Me digging myself into a hole
I've been working down in Manchester for a few weeks collecting soil samples at the Air Force Base. It might be considered a super top secret project that I'm not authorized to comment on, so I'll be brief. I realized I have a pretty cool job. I get paid to walk around in the woods! Granted it was a little cold for this area, 20-40 degrees F, but put on a few layers and you're good to go! I walk around a forest with a GPS and select points to sample, then I dig a hole, collect the soil in bags, shoot the soils with my x-ray gun and collect a GPS location. Pretty simple. Until you fight with the tree canopy to get satellites, but I still enjoyed it. Can't beat spending all day in the woods.
After work one day, I decided to go for a hike at the Old Fort State Archeological Park just north of town.
All geared up
It was sort of drizzling, but I went anyway with a friend. We got there at 4 pm - the park closes (as in the gate locks) at sunset. When is sunset? I'm not really sure, so we better hike fast! I figure we had until 5 pm. There is a little museum and then a 1 1/4 mile loop trail through the woods along some cliffs. The park is on a little peninsula between two forks of the Little Duck river. The river cuts through some great, tough limestone and has several small waterfalls on both forks of the river. The park actually protects Indian burial mounds and stone walls used for ceremonies. At least I think it does - I never made it into the museum. Or got a map. We decided to hike along the north fork first.
Snow? In the South?
The trail was a nice dirt trail full of leaves and tree roots. We went off the path a bit to get closer to the edge. My friend decided to climb down to the river. Since it rained and snowed the previous night, all the rocks were super slippery. I figured I'd slip and fall to my death or wouldn't be able to climb back up, so I stayed up top.
We then went down the big hill to get at the river level. We walked through an abandoned channel through enormously tall trees. It would have been pretty dark down there if the trees had their full canopies. Eventually we found the other fork of the river. We decided to climb down those rocks (which were indeed very slippery) and get up close to the falls.
Water drops on pine needles
Since it was such a dreary day, there weren't any other people out there. It was starting to get noticably darker and I suggested we pick up the pace because I really didn't want to be locked in the park overnight. We got back up top and discovered we were the only car in the parking lot (there had previously been 3 cars plus a park ranger vehicle). The museum was closed and dark. It was almost 5 and getting dark. We got to the car and drove down the driveway, a little nervous that we were indeed trapped for the night. I got to the gate and it was partially closed. Apparently they figured that one car that didn't follow directions might want to get out yet. A ranger was waiting in a nearby office to close the gate and go home.
Lower Step Falls on Little Duck River
Whew! That would have been a very long walk home! (Apparently if you want a cab in Manchester, you must call ahead 6 hours. So be wary if drinking because chances are you'll be relying on some stranger hopefully not as drunk as you to get you home).
I went back to the park 4 days later to do some more hiking - this was after a freezing cold weekend. Now there were icicles hanging off the cliffs and frozen spray near the waterfalls. I found out some more of the history of the ruins. The site was for ceremonial purposes for the Woodland Indians about 2000 years ago. The inner walls are lined up with the summer solstice sunrise (but you can't really see them anymore). The walls surround a 50 acre meadow on top of the cliffs between the two rivers.
Cool icicles below Lower Step Falls
The walls have been eroded and over grown and you can't see much of the walls except for rounded humps lining the top of the hill. You can actually see the stones of the wall if you climb down by Big Falls (if you obey the signs and stay on the trail, you probably won't see the wall). The hiking trails are nice if you follow below the wall and hike near the river and climb around on the rocks. The trail up on the meadow is dull - unless you like hiking in a meadow with no terrain or tripping hazards. It was neat to see the falls with the ice on them - I don't think it gets that cold for long periods of time down here. Still didn't make it into the museum, but didn't get locked in either!
Now back to work.
Sinking Pond at Arnold AFB - notice high water marks on trees
We are collecting soil samples on the base in areas that were impacted by unexploded (and exploded) ordinances. Way back in the woods is my favorite spot on base - the Sinking Pond. The base is underlain by limestone, which is easily dissolved and forms a land dotted with sinkholes and caves, known as karst topography. This particular area is a sinkhole that is dry in summer/fall and full of water in winter/spring. When the groundwater level rises, the underground cave system becomes full of water and forms a "plug" under Sinking Pond. The water level rises in the pond and remains at high levels until the regional groundwater level is lowered. Once it lowers, it is like pulling a drain plug in the bathtub - the entire pond drains out in one day! The pond is often 15 feet deep! This year the pond doesn't have any water in it because the area is in a drought. The pond is also a large Great Blue Heron rookery in spring.
Manchester Sights & Attractions review
This little park is located just north of Manchester, TN. It is free and has pretty nice (but short) hiking trails. The trails start on top of 85 ft… read entire review
Manchester Hotels & Accommodations review
Nice for extended stays
The Country Inn and Suites is a little pricier hotel chain, but when you have an extended (business) stay, they are worth the extra cost. This hotel i… read entire review