Saturday, November 12, 2016

Alpine Mountain WMA

Colorful pair of leaves on the forest floor. 

Alpine Mountain WMA

Monday Nov. 7, 2016
Dana & Kenny Koogler

    Monday was our last day of a long weekend get away.  We slept in. We had a light breakfast.
We got our stuff together and decided we'd try riding at Alpine Mountain WMA near Overton County.  We had heard mixed reviews on it from buddies. Most said "It's okay." with no real enthusiasm.   We wanted to see for ourselves.   Not to toot our own horn, but we have found that
many of these same persons who give a low to middle opinion miss a lot.   We had investigated
access before so we knew where to go. I will put some directions for access at the bottom of this blog entry.   We still do not know enough about the trail system to share detailed info on that part.

        Once we parked we hit the road and soon the trail at the base of the mountain.
It sits off to itself in the middle of nowhere. The small historic community of Alpine is at the base.
Alpine being in the Upper Cumberland Plateau it was very poverty stricken.  A desperate lack of education opportunities existed for the children of the area.  Lack of education leads to lack of prospects for the future. It keeps folks locked in a cycle of poverty.   Reverend John Dillard 
came to the area and saw the need. He appealed to the Presbytery for help in establishing a school.
Alpine Academy came into being. Later WPA  helped the school by building a gymnasium.
Many of the old buildings still exist today and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
 Christ Church Presbyterian
The back of the old historic gymnasium of Alpine Institute.

      We started up the trail onto the mountain and we saw the only person hunting all day. He was not on the WMA land, but on adjacent private property.  We encountered a pair of horseback riders later. We encountered two or three hunters prepping to go into the woods when we were loading up to leave.    The day was pretty and clear. The foliage colors were good!   The trail was dusty in places and muddy in others!   Riding up the mountain through the forest the higher we went the bolder the hues of color got.  Reds, yellows, golds, oranges,  copper. Mostly maple trees were there.
Having never been to this area before to ride we just wandered around rather aimlessly looking at this and that with no destination in mind.    The trails are in pretty good shape on the mountain.

      We turned and started back down to explore a different section of trails. We ran into the horse riders here.  They were two retirees who were fun to chat with.  One rode a horse the other a mule!
The mule rider told me that it IS possible for a mule to founder.  He said he had one at the vet at that moment who had foundered, but was going to recover!   Once past the riders and their animals not spooked we found ourselves winding along a ridge.  It was really pretty and kind of odd.  Above us were slopes filled with bright Autumn foliage. Below us was like looking back a month in time. The leaves there were mostly green with a tiny bit of yellow. Reminded me of the month of September!
The terrain grew more interesting here.  We passed by hollers with some fascinating rock features.
Big sinks, terraces, and cliffs were to be seen north of us.
 A perfect rose gold day on Alpine Mountain.
Sun star peeping down through the trees.
        We were going along and something caught my eye.  We ran upon a man made structure to the left.  It was the ruins of a very old stone structure!  It was cool looking.  I was intrigued.  I got out and
circled it taking pictures and peering inside.  I walked around the woods looking for additional detritus from human occupation.  I did not see anything more.   I would love to know a bit more about the history of it.  It appeared to be WPA era contstruction.  It was a similar stone that I have seen on WPA dynamite shacks and other buildings.  It was different from the crab orchard stone that was used on the church, shop, and gym.  I have read that the original Alpine School was on the summit of the mountain to start.  It was moved to the base after Bushwhackers burned it during the Civil War. Later it was destroyed again by the Ku Klux Klan.  After the second tearing up they moved it to the base of the mountain.   I can't help wondering if this had something to do with the original school?

Above and below  Stone house on the mountain.

The back of the house was just boards. in the center. the ends were capped with stone.

    We went a bit further on still enjoying the pretty woods.  I knew we should be able to ride from Alpine Mountain all the way through to Deck Cove and Hell Hole.   We were heading in the right direction.   Further out past the old stone house we saw another man made structure. It was the outlet or overflow of a pond.  We stopped to see it.  It was a wildlife pond with standing black water.
A spring is the source of the water way back in the holler.  It flows out a pipe and fills the pond then continues down to the old road.  I have seen a pond like this three times now. Once on property in the Blue Ridge mountains owned by my Daddy. Once on Skinner Mountain. Now here on Alpine Mountain. This is the neatest one far as construction goes.

Outlet of the spring pond.

Spring pond.  

  We kept heading westward.  We passed a double wide to the left of the trail!  Out in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, no water, no nothing!   We wanted so badly to keep heading west to try to find Hell Hole, but we knew we did not really have the time.  We had to get back and eat lunch and pack to go home. I did not want to be so late getting home.  I might as well have put that out of my mind.    We will definitely come back and try the rest of the trail system. The Gazetteer shows most of the trails!    

        We stopped on the drive back for me to take a walk along the West Fork of the Obey River.
I had long wanted to do this.   We found a good spot to pull off.  The river is pretty, but not as pretty as the East Fork.   We were interested in the trail that went along the river.  You know we wanted to aimlessly follow it to see how far it went, but again limited on time.   I thought I smelled diesel fuel on up the river.  I saw an oily sheen on the surface of the water.   I would love to know what went on there?  I know petroleum products when I smell them.  
 Two views of the West Fork river.   It must be reasonably healthy as I saw lots of fresh water mussels and minnows and small fish.
It was up in this area of the river that I saw the oily stuff and smelled diesel fuel.

   I walked along the river bank and shoals picking up shells, acorns, and natural items. I want to make a wreath for Sharon's new house.  It must have lots of pretty things from nature.  We drove back to the campground. I visited with Betty a little bit.   She is a good friend and will soon be moving.
Exciting for her and Klaas, but bittersweet for us.  Once we finally rolled out to drive home it was getting late. I talked Kenny into stopping in Rockwood for dinner.  He agreed and laughed like crazy... "We always try to squeeze the most out of a day, don't we?"  That sums it up perfectly. 
Wear it out!  Until the next episode......Below are directions how to access Alpine Mountain WMA to ride or hike.   Also a short video of leaves falling in the prettiest spot on the mountain.

From Hwy 52 in the community of Alpine turn onto Campus Circle and drive round behind the old gymnasium building.  It is now the Alpine Community Center.   Park here.  
Ride from there out Mountain Lane which goes briefly through a residential area.  You will curve past a small white house on the left and the road continues sharply right and up the mountain. From there it is gravel or dirt.    Just stay with the main trail until you get up the mountain. From there stay left to head toward the summit and bear right/west to head toward the old stone house. It is right by the trail.


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