First Adventure of the Summer-Burgess Falls and Cummins Falls

 

The first adventure of the summer was at two different places in Tennessee, Window's Peak at Burgess Falls State Park Natural Area, and Cummin's Falls. Both of these were wonderful hikes and very accessible from I-40. These two areas are incredibly close and breathtaking in their own ways.

I started the day with Widow's Peak, a 5.5 mile roundtrip hike that encompasses river crossings, cliff bluffs, and some amazing scenery. Widow's Peak is part of the Burgess Falls State Park. If you have not been able to take a trip to Burgess Falls, this is one of the most iconic waterfalls in the state and is also on a very short and accessible route. Widow's Peak starts off with a slow decent towards the creek at the bottom of the hill. The friends of the park offer walking sticks for free, I would suggest that you use one to make sure you have solid footing. Be aware that there are no pets allowed in this part of the park, and that if you are going to go to the bluffs at the end, that you will cross the creek a total of 18 times (so wear shoes that you don't mind getting wet). The crossings are manageable because of the rope that goes across the creek, the rocks are slick and covered in algae that make it difficult to keep your footing. The path is pretty wide throughout the entire hike and it is mostly in the shade. While on my trip, there were several wildflowers in bloom and the butterflies/insects were a welcome sight. After the sixth river crossing, there is a slight uphill climb, where you will come to a very nice waterfall to your left. The seventh through nineth crossings are pretty close together and then it will be about .75 miles before you arrive at the top of the bluffs. Here is a really interesting view. The top of the mountain was carved out through rain and dissolution that created natural bridges. The area was originally from the Mississippian and Ordovicain limestone.[1] Here you are on top of the mountains on the Cumberland Plateau, the bluffs are one of the most interesting features of the East Tennessee area because most of the mountains worn down to gradual hills, not these rocky outcroppings. For those that are adventurous, these formations stretch for about a quarter of a mile and range in their height and level of difficulty. Window Cliffs is an interesting trail, it is rated as moderate-strenuous, but has some amazing views.

After leaving Window Cliffs, I traveled up I-40 towards Cummins Falls. Recently I found the Punch Brothers, in particular their "Who's Feeling Young Now," album. If you haven't heard of these guys, all of them are virtuoso musicians who write clever and catchy songs. While traveling to Cummins Falls, the song, "Flippen (the Flip) was playing, this is a lively instrumental that went perfect with the green rolling hills of the plateau and the starting greens of the spring. One of the reasons that I wanted to go to Cummins Falls is, last year I traveled out West to the desert for nine days. The first trip that I wanted to go on when I returned home was Cummins Falls. This is only fitting because I'm about to travel back to the desert and it is a full circle from where I began.

Cummins Falls is great state park, not only is there a beautiful waterfall, but the creek is the primary trail. This is one of Tennessee's newest parks, established in 2012, where it was donated from the Cummins family (CHECK PLAQUE PICTURE). The waterfall was originally given to Sergeant Blackburn in the 1790s and was sold to John Cummins in 1825, which it stayed in the family until purchased by the park.[2] The trail is pretty short to the creek. From there it is about .5 miles to the waterfall all in the creek as the trail. Do be careful, because the creek is prone to flash flooding and make sure that you do not take electronics that you mind getting wet, incase of falling. Dogs are permitted at this park, so long as they are leashed and under control. The hike to the falls has some amazing geology, the rock walls that line the basin show the details of thousands of years of water cutting away and exposing the layered sedimentary rock underneath. The last leg of the waterfall is a bit trick, there are quite a few rapids and by this point, your shoes are pretty slick from water and rocks. When you reach the falls, it is a breathtaking sight. There are some areas to the left that you can rest, and some floatation devices that you can use if you want to swim. This is a great swimming hole, and that is what many of the locals come here for in the summertime. There is an area to the right that also is open if you can make it across the rocks.

I had a slight misadventure at the juncture crossing the rocks. The gap between the two sides is approximately 4-5 feet across, just wide enough that you probably could not safely jump this distance. There is a washed up log that is between the rocks that offers some stability. The water is moving rather rapid and is difficult to judge how deep it really if you do not want to get wet. The first time I crossed over, there was a couple that I helped across the log. In return, they took my backpack that had my camera, lenses, and tripod. I crossed over safely and the man handed me the backpack. To reach it, my feet turned ever so slightly on the rocks, and I fell into the water about waist deep. The backpack was soaked, fortunately the bag was wet, but the camera did not get any water in it (whew). I brought some plastic bags to try to keep things dry but didn't bag the camera, man I got lucky. I took some pictures of the falls on my tripod and was ready to leave. There was another couple that was enjoying the falls that said that they would help me get across safely again. The entire time I was feeling that something terrible was going to happen again. This time, I crossed with out any problem and I was standing on the big rock. I turned and successfully grabbed my bag from the couple. I put the bag on my shoulders and the small jolt that came from putting it on my shoulders was enough to loosen my tripod. I hear a splunk in the water and look and the man is pointing at where the tripod fell, right in the middle of the rapids. Both of us looked for about 15 minutes and we couldn't find the tripod. At that point, I decided that the camera survived and that was more important, thus keep trucking. Fortunately, there was no other incident when walking back.

For the first adventure out with this new blog post, Window's Peak and Cummins Falls were two great adventures that I would highly recommend. These offer great views and hikes in the Cumberland Plateau area and demonstrate some of the best natural beauty that Tennessee has to offer.

[1] “Window Cliffs Class II Natural Scientific State Natural Area - TN.Gov,” accessed May 13, 2017, https://tn.gov/environment/article/na-na-window-cliffs.

[2] “Tennessee State Parks,” Tennessee State Parks, accessed May 13, 2017, http://tnstateparks.com.

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Nathan Widener