I hike so I can eat pancakes! Sometimes with peanut butter and honey, sometimes with butter and syrup, sometimes with no cutlery. Nom! This was my breakfast of choice on a Sunday morning in November as I contemplated that I would be hiking about eight miles to get to the Walls of Jericho and mathematized my calorie in to calorie out ratio.
The “Walls” is an impressive geological feature that forms a large bowl shaped amphitheater. Embedded in the limestone are bowling ball size holes from which water drips and spouts, creating a unique water feature. This amphitheater gives rise to steep 200-foot (61 m) sheer rock walls that creates the natural feature defining the amphitheater. Turkey Creek drains through the “Walls” and has been an active geological force in creating the amphitheater.
I was super psyched to see this and figured I would be gone for about four hours. From the Alabama trailhead, it’s a six mile hike round trip with a 1,000 foot gain on the ascent. From the Tennessee trailhead, it’s an eight mile hike round trip. You’re also looking at about a 1,000 foot elevation gain, but it’s more gradual.
TWJ is located in Hytop, Alabama of Jackson County. This is a big black hole for cell service, so you may want to bring printed directions with you. Once you’re in Hytop, it’s pretty easy to find the trailhead. Just make sure you go to the correctly designated trailhead as one is for horses and the other is for hikers.
My plan was to go to the Alabama trailhead, but once I saw all the cars there I decided to drive a couple more miles north to the Tennessee trailhead. Be warned, the sign for the Tennessee trailhead is very small compared to the Alabama signs. I had to pull a U-ee, you’ll see what I mean if you go.
Once I parked, I headed over to the trailhead sign to take pics of the map. I would eventually discover their map sucked.
I had done some research prior to heading out and I knew the blazes were red in AL and white in TN. I didn’t find a lot of info regarding starting from the TN side, but there’s a plethora of info and reviews starting at the AL trailhead. Hmmmm, why was this?
So, after I peed near a tree (no POPs here), I was off! The TN trail is very well marked. If you get lost off this trail, it would be entirely your fault because you weren’t paying attention. I had no problems finding the blazes. At 0.76 miles, you will come up to a road designated as Hunter’s Parking. Just look to your left as you cross the road to continue to the white blazes. Some hunters had turned their vehicle around to stop and ask me if I had seen any deer. I think the driver was checking out my cute Asian hiker vibe. Woot woot!
At mile 1.5, you’ll hit a sign designating a fork in the trail. To the left, the white blazes will continue and to the left will be the red blazes indicating you are in ‘Bama country.
Well, like I had mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of info coming from the Tennessee side. I surmised I would be good if I kept heading southwest, so I kept following the white blazes to the left. DO NOT FOLLOW THE WHITE BLAZES TO THE LEFT. I hiked to the end of this trail, about a mile out of the way, where it connects to a horse trail.
No worries, just a little technical difficulty. I referred to the pics of the map I took and noticed it wasn’t quite right. When I started on the white blazes, I had turned left and not right towards the one mile loop. My start point was the Hiking Trail Parking lot and if I would have turned right, I would have been heading to the Overlook from my starting point.
I should have been farther down on that map and connecting with the Alabama trail by running right into it. Yet, it terminated to a horse trail. Whatever, back to the sign I go and I’ll pick up the red blazes from there.
At this point, I was in about four miles. Walking on, I see a sign for the Mill Creek Blowhole. Detour time! As I make my way down a very steep, skinny trail I’m imagining a blow hole similar to a whale’s blowhole. What would this look like? Okay, I have an overactive imagination and I need to refrain with that. The blowhole is actually a cave with water rushing out of it. Alabama has been in a drought, so looking down, it was nothing but a trickle. I journeyed back up the hill to continue to the Walls. This is where I made a huge mistake. If I would have continued down into this valley, I would have encountered a log bridge and then crossing Turkey Creek on another log bridge that would pass an old cemetery on the way into The Grand Canyon of the South.
Prior to heading down, I had seen some red blazes continuing on from the Mill Creek blowhole sign and this was the route I thought I was to follow. The red blazes started to become sparse and intermittent. I had to backtrack a few times in order to pick up the trail. I ultimately got lost when I decided to turn around after hiking, and not finding my destination, at 130pm. I started my hike at 830am and had only taken pee stops and stopped about 20 minutes for lunch.
The expletives I had strung together would have made a lifer blush. I had gone straight up a hill just to completely lose the red blazes. I refused to turn back down the hill after putting that work in. So, I wandered, despairingly trying to find a red blaze. After awhile, I calmed down and gathered my wits. I needed to find the creek or a tributary to the creek and I would get a better bearing of where the fuck I was. I started searching for anything that might look like a slight valley and found a small dried creek bed. As I followed this down, uncertain I was doing the right thing, I saw the foot bridge I had crossed a few miles ago! I was about to cry from joy and relief!
I carefully made it to the bridge knowing I had less than two miles, but one heck of a climb up. I reached the car before twilight and that was all that mattered.
Well, now I know how to get there and I hope I have barred any similar mistakes you may have made prior to reading this. I’ll be back through, more likely during the spring when the water should be higher. This time it was Wildnerness: 1 Wanderer: 0.
Much love and Aloha,
your gonna have ice cream for dinner clueless wanderer