The Cumberland Trail traverses 190 miles of the Cumberland Plateau, spanning 11 counties in East Tennessee. This rugged, scenic trail offers hikers access to remote areas with spectacular overlooks, picturesque waterfalls, and wilderness experiences that are trademarks of the southeastern United States.
Each year, the Friends of the Cumberland Trail highlights the riches of East Tennessee's Cumberland Trail during Hiketoberfest, an annual festival held at the trail's southern terminus on Walden’s Ridge just outside of Chattanooga. This year’s event, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Shackleford Ridge Park on Signal Mountain, will feature guided hikes, educational lectures, musical entertainment, and a native plant sale—all set in the great outdoors.
Named for Justin P. Wilson in honor of his work to help make the trail a reality, the Cumberland Trail is managed as the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, with park offices located in Caryville, Pikeville and Signal Mountain, Tenn. Once completed, the Cumberland Trail will span 300 miles from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on the Tennessee-Virginia-Kentucky border to the Signal Point on Walden’s Ridge.
"The Cumberland Trail connects several unique features along the Cumberland Plateau, almost like a string of pearls," Andy Wright, a park ranger with the Cumberland Trail, says.
Currently, the following trail segments are open to hikers: the Rock Creek, Possum Creek, Soddy Creek and North Chickamauga segment in Hamilton County; Tennessee River Gorge segment in Prentice Cooper State Forest outside of Chattanooga; Cumberland Mountain segment above LaFollette and Jacksboro and in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park: Smoky Mountain segment in Campbell County; Frozen Head segment in Morgan County; 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.
Date: Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Time: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. EST
Location: Shackleford Ridge County Park, Signal Mountain, Tenn. (behind Sigmal Mountain Middle/High School).
Cost: Suggested donation of $10 per person / $25 per family
For more information, visit www.friendsofthecumberlandtrai.org.
This year's Hiketoberfest will feature a variety of hikes along portions of the Cumberland Trail that branch out from Shackleford Ridge County Park, which is located behind Signal Mountain Middle/High School.
"Hiketoberfest showcases many of the resource management projects that the park is involved in and that the Friends group assists us with," Wright says. "It's a great opportunity to introduce people to these projects and to hiking in general."
Beginning at 9 a.m., Ryan Maddux, an interpretive ranger with Cumberland Trail State Park, will lead a seven-mile, moderately difficult hike to Edwards Point and Mushroom Rock, a spectacular geologic feature along the trail. Ken Dubke, a retired interpretive ranger with the National Park Service and local ornithologist, will also lead an early morning bird walk along the trail.
Some of the oldest and most widespread collections of prehistoric cave and rock art in the U.S. have been found in Tennessee, according to a recent paper about Cumberland Plateau cave and rock art published in the British archeological journal Antiquity. Sierra Bow, a Ph.D. candidate in Archeology at UT-Knoxville, will be on-hand to lead a 1 p.m. hike to explore and discuss Native American cultural preservation and a variety of sandstone rock houses found throughout the plateau.
Other Hiketoberfest adventures will include a three-mile exploration of the geology of the Cumberland Plateau and Mushroom Rock with Amanda Brown, a senior UTeach Geology student at UT-Chattanooga, and a one-mile hike to discuss the current status of the Hemlock wooly adelgid infestation and treatment programs with Douglas Godbee, Forest Health Forester with the Tennessee Division of Forestry. At noon, Tennessee State Parks Trails Administrator Mark Stanfill will lead a four-mile, moderately difficult hike to a swinging bridge over North Suck Creek.
Throughout the day, naturalists and experts from across the region will be on-hand to discuss the natural and cultural history native to the Cumberland Plateau.
Hiketoberfest will also highlight some of the cultural features that surround the Cumberland Trail, and projects that the Friends group has taken on to preserve these features, including regional music and the natural landscape.
At noon, Terri Ballinger, a seasonal naturalist for Cumberland Trail State Park, will discuss the Friends of the Cumberland Trail's efforts to collect native plant seeds throughout the Cumberlands for long-term preservation (in partnership with London’s Kew Gardens and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture). Ballinger will lead a field trip at 1:15 p.m. to the new Seed the Cumberlands nursery - dubbed Trailhead Nursery - located in Sequatchie County within the Lone Oak Community on Walden’s Ridge.
At 2:30 p.m., Marcianne O’Day, Multimedia Specialist with Sandrock Recordings, will discuss the record label’s efforts to preserve and promote the musical heritage of the landscape surrounding the Cumberland Trail.
Hiketoberfest’s regional musical guests - Justin Watkins (hammer dulcimer), Pay the Reckoning (Traditional Irish music) and Old Time Travelers (Chattanooga string band) – will take the stage at Shackleford Ridge Park from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
A booth will be set up at Hiketoberfest to record hiking stories and scan images from hikes along the Cumberland Trail. "We want to add to our oral history project and photo archives, so we encourage anyone with photos or stories to come and share them," Wright says.
All funds raised during Hiketoberfest will further resource protection on the Cumberland Trail. For more information, visit http://friendsofthecumberlandtrail.org.
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.
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