What is BreakAway?

2017 BreakAway is March 4 to April 1 near Dayton, TN.

BreakAway is an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program hosted by the Cumberland Trails Conference (CTC). College students from across the country pay their own way to come to Tennessee to work on the Cumberland Trail along with CTC volunteers. Students and volunteers stay in East Tennessee and participate in trail building/maintenance for a week. BreakAway also provides for educational opportunities about the environment, history, geology, flora and fauna along the Cumberland Trail. BreakAway participants must be affiliated with a BreakAway sanctioned school and have a site leader present.

For additional information and/or to obtain an application for BreakAway, please email us or contact us.

What is the Cumberland Trail?

The Cumberland Trail (CT) is a rugged, north-south, foot traffic only trail along the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau in Eastern Tennessee.  When completed, the trail will be 300-plus miles long.  As of 2014 roughly 190 miles are complete and part of the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Park.  The trail begins at Cumberland Gap National Park on the northern border of Tennessee/Kentucky.  The southern end is the “Grand Canyon” of Tennessee at Signal Mountain overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge at Chattanooga. The Cumberland Trail was designated a State Scenic Trail in 1971, and a State Park in 1998. In September 2002 it was renamed the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. It has been recognized as the official Millennium Legacy Trail for Tennessee! The Cumberland trail is an integral part of the larger Great Eastern Trail.

What is the Cumberland Trails Conference?

The Cumberland Trails Conference (CTC) was formed in 1997, as an associate organization to Tennessee Trails Association (TTA). In January 2015 it became an independent organization.  Our mission is to build  a 300 mile hiking trail along the Cumberland Plateau from Kentucky to Georgia.  The trail is intended to link numerous public lands including two National Parks and several State Parks in a continuous corridor of wilderness.  Construction of the trail allows visitors to enjoy the beauty of the Cumberland Plateau while conserving natural resources and protecting upland water sheds. The Cumberland Trails Conference establishes a foundation of support by interconnecting local communities within the trail corridor to acquire land, build and promote the Cumberland Trail.  CTC publishes a newsletter and hosts numerous opportunities for volunteers and civic groups to help with trail construction.  The CTC is a non-profit organization funded by grants and donations.

What will I do as a BreakAway Participant?

Students are immersed in building a hiking trail in the raw wilderness of Tennessee.  For many, this is an opportunity to get out of their “comfort zone” and experience beauty and isolation of the Appalachian Mountains.  After hiking to the work site students use a variety of specialized tools to clear leaf litter, cut branches, remove roots and eventually make a level hiking path. Some work includes installing water bars to control erosion, building rock steps and stone creek crossings.   Students work 6 – 8 in a team under the guidance of experienced CTC volunteers know as Wagon Masters. Since the trail runs through isolated areas, participants should plan to hike from 5-10 miles per day.

Work Schedule, Lodging, Food, and Miscellaneous Details:

Arrival: Plan to arrive by 3:00 PM Eastern Time on the Sunday before you are scheduled to work on the trail. This will allow you time to eat and attend an orientation session.

Daily Schedule: Typical schedule is to leave at 7:30 AM and drive to the trail head. Expect a 30-45 minute drive to reach the trail head.  Once at the trail head, we hike to the work area for a safety demonstration and training.  We continue doing trail work until lunch.  Educational sessions while on the trail occur daily.  After lunch, trail work continues to about 3:00 PM. At 3:00-3:30 PM, begin hike back to vans to return to lodging.   Evening activities are planned, as well as reflection sessions.

Lodging: Lodging is to be paid for by either the University or the student. The CTC handles lodging arrangements.

Food: Meals will be provided by CTC. Meals will include: Dinner on Sunday; Breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; breakfast only on Wednesday and Saturday. Since Wednesday is a free day to explore the local area, students will be responsible for meals.  The students will make lunch (with food provided by TTA/CTC) during the breakfast hour before leaving each morning since lunchtime will be out on the trail. Students will also be responsible for their own snack food beyond the designated mealtimes.

Miscellaneous Details:

Breakaway trail construction crew

Typical student crew during BreakAway on the Cumberland Trail.

Equipment and Clothing: Trail work is dirty. Wear old, comfortable clothes. Bring at least two pairs of shoes.  One for the trail and one for around the base camp.  Muddy work shoes are not allowed in buildings.

Either hiking boots or some other type of boot is necessary in order to protect your feet. Tennis shoes do not provide enough protection or traction for trail work and will not be allowed on the trail. Rain gear should also be packed. You will need to have a backpack, messenger bag or fanny pack to carry lunch and water during the workday. Two – one quart water bottles per person is strongly recommended.

Temperatures on the Cumberland Plateau in March may start as low as 35 degrees but rise to 60 or more during the day.  Plan to dress in layers.

Weather: March in Tennessee is usually mild (35-70 degrees). Winter clothing should be brought in case the temperature goes below freezing. Rain is likely in March. Bring rain gear.  The day may turn to rain while we are working.  Daily and weekly work schedules will be altered in case of rain (or snow).

Students need to bring their own work gloves, bug spray and water bottles.

Bedding:  Students are housed in a summer camp barracks environment.  They need to bring their own sheets, pillows, sleeping bag (or blankets), toilet gear and towels.  A full list is send when a school registers.

Medical: Trail work is physically demanding, so participants should be in good to excellent physical condition. Potential participants should be screened for medical conditions that might prove to be harmful to them while working on the trail.

Roads and Driving Information: The roads to the trail heads may be gravel. The drivers of the school vehicle should be familiar with driving on loose gravel.

Alcohol: TTA/CTC has a no alcohol/drugs policy for our BreakAway program. This includes the lodging facility, meeting areas, the surrounding property, and trail. This should be taken into account when recruiting students for our Spring BreakAway program.

No Sound Gear On the Trail:  Ear buds, iPods, MP3 players, cell phones playing music and other sound gear will not be used on the trail.  There is no texting, Instagraming, Facebooking, updating your web page etc on the trail. Most places there will be no cell service anyway.  Some of this is a safety concern. But on a different level, this is a wilderness experience that puts most students out of their comfort zone. Enjoying the wilderness as is it is part of that experience.

On the other hand, taking photos is encouraged !

For additional information and/or to obtain an application for BreakAway, please email us or contact us.

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