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  1. #1
    Senior Member Misty_Mountain_Rose's Avatar
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    Default Hiking "The Fiery Gizzard"

    For the avid hikers on here, I share my hiking story What is one of yours?


    Last weekend some friends and I hiked The Fiery Gizzard trail near Chattanooga,TN. We left cars at both entrances and did the full hike of about 17 miles from the North entrance down to Foster Falls. (Apparently we also took the hard part up to Raven Point instead of looping around the Dog Hole trail.)

    There are some amazing pictures and reviews online, but the reviews don't do this hike justice. It seems most people are smart enough to do this hike in small bits and take advantage of the loop trails rather than doing the whole thing in a day and a half.

    Our original intent was to hike the majority of the trail on Saturday, camp at one of the campsites near the end and hike the few miles to the end the following day. We started at about 11:00am and thought surely we could walk 12 miles in 8 hours (2mph is a decent walk, would take 6 hours, so surely 2 extra hours budgeted for stops to be at camp by 7 was reasonable, right? ) We were doing pretty well, saw signs for the first campsite that we intended to bypass about 3.8 miles away and thought we were well on schedule.

    The next 4 miles were the LONGEST 4 miles of. my. life. The trail goes from being a nice, dirt path with some roots and rocks to a boulder strewn, ankle breaking incline that tests even the most coordinated of folks. Add in an accident-prone person carrying a 30lb backpack and you're just asking for trouble

    We reached Raven Point, (the middle campground that we wanted to bypass) at about 5pm. It had taken us 6 hours to go about 5 miles that day, and we were moving as fast as we could. (Until I hurt my ankle just before the last climb to the camp site) The majority of that time you are balancing on rocks that move and shift when you step up or down onto them, which makes for slow going and trecherous climbing at times along the sides of ravines that drop away beside the trail. The last big climb up to the Raven Point camp site is a 500 foot scramble that weaves its away back and forth across the face of a 70 degree slope... on the rocks that move and turn when you step on them. Doing this with a sprain is even more entertaining.

    At the top, we had a decision to make. It was another 6+ miles to the campsite we had wanted to reach that day and it would be dark soon... plus I was limping rather slowly. We decided to camp there and finish the next day. We were also running low on water, so two unfortunate folks in the group went back down the hill to get water that we could purify.

    The next morning we took our time getting ready, since this portion was supposed to be smooth sailing for the most part. We left at 8am and walked (in my case limped) a relatively nice, dirt trail for about 5 miles. We'd read about a deep gorge that we would have to descend and then climb out of to get to the next campsite, and when we got to it, even my aching ankle wasn't enough to make me unappreciative of the views here. I have to admit though, that climbing out the other side of this ravine, while short-lived, nearly brought me to tears. By then my mental stamina to hold out and continue limping along was wearing thin. I was tired, dirty, in pain, and wondering where a good place to just lay down and die would be.

    Every step from there to the exit seemed like a mile in itself. We still had about 3-4 miles to go. One inch roots sticking out of the ground looked like huge hurdles to be overcome, and even the music playing in my ear on my iPod couldn't take my mind off my situation. I knew I had to keep going, hell there wasn't a choice. There was no where else to stop, and no one coming to help me out. Foster Falls was a mere glance out of the corner of my eye as I went by it, knowing that the exit to this hell was close by somewhere. By the time we reached the car I didn't want to see another tree, rock or root for the rest of my life.


    I wonder now, looking back, as I sit at my desk with an ace bandage, air-conditioning and purified water... whether hiking is like child-birth. I remember distinctly how I was feeling on the way out, and how much pain I was in... but I sit here knowing that I'd do it all over again - and not just figuratively, but really. If my friends wanted to hike it again, I'd sign up in a heart beat. Why is that?

    I wasn't out to prove anything to myself when I went. I didn't realize from the reviews that I read that most of these people hadn't done the entire trail, and didn't understand that people only take pictures of the nice parts, not during the parts where they are struggling not to fall down the face of a mountain and break their necks. Looking at my own pictures, it seems a really nice place to go! Bring the kids! Bring the dog! Wooot!

    This trail is more of something you do when you're having a mid-life crisis... or maybe a death wish, not something you do for fun on a weekend excursion. But I didn't know that going in. Now, on the other side of it I think if I'd known I may have approached it a little differently from a mental stand point... but being unprepared for it and knowing that I made it anyway makes me proud.








