I really love the Savage Gulf area and hiking these series of trails. After last week’s disaster of an effort, I needed something familiar yet challenging so I could prove that I’m still a hiker. I tell you guys, last week really shook my confidence. This week, we decided to hike Stone Door Trail to Big Creek Gulf to Ranger Falls to Big Creek Rim and then back to Stone Door. Strava recorded it as a bit over 11 miles.
We arrived at the trailhead and had boots on trail by 7:30am. The hike through the stone door and down to the Big Creek Gulf trail was super muggy, wet and sweaty. There’s a couple rock fields during the descent but they weren’t wet enough to cause any problems. Meredith will tell you but I descend and negotiate rocks like an old man with sore knees but I still feel we made good time.
Once at the bottom, we hightailed it over to Ranger falls and stopped for refueling and for a Meredith-play-in-the-water session. The water level for Ranger Falls was lower than it was the first time we came through this year but still plenty of flow and the water was good and cold.
Once we cooled off, we headed back to Big Gulf Creek trail and headed down for another mile to take our lunch and another cool off session at a nice pool and area of semi-swift water. I’m not sure if it actually has a name or even what the name of the river is there but it’s the second favorite part of the hike for me. Again, Meredith played in the water and I took off my boots to cool and rest my feet. In retrospect, I think we hung out here too long as I was feeling like I could take a nap at one point.
After getting back on the trail, it wasn’t too long until it’s time to make the ascent up to Alum gap campground. This is the section I had been preparing and waiting for and I was determined to make a good ascent. This ascent has some grades at 30% according to Strava and it’s about .5 miles to the top. On the ascent, I felt great and was ascending at a good pace that I could have kept up for a good long time.
Once back at the top, we pushed on to Big Creek Rim trail and had scenic but otherwise uneventful hike back to Stone Door Ranger Station.
Last week I tried a new hiking clothes configuration. On the right, I’m wearing hiking pants and a hiking/travel shirt. The idea in making the change was that I’d be more protected from brambles and ticks and such. On the left is the current setup and one I wore Saturday on our hike. I think the clothing situation was the single biggest thing contributing to my problems on the trail while hiking Fiery Gizzard. I still need to change the shorts again as these did cause some chaffing that I didn’t notice until I was home. I’m going to try a pair of running shorts with a tights/compression type liner.
Many reviews on AllTrails mentions hiking the trail counter clockwise because of the rock fields and I’d have to agree 100% with this idea. I’m a big guy and the focus and balance required to hike on rocks for nearly 4 miles is pretty challenging. Doing this while you’re fresh is best.rock fields and I’d have to agree 100% with this idea. I’m a big guy and the focus and balance required to hike on rocks for nearly 4 miles is pretty challenging. Doing this while you’re fresh is best.
The first part of the hike was pretty lovely. The trail is scenic and goes along the river which makes for pleasant viewing and temps. The rock fields don’t seem so bad at first and I was kind of wonder what the big deal was about all the reviews. It turns out that hiking on rocks for a couple hours wears me out. There’s a certain amount of mental focus and balance and concentration required to do that type of hiking. It was bothering my knees and I have to pick my way carefully.
Since we were hiking along the river, I knew we had to do a big climb to get up to the top of the mountain so we could get to Raven Point. The climb up the mountain was pretty severe. Easiest the hardest and most severe climb for me this hiking season and we’ve hiked Stone Door down to Ranger Falls and back out and Virgin Falls.
I recently decided to try a different clothing setup – pictured above. I have been hiking in gym shorts and my sleeveless, merino wool shirt that I use for cycling. The shirt very light weight and probably the best piece of clothing I own. The reason I wanted to switch to hiking pants and a hiking/travel shirt was mostly for protection from brambles, ticks and the sun. Making this change during the middle of the summer hiking season turned out to be a huge mistake. After taking our lunch at Raven Point and heading back along the ridge, I was overheating and just couldn’t cool off. It caused me to hike very slow, slowing down my hiking partners. I was feeling nauseous and even got sick a few times. The hike back took a lot longer than it ought have.
As we were getting close to the end of our hike, we started coming across swimming holes and we decided to get in the water to get cooled off and it helped tremendously. We should have done this at the very first opportunity. My take away from this is that anytime Meredith says get in the water, I’m just going to do it, no questions asked.
After our dip we started hiking the last mile or so back when the cherry on top happened. As Meredith will tell you, I roll my ankles and they do so for no good reason. Most of the time it’s a little twist and awkwardly catching myself and we carry on like nothing happened. I guess I was so tired and was mid step when it happened this time that I took a tumble and started tumbling down the side of the trail embankment. It was happening in slow motion for everyone who was involved and witnessing it. Ugh.
I’d definitely rank this hike as difficult and strenuous; at least it was for me. I’m not sure how much of that was because I was experiencing some heat exhaustion. I intend to this hike again this season. I came away feeling embarrassed with my confidence shaken. I would recommend this hike to hikers as I think it’s definitely some of the best hiking in TN, right there with Virgin Falls and the Stone Door trails. I’ll be back Fiery Gizzard.
I started later than I normally like because I was up late last night goofing around on the Internet. Plus, I’ve been on this hike before and I knew it was pretty short. While it was a short distance, there are some steep sections of the trail that you’ll want to take your time with. The fact that I got a later start than normal, plus the humidity made for a really sweaty hike. There was only a couple minor blow downs across the trail and those were easy to navigate. It’s rained a fair amount the past couple weeks so the falls was pretty decent. All in all, an easy hike with a decent pay off at the end. I would still rate the hike as moderate though because of how steep the one section is.
I’m planning to hike up to LeConte lodge via Alum Cave trail on August 25th so I’m going to be ramping up the miles over the next few weeks.