Thursday, August 28, 2014 · 7:15 a.m.

Hiketoberfest highlights stunning Signal Mountain section of the Cumberland Trail

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Mushroom Rock along the Cumberland Trail on Walden's Ridge in Chattanooga. (Photo: Friends of the Cumberland Trail)

Hiketoberfest on Sunday, Oct. 14 offers an in-depth introduction to the wilds of the Cumberland Trail, a trail system that traverses 190 miles of the Cumberland Plateau from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in Kentucky to its southern terminus on Walden’s Ridge.

If you go

What: Hiketoberfest, a hiking, nature and music festival celebrating and supporting the Cumberland Trail
When: Sunday, Oct. 14, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Shackleford Ridge County Park on Signal Mountain
How much: Free, but a $10 donation is suggested to support the Cumberland Trail State Park
For more information: Click here

“Hiketoberfest is a hiking, nature and music festival all in one that highlights the section of the trail located atop Walden’s Ridge,” said Bob Fulcher, superintendent for the Cumberland Trail through Tennessee state parks. The daylong event, which will take place at Shackleford Ridge Park on Signal Mountain, will feature hikes, educational lectures and musical entertainment—all set in the great outdoors.

The Cumberland Trail follows the eastern escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, traveling through 11 counties in the eastern section of the state. The trail offers hikers access to remote scenic areas featuring spectacular overlooks, picturesque waterfalls and wilderness experiences that are a trademark of the southeastern United States.

Still a work in progress, approximately 190 miles of the Cumberland Trail are available for hiking within the following trail segments: the Rock Creek, Possum Creek, Soddy Creek and North Chickamauga segment in Hamilton County; the Tennessee River Gorge segment in Prentice Cooper State Forest; the Cumberland Mountain segment above LaFollette and Jacksboro and in the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park; the Smoky Mountain segment in Campbell County; the Frozen Head segment in Morgan County; the Obed Wild and Scenic River segment in the Obed Wild and Scenic River and Catoosa Wildlife Management Area; and the Grassy Cove segment on Black and Brady mountains in Cumberland County.

The Cumberland Trail runs through many Tennessee counties and provides many miles of scenic hiking opportunities. (Image: Friends of the Cumberland Trail)

Hiketoberfest will include a number of hikes along a portion of the Cumberland Trail on Signal Mountain, including a social walking event called “volkswalking” (from the German word “volksmarsch,” meaning “people's march”), led by Signal Mountain High School senior Harris Wickizer. The volkswalk will feature live music along the trail, as well as opportunities to learn more about the Cumberland Trail system as a whole.

The schedule also includes a two-mile round-trip hike to Mushroom Rock, a rock outcrop on the edge of the Cumberland Trail near Shackleford Ridge Park. Amanda Brown, a senior geology student at UTC, will lead this geology hike to provide insight on the sand grains, boulder, bluffs and the rest of the ingredients that make up the Cumberland Plateau.

“Mushroom Rock is an extraordinary feature that is unique to the Cumberland Trail,” Fulcher said. “Last year, Friends of the Cumberland Trail cleaned some graffiti off of Mushroom Rock, so we look forward to sharing it with the public.”

Throughout the day, experts from across the region will lead educational programs to provide guests with information about the natural history of the Cumberland Plateau.

Dr. Brian Eisenback, assistant professor of biology at Bryan College, will demonstrate methods to protect hemlock trees from the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid, which is destroying stands of hemlock trees across the eastern United States. The lethal adelgid has been found at the edge of Signal Mountain.

“The Saving Our Hemlocks program will be helpful for people on Signal Mountain because we will actually demonstrate how to treat a hemlock in your front yard to protect it from the hemlock wooly adelgid,” Fulcher said.

In the afternoon, Friends of the Cumberland Trail will discuss dramatic efforts to collect native plant seeds from the Cumberland Plateau for long-term preservation. Terri Ballinger, seasonal interpretive ranger for the Cumberland Trail who has led the effort for three years, will discuss the project and answer questions.

Also, Sierra Bow, a Ph.D. student in archeology at UT Knoxville, will discuss her research connected with ancient rock art sites and rock house dwellings throughout the Cumberland Plateau.

Throughout the day, musical performances will take place on a main stage at the park, including John Boulware, a Chattanooga fiddler with the group Slim Pickings and teacher at the Folk School of Chattanooga; Leah Gardner, an original member of The Black Lillies, who will perform blues and ballads; and the Tennessee Sheiks, an acoustic swing, jazz and blues group, featuring Don Cassell and Nancy Brennan Strange.

All funds raised during Hiketoberfest will support the continued development of the Cumberland Trail.

For a complete Hiketoberfest schedule, click here.

Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge. She enjoys writing about the natural world and exploration opportunities found within the southeastern United States, one of the most biologically and recreationally rich regions on Earth. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.

Volunteer Ken Dubke answers questions during last year's Hiketoberfest. (Photo: Friends of the Cumberland Trail)
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