Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hike Up To Brushy Mountain

This is a nice place to stop and take a rest. After a good rain
this little stream opens up and further up a water fall forms.
Before the start of my new job I decided to hike up to Brushy Mountain on August 26th. This is a hike I have been wanting to do for some time because at the top there is actually somewhat of a view. With all of the vegetation in the Smoky Mountains views are actually hard to come by. I hopped on the Trillium Gap Trail at the Grotto Falls parking area and followed that up to the Brushy Mountain junction. This takes you up by the Grotto Falls that I have visited several times but have always turned around. In fact this is the point where most people turn around as the falls are one of the most popular hikes in the park. I have been wanting to continue on for some time now and finally got my chance. It did not disappoint.


Having climbed Mt. LeConte via the Rainbow Falls / Bullhead trail I found this hike to be a lot more comfortable as the elevation gain is not as steep. For most of the hike I got that old forest feeling with lush vegetation and big trees. The trail was wide and I was surprised to find that quite a few people today had passed the falls and were heading up as well. The Trillium Gap is the trail the lama train use to get supplies up to the lodge on top of Mt. LeConte and on this particular day there must had been a supply run. Quite a bit of lama scat was all over the trail so you had to be careful where you stepped.

A tunnel of trees once you get on the Brushy Mountain trail.
At a switch back some way up there was a nice rocky spot covered in moss with a little stream that runs across the trail. This was the perfect time for me to rest and eat a quick snack before finishing the climb.  A little further up from this point you reach the junction with Brushy Mountain. From here it is just 0.2 miles to where the Brushy Mountain trail dead ends. This trail starts out very narrow and at some points one could feel a little claustrophobic. At one point you are in a tunnel of trees which then turns into walls of bushes. Once you get to the end the views are outstanding as you can clearly see the summit of Mt. LeConte, the valley and mountains beyond. The mountain lives up to its name as it is truly brushy at the top so you do have to get on your toes to see some of the vista is places. All in all this was a fantastic hike that is not too terribly physically demanding, and I would definitely recommend this one.

The vista from the top of Brushy Mountain.
Below is a compilation of some videos I took on my way to the top:



Click the link to my Flickr album to view more pictures of the Trillium Gap and Brushy Mountain Trails. On Sunday October 11th Mary Ellen and I hike the trail again. There were some fall colors starting to pop, but it was pretty foggy. I have added those pictures Mary Ellen took to the Flickr album.





Sunday, September 13, 2015

Chickamauga & Chattanooga: My First Impressions

June 16, 2015

Now that I am living in Maryville, TN it is only a two hour trip to get down the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. Even though most of my Civil War studies have concentrated on the eastern theater I have for years wanted to see this particular battlefield. On Tuesday June 16th I was able to get away for a short trip down to Lookout Mountain and scouted out Point Park, with a hike out to Sunset Rock.


Moccasin Point at Point Park, Lookout Mountain
The only two Civil War Battlefields I have visited to this point have been Gettysburg (on several occasions) and Perryville (once). While there were many different aspects, or specific engagements, within the battle I would still classify them as a single battle. What I am learning about the Chickamauga & Chattanooga is that it was actually several different battles in a campaign that took place around the same area. A couple of other things that stood out to me in this area was the amount of private land and the trail system. Besides Point Park it almost felt more like a hike in the Smoky Mountains than a Civil War battlefield.


Cannons at the Cravens House on Lookout Mountain.
Point Park and Sunset Rock offer a really fantastic view of Chattanooga and surrounding areas. One can get truly amazing vistas from Lookout Mountain with the many different overhangs. Most of the places I have hiked so far in the Smoky Mountain area have too much vegetation to get a clear shot of the land, not so here. The trail system I was on is fairly rugged and not well marked, however they do have parking areas with short walks at the areas I visited if you don’t want to go hiking through the trails.


Checking out the view from Sunset Rock
Lookout Mountain
I have just finished reading Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns (Great Campaigns of the Civil War) by Steven E. Woodworth, who does a really good job of describing the campaign. Though I do have some qualms with his book, which I will save for later, it does give you an overall understanding of the battles. I would really like to take the camper and spend about three days in the area to really get a feel for the park as I did not even scratch the surface of the history it has to offer. There are still places I want to see on Lookout Mountain, then there is Missionary Ridge and of course Chickamauga among other places. So I guess it is a good thing that I now live closer to this park.

UPDATED: September 5, 2015

Liam and I at Point Park,
Lookout Mountain
Well if it keeps taking me this long to finish a blog entry the stories will be outdated. Thanks to Liam’s social studies teacher he had to write a report on the Civil War, so he chose to wright about a battle. Needless to say this lead to a field trip. Dad super excited, Liam and Mary Ellen not so much.

Went back to Point Park, but this time was able to get to Cravens House. I still need to hit up the rifle pits, but I have again saved that for another time. This portion of Lookout Mountain does look more like a typical Civil War battlefield I am use to. Wanted to get to Missionary Ridge but the GPS took us off course and we ended up driving through a portion of Chickamauga. I have to say I am looking forward to spending some time there soon.