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  2. #2
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    I've had a similar experience. Well, I wasn't hiking, but was instead cross country skiing. I started out with a a friend thinking 3 miles was nothing. I had done 3 miles on relatively flat ground before and it was nothing. But it ended up being 3 miles of hill after hill. It was unreal. It was also a trail that was about 30 miles from any house. If I had been hurt, it would've been impossible to walk out. i would have had to hope my friend was able to get out okay or someone else had decided to take the trail.

    I know what you mean though. After that, even though it was so physically trying, just the knowledge that I made it was amazing. It was such a confidence boost... just knowing I was out in the middle of nowhere, faced with the real possibility that if I had fallen or been hurt it could have been life threatening. The feeling of triumph at the end still puts a smile on my face when I think about it.

  3. #3
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    This sounds like a fun hike, in a challenging way. It looks like the scenery was worth it.

    Maybe you can find a few pounds to eliminate from your gear to make things less work and more fun?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Misty_Mountain_Rose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    This sounds like a fun hike, in a challenging way. It looks like the scenery was worth it.

    Maybe you can find a few pounds to eliminate from your gear to make things less work and more fun?
    Yeah I'm trying to get lighter gear whenever I buy something new, but I can't afford it all at once. The pack I had was only 30lbs which is pretty good for an overnight camping trip with a tent for 2 and blankets/water. I want to get a lighter pack though and a better sleeping setup.
    Embrace the possibilities.

  5. #5
    Just a statistic rhinosaur's Avatar
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    Fiery Gizzard!
    Awesome place. I've never done the whole loop, just hiked down and back when I had some spare time one day.
    Let's see if this works...












  6. #6
    Senior Member Misty_Mountain_Rose's Avatar
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    Nice pics Rhino! I didn't see this when you posted it before. That last picture nearly puts me into convulsions... *twitch* lol

    Edit - I took my daughter down there last weekend to Foster Falls and we walked in for a bit. I couldn't help remembering how out of it I was the last time I'd been there lol. I did get my pictures of the falls though that I missed on the first run-through, and we're planning on camping there some time in July or August with some friends. I'm trying to work up the ambition (and stamina!) to do the entire trail again. Maybe next summer...
    Embrace the possibilities.

  7. #7
    にゃん runvardh's Avatar
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    I miss doing stuff like that, though I tended to do a lot more canoing. I've done parts of the Turttle River system two different times and half the Blue Lake/Gordon Lake loop in NW Ontario. Right now I'm trying to satiate myself with the stationary crap while with other people...
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  8. #8
    Welcome to Sunnyside Mondo's Avatar
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    No one in my family is really much of a hiker.. so I haven't tried it yet but it's something I've always wanted to do.
    Your stories are making me more interested in trying,
    MBTI Type: iNTj
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  9. #9

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    This story is so funny because my first hike ever I chose Fiery Gizzard having no idea what I was doing or getting into....needless to say it was pure hell on earth. I, someone that had never hiked before, accidentally picking what is probably the hardest trail in the US and bringing two kids with me. We went the bottom loop up to Raven Point camp. It doesn't even qualify as a trail. It is more like rock climbing for miles and miles and miles until you finally have a melt down and begin to ponder flinging yourself to your death just to escape.... It was truly a "I shouldn't alive" episode - including being stung by swarms of yellow jackets, a bear (yes a bear), running out of water, running out of day light, panic attacks and pure terror.... Luckily we made it out alive with some valuable lessons learned. Now when I hike its like a cake walk compared to Fiery GIzzard - and my friends all whine about how hard the current hike we are on is...and i just chuckle and say you have no idea...let me tell you about the Gizzard!

    ---------- Post added at 10:11 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:07 PM ----------

    That last picture of the "trail" of rocks....it does make me want to vomit and gives me horror flashbacks....it was like that for miles and miles and miles...ugh...total nightmare for a new hiker...or pro! lol

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Misty_Mountain_Rose View Post
    For the avid hikers on here, I share my hiking story What is one of yours?


    Last weekend some friends and I hiked The Fiery Gizzard trail near Chattanooga,TN. We left cars at both entrances and did the full hike of about 17 miles from the North entrance down to Foster Falls. (Apparently we also took the hard part up to Raven Point instead of looping around the Dog Hole trail.)

    There are some amazing pictures and reviews online, but the reviews don't do this hike justice. It seems most people are smart enough to do this hike in small bits and take advantage of the loop trails rather than doing the whole thing in a day and a half.

    Our original intent was to hike the majority of the trail on Saturday, camp at one of the campsites near the end and hike the few miles to the end the following day. We started at about 11:00am and thought surely we could walk 12 miles in 8 hours (2mph is a decent walk, would take 6 hours, so surely 2 extra hours budgeted for stops to be at camp by 7 was reasonable, right? ) We were doing pretty well, saw signs for the first campsite that we intended to bypass about 3.8 miles away and thought we were well on schedule.

