Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hiking Fiery Gizzard

Today we went for a classic Tennessee hike to Fiery Gizzard. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful hikes the state. I've seen many pretty hikes in Tennessee, but few that I would describe as breath-taking or beautiful. But this hike lived up to all the hype. Well, it did at first, anyway, and I'm sure the second half is nice when it's not pouring down rain.

The hike is close to 10 miles. It starts by following the Grundy Day Loop for .7 miles. As the day loop reaches a tangent with Fiery Gizzard Creek, we turned off onto the Fiery Gizzard Trail. The trail then follows the creek, which is at the bottom of a gorge. Now it was an incredibly humid day, and we were soaked quickly; the weather and the scenery were reminiscent of the Olympic Peninsula, except hotter. But the hemlock trees and the creek, which is just lousy with waterfalls, made up for the weather.

Eventually we began to ascend out of the creek, and at that point it rained briefly. Luckily it stopped again while we were making the arduous hike out - the first 4.4 miles of trail lose and gain 1800 feet. We finally reached Raven Point and rested for a while. Just as we left, it started raining again. It never really stopped the rest of the hike. It was hot enough that any kind of rain gear left you as wet as the rain would have made you, except with sweat. Luckily this meant no one was in danger of being chilled. From Raven Point, we turned around to return on the Dog Hole trail. (Fiery Gizzard keeps going for a total of 13 miles.) Dog Hole follows the rim of the gorge and is probably at its best in winter when the view is not obscured by leaves. As it was, it was mostly just wet. Eventually Dog Hole rejoins Fiery Gizzard for .8 miles, and we retraced our steps on the loop. Even I, with my completeness fetish, didn't argue for finishing the loop, which would be 1.3 miles instead of .7. We did stop at the last waterfall for one of us to take a dip, but I didn't really want to be any wetter. The hike ended with a whimper as we changed into dry clothes, only to feel just as wet as ever from all the humidity.

Fiery Gizzard is definitely a hike that would be worth doing again, perhaps in different seasons, or doing end-to-end with a shuttle.

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