Lakeside Trail at Hamilton Creek Park
Every month we try to do a variety of hikes for the Hendersonville First United Methodist Church Hiking Group. Some are close by, some require driving an hour or more, some are paved, some are rocky, some are easy, and some are more challenging. This month we hiked to Laurel Falls on Labor Day for our strenuous hike and to Hamilton Creek Park for our easy, local hike.
Whenever I lead a hike, I like to go scope it out ahead of time. I want to make sure my directions are correct, that I know the proper path, and if it's a loop, which direction we should take. Since this trail is first and foremost a mountain bike trail, I also wanted to make sure we wouldn't be run over!
I went out to the park yesterday to answer these questions. Hamilton Creek Park is in the "Priest Lake" area of Nashville and sits on the shores of J. Percy Priest Lake (opposite side from Long Hunter which I wrote about last time). It had been raining earlier in the day, so there weren't any bikers in sight. Since the trail is only two miles, and is in a public park, I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to go by myself (YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TAKE A BUDDY!).
I brought with me Johnny Malloy's 60 Hikes within 60 Miles:Nashville. Johnny is a member of my other hiking group, the Nashville Hiking Meetup, and he is generally right on the money with his descriptions. The signs said to go right, but I thought I would follow Johnny's advice and go left. I figured I would be able to see any bikes headed my way. Bad decision...
The trail was very nice and not too muddy at first. It winds over rocks and through the trees. At one point, the trail emerged from the forest for a peek at the lake. There were a few people fishing there, and I could see a building off to my left across a field. I followed the trail back into the woods and continued along. I started seeing arrows pointing in the direction from which I came, so I did the opposite. Eventually I came to the shores of the lake again and completely lost my trail. I have a pretty good sense of direction, so I wasn't too worried. I knew if I had to that I could follow the lakeshore to get back to my car. I retraced my steps and found the trail. I looked for trail blazes along the way, but they were just orange ties and most of them had been broken off the trees and were somewhere on the ground. I can walk the 3 miles at Radnor Lake in 45 min. so I figured I should be close to the beginning by this point. I walked around in circles for awhile (again trying to do opposite of the arrows), before deciding I should just start following the arrows and head back the way I came.
I followed the trail to another arrow, and began to see my mistake. In many of the places with arrows there were three possible directions to go. I followed the arrow, but quickly saw that I was on a different area of trail that I had never seen. Because of the rainy day we had, it was getting dark early. For once, I did not have my backpack with me, so no headlamp, emergency blanket, or snacks were in my possession. I also was heading away from the direction I was supposed to go to reach my car. I turned around yet again, and finally made it onto the right path. This time when I emerged from the woods at the lake, I started walking across the field. I had parked my car at the trailhead, which was also near a playground and restroom. I was hoping the building I saw was that restroom. Luckily it was! I was muddy, but I was back to my car safe and sound.
Today, we headed back out to Hamilton Creek Park. Again the rain was threatening to fall, but we didn't mind. We had six people in our group including 8 month-old twins. This time we followed the signs. The babies were very good an babbled happily as we walked along. They eventually fell asleep to the rocking motion of our gait and the sound of rain trickling through the forest leaves. We only did half the trail and took the cutoff back to the beginning. We made it back to the cars just as the rain came pouring down in buckets. We all think the trail is longer than the book says! It was a much more pleasant experience than yesterday's.