A Chattanooga Jewel

12:23 p.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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This last weekend I took my two youngest siblings on a short overnight trip up the Stevenson Branch Trail into the North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness. It is a remarkably untouched and pristine canyon that reaches back into the side of Signal Mountain/Walden's Ridge, which is part of the the Cumberland Plateau escarpment. It is located less than 20 minutes north of Downtown Chattanooga, TN.


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Here we took a short stop to wet our neck bandannas and grab a couple photos as this cascading creek, called Hogskin Branch. 

The trail is a bit heavily trodden for the first couple miles, but gets much less traveled after that. The trail starts out near the lower end of the gorge, and gains about 850ft in elevation in the first 2 miles.


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We stopped a little over a mile in at another nice spot below a waterfall to eat lunch.


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 I think this guy wanted some of my sandwich. Tough luck little buddy, I was hungry :)

Just past where we stopped for lunch there is an old coal mine that drives back into the mountain at the foot of the cap bluffs.  The trail then follows the base of the cliffs for another mile, before climbing a series of wood and rock stars to the top of the mountain. It then runs along the edge of the flat plateau for another 1.5 miles before tumbling back down into the canyon. The section of trail that descends back to the canyon isn't much of a trail, with no switchbacks, and no grading. It's more like the first person back there tripped and fell down the mountain side, and everyone's been taking the same route since. I think the Cumberland Trail Conservancy will be reworking that section in the near future. 

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This was our destination, we camped on the other side of this long, deep mountain pool. 


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After quickly pitching camp we ditched our packs a went for swim. Lordy! We were forgetting it was still only April, and weren't quite prepared for the frigid water!  Being that we were all hot and sweaty, it was shockingly cold at first but got used to it quickly. 


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The obligatory group shot :) 
After getting camp settled we went fishing until dark, as we had planned on fish for dinner. So it was either go catch some of go hungry!

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I enjoy fishing in mountain streams more that anywhere else. Just as it was getting dark I landed this beauty: a 2.5 lb Smallmouth Bass. 

We built a small fire from the abundant dead wood in the area and grilled the fish, roasted an onion, and steam baked some blueberry muffins.


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We slept in a bit, as it was quite late after we got everything cleaned up from our fish roast, but it was delightful just lying listening and watching the morning bring the sanctuary to life.

 
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My Brother went to get water from creek while I cooked up eggs, bagels, and leftover bass for breakfast. Fish right out of these streams is so sweet and mild it goes perfectly with breakfast. 


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The sister sketching, writing, and just enjoying the gorgeous spot. 


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a very friendly butterfly 


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There is a section of the creek with lots of these American Anoles. Though not exactly indigenous, they do not seem to be displacing the lizards that are, as I still saw numerous fence lizards and skinks. 


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I haven't looked this strange guy up yet, but they are in most cool water streams in this region. Their knobby foreheads are so bizarre. 


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Little man angling away :)


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Who wouldn't want to spend a day exploring and fishing these waters?


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Rock Bass are so cool with their striking red eyes. 


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It is hard to decide if I like catching Smallmouth or trout better, they are both wonderfully fun and just simply beautiful fish! 


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I was so excited for and proud of my little sister when she caught this beauty! She did it all herself, including cutting and setting the bait, catching, and landing him :) 


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Many of these streams are full of Green Eared Sunfish, a wonderfully cool panfish that fights like a fish twice their size. 


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The mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, and Honeysuckle were in bloom, and gave a wonderful fragrance to the already sweet air.


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My sister liked the flowers and decided to ornament her hair with them :) 


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We were having so much fun rock hopping and fishing that we let the day get away from us, and had to hurry on the four mile hike back out.  Though short, it was a great trip. 

12:48 p.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Excellent trip G! Wow you guys are quite the fishing team! Fish that fresh is in a taste class of it's own isn't it? Beautiful photos as always.

Very cool of you to take the young sibilngs like that.

Yeah as you mentioned , it's still a little early for the cold mountain water swimming but it won't be long...

 

Well Done!

4:41 p.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Most Excellent,

This is where I first started fishing mountain streams. After camping there with a friend I went back a couple weeks later with a fishing rod.

This was before there was a parking area, we just used the pull off past the parking area in the hairpin curve.

The little fish with the bumps on it's head is what I've always called a Nottyhead or Hornyhead Chub. They can tolerate warm or degraded water better than trout.

Your description on the descent down to the camp area is about right gave me a good laugh! Did you camp in the area with the Magnolias close to this descent, or walk along the stream another 20 minutes to the Camp with the waterfall? I couldn't tell for sure.

I'm glad you guys got to get out and have some fun, you are right the area is really cool.

Nice photos & makes me want to go back.

Mike G.

5:45 p.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice trip report, Gonzan! East Tn is so great!

7:32 p.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, Ashleigh. I agree, I like the region very much :)

10:01 a.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Trout,

I did some research on the knobby headed fish. It is indeed a Chub, though it is difficult to tell which one precisely, as a few of them have the distinctive bumps. I think this one is a River Chub, based on the coloration and larger size (there were some that were much larger). 

11:47 a.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Looks like you 3 had a really good time. Nice weather too. 

3:08 p.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

Thanks, Ashleigh. I agree, I like the region very much :)

 Great fotogs as usual.  Clean water and rocks---what else is there? 

Uh, take a headnet for the summer bugs and gnats and noseeums and the ticks are especially bad this year (warm March?) and of course the hemlocks are dead and falling and the pine beetle has eaten down the Virgina pines and the East TN valley has air the quality of Los Angeles making the Smokies the most polluted park in the country and there's hardly any silence left in the woods what with all the overhead jet flights and the screaming motorcycles on the surrounding roads.

Phew, had to get that out of my system.

3:20 p.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Haha! Feel better now, Tipi? 

;)

9:19 p.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

Trout,

I did some research on the knobby headed fish. It is indeed a Chub, though it is difficult to tell which one precisely, as a few of them have the distinctive bumps. I think this one is a River Chub, based on the coloration and larger size (there were some that were much larger). 

 Yep...I don't know exactly which one either. I just always heard it called a Notty Head.

I have also heard it called a Stoneroller, but I was thinking that was a completely different fish, maybe not.

I would like to know for sure....some reading for me to do I guess.

The photos of the fish, toad, flowers, lizard, etc. were all great!

I was happy to see photos of the place!

Mike G.

August 28, 2014
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