Just Your Average Pleasant Day Hike – Bartram Trail and Buckeye Creek Loop

January 6th, 2020

On Monday, Wayne, Pam and I, drove towards Franklin NC and to the trailhead for the Bartram Trail at Hickory Knoll Road. Our intentions were to hike along this section of the Bartram Trail for as long as our time would permit, then turn around and head back to our vehicle. As always, we were hoping to get in at least ten miles of hiking.

Since it’s winter, most of the leaves are off the trees. That, together with clear blue skies provided us with nice long distance views.

Part of this section is a relatively new reroute of the Bartram Trail. Anybody that is familiar with the Bartram Trail knows that there had been a fourteen mile roadwalk between the Buckeye Branch Road Trailhead and the Wallace Branch Trailhead. In an attempt to get at least a few of those fourteen miles off the road and back into the woods, this reroute was created. Pam and I first hiked it together back in April of 2018.

Light snow had fallen in the area a few days before. I took a picture of this meager patch thinking that most of the snow would have melted by now and that this might be all that we would see.

The weather today was nearly ideal for hiking. The sky was clear blue with few, if any, clouds. The temperature started out in the mid-thirties and rose only into the mid-fifties.

Soon, we encountered a slightly larger patch of unmelted snow.

The trail climbs steeply for the first three and a half miles and passes below the summit of George Gray Mountain as it makes it’s way to near the top of the Pinnacle at an elevation of about 3,300 feet. Though the name is similar, this should not be confused with Pinnacle Knob. Pinnacle Knob is a short but steep side trail off the Bartram Trail that can be reached via the Warwoman Dell trailhead near Clayton Georgia. It leads to a rocky overlook with beautiful views and is a great place to sit and eat lunch. I’ve been there several times, including once with my wife Joann.

Either Wayne is raising his hands in full surrender mode or he thinks that pack on his back is in reality a jetpack that will take him to the summit. I mean, what else could it be, right?
Another nice view as we continued our extended climb. The road near the center of the image is US Route 441. US 441 extends for 939 miles from Miami to Rocky Top, Tennessee.
We came across more and more unmelted snow the higher we climbed, particularly on the backside of the mountain. Most of the snow was frozen, which made it a bit slippery underfoot.

While it may be hard to tell from the image below, this rockface is actually fairly tall. My guess is that it’s somewhere between thirty and forty feet high from where the trail passes at it’s base, to the top of the rockface. Four and a half years ago, during the summer of 2015, Wayne, Pam, and I, together with Tally, had been section hiking the Bartram. On the day that we hiked this section, the skies fully opened up and the rain absolutely poured down on us. We stopped here hoping the rockface might provide at least a little bit of shelter from the weather while we hurried to put on our rain gear. By the end of that hike, my boots were filled with water and we were all completely drenched. I don’t think that I’ve ever been that wet on a trail, either before or since. With no rain in sight this time around, the three of us could laugh about it as we reminisced.

When we reached the junction with the Buckeye Creek Trail, we sat in a sunny, wind sheltered spot and ate our lunches. After we finished eating, instead of heading back the way we had come, we decided to follow the Buckeye Creek trail to Tessentee Road. From there, we would roadwalk the rest of the way back to our vehicle, forming a loop.

It’s hard to capture the scale here also, but this gnarly old tree was actually fairly huge.

After some steep downhill, we reached Tessentee Road. The roadwalk is easy and rather pleasant (except for several encounters with unleashed and somewhat territorial dogs). There were not many motorists and the views from the valley were pretty great. Here, we passed a small wooden structure with signage that says “STORE, EST 1939”. The two men that are renovating it for the property owner, allowed us to go inside and check it out. While it had been a Feed store many years ago, it will now be turned into guest quarters with a Murphy bed and a small shower. I think that it’s going to be very popular with the owners visiting family and friends.

I would be perfectly content to live in a small place like this in the mountains somewhere. Heck, I might even allow my wife Joann to visit me once in a while. After all, Twenty-five years of marriage entitles you to a few privileges.
I’m guessing that that’s Fishhawk Mountain to the left and Little Fishhawk Mountain to the right. The Bartram Trail follows the ridge-line.

As we continued to walk the road, we saw many beautiful homes situated amidst the sprawling landscape of verdant rolling hills, with nearby mountains providing the perfect backdrop.

Tessentee Road road-walkin’ with Pam and Wayne.
Shortly before reaching our vehicle, we stopped to take some pictures of these three handsome equines. By the looks on two of their faces, I gather that they don’t see too many humans “hoofing it” through here.

According to my Garmin gps, by the time that we reached our vehicle, we had hiked 10.8 miles. Our total vertical was 4,060 feet, including 2,030 feet of elevation gain. Because of the steep climb at the beginning, I would rate it as being somewhere between moderately-strenuous and strenuous.

This had been a really enjoyable day. If you’re ever in the area and you like to hike, I would highly recommend it. Thanks for reading.

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