Tennessee River Gorge Segment: March 8-21
Cumberland Mountain Segment: March 22-28
Five universities from all over the country committed to our spring ’98 breakaway program dedicated to the building and revitalization of the Cumberland Trail, while offering students an opportunity to give back and learn from the natural world we live in. The five schools and the weeks they attended are: Michigan State and Florida State University, March 8-14; East Illinois College and Hamilton College of New York, March 15-21; and Northwestern, March 22-28. Our efforts focused on two different segments of the trail: the Tennessee River Gorge Segment (down south) and the Cumberland Mountain Segment (up north).
Revitalization of the Tennessee River Gorge Segment, from March 8-21, our first volunteer effort, supported in part by the volunteers of the Cherokee Sierra Club, included major renovation of the Signal Point trailhead and the construction of a suspension bridge over Middle Creek below Rainbow Lake. Many a TTA hiker will attest to the extensive damage to the descent from the Signal Point trailhead from years of heavy use and water erosion. When at last hikers overcame this challenge, they quickly faced the daunting task of crossing Middle Creek, which lost its bridge many years past. Intensive work at the trailhead included new fencing and cabling to control access and to keep hikers on the trail, the building of steps down the initial trail access, and some general maintenance and blazing in the area. The building of the suspension bridge over Middle Creek was a major undertaking; students and volunteers can be proud of such a successful project! Hikers have been sending us their praises and appreciation since the day the decking on the bridge was laid. Another project at North Suck Creek from Highway 27 helped eliminate erosion and “hand-scrambling” on the rise coming up out of the gorge. Fifty-nine new steps and drainage control make this little climb much more enjoyable, safe, and less prone to erosive damage.
Our work continued up north, March 22-28, with the continuing effort to revitalize the Cumberland Mountain Segment, which begins at Cumberland Mountain National Historic Park and ends 47 miles later in Cove Lake State Park. We began our efforts by reopening two miles of trail within Cumberland Gap National Historic Park — which includes the trailhead for the CT. Students and volunteers “pulled” tread, declared war on greenbriar (tendrils from hell!), and stopped often to drink in the fabulous views off both sides of the mountain’s spine. NPS personnel were very helpful with us on this project, giving us access to normally closed roads that allowed us to get to work earlier in the day, rather than spending much of the day hiking in and hiking out. We appreciate their efforts!