Monday, January 1, 2007

Cumberland Mountain

January 2007
Cumberland Mountain...................Trail Rating.......Outcasts Total: 39.2 Miles Byrd Creek Trail................0.7 Miles.........Easy
Pioneer Short Loop............2.0 Miles.........Easy
Pioneer Trail......................3.0 Miles........Easy
Cumberland Plateau Trail..1.0 Miles.........Easy
Byrd Creek Trail................2.1 Miles.........Easy
Cumberland Overnight Trail..6.0 Miles....Impassable
Additional Road Hike........1.0 Miles.........Easy
Total………………………......15.8 Miles

This trip started off with warning signs that we should have caught, but didn’t. Our first warning was the phone call to the ranger to get information on the trail. A blonde answered and proved to be quite full of information. OK, I didn’t know she was blonde until she spoke and then confirmed it when we arrived at the park. The conversation went something like this: Hello, we are planning on taking your overnight trail and would like some information on it…………..overnight trail? Yes, the map that I have doesn’t have any trail lengths or names on it. Could you please tell me the length of your Northern overnight trail?………….Is that trail number 2? My map doesn’t have any numbers on it, I am asking about your overnight trail with the campsite on it………..what number trail is it? If you were to go to the campsite from the visitor center, how many miles is it?…………Trail number two is about six miles. OK, Is there a water source at the campsite?…………water source? You know, like drinking water?……..No, there isn’t any drinking water at camp. Is there a river or lake nearby?……….There is a lake by the visitor center………. Is there a river or lake by the campsite?…………..I don’t think so. OK, Well we will be up there this weekend to hike………I think the trail is closed. Your overnight trail is closed?……..I’m not sure. After we got there we found out that all of the trails had names.

Anyway, we could tell that it was getting close to hiking trip time because the weather was getting colder and colder. When we got to the park we found another happy lady who giggled when we said we were here to hike. This was an older lady and Blondie was sitting over on the other side of the room next to the fireplace giving another couple some information. When we convinced the lady that we really were going to hike in this weather she took out a blank sheet of scrap paper and asked our names. She asked for our cell number so she could call and check on us. We don’t take cell phones on trips. Anyway I am sure that that unofficial piece of paper ended up in the trashcan before we left the door. She took out a map, with trail names and miles on it, and showed us an area that was a little overgrown and may be hard to hike. OK.

We headed out on the Southern loop first which a really nice hike with beautiful scenery and only one broken bridge. One of the standing jokes we have is the special map reading skills of my brother. He had accidentally added ten miles on a trip we took in the Smokey’s. Well, I found out that it might be in the family genes when we came across a road, which I said “Hey, that isn’t on our map.” It didn’t take Troy long to see the map and point out the error of my ways. On the map, what I thought was a boundary line was really a road. Then came up the “where does the trail go from here?” about the same time that Greg stated, “You mean this trail?” from the other end of a bridge. I might have taken a little slack from that incident.

We came back to the visitor center and ate our chicken, again really good. A few people stopped a safe distance away and watched in amazement as Greg and I devoured the last bird.

We picked up our packs and headed out on the Northern loop. Troy was yelling out “Greg, look at me” as he skipped along the trail carrying his new lightweight backpack and gear.

All was going well until we got to the place marked on the map by the lady. Talk about a briar patch. A familiar tune comes to mind “Well, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles and the ran through the bushes where the rabbits couldn’t go.” We didn’t see any rabbits. Much flesh was left on this section of the trail. After we cleared the massive briar patch the trail had numerous trees down across it and we came across a couple of bridges that were in need of repair with one completely broke in half.

A river ran the entire length of the trail. On the map it was labeled as Three Mile River, which would be one half the distance of our trail. Imagine that. Of course it did not label it a water source on the map.

Numerous times we left the trail and foraged our way around piles of trees where the trail had once been. We came across a bridge that was broke in half and we were feeling like it was time to find camp. We guessed it to be within a half mile when Troy said it was one thousand four hundred and eighty feet. Only Troy can be so precise. Finally he broke and showed us where it was spray-painted in red on the side of the broken bridge.

It was getting late and we hit the area where camp was marked on our map. We looked and looked with no luck. Finally we hiked a mile further down the trail looking for a campsite and ended up making our own.

New equipment was tested. Greg had his new sleeping bag, new backpack, and new hammock, instead of a tent. Troy had a new tent and new sleeping bag. I had a new hammock and new sleeping bag. We were using double sleeping bags, which were lighter and warmer than the old. We all were using the full-length foam rests instead of the Thermo Rest that we had used on prior trips. We set the thermometer to low to test our new set up, back into the teens.

I got up that night to pee and I got hungry so I went through the pack to get me a candy bar. It was quite noisy, but I tried not to wake up anyone. I figured that while I was up, I would put another long on the fire. As I was walked a safe distance from Greg’s hammock through the eight inches of dry leaves and caught a few briars, I could hear Troy snoring in his tent. I had never heard Troy snore at the fire hall. Let me tell you, that man can rip when he has eleven miles under his belt. I really wasn't worried about waking him anymore. I got to the campfire and remembered the briar patch that was on this side. Some quite moaning and cussing got me through and I got the fire built back up. Figuring that I made too much noise on the way through the woods, I just walked right past Greg’s hammock on the way back. One minor problem was the tent peg holding out his tarp. Greg let me know that he was already up from my first pass and got up for the rest of the night to sit by the fire.

The next day we got a good breakfast and broke camp. When we got to the second mark on the ladies map we found that the trail just disappeared into another briar patch. You can’t get there from here so we left the park and cut across the cow pasture. We tried to enter the park several times, but gave up with the briars and found a road to hike back on.

When we got back to the visitor center we decided to have a talk with the lady. We caught the Ranger inside as well. He then let us know that the trail has been closed for five years after a tornado came through. The previous Ranger had told him that they were going to use it a study for the University of Tennessee. He said that he was surprised to hear that we were out hiking that trail. When we asked about the campsite he said that the boy scouts had built a teepee at one time up there and had planned on building more of a campground, but never got to it. We passed along our thoughts.