UTM and Martin area walkers joined the Northwest Chapter of the Tennessee Trails Association for a hike.
It promised to be a warm sunny day last Saturday, as 10 hikers and two dogs headed out at 8 a.m. in a caravan of three vehicles from the UT Martin parking lot in front of the library The destination was the Land Between the Lakes.
This was the sixth hike of the school year for the Northwest Chapter of the Tennessee Trails Association, a collection of professors and staff from the university, students, members of the community and anyone else in the area who wants to hike in the great outdoors. Sometimes the troop includes canine companions.
Earlier, the group, sometimes swelling up to twenty hikers, tackled other trails in the LBL as well as the Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois, Natchez Trace State Park, and Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. There was also a trip to Nashville to ascend a climbing wall there.
Scott Punn, leader of the current pack of trekers, informed the group that though there was flooding in some sections of the park, he was fairly certain that the targeted path in the Fort Henry system of trails was fairly water free.
So, off they went, through Paris and into the land between the two TVA lakes, Barkley and Kentucky. At least five trees had been cleared from the road’s path as they drove through this national recreation area and descended on the trail head near a Civil War cemetery.
Out bounded Nola, Punn’s Weimeraner. Fluffy, another aptly named dog, leaped down from a truck.
Punn set a good pace for the group. As a teacher of health education and fitness and training principles at the university, he decidedly had the quickest step. Another three professors, a couple of UTM students, a brother and sister in their teens and a mother and her college-aged student in town for the weekend, trotted behind.
The sun filtered through the trees and the path was packed hard but it was obvious that there had been storm damage as the group passed many a splintered tree and rushing stream. An owl was spotted by a few of the hikers.
Then, as if a break in the storms was too good to be true, a light shower descended upon the group, but in the heat of the day – temperatures were in the high 70s – and it was no more than a slight annoyance. At one point, it was determined that the hikers were walking in the footsteps of U.S. Grant and his soldiers on their way from their victory at Ft. Henry, then on the Tennessee River, to Ft. Donelson on the Cumberland.
There were plenty of uphill portions of the trail to add a little extra fitness to the six-mile excursion, but at the end of the trail, the hikers emerged slightly refreshed from their brief shower. It had been a two and a half hour loop following red, white and blue slashes on trees, and the group was glad to have an able navigator in Punn who took them over paths with formidable names like Devil’s Backbone.
With the showers now ended the group lunched in the sun, snacking on sandwiches packed in early morning hours. Only an occasional tick crawling up a pants leg marred the scene.
As the group made their way out of the park, it looked like the little ridge in the Fort Henry system of trails might have been one of the few woodland areas not to be suffering from high waters. Many of the park facilities in Paris Landing were underwater and it was hard to find the outlines of the lake in some portions.
To participate in other outings sponsored by the NW chapter of Tennessee Trails or view pictures of previous outings visit their blogspot at northwesttta.blogspot.com.