Paid crews and volunteers built over 18 miles of new Cumberland Trail in 2017. In addition, bridges destroyed by falling trees were rebuilt and the fire damaged stairs in North Chickamauga were rebuilt for the second time in seven years.
Here’s the breakdown:
Cumberland Tails Conference: CTC generally maintains two trail crews. This year they built over nine miles of trail. In 2017 they were split between the McGill Creek Section and various locations near I-40. Since a good size bridge is required to cross McGill Creek, construction stopped there until the prototype modular bridge can be installed in 2018. Approximately one mile of trail still needs to be built after the bridge is constructed.
The summer months saw the two crews combined in the Catoosa WMA. Progress continues on another six mile section linking Devil’s Breakfast Table Trailhead with Peavine Road to the south. Two and a half miles of that section remains to be built along with a spur trail to a camp site on Daddy’s Creek.
Their alternate work site was on the north east side of Black Mountain working toward Ozone Falls State Park. Some time was also spent of Jewett Road on the south end of the Brady Mountain Section. Corridor has been scouted and designed to bring the CT around the west and south of Hinch Mountain toward Piney River Section. A good deal of machine work was done in this area during early 2017.
Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail: CTSST also has a paid trail crew working predominately in the far north of the corridor. They built roughly 6.5 miles of new trail. Much of their time the past few years has been north of Tank Springs in Campbell and Claiborne counties. New trail is replacing the alignment lost when certain property agreements expired. In other places, overgrown trail is being opened up and rehabilitated.
CTSST also hosts volunteer activities from AmeriCorps, civic and church groups. Among the projects was the construction of two bridges, one in the Keyes-Harrison WMA on the Devil’s Breakfast Table Section. The other on the trail leading from Head of Sequatchie ranger station toward Hinch Mountain.
Wild Trails: Wild Trails, a mountain bike and trail running organization out of Chattanooga, received a volunteer work agreement from the CTSST in 2015 to build a six mile piece of trail in the Upper North Chickamauga Gorge area. The new section links the current EOT at Barker Camp Road with a new trail head near Hall Road in Sequatchie and Hamilton counties. Roughly four miles is complete with an expectation that the last two miles will be finished in 2018.
When complete it will close a huge gap in the southern CT and create an unbroken 14.2 mile trail from Hall Road to Montlake Road.
While progress continues at a good pace, the down side is none of these sections are officially open for hiking. Building trail in the 21st century is more complicated than it looks. Even when construction ends, each section has to be officially “accepted” by the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail. Blazes have to be mounted. Trailhead parking has to be developed and appropriate signs designed and installed.
Meanwhile there are 210 miles of open trail waiting to take the adventurous into the wilderness of East Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau.
Mark Richie, CMTB, Life Member, Web Editor