Trail Notes: Starting the New Year at Rocky Fork S.P.

Trail Team 11

The Place: Rocky Fork State Park (Unicoi County, Tenn.)

The Hike: A ranger-led to the Flint Creek Battle site to ring in the New Year

I’m not going to lie – when I mentioned to my non-hiking coworkers (and less hard-core but hiker coworkers) that I was ringing in 2020 by hitting a trail, they were flabbergasted.

While a few thought I was crazy, the main comment was on how cold it was forecasted.

In my experience, a hike will warm you up real quick.

Warming up by the fire pre-hike. (B.Stack/WJHL)

A group of roughly 20 of us gathered at Rocky Fork for the 2-mile out-and-back hike. Headlamps on, we moved up the main trail into the depths of the park – the Rocky Fork Trail.

I have a love/hate relationship with night hiking. I love how empty a park or trail is at that time. However, most times you have to deal with groups: in parks, you’re not supposed to be on the trail after dark unless it’s a ranger-led outing. As a slowpoke/gazer hiker, this doesn’t always bode well for me.

Tuesday night, a combination of a steep hill and overheating had me dropping to the back of the gaggle for the hike in to the Battle Site.

If you’ve never been to Rocky Fork before, the nice thing about it is the trail in is wide and graveled. Sure, there’s wet and muddy spots, but you know you’re on the trail.

To get to the battle site, you follow Rocky Fork Trail to its end. There, it branches off with the Flint Creek Trail to the left and White Oak Flats Trail to the right. You’re going to follow Flint Creek Trail over a small bridge before getting to where Flint Creek actually flows into Rocky Fork.

During the New Year’s Eve hike, we used the small bridge, a log covered with planks with a rail on one side. It’s dwarfed by the new bridge – a massive thing with rails on either side. It’s not open for this hike as stairs up to it must still be constructed.

“Road closed” barricades block hikers from accessing the new bridge. (B.Stack/WJHL)

From the bridge, it’s up an embankment and to the right to continue on. Two small bridges later, you’re suddenly in the middle of a field. The field that’s widely considered the Flint Creek Battle Site.

I’m not going into the history of the battle between John Sevier and his men and the Cherokees. There’s a good write-up here.

A small patch of the field illuminated by my headlamp. (B.Stack/WJHL)

On a cloudless or partly cloudy night, the field is prime stargazing. Unfortunately, from the time it took to get from the parking lot to the meadow, clouds had moved in. We took a few minutes to take in the noise of the few animals stirring on the cold night before the rangers turned us back toward our vehicles.

The hike back in the dark was definitely interesting. It’s predominately downhill. I’m surprised I didn’t turn an ankle on the loose rocks.

I rang in the New Year somewhere along the Rocky Fork. The loud rushing of the creek was better than any fireworks. Also great – the hot chocolate and cookies waiting back at the car, prepared by volunteers.

It’s an easy hike, particularly enjoyable at night. However, first time, definitely go during the day to enjoy the cascades and small waterfalls on the Rocky Fork and Flint Creek.

(Special thanks to Friends of Rocky Fork S.P. for making hot chocolate and sweet treats for all us hikers!)

The treat table from the Friends of RFSP. (B.Stack/WJHL)

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