New baseline for technical- The Cumberland Trail

10 02 2009

I have been wanting to hike into North Chick since I first ran it in a kayak about 14 years ago and scared myself nearly to death.  I had been back several times since for paddling and a little light hiking ,swimming around the bowling alley section but this  would be the first real attempt of the gorge as a trail-run.

Here is a view of the area and the gulch.

Click here to learn a little more about the  Cumberland trail in the North Chick Gorge

Elevation Profile for Cumberland Trail

The run started at the take out for the river in the the old Bowater pocket wilderness parking lot. There is a nice climb in the beginning but I was so stoked about being out there and the amazing views  that I did not even notice it, and the first real climb came in around mile 1, and you will without a doubt notice it.  Not only is it nice and steep; it is so close to the Bowater parking lot that there are other people out there attempting to hike it with cigarettes and small children in hand, at the same time mind you.  Also I figured it would be relatively easy to pass them given the circumstances, however as family units they proved capable of moving up the mountain at a decent clip.  But I was not deterred and eventually was able to overtake them and keep cruising up the trail.

Now the trail itself, while being nice and steep,  is part of Walden’s ridge and the cumberland plateu, so after the initial climb there are no more major climbs unlike the Blue Ridge mountains to the east that I am more used to running. This I thought was going to be a nice reprieve, however I forgot to factor in the stresses of tiny hills.

img_0173In addition to the small hills this is one of the most technical trails I have been on to date. I should have just run the creek bed for as many rocks as I encountered.  The Cumberland trail follows an old road for the first mile or so that has been washed away leaving many of the rocks exposed, but then the real technical parts are under the cliff line.

It was almost like a video game, not a new video game but something like Pitfall ala Intellivision.  Some large plate rocks you would step on and they would be as solid as bedrock, while others would teeter and shift.  You could not tell which ones would move by looking at them, so it was random guessing and hopping, hoping for the best.  I wound up on the ground several times laughing; but with none of the cool sound effects from Pitfall.

img_0186In addition to the technical challenges,the trail is poorly marked.  Sure you can spray paint and write your name on the walls at your leisure, but apparently marking for purposes other than declaring your love for Lurleen are not encouraged.  Just so Rinne, does not feel unloved, I promise upon my next visit, to bring a can of spraypaint so Southeast Tennessee knows how much I truly care for you.  I apologize for not being able to do so this time around. It will not happen again, because I am purchasing a pocket size can of spray paint for such occasions.

LaddersAnyway, I missed the trail turns a few times and had to do some backtracking along the cliff-lines, and came to something I though was only reserved for trails in Canada.  Being the litigous society that we are I did not think a stater recreation area would allow these things, but I am grateful that they do.

When you climb this set of stairs and ladders, you reach one of the coolest views on the trail, but be careful there are no rails to keep you from getting becoming part of the view.  You can play around with the view by clicking here. (If you think google earth is cool you will enjoy this, you can pan around with the view and switch to aerial.)

I took in the view and got a little to close to the edge on a wobbly rock… boooo!  After that I decided to take in the views while holding onto trees.   After this overlook you are along an old road for about a mile, passing an old mine, and then you drop back down into the gorge (if you are following the trail) and follow the middle cliff line with the super technical rocks.  I however, chose a different path, that led me to some amazing waterfalls, one which you cross with the aid of a cable, which is absolutely necessary unless you are Spiderman.

I kept cranking along and I kept losing the trail.  I thought it would follow the cliff lines at certain points, but it would meander off into the woods, and other times there were obvious trails into the woods, but as it turns out the Cumberland  trail would follow the cliff line and not the obvious path.  Lesson learned.

I definetly want to go back and explore this trail again soon. The views are amazing, and it is going to be great for swimming when it warms up in the summer.  In addition there are a plethora of waterfalls, and even areas for water bouldering, if you are willing to turn your run into a multi-sport adventure day.





4 responses

10 02 2009
David Ray

Awesome pics! Looks like a great trail with attitude. How far did you go on this one?

11 02 2009

Not too far only 10 miles or so, but it is the longest 10 miles I have gone. I will be going back to try and make it a little further and spray paint some cool gang signs… just keepin it real yo!

11 02 2009
David Ray

That’s how we roll!

10 04 2009
Andrew Saar

Now I know what to get you for Christmas Reeve. A nice taggin’ kit and a wall to practice on. Looks like a great run!

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