I went hiking yesterday with the Nashville Hiking Meetup to the Laurel-Snow Pockett Wilderness in Dayton, TN. I hiked part of this trail a year ago in the spring, but we took the Laurel Falls fork. Today we tackled the Snow Falls section.
I rode down with Steve and Mike. I don't know if it was just because it was early, but our car was very quiet on the ride down. I've done a few trails with Mike before, but Steve is fairly new to the group.
We arrived a little before 10:00 a.m. at the trailhead. We were waiting on a couple people, so we took a trail to see the coke oven remnants from the area's mining days. This was a very neat side trail, only about 1/2 a mile round-trip. The trees and some of the coke ovens are completely covered in kudzu. (Did you know that it didn't just spread through the South on its own? The CCC were actually instructed to plant it during the Great Depression to prevent erosion!) The coke ovens worked by heating the coal with limited oxygen to remove the bitumen and produce coke, which was almost pure carbon. The coke was sold and used in iron-smelting. The coke ovens are still fairly intact, and the slag can still be found along the ground in the area.
To get to Snow Falls, you start on the main trail. The first part of the trail is fairly flat and easy and parallels Richland Creek. There are several remnants of walls, railroad, and an oxygen vent to the mine along the way. You will come to two forks, the first of which is marked by a small wooded sign saying that the Old Dayton Reservoir is straight ahead. Take a right here, and the climbing starts. Eventually you will come to an area where there are orange ties on a couple trees. This is where it gets confusing. All the trails are marked with white blazes. The distinguisher between the two trails is that the Laurel Falls trail has orange ties in addition to the white blazes.
The Snow Falls trail (9 miles) is further than the Laurel Falls trail (6 miles). There is one point where there is a 150 ft. metal bridge to cross. The trail wasn't too hard, but I had to take it a little slower than the group I was with. I like to take my time and look around. We make it up to the top of the ridge and stopped for lunch at Buzzard Point or Dunn Overlook. We visited both, so I'm not sure which was which. The heat index at this point was 107 degrees! This is why I don't hike in summer!
After lunch the rain started and continued until we reached Snow Falls. Most of the group climbed down to the top of the falls, but I stayed up top to be able to see the waterfall. Snow Falls isn't as tall as Laurel, but it is wider. There are times when there isn't enough water for it to be running, but today it was luckily.
The hike back took a lot less time, but that usually happens when you're going downhill! We debated stopping for a swim or hiking up to Laurel, but it had been a long day and now the rain was turning into steam. We made it back to the cars around 4:30 or so.
On the way home, we stopped at Crust in Red Bank for pizza. I must say, pizza really hits the spot after a long day of hiking! Kelly said his pedometer or GPS said we went 11.9 miles (the listing on the hiking group website said 6-8 miles)! On the drive home, contruction crews were resurfacing I-24 near Manchester, so our drive home took an extra hour.
I'm really glad I did this hike as a pre-hike for my church's hiking group. The area is so beautiful!