one of those classic local hikes, considered one of the more scenic hikes as well as reasonably rugged. ("Local" means 1 1/2 hours away on the Cumberland Plateau.) It was on my to-do list and seemed like good training for Rainier, although the round-trip is two miles shorter and the entire thing is half as steep.
The biggest drawnback to the hike is that it is downhill on the leg out and uphill on the way back. The trail starts off following the Big Laurel Creek. The flowers, which we assumed were rhodies but were more probably laurels, what with the name of the creek, were in bloom. After .8 miles we reached the first waterfall; not long after we took a side trip to a set of two overlooks that is supposed to be a loop. However, the trail climbs up and then down some bluffs, and the second time involves a ladder - or it did, until the ladder fell off the bluff some time before today. Rather than leap to our deaths, we retraced our steps. About 2 miles in we reached the second waterfall. After that the excitement abates for a while until you come to Sheep Cave (which we did not visit) and Virgin Falls, pictured above, at 4 miles. Then you hike back, mostly uphill.
It was a good hike overall. And we'd hike to report that the sign saying it takes 6 to 8 hours is way overestimating how long the hike is - it only took us 5 hours and 54 minutes.