May 9, 2010 in Other by amylaree

So we haven’t been able to get out and hike lately. After our Virgin Falls hike, we spent the next weekend at Jazz Fest in New Orleans with the full intention of welcoming May a quality hike during the first weekend.  Mother Nature, however, had other plans.

nashville flood

Downtown Nashville – Flood, May 3 2010

The weekend of May 1 – 2, Nashville was hit with the worst rains in recorded history. In just two days our town received 13″ of rain – 28% of its annual rainfall total. IN TWO DAYS.  The Corps of Engineers has dubbed it a 500 year flood. Urban creek flooding lead to major river flooding and it all resulted in thousands upon thousands of people losing their homes. Below are photos I’ve gathered from several sources to show what’s kept us off the trails.

Nashville Flood

Note the 12 Severe Storm Warnings.

nashville flood - paragon mills

View from Nate’s house on day 1 of the rains.

Nashville Flood

Down the block from Nate’s place.

Opry House Flooded

Landmarks like the Opry House were hit hard…

Home destroyed in Nashville

…alongside homes throughout the region.

A good friend, and tireless volunteer since flood relief efforts began, wrote this beautiful piece about what she’s seen helping with Nashville flood relief.

Here is a piece made by another flood volunteer in East Nashville.  It’s a little lengthy, but tells the story of how a neighborhood has coped with so much devastation.

The response of both the city, state and FEMA has been quick and well received, and with equal measure, the people of Tennessee are living up to their “Volunteer State” nickname.  If you have the urge to help with relief efforts, below are 3 organizations that are actively involved in relief efforts and could use the support:

Virgin Falls

April 18, 2010 in Tennessee Hiking Trails by amylaree

Virgin Falls Warning Sign

2 Exclamation Points (!!)

Virgin Falls is one of the places Nate had mentioned time and time again that we needed to check out.  So on this sunny, 70 degree Sunday, we headed to East Tennessee.

At over 90 miles outside of Nashville and a hike that took us nearly 4 hours to complete, Virgin Falls is definitely a day-long trek, but worth every mile of the drive… and hike.

  1. Scenery:  3.5
  2. Difficulty:  4.0
  3. Length:  8 miles
  4. Dog Friendliness: 2.0
  5. Convenience:  1
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 2.5

Woodlands at Virgin Falls

Trailhead:  35.854153  -85.282166

Scenery (3.5 out of 5.0):  Fully shaded with tall, slender trees, the hike down to Virgin Falls was lush with bright green flowers and all sorts of vegetation that was finally in bloom from a long, cold winter.  For the first part of the trail, the path stayed pretty true to the following the creek that leads to Big Laurel Cave.  Small falls dropped into quiet pools of water that made for a nice chance to rest (especially on the return hike) on one of the big boulders that populate the landscape and creekside.

While Virgin Falls may be the titled attraction, there were a couple of other impressive falls that we encountered.  My favorite by far was the first one at Big Laurel Falls.  Here, the creek tumbles probably 20 – 30′ into Big Laurel Cave, which was beautiful with so many different layers of rock.  At Big Laurel Falls, the creek disappears into a small hole at the back of the cave funneling itself to a mystery location in the cave system.

We were fortunate to hike on a day when Virgin Falls was running with plenty of water.  The water rushes out from underground at the top of a bluff and plunges into a 110 foot drop into a small, boulder-strewn cove.   The cove is lined with the bluff, rocks and trees that blend together into a beautiful scene that is matched with the rumble of the falls.

Big Laurel Falls from the inside out

Big Laurel Falls – From the inside out

Virgin Falls - Side View

Virgin Falls

View from Base of Virgin Falls

View from Base of Virgin Falls

Difficulty (4.0 out of 5.0):  As the sign at the beginning of the hike points out, the hike to Virgin Falls is strenuous.  Correction… the hike to Virgin Falls is a little tiring, the 4 mile hike BACK to the trail head is pretty strenuous.  The dirt path is strewn with rocks and tree root systems throughout, which requires keeping a keen eye on your footing.  I learned this the hard way when I took a minor tumble on the return hike which left my ankle a little sore, but certainly encouraged me to keep an eye on my steps.

Pink azalea in bloom at Virgin Falls

Pink azalea in bloom

Length:  8 miles

Dog Friendliness (2.0 out of 5.0):  Unsure of how well he’d handle the warmth of the day and the length of the hike, we left Ezra at home on this hike, which we both agreed was a good idea after completing the trail.  The path can frequently be narrow and winding.  When the creek disappears at Big Laurel Falls, there aren’t any other natural water options for drinking or cooling off until you reach Virgin Falls, and even then the water disappears into another cave so there’s just the spray of the falls for a pup to cool down in.  We saw a few dogs on the trail that seemed just fine, but if we return to Virgin Falls, we’ll likely still keep the pooch at home.

Creative use of balancing line

Creative use of balance line

Convenience (1.0 out of 5.0):  Over 90 miles away and poorly marked from the highway out of Sparta, Virgin Falls is not the easiest place to find, but certainly worth making a few wrong turns while heading out there.

