Alternative Spring Break with the Cumberland Trails Conference

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.

This ASB site has become very popular so please contact us and register early. Preregistration and cancellation fees apply.

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

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 known as Wagon Masters.

Since the trail runs through isolated areas, participants should plan to hike from 5-10 miles per day. Students need to be in good physical condition for this ASB location. Expect to get dirty and use muscles that may have not been used recently. While trail building is hard work, it is also highly satisfying to see raw ground turned into a path where hikers can enjoy the wilderness for generations to come.

Breakaway Cumberland Trail Alternative Spring Break

Breakaway Cumberland Trail Alternative Spring Break

Work Schedule, Lodging and Food

Arrival: Plan to arrive by 3:00 PM Central Time on the Sunday the week you are scheduled to work on the trail. This will allow time to get settled, 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. There are no refunds for cancellations.

Food and Water: Meals are provided by CTC. Meals 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 are responsible for lunch and dinner Wednesday. On work days students make lunch during the breakfast hour before leaving each morning since lunchtime will be out on the trail. Students fill their own water bottles at this time as well. Students are responsible for their own snack food and beverages beyond designated mealtimes. Our typical lodging is in a rural area and convenience stores or super markets may require a 20 or 30 mile round trip. There will be time in the evening to make a run for snacks. Some schools simply bring a supply of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages with them.

Miscellaneous Details

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. A half gallon of water per person minimum is strongly recommended. Water to fill personal water bottles is provided each morning.

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.

Breakaway Cumberland Trail Alternative Spring Break

Breakaway Cumberland Trail Alternative Spring Break

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. Bring at least two water bottles! Bring a back pack or messenger back to carry lunch and water.

Bedding: Students are housed in a summer camp cabin 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; participants need to 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.

Students with allergies and potential adverse reactions to bug bites must carry their own emergency medications.

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 and Tobacco: CTC has a no tobacco / alcohol / vaping / 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 / Social Media 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, Tweeting, Instagramming, Face-booking, E-Mailing, updating your web page, live streaming 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” is part of that experience.

On the other hand, taking photos is encouraged!

Most of our camp locations have WiFi and there is ample time in the evening to deal with email and social media.

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