We saw sandstone cliffs. Some of them formed ledges, or rock-houses, which protected from the rain. In ancient times the natives stayed under these ledges.
I found a small young box turtle of eight years old. He hid in his shell. I knew he was male because he had an indentation on his lower shell which would one day help him mount a female. I knew he was eight by counting rings on the scutes or plates of his shell. I know how to sex a box turtle. I also know how wrong that sounds. I used to survey box turtles for a group called CRESO.
The land of our trail rose into a mound. A rock wall stood on the other side of a deep ditch. The area had been strip mined for coal. We climbed off the trail into the ditch and walked down some of it, wrestling through fallen trees. The ditch now held a wetland, full of ferns and lycopods, plants whose relatives had grown here millions of years ago and formed the coal.
Then, we came down to Soddy Creek itself, a bustling stream surrounded by the ruins of an 1860s coal mining complex. Signs told us what all of the ruins once were, including showers, mines, ore cart roads, houses and other structures. The effect was strange. What remained of the Soddy Coal Company’s mining complex were a few stone and concrete walls, some paths and some indentations in the ground, even though signs told us that the area had once been the heart of industry.
Two last words: air potatoes. They’re exotic plants here in Tennessee. We saw a few growing near the end of today’s hike at Hotwater road.