Have you ever felt like you could crawl out of your skin, so antsy that sitting still simply is not an option? I woke up that way yesterday, but it was more than that. It was like an internal desperation to “get away,” to distract myself from whatever it was I was feeling. I have no label for this feeling except uncomfortable. The song “Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz kept running through my mind.
Rather impulsively, I decided to go for a drive, a long drive. I ended up at a park I’ve never explored, Savage Gulf State Natural Area, in Monteagle, Tennessee. It’s huge, 15,590 acres, with 50 miles of hiking trails according to tn.gov. Apparently, there are several entrances to different areas of the park. The first stop, off of TN-399 W, felt a little creepy. I was the only one there, kind of creepy, not to mention the restroom had a definite “Twin Peaks” feel. That thought made me laugh. I’m wishing, now, I had taken a photo of that restroom. Next time.
The trailhead at this abandoned ranger station (I say abandoned, but I’m sure it was simply closed for the day) warned of high bluffs and required signing-in before hiking. When it comes to hiking, I have absolutely no problem hiking by myself. Maybe that’s not always wise, especially on the more treacherous trails I’ve hiked alone; but I refuse to give in to any fear that restricts my love for nature or need for sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. Often, I hike for the spiritual or emotional release that only time alone can offer. However, something felt “off” about this spot; so I trusted my intuition and chose not to hike there. I didn’t feel safe. Also, it was already kind of late in the afternoon; and I wanted to check out a couple of other areas on the other side of the gorge.
Like so many parks in this area, there were a number of waterfalls, according to the trail map. On the other side of the park, off of Highway 56 (a very curvy, yet FUN road to drive!), I noticed a much shorter trail on the map to Greeter Falls. After arriving at the parking area, again — I was the only one there, I gave myself a few moments to get a feel for this spot.
I felt comfortable enough to hike the entire 1 mile loop. Oh, my goodness, I am so glad I did! It was positively gorgeous!
Greeter Falls, Savage Gulf State Natural Area
Boardtree Falls, Savage Gulf State Natural Area
According to the pamphlet,
Greeter Falls Loop Trail: This loop leads to three waterfalls, numerous bluffs, and two historic sites. Terrain is very rocky under the bluffs and easy above. (0.8 miles)
I didn’t hike the .5 miles out to Blue Hole which was off the main path. I’m wondering if Blue Hole was the 3rd waterfall because I only saw Greeter Falls and Boardtree Falls. I also only saw one of the two historic sites, what looked like ruins of an old structure, possibly a house. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it, now; and I failed to get a decent photo.
The only part of this particular trail that gave me pause for concern was the spiral staircase leading down to the base of the waterfall. Don’t get me wrong, it was good and sturdy, but nerve wrecking for someone with a fear of heights. I hugged that center pole the entire way up and down!
I would describe much of the Greeter Falls Loop Trail as a moderate hike as a bit of maneuvering over rocks is necessary between Greeter Falls and Boardtree Falls.
There were also some slick spots due to mud (wear old shoes). We’ve had a lot of rain lately, so it was super muddy.
I regret not having more time to spend out there. I wanted to be sure I returned to the parking lot long before sunset, though. I made the hike pretty quick, in about 45 minutes, stopping only to admire each waterfall for about 5 minutes or so each. The path is marked with white reflectors (some may have been blue) which turned into a game of “Where’s Waldo?” Had it not been for those markers I probably would have turned back a couple of times because it’s easy to lose sight of the trail given the rugged terrain.
I also kind of regret not taking the time to stop by Stone Door, “a 10 ft. wide by 100 ft. deep crack, forming from the top of the escarpment into the gorge below.” [Source: Savage Gulf] There just wasn’t enough time yesterday. It’ll be nice to have that as a surprise for next time, though. I really want David to see this park; so hopefully, we can plan a day trip together soon to explore Savage Gulf a bit more.
Special note should you decide to visit this park: wear bug repellant. David pulled a tick out of my hair early this morning before bed. I hate it when I bring home hitchhikers! ;) Next time, I’ll wear my hair up with a baseball cap.