Sunday, July 3, 2011

Odd observances on today's adventure

So as part of our vacation, Master and I decided that we wanted to go hiking.  We looked at the parks that are close to us and asked friends where they liked to go and I wanted to take Fang with us.  We came to the decision to go toFrozen Head State Park.  It took us about an hour to drive from our house to the trail head where we parked and started hiking.  We drove through a part of Tennessee that I have never drove through before. 

I am convinced that I live in one of the most beautiful parts of our country. 

I do have some observations to share though.  After we went through Oak Ridge, there were a lot of homes in beautiful land, but there was no fucking place for these people to work.  I wonder if I am just spoiled that I live, and have almost always lived with in about 30 minutes of my job.  After we got to the turn off for the park, we found where they all work at, well a large part of Morgan County must all work on this one road.  (Flat Fork Road, in case you are interested.)  Flat Fork Road is a narrow 2 lane road, that is immaculately paved and newly painted and we came across, in this order, Morgan County school district offices, a wedding chapel (not a church), and then Morgan County Correctional Complex, then a few private homes and then there is the entrance to Frozen Head State Park.

Now, from the sign, you would think that this is the county penal farm and that's it.  All it says is "Morgan County Correctional Facility" and then you continue to circle around it, because that is exactly what this two lane country road does.  It circles the Pen.  It's fucking huge.  It also has fences that are at least seven feet tall and are not just a fence but rows of razor wire stacked on top of each other to get to that seven foot height.  There was a double row of this, with a walkway inside it and then more rows of fencing with more razor wire on inside the prison.  Now, what is going through my head right now is "there must be some bad mother fuckers in Morgan county, because the penal farm in Knox county (which is much more densely populated, and, well, urban) is NOTHING compared to this."  I also wondered why in hell they would build such a prison on the ONE road in to the State park. I still don't know.

Just to finish this observance out, I am going to tell you what I learned in my research before we went hiking about the park, and what I learned after we got home and I tried to figure out what that massive prison was doing there. 

The land that is Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area was purchased by the State in 1894 for the Brushy Mountain State Prison.   The state wanted to use convict labor to mine coal, and use the forest  for constructing of mine shafts. In 1911, the Emory River Lumber Company purchased the Frozen Head area and cut most of the forest's commercial timber. Major logging operations in the forest commenced in 1925.

In 1933, the governor set aside a large part of Brushy Mountain State Prison's lands for the establishment of Morgan State Forest. The Civilian Conservation Corps arrived that same year to construct roads and facilities for forest maintenance. CCC operations continued in the forest until 1941, although rattlesnakes and prison escapes prevented the establishment of a camp within the forest until 1938.

A large part of Morgan State Forest burned in a forest fire in 1952, and the forestry division transferred the lands to the parks division 18 years later for the establishment of Frozen Head State Park. In 1988, most of park's acreage was classified as a state natural area, restricting development to a 330-acre area around the confluence of Flat Fork and Judge Branch.  *A large part of the above history is copied form wikipedia*

In 2009, Brushy Mountain State Pen closed to inmates forever.  It was to house 584 inmates and was a maximum security prison.  It was out of date and expensive (and would cost like $25 million to update) to run so they had built a new, modern prison to take it's place, the Morgan County Correctional Facility.  It is built to house more than 2,400 inmates and is also a maximum security prison.  My question, why did they choose to build it on the ONE road that goes in to the state park?  I have no idea.  It just seems like an odd place to me for a prison.

More observances, people are loud and rude and have no respect for Mother Nature.  Parents are strange.  One would think that people would go to a natural area like this to enjoy the serenity of the mountains and the sounds of nature, the views, etc.  We heard (when we were close enough to the other hikers) a lot of screaming and yelling like frat boys - from adults, not children.  It was quite peaceful to be on the trail away from others and enjoy the sounds of the stream bubbling happily down the mountain. 

I was irritated beyond words to find cigarette butts in the middle of the trail and a place where someone had thrown down a styrofoam cup where it could not be easily retrieved.  If there was any way that I could have gotten it, I would have carried it out.  These things felt to me like the most disrespectful thing that could be done. 

Because of this day, and this hike, I look forward to more days and more hikes with Raven.  I want to be able to enjoy the serenity of just being.  Just being there in the middle of all of that awesomeness. A few pictures to share of our day.
This is Emory Gap Falls.  A 35 foot fall that slips over this cliff face.  At the top, we explored a little bit.  I wish I had taken my camera up with me, but I left it in the pack at the end of the trail.  I was amazing and inspirational.  I wish we had gotten to enjoy it by ourselves, but I guess that will have to be another day.

This is looking up at the falls from the end of the trail.  If you look closely towards the center of the picture, you can see the falls.  This spot is where we left the packs.  I had expected more with the "falls"  I guess, more water, but what was there wasn't a huge rushing of water, but it was more in another way.  The evidence there to see the awesome power of water and what it can do carving out the overhang that made up the falls. 

It was a beautiful day, and I can't wait until we get to go backpacking again and I have more beautiful shots to show you.  If you have some favorite areas to hike in East Tennessee, please let me know what they are.  I hope we get to explore many of them, and I have several books from the library that we are using to decide what hikes we are going to be taking. 

I think our next trip will be over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There are a lot of good trails over there and I love the area.  I can be hopeful that it is more off the beaten track and there fore there will be fewer people to interrupt my serenity.

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