Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Overnighter at Montgomery Bell State Park
Eager to get out of town, I jump at the invitation to backpack the loop at Montgomery Bell State Park. We left Cordova around 11 a.m. heading north on I-40. The overcast skies soon turned to a light drizzle, but after crossing the Tennessee River the rain ceased, giving way to cool and gloomy conditions.
Upon arriving at Montgomery Bell State Park, which lies north of I-4, about halfway between the Tennessee River and Nashville, we checked in at the Visitor’s Center to register and pick-up a trail map. The center had been decorated by an overzealous taxidermist, displaying stuffed indigenous animals, to note, a beaver, albino deer, fox, and squirrel.
The 11-mile Montgomery Bell Loop trailhead lay half a mile south of the Visitor’s Center at the Maintenance Warehouse parking lot. When we stepped off at 1430-hours it was 55-degrees and overcast and ours was the only car in the lot. We elected to hike the trail counter-clockwise, making our destination, the Woodland shelter, approximately 5-mile distance.
We arrived at the sign for the Woodland shelter at dusk, unaware that the structure was another half-mile down a ‘C’ shaped connecting trail to the shelter. The east facing Adirondack, a three-walled open sided log structure, is situated on a hilltop, directly above a small stream, in a thick stand of trees. We removed the top layer of ashes from the fire pit to get to a dry bed for our fire, and shaved the dry core of some sticks for kindling. Stripping the wet bark to get to the dry wood, and with the aid of a small piece of waxed cardboard and a Vaseline soaked cotton ball, we had a crackling fire burning in no time.
As dusk turned to night, the temperature dropped to a low of 35-degrees under a clear-star illuminated sky.
Saturday morning while the rest were packing up, I took the map and compass and reconnoitered a dead-reckoning route back to the trail. It turned out that by walking due north from the Adirondack a mere 200-yards you ran into the MB trail.
After a quick police call we were back on the trail, traversing level terrain about three-quarters of a mile to the tip of Creech Hollow Lake, then the trail headed away from the lake, up a feeder creek to the southern edge of the park golf course. The next mile was sandwiched between the golf course, a railroad track and a subdivision, distracting from the wilderness experience.
At the park boundary we headed northwest and began a gradual rise as we headed to Wildcat shelter, situated near Lake Acorn. I ate a sandwich as we took a quick break at the shelter before beginning a leg of the hike that took us to a point overlooking the lake. We followed the ridgeline for a mile before the trail dropped down to the park entrance.
Here I misread the map extending our return leg to the car by approximately two-miles, as I led our group bushwhacking cross-country through a river valley and up a shear bluff, before backtracking to find the correct route to the trailhead.
The hike was slightly more challenging than we had anticipated. Though a mere 250-feet change in elevation throughout the trail, there was a lot of cross compartment hiking adding to the difficulty. The north leg of Ore Pit Loop and north rise from Wildcat Shelter after crossing Acorn Creek are the most difficult sections of the trail. I would recommend it as a moderate day hike.