Friday, January 07, 2005

The Fiery Gizzard

Preparedness is a Learned Behavior.

Down in south central Tennessee... tucked way up on Mont Eagle is the Cumberland Recreation Area. It's not really a wildlife managment area... and it's not really a state park... it's sorta something in between. At any rate... that's where you'll find what many call the toughest hiking trail in Tennessee... the Fiery Gizzard trail... and that's where the tale I'm about to unfold starts... sort of.

You Regulators know that Julie and I... well... we have a propencity to gettin' ourselves into some tight spots... Particularly in our younger days, when we were still courtin'.

One of our favorite weekend passtimes was trekkin' off to some random state park just to see what we could see... and after a while we had hiked most of them and were gettin' a little bored to be honest... imagine our suprise when an old park ranger told us about the Fiery Gizzard. We knew then and there we had to do it.

We really didn't know what to expect to be honest... but we took the matter seriously enough that before we committed actually doing the thing, we'd go scout it out.

The Cumberland Recreation Area is just a short drive down I-24 from Nashville. We were there bright and early on Saturday morning.... well... for us it was bright and early... must've been around 9 or so. It was a gorgeous Tennessee summer day. You know the kind... 95 degrees... 98% humidity... perfection!

We found the parking area.. found a map of the trail... and headed off to see what's what. Now understand... we're just gonna take the trail that leads to the trail. We're not gonna take the trail itself. Follow?

So a quarter-mile and 1 swinging bridge later, there it is. Of course.... we've only hiked a quarter-mile... that's not nearly enough... and the map has some pretty cool land marks on it... Julie gives me that look... and off we go. Hey... we're just going to the first landmark of so.

You know the funny thing about hiking with a pretty girl... You don't really pay to much attention to how far you're goin'. We got in the zone. We were laughing and talking... and kept finding one more thing to hike to. Before long... we found our selves sitting in what the map called "The Fruitbowl". It was sort of a bowl formed out of rock, with huge boulders sitting in it... you know.. like a fruit bowl. Go Figure.

Anyway... the thing is... we were now only another 1/2 mile or so from the coolest part of the whole trail... Raven Rock. It had been an awesome hike... though to be honest it was more like a climb. We'd been boulder hopping at least half of the time... there were streams to ford... fallen logs to walk over... it was heaven!

We were young... and stupid... and well... what's another half mile right?

Well look y'all... first of all.. the Fruitbowl had a stream running through it... so as elevation goes... let me just say that it wasn't what you'd call... high. Now... Raven Rock?? Where do ya reckon that is?

That's right... Up there. Way up there.

The next halfmile was... in the parlance of our times... Hell. Imagine walking up the steepest, slickest, rock infested incline you can think off... that's how we spent the next hour or so. More often using our hands and feet than not.

We finally made it up to the campsite at Raven Rock. We plopped down on a log and caught our breath before we ran down a little path that actually lead to the rock itself.


Raven Rock is like something you see on Roadrunner. It's a huge flat rock, that cantelevers off of an enormous cliff.... 800 feet or more off of the valley below. I have no idea what the true elevation was... I just know that eagles were flying around below us. Its one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

We laid on that rock in the sun... bakin' like snakes. It felt so good. There was a cool breeze... I swear it was Heaven... Then I realized something... well... more like... I felt something...

And that's when it hit us.

We're 7 miles deep... on the toughest trail in Tennessee. It's 2pm... And we have no flashlights... no food... and no water.


We're were only gonna hike the trail that leads to the trail remember?

We made it out obviously... and we made it out a whole lot faster than we made it in. But we were running through the hottest part of the day... and we didn't have the excitement of seeing "one more site" to pull us along. All we had was the grim determination of hunger.

We'd leave the trail every so often to climb up the side of a hill to find some running water to sip. I know... sounds psycho to you city folks, but out there in the middle of no where, that water is as clean as you please. Well... it tasted clean.. and neither of us got sick... good enough for me.

Anyway... we made it out of there alive... believe it or not. When it was all said and done, we'd covered 14-miles of the nastiest terrain in Tennessee... which would put it high in the runnin' for nastiest in all the continental United States... and without provisions. I've never been that tired or that hungry since... well... that's not true.... there was that time when JAC and I crash landed in Vega Texas... to tired to eat, and to hungry to sleep... but that's a tale for another day...

So the Fiery Gizzard y'all. That's what created the psycho ultraprepared freak sittin' here today.

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