Below I have the link to my Chattanooga & Chickamauga photo album in Flickr along with some other links to the NPS page and the Civil War Trust.

Flickr Pictures:

Chickamauga & Chattanooga Military Park:

Civil War Trust:

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Gettysburg: Buford's Cavalry

I took another sojourn to Gettysburg this May and focused part of the trip on Buford’s Cavalry on June 30th and July 1st. This was the day before the actual battle started along with day one fighting. For this trip I read Eric Wittenberg’s book “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg and here a few things I took from it. 

Buford's statue on top of  the
monument dedicated to him.
Buford was on the receiving end of a few fortunate events, but it was mostly his skills as a leader that helped the Union win this particular fight. In staring with the good fortunes the most obvious and what is brought up most often when talking about the Gettysburg campaign was the Confederates missing cavalry. This let Buford scout out the Confederates’ position without a cavalry screen to deal with. He had solid information on the enemy’s positions, and was able to position his defense accordingly.

The other fortuitous event was Henry Heth was first in line and he had a track record of making poor decisions. With Heth’s mistaking Buford for militia and starting the action with only two brigades gave Buford an opportunity to hold positions longer during the delaying action. Because of this the Union was able to secure the high ground. Lee had also given an order not to bring on a major engagement and Heth did the exact opposite.

Let us now move on to Buford and the outstanding job of soldiering he did during the campaign. One of the primary responsibilities of the cavalry during the Civil War was to provide the army with reliable intelligence of the enemy’s movements. Buford was able to do this during the whole march by staying in constant contact with the enemy.  Several engagements occurred on the march to Gettysburg; Aldie, Upperville and Snickerville just to name a few. (1) It was through these engagements that Buford was able to gain intelligence on the enemy.

Even the day before the battle Buford was still scouting out the enemy and pretty much knew where both A.P. Hill and Ewell’s two corps would be coming from. This leads us to our next aspect of soldiering that Buford did really well and that was selecting ground and setting up Videttes on all the different approaches. (2) With the Videttes in place to give warning Buford would put together a masterful delaying action in the hopes General Reynolds could make it up in time with the Army of the Potomac’s I Corp to secure the high ground behind the town.

Buford's monument with General Reynolds in the background.
Those cannons were the original ones that was used in the
action at Gettysburg.

The soldiers did a wonderful job of putting up a fight by falling back orderly behind the next line and in the end they were able to hold until Reynolds came with reinforcements. Because of this the Union was able to hold onto the high ground and eventually win the fight for Gettysburg.

When you go to the actual field one can see the different ridges Buford was able to use in keeping the Confederates at bay. Being able to go to the battlefield always helps me to put things in perspective. One can read all they want but it doesn’t replace boots on the ground. I would also highly recommend this book as it is an easy read with a wealth of information.

Position of Confederate guns during the fighting on
Day One of the battle.

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  1. (1)  Wittenberg, Eric J. (2014-10-19). “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour. (Kindle Locations 706-723). Savas Beatie. Kindle Edition. 
  2. (2)  Wittenberg, Eric J. (2014-10-19). “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour. (Kindle Locations 1314). Savas Beatie. Kindle Edition


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Carter Caves State Park: BCT & TBT

For our anniversary this past September my amazingly wonderful wife and I took a trip down to Carter Caves State park in northeast Kentucky.  Of course we did a couple of the cave tours, but the two trails we hiked were more impressive. The canyons and natural land bridges together with rich forest trails made for breathtaking views all around.

My Wife and I under a Natural Bridge
at Carter Caves State Park

The Box Canyon Trail (BCT) is less than a mile, but due to its rugged nature will take you a little while to hike. This trail has the Cascade Bridge along with many vast canyons that are remarkable for this part of the country. This trail also has a section of boulders that makes for a fun yet easy climb. If you are on this side of the park I would also recommend the Cascade Cave tour. It was the better of the two caves we saw, the other being X-Cave.

Box Canyon Trail (BCT)

The Three Bridges Trail (TBT) is a bit longer at 3.5 miles but not as rugged and is actually pretty easy going. This trail features three of the parks natural bridges (Three Bridges Trail…go figure); Smokey Bridge, Raven Bridge and Fern Bridge. Out of the three bridges I would have to say the Fern Bridge is the most scenic. The contrast of the dark rock coupled with the green ferns and moss really stands out. When close to the rock structure you can see an opening at the top, like a naturally made skylight that just adds a whole other element to the view.

The Fern Bridge

The Smokey Bridge is probably the most striking due to its sheer size.  When the bridge first comes into view it is from above, but as you climb down the hill one gets a whole different perspective on how large it is. It is hard to convey the true size of this feature in a picture but with the help of Mary Ellen in the below picture I think one can get a sense.

The Smoky Bridge. See if you
can Spot Mary Ellen

We are planning on going back sometime in 2015 to hike one of the longer trails. The actual campground is in good condition and made for a really nice four day trip. We’re excited to see what that adventure has in store.

Links: