South Cumberland State Park is unique in that it doesn’t exist as a single unit, but has ten sections spread out over a hundred square miles in four different counties. The Visitor Center is located between Monteagle and Tracy City on Highway 41. That’s were we stopped first to pick up a trial map.
|Slippery rock steps lead into the gorge.|
There are many trails within South Cumberland. We chose Fiery Gizzard since the trailhead was only about 3 miles from the Visitor Center. Fiery Gizzard is a linear trial of about 13 miles. We didn’t have a second car to run a shuttle nor did we want to hike 26 miles, so we opted to take Fiery Gizzard into the gorge 1.5 miles to the Dog Hole Trail. Dog Hole climbes out of the gorge and runs along the rim on the plateau for 2.8 miles before intersecting with Fiery Gizzard where it comes out of the gorge. For our return to the trailhead, we took Fiery Gizzard back into the gorge for the 4.6 miles walk to the car. Of course, we had to climb out of the gorge one more time to the parking lot.
It has been about 10 years since we’d done this trail. As we were doing it Friday, we remembered why we don’t come here often. We’d rate the Fiery Gizzard trail as very difficult. The first 1.5 miles is treterous over slippery roots, but has several boardwalks and a couple bridges over wet areas. Between the junction with the Dog Hole trail and the top of the gorge, Fiery Gizzard is extremely rocky and steep. Not all the rocks are wobbly, just the ones you step on. I fell twice and Gene fell once. Thankfully, nothing was broken.
Despite the difficulty, this is a popular trail. I’ve done it several times with Tennessee Trails Association. The big draw is the water. The Fiery Gizzard follows the Little and Big Fiery Gizzard Creeks which offer many cascades, water falls, and swimming holes to enjoy. Because of the numerous swimming opportunities, it’s a crowded trail during the summer months. Today, however, we only saw one other couple.
|Old coal mine entrance.|
|The trail was well marked, but we always have along a map and compass.|
The Dog Hole trail was an easy walk across the plateau and it’s climb out of the gorge was not so steep nor rocky. The plant life is not as diverse on the plateau as in the gorge and you certainly don’t have all that water, but the overlooks are spectacular. We really should have come back the way we went in.
Our 8.6 mile hike took 7.5 hours and we were scurrying to get out before dark. The three miles of rocks took an incrediable amount of time to traverse.
Back at the car (and I was so glad to see the car) we changed into dry clothes, stopped at the first Subway we came to for a sandwich, and started the long drive home. We practically fell into bed. Surprisingly, we’re not so sore as we expected this morning.
|Backcountry campsite at Raven Point; logs around a fire ring.|
BTW, legend has it that Fiery Gizzard gets its name from a tale of Davey Crockett, who, while eating turkey with a group of Indians near here, burned his mouth on a hot gizzard.
|Rock formations offered a look at limestone layers.|
Now, we’re off to celebrate our granddaughter’s second birthday. Happy birthday, Kayley.
Thanks for tagging along.