    The next 4 miles were the LONGEST 4 miles of. my. life. The trail goes from being a nice, dirt path with some roots and rocks to a boulder strewn, ankle breaking incline that tests even the most coordinated of folks. Add in an accident-prone person carrying a 30lb backpack and you're just asking for trouble

    We reached Raven Point, (the middle campground that we wanted to bypass) at about 5pm. It had taken us 6 hours to go about 5 miles that day, and we were moving as fast as we could. (Until I hurt my ankle just before the last climb to the camp site) The majority of that time you are balancing on rocks that move and shift when you step up or down onto them, which makes for slow going and trecherous climbing at times along the sides of ravines that drop away beside the trail. The last big climb up to the Raven Point camp site is a 500 foot scramble that weaves its away back and forth across the face of a 70 degree slope... on the rocks that move and turn when you step on them. Doing this with a sprain is even more entertaining.

    At the top, we had a decision to make. It was another 6+ miles to the campsite we had wanted to reach that day and it would be dark soon... plus I was limping rather slowly. We decided to camp there and finish the next day. We were also running low on water, so two unfortunate folks in the group went back down the hill to get water that we could purify.

    The next morning we took our time getting ready, since this portion was supposed to be smooth sailing for the most part. We left at 8am and walked (in my case limped) a relatively nice, dirt trail for about 5 miles. We'd read about a deep gorge that we would have to descend and then climb out of to get to the next campsite, and when we got to it, even my aching ankle wasn't enough to make me unappreciative of the views here. I have to admit though, that climbing out the other side of this ravine, while short-lived, nearly brought me to tears. By then my mental stamina to hold out and continue limping along was wearing thin. I was tired, dirty, in pain, and wondering where a good place to just lay down and die would be.

    Every step from there to the exit seemed like a mile in itself. We still had about 3-4 miles to go. One inch roots sticking out of the ground looked like huge hurdles to be overcome, and even the music playing in my ear on my iPod couldn't take my mind off my situation. I knew I had to keep going, hell there wasn't a choice. There was no where else to stop, and no one coming to help me out. Foster Falls was a mere glance out of the corner of my eye as I went by it, knowing that the exit to this hell was close by somewhere. By the time we reached the car I didn't want to see another tree, rock or root for the rest of my life.


    I wonder now, looking back, as I sit at my desk with an ace bandage, air-conditioning and purified water... whether hiking is like child-birth. I remember distinctly how I was feeling on the way out, and how much pain I was in... but I sit here knowing that I'd do it all over again - and not just figuratively, but really. If my friends wanted to hike it again, I'd sign up in a heart beat. Why is that?

    I wasn't out to prove anything to myself when I went. I didn't realize from the reviews that I read that most of these people hadn't done the entire trail, and didn't understand that people only take pictures of the nice parts, not during the parts where they are struggling not to fall down the face of a mountain and break their necks. Looking at my own pictures, it seems a really nice place to go! Bring the kids! Bring the dog! Wooot!

    This trail is more of something you do when you're having a mid-life crisis... or maybe a death wish, not something you do for fun on a weekend excursion. But I didn't know that going in. Now, on the other side of it I think if I'd known I may have approached it a little differently from a mental stand point... but being unprepared for it and knowing that I made it anyway makes me proud.
    Grueling as it was, it's all worth it when you finally reach your destination, isn't it?! That sense of accomplishment is definitely next to none. When you're out doing your first major backpacking/hiking trip, or first time tackling a trail of that level, you can sure as hell bet you'll be going a lot slower than you expect.

    I remember my first backpacking trip, up one of the local mountains to an elevation of about 6000 feet of constant incline, 12 miles each way, in completely unshaded desert heat, and about 40 pounds on my back (too much weight). Oh man, that first time up was... torture. Battling heat sickness and running out of water while managing a heavy ass loaded backpack that really wasn't designed for great comfort. I was lucky to get some help for the water situation and getting to the top before the sun set. But of course just getting to the destination isn't enough... it's also about the journey, the trails and the tribulations you went through to get there! So I finished what I started the next day.

    Granted that hike wasn't quite as difficult since most of it was on fairly smooth trail/dirt road, but it definitely gets easier to tackle those big ones when you push yourself and try it again. The 2nd time i did that hike was much easier (only by comparison to the 1st), and I was much more prepared with the lessons I learned the first time (such as drinking water small sip by sip). You've gotten a taste now of what you're capable of, and what challenges lie ahead of you. Don't stop now, get stronger, and take to the trails!

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