Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park: Ridge Trail

I finally made it out to the woods for what has become my annual backpacking trip at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. On Monday after work I dropped Parker off at the kennel and ten headed southeast to Middlesboro and the original "Gateway to the West". I pulled into the Wilderness Road Campground by 8:30 and was in the tent shortly thereafter. The next morning I awoke early and drove to the unopened visitor center. Since I had some time to kill before it opened I walked into town and got breakfast at Burger King. By 8:30 I had returned, paid for my tour of Hensley Settlement, and procured my backcountry permit for a night at the Gibson Gap campsite. At 9 I met my tour guide, Ranger Eddy, threw my pack into the 4x4 van, and headed out. I was the only one signed up for the 9am tour so I had a chance to talk to the ranger and found that we had some mutual acquaintances from our time in the NPS.

After a bumpy ride up the Shillalah Creek Trail we arrived at the Settlement and started the tour.
It was interesting and I enjoyed it very much. After the tour I went back tot he van, grabbed my pack and hit the trail. I hiked about a mile then stopped for lunch at Indian Rocks.
Indian Rocks
The Indian Rocks site was appropriately named as there was evidence of Native American presence all over the dirt floor of the natural shelter in the form of chert flakes. From Indian Rock I moved on to the Ridge Trail and headed east to Gibson Gap, my campsite for the night.
I arrived quite early and had camp set up by 4 pm. This had me wishing that I had brought the book I've been reading, Coldhearted River about Kim Trevathan's trip down the Cumberland River in a canoe. It's a very interesting read. Anyway, without a book or my MP3 player I was able to nap, daydream, and write in my journal for the first time in over a year.

After cooking dinner I drifted off to sleep. The next morning I awoke to blue skies, unlike the previous days which had been gray with a persistent threat of rain. The hiking was easy, mostly down hill, and I arrived at the Pinnacle by 9:30. From the Pinnacle it was more downhill walking on the Fort McCook, Harlan Road, Object Lesson, and Thomas Walker trails. I arrived back at the ol' Subaru before lunchtime.

Since it was still early I decided to stop at some sites along the way home. I stopped at Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site (a waste of time), Pine Mountain State Park (nice but overgrown trails), and finally Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park (overgrown trail once again). Finally I made it back to Lexington to discover that the price of gasoline had risen to $3.95 per gallon! It's going to be an expensive summer for adventure. 

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