Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cumberland Gap

Day One: 7.4
Thomas Walker Trail 0.7
Object Lesson Trail 0.6
Harlan Road Trail 0.8
Ridge Trail 5.3

Day Two: 12
Ridge Trail 10.8
Sand Cave 0.4
White Rocks campsite 0.6
Ewing Trail 0.2

Day Three: 4.3
Ewing Trail 2.9
Road to Ewing 1.2
Wilderness Road 0.2

Total Miles: 23.7

Lora and I headed up to Kentucky at the Cumberland Gap for a backpack.  We headed to the visitor center and left our car there.  The staff is actually quite knowledgeable, which we are not used to.

We used the paved Thomas Walker trail to get started to the Object Lesson Road trail.  We went up to the "Saddle of the Gap" and took the Harlan Road trail to Fort McCook where there is a cannon and overlook.  From there we continued to the Pinnacle Overlook for a great view from the mountain top.  Yes, all of this has been uphill.  By the Pinnacle you can stand in Kentucky and Virginia at the same time.  They do have a Tri-State Peak where you can stand in all three states going the other way from the Saddle of the Gap.

We took the loop around Fort Lyon where there is another cannon and started the Ridge trail from there. The Ridge trail is a old roadbed that follows the ridge up and down across the mountain top.  There are many views from the trail of the valley below especially in the winter.  We hiked 5.3 miles of this trail to Gibson Gap campsite for the night.  We saw deer twice on this hike so far.

At the Gibson Gap campsite there are bear bag cables.  The spring is 270 yards down hill in a Rhododendron patch. After you climb your way in there is a black pipe with water running out of it.  There is a large rock formation next to the camp that you can climb for an aerial view of the campsite.  We talked to the owls that night and enjoyed an evening around the campfire.

Day two:

We got up this morning and ate breakfast.  It had rained during the night and was sprinkling as we headed out on the trail.  The rain continued on and off all day so we did not get many pictures.  We stopped for lunch right before Indian Rock which is a rockhouse.  We went by the Hensley Settlement and continued on towards White Rocks.

We passed another couple who were headed out to Martin's cabin for the night.  The wind started picking up and we took a short break as we headed down to Sand Cave.  Sand Cave is a 75-foot high sandstone overhang that is decorated by at least seven different colors of sand. In rainy seasons, a small waterfall cascades over the edge.  The room is over an acre in size and the water fall was going strong for us.  You do have to climb a fifty foot pile of sand to get into it.

From here we headed to the White Rocks campsite for the night.  The wind was blowing so strong we couldn't hold the tent still to stake it down so we headed back up over the ridge top and started down the Ewing trail until we found a flat spot to make camp.  After we set up the freezing rain started and then the wet snow.  We ate in the tent and wiped the snow off the outside before going to sleep.

We woke up with a thud and the tent was in my face!  I told Lora that our tent had collapsed and we started pushing up and banging the snow off.  After we got the tent back in standing order, I got out and swept the three inches of wet snow away from the sides.

Day three:

The next morning we ate breakfast inside again.  After we got all packed up Lora didn't feel well so we hiked the Ewing trail down to Ewing VA and started hitching for a ride.  Nobody picks up hitchhikers anymore.  We went door to door for a while and finally got someone to tell us it is Sunday and that is why everyone is gone.  She did not have a car so we kept looking.  We saw the guy come home in the first house we checked so we went back and met him.  He is a very nice older gentleman who gave us a ride back to our car.

In the parking lot we met the other couple that was out for the night.  They froze in the cabin and were wet.  

This is a beautiful area and we will have to go back to see all the trails and sites we didn't get to cover.


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