Directional Rocks at Virgin Falls

Which Way?

Bonus Funtimes (2.5 out of 5.0):  If you’re ready to put on your explorer’s hat, this area is the place for you.  With several spots to camp, including at the base of Big Laurel Falls and Virgin Falls, this area is perfect for anyone wanting to backpack in for a night or two.

If you’re to camp for a day or two, there’s plenty of opportunity to explore Big Laurel Cave and Sheep Cave (I think that’s what it’s called).  There are also hikes out the a scenic overview (which we didn’t take) as well as a hike to Polly Branch Falls nearby.

Inside Laurel Cave

Inside Big Laurel Cave

For more images from Virgin Falls, check out the Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness group on Flickr.


This hike and others found in Hiking Tennessee, get your own copy now from amazon.com.

Perimeter Trail

April 4, 2010 in Tennessee Hiking Trails by amylaree


Creekside daffodils

This balmy Easter Sunday was the perfect day for venturing out to the Perimeter Trail at Bowie Park in Fairview.  With a high in the upper 70s and spring starting to burst into color throughout the state, we opted for a nice 5 mile hike, which allowed us plenty of time to enjoy the day… and for me to stumble into my first sunburn of 2010.

  1. Scenery:  2.0
  2. Difficulty:  1.5
  3. Length:  5 miles
  4. Dog Friendliness: 4.5
  5. Convenience:  2
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 2
Redbuds in bloom

Redbuds blooming

Scenery (2.0 out of 5.0):  At times, this trail was quite reminiscent of Montgomery Bell’s North Loop, with plenty of pine vegetation and a nice mix of trees and quiet little hollows.  While similar in some regards, this trail lacked the impressive hills and valleys of MB’s North Loop.  The trail and also kept path with some big TVA power lines that cut swathes through the terrain.  What was particularly refreshing about this trail were the burgeoning hints of spring.  Click on the thumbnail to the right for a great shot of the redbuds in bloom.

There were also several nice creeks that broke up the hike and changed up the scenery with impressive rockwalls paired with the sound of clear, shallow streams flowing.

Perimeter Signage

Perimeter Trail

Difficulty (1.5 out of 5.0):  Aside from a couple of moderate climbs, this trail was easy and enjoyable.

Length: 5 miles

Convenience (2.0 out of 5.0):  Although easy to get to with well-marked signs, the 45 minute drive made this hike more out of the way than many others we’ve found near Nashville.

Ezra cooling down

Dog Friendliness (4.5 out of 5.0):  Just as this trail turned out to be pretty easily for Nate and me, Ezra rocked the trail like an ace trail master.

The first part of the trail had very little shade, which caused him to heat up a little early on, but once we entered the more canopied areas, he was in territory marking heaven.  As a dog that would rather lounge outside in 20 degree weather than swelter in 75 degree “heat,” he was especially keen to take advantage of the well-placed creeks and took plenty of time to soak himself for a few cool downs in the streams.

Creative Picnic Signage

Bonus Funtimes (2.0 out of 5.0):  Bowie Park reminded me in some ways of Shelby Park in East Nashville, except with a playground that puts just about anything that’s not in Disneyland to shame.  The park, in which the trail begins and ends, is dotted with a few nice sized ponds.

We also had our choice of shaded picnic tables to enjoy our Easter Dinner, a holiday-friendly ham & cheese sandwich feast.   It was this park area that garnered the trail our first “family friendly” categorization.   The park was very well kept and there were families of all shapes and sizes enjoying the playground, ponds and picnic areas.

Hall Cemetery

Hall Cemetery

We also passed by a small bit of history while on the trail, a small cemetery that seems to have been there the better part of the last two centuries.  The cemetery is called Hall Cemetery and was renovated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans… although I’m not sure what all the renovation entailed, seeing as that all but one of the gravestones were unmarked, it was a peaceful spot.

Purple Flower groundcover

Fields of color.

Bradford Pear in bloom.

Bradford Pear in bloom.









This hike and others found in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Nashville, get your own copy now from amazon.com.

Paw Paw Trail at Fall Creek Falls

March 21, 2010 in Tennessee Hiking Trails by amylaree

Fall Creek Falls Cascades

Fall Creek Falls will always have a special place in my heart for two reasons: first, it was the first hiking excursion Nate took me on and second, it was the site of Ezra’s Epic Suspension Bridge Freakout.

Fall Creek Falls was one of the first places I heard of when I moved to Tennessee.  The redundancy of the name had always charmed me, but never enough venture to it on my own.  So, on a warm September day, Nate took Ezra and me on our inaugural outdoorsy adventure.

Fall Creek Falls Bluffs

  1. Scenery: 3.5
  2. Difficulty: 1.5
  3. Distance: 2.6 miles
  4. Convenience: 1.5
  5. Dog Friendliness: 2.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 4.0

Scenery (3.5 out of 5):  We started out the day at the Base of Fall Creek Falls trail, which allowed Ezra to cool himself from 2 exhausting hours of careening his head out the window.  While I can’t speak to the views of the other trails (the trails on the other side of the bridge that Ezra dare not cross), the Paw Paw Trail did not disappoint.

