Monday, January 23, 2017

Trail Review: Hidden Passage Loop at Pickett State Park

Tennessee Waterfall, Pickett State Park
Double Falls at Pickett State Park - click to enlarge
Trail Map - click to enlarge

Trail: Hidden Passage Loop
Location: Pickett State Park; Jamestown, TN
Trail Length: Apprx. 9.5 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate with Strenuous stretches
Solitude: Good during my visit, likely moderate to busy during warm season weekends

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Gear Review: Tinlid Thrive Hat

Tinlid Thrive Hat
I wear baseball caps on the daily, at least until temperatures drop and my trusty collection of brimmed lids are replaced by skull caps for the winter. There is a reason the baseball cap is a staple of American dress and has been for generations. It protects one from the sun in high heat (especially for baldies like me) and holds in warmth when things get a little cooler. The brim shields ones eyes from harsh sunlight or can be reversed to keep sun off the neck when needed. Let's face it, baseball caps also offer a highly functional  and utilitarian way to express a bit of fashion and aesthetic sensibility, too. In the case of the Tinlid Thrive Hat, one has the added advantage of expressing social values in addition to solid, rough hewn style. This is because Tinlid Hat Company was founded with a social mission to have a positive impact on the planet. For every hat sold, the company plants fifteen trees, working in partnership with Trees for the Future, an organization that works to revitalize degraded lands in impoverished areas.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Trail Review: Hobbs Cabin Loop; Savage Gulf, TN

Hobbs Cabin Graphic, Savage Gulf, TN

Trail: Hobbs Cabin Loop (Savage Day Loop, North Plateau, & North Rim Trails)
Location: Savage Gulf State Recreation Area; Tracy City, TN
Trail/Loop Length: 17.6 Miles (9.4 miles out, 8.2 miles back)
Difficulty: Easy other than mileage - mostly flat terrain
Solitude: Excellent to moderate

Map of Savage Gulf, Hobbs Cabin Loop
Click map for larger image
I feel especially fortunate to have Savage Gulf within a two-hour drive of my home in Nashville. It has become a very special, almost sacred area for me personally, and my goal is to hike every trail in the wilderness area. When looking at a map, Savage Gulf is basically a three-pronged "crow's foot" in its shape with each prong being a deep gorge. I have explored the western (Stone Door) and central (Collins Gulf) gorges, but I had not seen as much of the eastern (Savage Gulf) gorge. I also had never seen any of the flat lands above the gorge in the northeast section of the park. Lastly, I had never seen nor stayed in Hobbs Cabin, a backcountry shelter with a functioning fireplace, several bunks, and even a table and bench for eating meals and organizing gear. On my most recent trip, I chose a seventeen mile loop to check out some of these areas and get closer to my goal of hitting every trail. I took this loop counterclockwise to save a slightly shorter hike and better scenery for the second day. Despite the fairly long mileage, the trek was pretty easy. Here are some details…

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Darkest Days of the Year

Winter solstice is but a few days away. These are literally the darkest days of the year considering they offer the fewest hours of sunlight. An undeniable tension exists this time of year between the quiet retreat of nature and the reactionary bustle of culture. Innately, I suspect most feel an instinct to slow down, hole up, and burrow in. The benefit of such is the opportunity to reflect, meditate, and take stock of the finished business of warmer and busier seasons. In an over-mediated culture that often seeks to distract us by any means necessary, such a time can be depressing for many and almost traumatic for some. Ours in not a culture that has crafted, or at least widely celebrated, many rituals to embrace such experiences. With most workplaces indoors, often in fluorescent-lit office parks, factories, or retail stores, the literal lack of sunlight on skin seems to obviously affect our moods for the worse, as well. I suppose it's no wonder that the largest celebratory rituals we do observe religiously, without fail - Thanksgiving and Christmas - reach their peak just after the solstice (I use "religiously" in the euphemistic rather than the denotative here despite the irony.) I suppose we crave the warmth of family and friends, though I would also wager many ride the wave of Holiday Season © shopping, parties,  and planning to keep the inertia of distraction in place. Because of the expectations to be with family during the holidays, we are also forced to negotiate our "source," our beginnings.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Praise Of Winter

This is the time of year when I hear many friends bemoan the onset of winter. With grey skies, wet weather, cold temperatures, and darkness setting in by 4:30 PM in Nashville, I can understand the looming doldrums. However, I have always enjoyed the winter, although too many dreary days in succession can even wear out my disposition. Otherwise, though, I enjoy the crispness in the air, the opportunity to layer clothing, hot beverages, and the starkness of the stripped, bare landscape. Admittedly, this fondness for the coldest months might be a holdover from many years of being hopelessly rotund and out of shape. Back in those days, I was simply grateful to be outside during seasons whose cold temperatures minimized my ever present fear of growing in perspiration. Even now with a reasonably in-shape, average-sized body, I still enjoy the frigid temperatures and dark days. I took time each of the past two days to hit one of my favorite in-town hikes despite dreary skies and soggy ground. I was reminded why the cold, shadow months can be some of the most beautiful and rewarding.

Friday, November 7, 2014

In Praise of Danger

skull and cross bone with mountain overlook

I am not an adrenaline junkie. Despite surviving a childhood of scrapes, scars, and concussions from helmet-less BMX biking and helmet-abusing football games, I am now a fairly cautious middle age man. I prove this by writing an essay praising the “dangers” of simply walking in the woods. I cannot deny, however, that one of the aspects of hiking and backpacking I find most satisfying is that bodily injury is sometimes risked. Admittedly, the risks involved with my typical hikes are minimal to begin with and easily mitigated with even a shred of common sense. Even still, in a world so overly managed to avoid lawsuits and control bodies, it is easy to feel like pampered chattel having forgotten what free will feels like. This is why I welcome, on occasion at least, slippery, hard surfaces underfoot; sharp, pointed edges; uncomfortable temperature shifts; and worrisome relationships between gravity and elevation. Simply contemplating physical danger, even modestly, is liberating.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Trail Review: Perimeter Trail; Bowie Nature Park

Bowie Nature Park in Fairview, TN

Bowie Nature Park trail map in Fairview, TN
Click map for larger image.
Trail: Perimeter Loop
Location: Bowie Nature Park; Fairview, TN
Trail Length: 4.7 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Solitude: Moderate weekend crowds, good solitude during week