Freeway Trail

 By Joe Feeman

Freeway Trail, which is an old logging road, begins at Hi Point Trail, about 1.5 miles up from the pump house and 0.3 miles below Hi Point. This 1.0 mile trail is open to all but motorized users (purple trail) and is one of the steepest trails in the watershed, falling (or climbing) about 520 feet. As you begin, there is a cable across the road to restrict vehicular traffic. The trail climbs a short hill before descending down a gradual slope and passes an old log road to the right. Most of the area on the right was selectively harvested in 1955 and 1977 and was clearcut in 1980. The resulting forest composition varies with each micro site; yellow poplar, red maple, black cherry, and sourwood are common on the richer, more productive sites, while oaks are predominant on the medium to poor quality sites. Continuing on down the trail you will soon meet the junction with Ridgecrest Trail on the left, just before the bottom of the hill. A short flat section soon gives way to another descent, just past an overgrown road to the left. This road was used to access a 10-acre timber harvest on top of the ridge in 1992. From this point, the trail travels down a long slope, varying from moderately steep to very steep. The surface has a slick cherty layer on top and can be tricky to navigate. Some sections have larger rocks, which have been uncovered by erosion. Vehicles were barred from this road in the early 90s because of maintenance costs and it was re graded after closure with large, deep dips constructed to control run off. These have been very effective in protecting the surface, but will need to be re graded soon, as they are filling in with silt.

On the left side of the trail, the forest is older, occupied by large, poor- quality chestnut oak and white oak, smaller red maple, and scattered shortleaf pine. You will pass a pocket of white pine on the left, where at one time, a population of pink lady slippers was present. Notice the tall grassy plant on the road surface; this is Nepal grass (woods grass), which is another invasive exotic plant that is found throughout the watershed. You will reach a road to the left, which is an access road to the power line. Freeway Trail now drops sharply and bends to the right before flattening out and following the contour to the back of the hollow and around. Again, the trail drops sharply on a rocky, eroded section and soon reaches the power line. The Norris Watershed boundary is just above the power line, with TVA property beyond that point. Under the power line the trail is badly eroded and has a heavy cover of sericea lespedeza. Longmire Trail cuts up the hill to the right as Freeway Trail continues straight, then turns left and then right, ending at Hwy 441 in a couple of hundred feet.

Freeway Trail is used primarily by horseback riders who park across from the old TVA Fisheries Lab on Hwy 441. To combine other trails for a loop, you can take the trail across the grass field along Hwy 441 to the Grist Mill or hike Longmire Trail back up the ridge to Hi Point Trail. Another option is to hike along 441 to Camp Sam Hollow, or use Songbird Trail, then cross back over to Camp Sam. I sometimes utilize Songbird from Camp Sam Hollow to get back to Lenoir Museum. This is one of the nicest features of the watershed; you can be creative in making loops that combine a variety of trails.

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