Paw Paw Trail at Fall Creek Falls

Paw Paw Trail

While we were there in very late summer, a few trees had begun to change, but for the most part, the trail was generously shaded with bright green leaves.  Those leaves gave way for plenty of beautiful views of Cane Creek Gorge.  The views of the gorge were very impressive, as were the main falls.  However, you may want to check with the park office before heading out to FCF.  The weekend we were there the waterfalls were flowing at more of a roaring tumble rather than an massive fall.  Despite not seeing its full waterfalling glory, it still made for plenty of impressive views.

Difficulty (1.5 out of 5):  The Paw Paw trail provided great scenery while only requiring a modest amount of effort.

Distance: 2.6 miles

Convenience (1.5 out of 5): At 100 miles+ from Nashville, plan an entire day for this outing.

fall creek falls bridge

Ezra’s “Suspension Bridge of Terror”

Dog Friendliness (2.0 out of 5):  Ezra made this first outing “memorable.”  At 90 lbs and with a serious aversion to getting sprayed by water, Ezra can be a force to be reckoned when he so chooses.  Thankfully, he was keen on wading around in the calm pools near the base of the small falls.  That enthusiasm wore off a bit when Nate tried to get him within spray range of the falls and completely evaporated when we headed up to the bridge to begin our hike.

Starting across the mostly steady suspension bridge, Ezra did quite well, but with each step he unexpectedly became more apprehensive.  Views of the river peeking through the bridge slats coupled with a slight sway became his undoing.  At about the midpoint, he beared down, planted all fours and refused to take another step forward. Nate tried to coax him along only to have Ezra’s collar pop completely off his neck three times.

fall creek falls ezra

It was a taxing day for Ezra O.

At this point we realized crossing the bridge was a lost cause, and turned around.  His paws were unsteady, but Ezra was determined to get back.  Little did we realize, but his melt down caused a bit of a traffic back-up for other park visitors who needed to cross the bridge.  Thankfully, everyone seemed to find the 90 lbs pup’s bridge freakout amusing and he received a big round of applause once all fours returned to solid land.

Since we couldn’t cross to the trails on the other side of the river, we headed up and caught the Paw Paw Trail.

Bonus Funtimes: If you’re down with pulled pork, there’s a great BBQ stand on the highway into the park.  As one of the most popular state parks in Tennessee, there are plenty of swimming holes and camping spot galore within the park grounds.  Additionally, we took the scenic route back to Nashville and made a stop in Cookeville for delicious Mama Rosa’s.  I highly recommend the spinach and garlic calzone.

me at fall creek falls

I fared much better than Ezra.

(note: didn’t have my camera on this one, most pics are from online sources like this great FCF photostream on Flickr.)






For other hikes like this one, check out Hiking Tennessee, get your own copy now from amazon.com.

Warner Woods Trail & Mill Creek Greenway

March 21, 2010 in Tennessee Hiking Trails by amylaree


Rain, rain go away

Rain, rain go away.

With the weather decidedly uncooperative today, I’ll use this Sunday indoors to catch up on a few quick hikes we’ve did before I started the blog.

Warner Woods Trail at Percy Warner Park

  1. Scenery: 3.0
  2. Difficulty: 2.5
  3. Distance: 2.5
  4. Convenience: 5.0
  5. Dog Friendliness: 5.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 1.5

We tried out Warner Woods Trail on a sunny, but bitterly cold day (21° that day) on New Year’s weekend.  It proved to be a trail worth bundling up for. As I’m learning, Percy Warner & Edwin Warner Parks in west Nashville are full of plenty of trails for humans & horses.  While not very long, a few solid hills caused  both of us to break a sweat, despite the cold.  This was a very pretty trail, kind of hard to believe such an escape from Nashville is within the city limits.  However, even on this wintry day, there were several runners, hikers & dogs on the trail, so if you’re looking to get away from people, this is probably not the trial for you.  Aside form hiking or running, there doesn’t seem to be much else going on out here, but there were several picnic tables, so pack a lunch and enjoy the afternoon.


  1. Scenery: 1.5
  2. Difficulty: 1.0
  3. Distance: 2.6
  4. Convenience: 5.0
  5. Dog Friendliness: 5.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 1.0

Mill Creek Greenway was a pretty standard Nashville greenway: paved & easy. This trail is a quick drive from Nate’s place, along I-24 just north of Antioch. We tried out this trail on a snowy January day and it provided a nice excursion from the house, but with views of the interstate & part of the pathway behind a school bus parking lot, it wasn’t memorable enough to make us eager to revisit.  If you’re a foodie, there are plenty of rustic and authentic looking Chinese & Mexican food restaurants in the area.


This hike and others found in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Nashville, get your own copy now from amazon.com.