View Full Version : Cumberland Trail work outing lots of fun

10-11-2005, 23:00
I'm back from the first two days of the two-week Bird Mountain Backpack trail-building outing and wanted to let everybody know more about what to expect.

The Cumberland Trail bills the Bird Mountain Backpack Outing as "the busy backpacker outing". http://www.cumberlandtrail.org/act.html

I like that concept, and evidently so do a lot more people. This is the first year the program has been offered and it has attracted a lot of interest, despite the fact that the Cumberland Trail is also conducting a Fall Big Dig Program just north of Chattanooga during the same time period.

I arrived at the base camp on Sunday afternoon. Gary and Doris had a large Cumberland Trail banner in front of the base camp site in the Frozen Head State Park campground, so there was no stress hooking up with the Cumberland Trail people. They had a large two room cabin tent on the site especially for trail-building volunteers, but I decided to camp in the back of my pick-up.

Gary and Doris gave me maps and good information on the location of the back-country camp and what to expect. The Cumberland Trail is providing all the trail-building tools, food and drinking water, but you have to have your own back-country tent, bag, etc. They carry the drinking water up the mountain using the State Park's equipment. It is best to return to the base camp in the campground for hot showers, although there is a pond a few hundred yards from the backcountry camp.

The plan is to build 3 miles of trail during the two week period. The majority of the trail is on the ridgeline, with breathtaking views. Work started at the western access, several miles from the base camp. The trail will get closer and closer to the base camp as work progresses, but work will still terminate about a mile and half and 1000 feet of elevation from the base camp.

Gary bused us about two miles to the western access, an old logging road that winds up Bird Mountain to the base camp. The hike is beautiful, but the 1200 foot elevation gain carrying a pack is challenging for my old bones. Luckily, they were hauling water up to the basecamp, and had room for my pack.

It takes a little over two hours to hike up. The backcountry site is is really nice! It is in a pine forest, so you don't get the views there. But you know that you are at a high elevation, about 2700 feet, because in the evening the clouds were passing at our elevation. There is a kitchen shelter, a fire circle, a privy, and lots of things I didn't expect. There also weren't any bugs, a pleasant surprise since there hasn't been a frost yet.

We got a chance to rest and set up our tents, then had snacks while Restless, the Cumberland Trail guy, gave us a short talk on safety and using the trail-building tools. Then we were assigned to teams and started on building the trail following orange flags. The really good views start about a quarter mile from the camp, where the hardwood trees are turning their fall colors. I am told that this is no a good year for fall colors, but it looked pretty spectacular to me.

The trail building on the ridge is very easy compared to trail building in the gorges just north of Chattanooga. But remember, it was a hard climb up to backcountry camp. We had a nice long lunch break on the trail, and several breaks, then quit about 3:30 and hiked back to the base camp. It felt good to hike back over trail that I had helped build, but I can see that the hike to and from will get longer and longer.

Restless cooked spaghetti for supper, and one of the volunteers from Chattanooga, Gene, cooked a delicious cherry cobbler in a cast iron Dutch oven over the campfire. We chatted around the campfire, then turned in. There were no planned presentations like the ones during the Spring Big Dig.

This morning we started out at a leisurely pace. Lots of coffee, oatmeal, and grits. We made up some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. They also had healthy stuff, like granola bars, bananas, apples. But I passed that up for a small bag of potato chips. We filled our water containers and started out.

I got to do "re-landscaping". That basically means tidying up the trail built by a trail-building machine that was working way ahead of us on the ridge. The machine digs up the roots and softens the hard soil on the ridgetop. Just a little raking, and the trail is ready for hiking. It even does moderate sidehill cuts. The machine is practical to use only in certain areas, but I could see that in those areas, it makes a really nice trail very fast with only two or three people.

We moved further and further from camp. Another group of volunteers, freshly rested from the hike up, joined us.

What a great way to enjoy the outdoors! Giving back, and at the same time getting to enjoy the crisp fall air, the forest.

At about 3:30, we stashed our tools on the side of the new trail, and hiked back to camp. I finished packing and hiked back down the mountain. Hiking downhill is a lot easier, even if you are already pretty tired.

Gary met us and bused us to our cars. I drove the 80 miles to Monterey, and got home in time to get on the computer for a few. Maybe I can work my schedule to go back to Bird Mountain in a few days.

The "busy backpacker" outings are a good fit for me. I like the fact that I can work the outing around my schedule, and that a quick phone call to the Cumberland Trail office the day before is all that is required. There is no fee either, another plus.

10-12-2005, 00:27
Warren Devine and i discussed the machine last year at a big dig, glad they got it and are using it, it didnt make sense to use man power in the flat piny areas knowing the machine could whip it out so much quicker.....the CT is destined to be another jewel in the trail system of the USA and i hope many at least sample a section.

Frolicking Dinosaurs
10-12-2005, 05:03
I'm hoping to be able to show up at Frozen Head with some goodies for the builders. I won't be able to help with the building this year - my damaged hip is giving me a fit as the weather changes :(. Do I need to call ahead to show up with goodies and comfort items?

10-12-2005, 08:42
I'm hoping to be able to show up at Frozen Head with some goodies for the builders. I won't be able to help with the building this year - my damaged hip is giving me a fit as the weather changes :(. Do I need to call ahead to show up with goodies and comfort items?
It would be nice to call ahead, at 931-456-6259, or email at [email protected]

Frolicking Dinosaurs
10-16-2005, 08:42
It doesn't appear I wil be showing up with trail goodies - my uncle is at death's door :( and his daughter is a dear friend (as well as a first cousin)