Friday, April 5, 2013

Frozen Head State Park --Early Spring Wildflower Hike

Round Leaf Hepatica blooming along Judge Branch

Frozen Head State Park--Early Spring Wildflower Hike

South Old Mac--Judge Branch Loop

Total hike miles= 2.9

Dana Koogler solo

April 2013

Pictures are here:

   I had a doctors appointment in Knoxville and decided I might try to sneak in a short hike if the situation permitted.   My appointment did not take very long.  Traffic was not bad. The weather was better than predicted. I did not feel 100% , but I was fit to do something not too strenuous. 

    I have hiked several times at Frozen Head, but today I decided to try to do a couple new trails. It has been a cold Spring and flowers are slow to get going.  I realized that my original plan for a higher elevation hike was not likely to yield anything good blooming.
Better to stick with a lower elevation hike.  South Old Mac and Judge Branch are both lower elevation hikes and get more sun to warm things up.   I hiked these two trails.  
They are both pretty trails.  I'm sure they'll be prettier when things leaf out more.

    A little back history on Frozen Head for those unfamiliar.  Frozen Head State Park is one of the oldest in Tennessee. It is in backwoodsy, beautiful, deep and dark Morgan County. Located in the rugged Cumberland Mountains.  It was built by the CCC in 1930.
I saw many examples of their A+ gold standard trail work and construction along the way. I give thanks for their efforts!   Eighty-three years old and still functioning perfectly!
At the base of the mountain is the historic Brushy Mountain Penitentiary where the infamous killer of Rev. Martin Luther King was imprisoned.  He escaped once from the prison but the terrain was so unforgiving he only made it eight miles before he was apprehended.   The Barkley Marathons were born from this pitting marathoners against Frozen Head's rugged terrain.

    Only the first 35 runners are allowed to participate in the Barkley. They have to submit
an essay on why they should be allowed to run. The course is varied year to year.  The entirety is 100 miles in 55 hours. The participants have to find between 9 and 11 books at  check points to prove they ran the route. Things are changed year to year to prevent cheating which HAS happened. Since the ultra-marathons inception in 1986 only 12 runners have completed it.  All that being said.... my hike today was extremely easy.
Don't be fooled though. Frozen Head has some hard core hiking to be had.

 A particularly pretty stretch of Judge Branch below a rocky bluff. Near the start of the trail.  

Dynamite Shack along South Old Mac Trail. I finally got to see this for myself!

    I finally started seeing some wildflowers of different early varieties. 

Cluster of yellow violets.

Pretty cascade in the upper parts of Judge Branch.

Red trillium unfurling along the Judge Branch Trail.

Trout Lily in perfect form! This is a nice big one!

Bridge across Judge Branch as I closed my loop today. The stream has that pretty shade of Cumberland Plateau aquamarine!

    The hike today was one that makes me look forward to going back doing more!
I really like this place. I saw a total of four people today from beginning to end.
The trails are well maintained. Well blazed.  All but one creek crossing was bridged.
The one that was not bridged was a simple rock hop.    Frozen Head and Morgan county
are dear to me.  


  1. Great photos! When I was younger, I spent many a day up in this park (when I was supposed to be at school). I learned more among the leaves and water and trees than I ever did in a classroom :)

    1. Thanks for reading it. Thanks too for the nice compliment. I was never a fan of school, and was always wanting to be outdoors instead.


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