Location: Cumberland Mountain State Park, south of Crossville, TN
Access: From Crossville, TN, take Hwy 127 south 4.5 miles, and turn right on 419 (Pigeon Ridge Rd)(follow brown signs to the park) and head right 0.25 miles into the park.
Maps: Nice trail map available at the visitor center or at the TN parks website; USGS quads Crossville & Dorton
Trailhead: Visitor Center is a good place to start
Trail: 5 mile semi-loop with 20í elevation gain. From the visitor center, cross 419 and walk towards Byrd Lake where you can pick up the trail along the lakeshore. Head to the left (south) along the eastern shore of Byrd Lake, past the wooden bridge and continue along the south side of Byrd Creek to a suspension bridge. Continue on the south side of Byrd Creek to S Old Mail Rd. Hop on the road and turn right and cross the bridge, then look for the unmarked trail to the right just beyond the bridge. Head back down Byrd Creek, on the north shore this time, passing the suspension bridge, and finally to the wooden bridge at the boat rental booth. Cross Byrd Creek here on the wooden bridge to complete the loop, and continue back to the visitor center along the south shore of Byrd Lake. Trail is well-marked and very easy.
Weather: National Weather Service forecast
August 7, 2010
I love free state parks. Very democratic idea and I fully support it. Iíve never known another state that didnít charge admission into a state park. I recognize that the fees support park infrastructure, but I also recognize that taxes support most civic infrastructure, and I support the notion that public parks ought to be lumped in with services like education, police, health departments and fire departments. Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but I think itís great that anyone, regardless of economic status, can at any time walk or drive to their nearest state park and enjoy the woods, the water and quiet solitude any time they like. Those items should not be for sale. So, kudos Tennessee for keeping state parks free. Our old friend Thoreau would surely agree.
A baby doesnít know, at 6 months, that she should straighten her legs to make sliding into a backpack easier. Thus it was that Andra and I each grabbed a leg and fed them through the holes in the bottom of the pack so we could strap Ada in for a nice hike. Once secured, we crossed the road from the Visitor Center to Byrd Lake, which is a narrow body of water held back by a fantastic rock dam/bridge with circular culverts that is the largest masonry project every constructed by the CCC. We picked up the foottrail on the edge of the lake, and headed south along the east shore of Byrd Lake through a nice, thick forest of oaks, maples, sassafras, hickories and pines. In fact, the white pines along the trail were huge, and cast a lot more shade than youíd ever think a pine could. Activity around the lake was minimal, even for a Saturday, and the only people we saw at all were on a paddle boat in the water.
It was a relatively mild day, only in the low 80ís, and we hiked along at a good pace without sweating or getting hot. Most of the trail is in deep shade, so that helps. Everything was moist, apparently from a recent rain, and numerous frogs hopped off the trail, either into the woods, or into the water, at our approach. Soon we reached the wooden bridge over Byrd Lake, but continued on the south shore. The woods became even thicker through this portion, and more enjoyable. The white pines were tremendously large, many of them with trunk diameters exceeding 3 feet. Thick rhododendrons lined the trail with long, glossy evergreen leaves that gave the creek a tropical feel. Wonderful.
We reached the suspension bridge, and decided to continue on the south shore all the way to the concrete bridge ahead, and the furthest extent of the loop trail. We could hear a lawnmower buzzing away on the golf course adjacent to the trail at points, which shattered any illusion we had at hiking in wilderness, but it was a thin illusion, anyway. Itís a fantastic trail, but itís impossible to ignore the sound of distant traffic, or, for example, the buzz of a nearby riding mower. Several of the greens on the golf course are plainly visible from the trail, even, so itís not like you feel as if youíre getting completely away. Still, no reason to complain, since the trail and the creek were very enjoyable.
We reached the road, and explored the wonderful little stone bridge a bit before continuing on the north side of Byrd Creek. Halfway to the suspension bridge, Ada decided sheíd had enough of the backpack, so we found a flattish spot along the creek to stop, lay out a sheet and enjoy a little ďroll timeĒ and a snack. After 30 minutes, we put her back in the pack and continued on, but again, she had had enough of the pack, and let us know. Itís hard to reason with a baby, so we resorted to carrying her in our arms the remainder of the hike to keep her pacified, since any further attempt at the pack met with stiff vocal résistance. Hiking with a baby adds a whole new dimension to otherwise simple, straightforward hikes.
We reached the wooden bridge, crossed over Byrd Lake, and followed the trail back along the east shore to the car, where we swapped shoes, put Ada in the car seat, and headed on out towards home.