Along the southern edge of the Cumberland Plateau in TN lies an area known as South Cumberland Recreational Area. The SCRA encompasses Savage Gulf and the Fiery Gizzard Natural Area, gotta love the names of these lands. I’ve hiked both areas several times and always in late fall for the spectacular fall foliage color. Last fall I began wondering what Savage Gulf would look like if stripped of all the leaves…I knew a springtime trip was in order.
Skip ahead a few months, I found myself planning a three-day trip for four backpackers from four different states, I would also be leading the trip, this was a first for me as I am a solo backpacker who usually avoids groups. Once we settled on dates and location I decided to go a day early so could hike a few miles and camp solo.
During the night the rumblings of thunder kept me awake, camped near the Rangers station where I parked and we were to meet I decided to pack up in the dark and hike out while all my gear was still dry. For the next few hours I napped in my truck until Charlie arrived and soon Chad rolled in.
Daylight finally arrived bringing a tornado watch with it; we decided to delay our start time by a couple of hours until the threat passed. And being hikers we did what most hikers would do…EAT…we drove to a nearby town for breakfast and wait out the storm. Upon returning to the Rangers station Chris had arrived, Joe would meet us the next day, we finally set foot on the North Rim trail and nine easy miles filled with views of the Gulf where we would hike the next day.
For the first three or some miles we could hear the rush of water before reaching the creek bed and finding it completely dry. Upstream 100-yards or so the water disappears underground through a sink. The water does not resurface within the Gulf, most likely not until it merges with other underground rivers before reaching Georgia or Alabama.
In all of the South Cumberland area the view from Stone Door is worth the trip. This was the first time I have ever been there when it wasn’t in full on fall color. Even though the color wasn’t there I wasn’t disappointed.
From Stone Door we retraced our path four miles to the Stagecoach Historic Trail and a gentle ascent to Stage Road campsite for our second and final night. The Stagecoach Historic Trail was once a toll road built in the 1840’s connecting McMinnville to Chattanooga, TN. Sections of stacked stonewalls are all that remain.
This fall I will again go back to SCRA for my annual submersion of fall leaf color.
Be sure to check out Chad’s trip report at Stick’s Blog