Monthly Archives: January 2017

Come For the Trails, Stay for the Scenery.

Welp, so far, 2017 hasn’t been terrible. Granted, there are still 50 weeks for things to go south, but at this point, no complaints. OK, work is b-a-n-a-n-a-s (Gwen!), but that’s normal for this time of year, what with NAMM and all. But that’s not a complaint – just part of my deal.

Tennessee River Gorge - click for much larger

Tennessee River Gorge – click for much larger

Saturday, an awesome, challenging hike. In fact, probably the most challenging hike I’ve ever taken. 12 miles on the Cumberland Trail, in what turned out to be an aggressive, technical adventure. This is one I’ve always wanted to go on – in fact, I started it last weekend, just to get a feel for the trail, but it was 20 degrees, and I wasn’t prepared for the full trek, so I only did about 5 miles. But yesterday, the full journey.

Basically, this was a Cumberland Trail hike – started at the trailhead at Prentice Cooper State Forest, down to the Indian Rockhouse, which is less than a mile from the parking lot. Then, onward past Lusk Point to Lawson’s Rock, but this was not without a little peril. This time of year, it’s a rarely-travelled trail, and the trail itself sorta faded out after about 4 miles. Now, I won’t say I got lost, because I never really get lost (thanks to the gadgets) – but I did miss the concealed turn off the trail up to the top of the bluffs. So, in the map below, you can see at the 4 o’clock position (in yellow), I started along the bluff face – steep, slippery and dangerous. After about a half mile, I figured out that I was off the trail, and started backtracking. Luckily, I had my trusty Bear Grylls parang (and no, I didn’t drink any pee), so I was able to chop my way through the brush – still, probably the most dangerous trekking I’ve done. Coming from the north heading south, the pass to the top of the bluff was easy to find; but coming from the south, it was completely obscured, which is how I walked right past it. But I did – eventually – find my way up to the top of the bluff, and on to Lawson’s Rock (where the orange and yellow intersect), and its awesome view of the river gorge far below. It’s been many years since I was out here, but I never came from around the mountain; I had always come down the easy jeep trail. Worth it.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

After a break at Lawson’s Rock, and a gaggle of teenage girl hikers who seemed very surprised to find me there, onward down the side of the mountain to the highway and the bridge across the creek (bright green at the top of the map). I’ve been to this bridge before, but coming from the other direction (as part of my Signal Mountain Trails hiking), so I kinda wanted to “meet up” so I can get a sense of what doing the complete trail will be like – and if you’re keeping score at home, it’s about 13 miles one way. That will be a challenge.

Cumberland Trail trailhead marker

Cumberland Trail trailhead marker

Anyway, after making it to the bridge – 6.5 miles, because of the extra distance from my off-trail wandering – back to up the mountain to Lawson’s Rock. From there, instead of following the trail back to the trailhead via the Indian Rockhouse, I picked up the jeep trail – Sulpher Springs Road – back to the main road (orange). All together, 12 miles, and 6 hours. Great way to spend a Saturday – but frick, I’m sore. Not so sore that I skipped the gym, of course, but still sore.

Now, to start planning my next adventure…