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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
a very friendly butterfly
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.
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.
Little man angling away :)
Who wouldn't want to spend a day exploring and fishing these waters?
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 :)
The mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, and Honeysuckle were in bloom, and gave a wonderful fragrance to the already sweet air.
My sister liked the flowers and decided to ornament her hair with them :)