Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bear Hollow Mountain, TN

One thing you can't get in South Florida is a mountain hike. You need to travel to the mountains for that. I grew up in the mountains and have trekked around the world so I know how to prepare and what to bring. Cameras - Check. New hiking boots broken in on bus tours of Norway and Iceland - Check. Food, water, knife, flashlight, Tylenol - Check. A hiking Partner, a sense of direction, good judgement - Left all that at home.

Through the miracle of GPS I arrived at my destination in one easy drive. Exiting the car was the last moment I had any sense of where I was till I got back to it. My goal was to see the Walls of Jericho. My poor trail map reading or memory skills took me elsewhere.

After driving into the mountains for about an hour, I came to a tiny sign and gravel parking lot in the woods where it looked like no one had been in weeks. I exited the car with backpack in hand, camera around my neck, and promptly stumbled on the uneven surface. A real eye opening start to the hike. The trip to the Walls of Jericho, a facinating geologic formation on the TN, AL border should have been about 8 miles round trip. If you would like to see pictures, you will have to do what I did and find them online. I didn't make it.

Past the sign you see above, and about 100 feet down the trail, you come to a tiny little plaque and a sheer 100 foot dropoff - No Guardrail! The only time I'm that close to a ten story drop in South Florida is looking thru a window. Taking a left turn I'm walking about 2 feet from a cliff edge. Who puts a trail in a place like this.

The drop is much larger than it appears here
According to the sign I did read, the trail falls about 800 feet during it's course of 4 miles. That means very little effort heading down but crawling back up was a challange. My new hiking boots were working perfectly but the benefits were substantially offset by my older, slightly heavier body. A constant fall of leaves totally oblitterated the trail which was marked by little metal diamonds nailed every so often to the trees. At one point, as I was huffing and puffing up a particuarly steep hill, I got off the trail and a sudden panic set in. For several minutes I was totally lost in the woods. Of course the trail markers are nailed to both sides of the tree with no real indication if you are heading the right direction. My iPhone has a compass which was useless as I didn't know which direction I had started. I soon realized I needed to go up, not down and made my way back up the trail.

Had I not gotten on the wrong trail near the beginning of this hike, I may have had a few more interesting photos but I took plenty which you can find on my Flickr page. This was a particularly difficult and potentially dangerous hike, especially for a Florida Guy. If you want to try it, go early and bring a friend. I pretty much walked non stop for 6 hours. I did take about 15 minutes to just sit and enjoy the forest sounds. There would be little chance getting back in the dark. This hike was worth every step and next time I will print a trail map Before I head out.


  1. AAAARRRRGGGHHH!! I'm a big fan of guardrails and warnings about cliff edges - when you're as clumsy as I am, you've got to be careful ... All the same, it sounds like fun!! Now ... if only we could see more than just those FIIIINE hiking boots!!!

  2. @Red - The rest of me was all red faced from huffing and puffing up the mountain side. Of course that could have been my first red picture for your blog.