Yes, it’s September. No, it’s not fall – yet. And in Tennessee, early September still means temperatures into the 90s some days. It can be hard to motivate yourself to hike when stepping outside for more than 30 seconds leaves you drenched in sweat. Fortunately for those of us in the Nashville area, we’ve got the Percy Warner Park trail system.
A few weeks ago, on one sweltering Saturday, Moka, Minnie, and I ventured into the morning heat to walk the west loop of the Shelby Bottoms Greenway trail. If the weather had been cooler, the pups and I would have gone the entire stretch of both loop trails and back again, but pavement is hot, paws are more sensitive than you think, and dogs can’t sweat as efficiently as humans. Luckily, they are short-haired, but I still had to put their health and safety first.
There’s a wonderful book series called 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles. I bought one years ago for Nashville, and one when I moved to Denver.
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Nashville is a fantastic guide to nearby trails in the middle Tennessee area. Written by Johnny Molloy, it includes a map of where the trails are in middle Tennessee, individual trail maps, mileage, conditions, level of traffic, directions to the trailhead, and more. I’ve used this guide book for years (I have the second edition; the most recent is the fourth edition), and I’ve decided to write reviews for all 60 trails within this book. I’ll also be doing a few trails from other editions.
I’ll admit – I wasn’t impressed for the first few steps of this trail. It felt kind of vanilla – just another wooded trail in middle Tennessee. By the end, it was one of my absolute favorite trails in a while.
Last month, Donner, ThrillBilly, a new friend named Steve, and I went on a quick overnighter at Frozen Head State Park. Even though it was pretty warm around mid-day (especially on that dang Spicewood Trail), the weather was almost perfect. It was a low-mileage trip; roughly 6.5 miles the first day and 5.5 the second day. Don’t let the short miles fool you – there were definitely some difficult routes and elevation gain.
We started off from the Visitor Center – staffed by two very nice rangers – and walked the Old Mac Trail (rated: easy) a little less than half a mile. We then turned onto the Spicewood Trail (difficult). Hoo boy, it was a climb/scramble up 2.5 miles, with stops to catch our breaths and wipe the sweat from our eyes. I was told the trail is best hiked in the earlier spring, when all the flowers along the way are in bloom. It was still lovely, and a fun, technically challenging trek – as challenging as you can be outside the big mountains.
(Plants top to bottom: two pictures of ferns; spiderwort; autumn hawkbit; Indian pink. We also saw a lot of Jack-in-the-Pulpit.)
From there, we headed north on the Chimney Top Trail (difficult) for a mile, then the Lookout Tower Trail (moderate) for about 2.5 miles to the Squire Knob campsite.
It was fairly hot mid-day, but there was a PERFECT spring just a little before camp. Someone has built a little grotto for it, and it was clear and cool and so, so good.
The campsite was really nice – lots of places to setup tents, great trees for hammocking, tables (!), and an established fire pit with rock chairs. There was even a bear box, which I love because I am lazy.
We set out the next morning for about half a mile until we turned west on the Cumberland Trail (difficult) and hiked about 2.5 miles. We then turned on the Bird Mountain Trail (difficult) for another 2 miles and ended up at the big campground. One of the cool things about this campground is the gate at the end, also known as the starting point of the annual Barkley Marathons.
Even though this park isn’t as majestic as the Smokies or out West, and there aren’t any views, there was plenty of water, a nice breeze, relatively clear and well-blazed trails, and a good group of hikers to join on a walk in the woods.
(Me being my normal goofy self; Donner telling some story; L:R – Steve, Donner, ThrillBilly)