Sunday, February 27, 2011

In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone - (Tri-State Peak Trail - 2/26/2011)

Finally, we are all getting over the nasty head colds we've had over the past couple of weeks. The weather forecast promised 60 degrees and sunny and that meant only one thing. Time to head out. Our destination was Cumberland Gap National Historic Park to hike to the Tri-State Peak trail and as a bonus another chance to walk in the footsteps of Daniel Boone.

Earlier this week, it had rained two inches in two days, so needless to say the creeks were flowing freely and abundantly. From the parking lot to the Iron Furnace in Cumberland Gap, TN we donned our gear (day-packs, cameras, mono-pod, etc.) and it was at this point with my new pack strapped with phone/gps, and two meter radio along with my camera, mono-pod, and a video camera stuffed in a pocket, the girls christened me with a new nickname, "Robo-Tim". At one point along the trail, kiddo says to me, "You may look silly with all your gear, but at least you come prepared".

Speaking of the kiddo, it was nice to have her along with us on a hike for once. You know, cause 14-year-old girls this day and age typically want nothing to do with their parents cause we aren't cool. She actually hiked the trail more energetically, and for almost the whole trail we didn't have to wait for her. In most instances it was the opposite, she was waiting on us. It's all due to her having joined the track team. She's been in conditioning the past few weeks before the season officially begins, and now (according to her) we're old and slow.

First stop on the trail is at the Iron Furnace located just .1 mile in. It was here that the waters were really rushing in cascades down the mountain side, and a couple centuries earlier, this would have meant a high-production day. Several people were out and about at this area. As we ventured .2 miles farther on the graveled path, we reached the Wilderness Road Trail. It was here that we walked in the past steps of Daniel Boone as he led pioneers west into the land of Kaintuk which eventually led to the opening of the Western lands to our pioneers and settlers. The thoughts come to mind as to how much harder it must have been for them to travel than for us. Robin and Ashby calculated that on a typical day, the workers at the Iron Furnace would have carted over 12,500 lbs of material using mules and wagons! Now-a-days, we drive to the trailhead in an air conditioned car, hike a small portion, and head back home again just as easy as we came.

Upon reaching the Saddle of the Gap - .6 miles into the trail - we climbed the hill to our right to get a bird's eye view. Afterwards, we turned onto the Tri-State Peak trail, and the terrain changed dramatically. No longer were we hiking on the soft and graveled Wilderness Road, but rather we now trod on the typical East Tennessee mountain trail; rocky, rooty, and uphill.

Immediately upon starting the 'Peak' trail, on the right is a pyramid shaped monument commemorating Daniel Boone's Trail. Of course this was another prime photographic opportunity to skin elbows capture the nature of man when faced with obstacles historical monuments on the trail. A bit further down the trail is the location of a man-made crater, the result of a purposeful munitions battery explosion. You see the Confederates were closing in on the Yanks and to provide the cover for a getaway, the Union troops blew up their munitions cache. This stopped the Confederates in their tracks for 18 hours, long enough for the North to fall back to safer ground.

Just a little further up the trail on the right is a path leading to the area where Fort Foote once stood. This small detour is only .2 miles and well worth the walk. From here you get a nice sense of the remoteness of the area. Of course, this is if you ignore the road across the small gap that leads up to The Pinnacle. It's a great place for stories, and Robin kept Ashby entertained with her vivid imagination - stories of castles, huuuuuge midgets, and a soldier ghost that pokes you in the ear. We rested here for a few minutes while kiddo initiated a ghost investigation ("If you're here, knock this rock off.") and graphically describe her desire for Popeye's Fried Chicken. It wasn't long after that we were on our way back to the trail and onward to the Peak. Anymore thoughts of cajun fried chicken might have stopped the trek from advancing any further.

Back on the Peak trail, we hiked another ~ .4 miles uphill all the way to the pavilion that marks the crosspoint of TN, KY, and VA. The elevation gain from this point to the peak I would guesstimate to be approximately 300 to 400 feet. Upon arriving at the top Robin promptly laid under the pavilion to claim napping rights in three states at once. How often is it that you can say that you were in three states at one time? The views from up here are quite nice. To the Tennessee side, you can gaze down upon the city of Cumberland Gap. To the Kentucky side, the town of Middlesboro was only slightly obstructed by power lines and haze.  As for the Virginia side, well it's the mountain side from this vantage point.

From the Tri-State peak one can choose to start the Cumberland Trail as this is the northern terminus point. One day, when the Cumberland trail is complete, we will be at this point again ready to begin a 300+ mile trek.

We stayed up at the Peak long enough to enjoy the views, take turns in being in three states at once, eat a snack or two, and for Robin to be struck down with a migraine. She can tell you from experience, the trail is no place for this. Previous to being on a mountaintop, the worst place she'd ever had one was bike riding in Cades Cove.

Shortly after this occurrence, we slowly made our way back down the trail so that we could get Robin home to sleep off the killer headache. Luckily, it was prior to heading back out that I discovered I had lost the mount for the camera to the mono-pod. While this sucked and it wasn't found, it at least was something to look for on the way out that would help keep Robin moving slow and somewhat distracted from the world champion troll bowling competition going on in her cranium. It's amazing how pain can be overcome by distraction when a task is at hand - and the fact that you don't want to be spending the night on a blustery mountaintop without gear.

After making it back out and all was said and done, it was a wonderful hike minus the migraine. We got Robin home where she was able to sleep it off and was back to normal by nightfall. The total distance covered today was 2.88 miles with an overall total elevation gain of 859ft. It was nice to get back out on the trail after taking about 2 weeks off due to illness. Hopefully, for Robin's sake, the next hike will be enjoyable from beginning to the end.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin.

P.S. The new day pack worked wonderfully. I will have to write a review on it soon.

To view more photos, check our Flickr Photostream for this hike.

Here is the details of the trail from our Trimble account: