My husband asked me, “So how was your field trip this morning?”
As I started to tell him, I realized no one word, no one description could possibly convey the magical beauty of the place I had just visited, right here in Cumberland County.
A few months ago, my friend Jim McCullough asked me if I wanted to do another story about the Cumberland Trail, and March 23 was the day we had selected, convenient for Kenny Matthews, park ranger, and us.
Our drive through the Linary neighborhood off 127 South on Old State 28 led us on a steep switch back road down into the valley below and to a mailbox with Tranquility Lane on it. We turned in there, and crossed over a brook by an old cabin into a pastoral clearing where three modern buildings now stand. We parked and were greeted by three rangers, Anthony Jones who lives there, Kenny Matthews and Herb Roberts.
This new acquisition of the Cumberland Trail has ecological, archeological, geological and historical significance worthy of a National Park. It is here that clear water gushes straight out of a small cave to form the headwaters of the Sequatchie River, the Head of Sequatchie Spring. Research has shown that this water has its origins in Grassy Cove and makes its way under the mountains to this outlet.
As we walked up the meadow, Anthony stopped to show me the ancient gravestone of Craven Sherrill, the first sheriff of Cumberland County, born in 1801. But our real destination lay ahead, Devil’s Step Hollow Cave, a cave that is concealed from the rim. Here the sandstone cap has worn away to reveal a sheer limestone wall and a blue-green pool 150 feet below. The drop-off was too steep for me, but expert hiker Jim McCullough, armed with his camera, made the trip down to the bottom.
The cave is now securely gated. Archeologists, including Jan Simek, now acting president of the University of Tennessee and his students, have declared this to be a ceremonial cave used by Indians at least 1200 years ago, based on carbon dating of charcoal drawings in the cave. The cave has three different kinds of drawings, petroglyphs, pictographs and mud glyphs. Depictions show an eagle-like bird with tears holding a mace in each hand, a woodpecker and a dog-like animal. This cave and pictures will be featured in either the April or May 2009 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
While the rangers and I were waiting for Jim to return from his photography expedition, we noticed at our feet several about-to-bloom Trillium, the single white flower of Twin-leaf, plus flowering anemone, hepatica and violets. The rangers noted that Trillium pusillum, or “least” or “dwarf” trillium has been found in an adjoining property. Carman’s Wildflowers of Tennessee calls it “infrequent.”
In the opening above the abyss below we saw flycatchers darting to and from a tree snag, catching an insect, over and over. Other birds were flying into an opening in the wall, perhaps a swallow. Anthony said he has seen woodland birds of all kinds such as hooded warblers, plus beavers, river otters, raccoons and deer, of course, which is why a previous owner had erected a chain-link, barbed wire fence enclosure for his raised gardens and fruit trees! Butterflies moved before us as we descended back down the meadow, a Mourning Cloak, Sulphurs and a white Cabbage Butterfly.
On Monday, April 20, Devil’s Step Hollow will be open for visitors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The rangers invite you to bring a picnic. They plan on taking visitors to find the Trillium pusillium which they hope will still be blooming by then. One warning: the bluebird box in the gravel drive is occupied; bluebirds are territorial, and thinking their reflections in my side view mirrors were invading their space, left many poopy reminders on the sides of my car!
Right now, the Cumberland Trail is not linked to this 385 acre tract, but eventually it will be. This beautiful site was purchased with the help of the prior owners, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation and Tennessee state funds appropriated by Governor Bredesen. On-going support for the CT is being provided by a new organization, Friends of the Cumberland Trail. Membership is only $5 a person, and their first newsletter is now available. It says, “This is an affordable rate opening the doors of the Friends Group to any who have an interest in the Cumberland Trail, its recreational potential, the protection of its resources and the completion of its corridor.” Already there are two local chapters, Hamilton County and Cumberland County! It has a Web site where you can get its newsletter, www.friendsofthecumberlandtrail.org, or mail a check for FOTCT, Inc. to 220 Park Road, Caryville, TN 37714.
My husband asked me, “So how was your field trip this morning?”
AROUND THE TOWN: Two childhood faves celebrate milestones
Two pop culture icons are celebrating milestones this year: Mattel’s Barbie doll and the movie The Wizard of Oz. Barbie turns 55, and Oz is 75. Ironically, they are my two childhood favorites.
Master Gardener classes to begin
Once again spring is just around the corner. For all the Cumberland County residents who would like to learn more about plants, soil, bugs (good and bad) and all that it takes to be a successful gardener, the University of Tennessee, through the Extension office, is offering the Master Gardener training course.
Seniors enjoy oldies from Days Gone By
The 127 Senior Center gathered together Friday, Feb. 28, to socialize with coffee, goodies and chit chat. They played billiards, dominos and bingo, which was called by Arlene Simmons and Helen Lord, and the gifts were provided by Dr. M. Stewart Galloway, ophthalmologist.
PLATEAU GARDENING: Feeding and counting birds
A heavy mast crop last fall was one sign that led those who use old-time folk lore to predict conditions to warn that the winter of 2013-'14 would be bad. It was a good call. March blasts of arctic air make seeking out the remaining seeds, berries and nuts a matter of survival for wild birds and animals. Insect-eating creatures find food scarcer due to cold, as well.
Pleasant Hill’s modern-day ‘Renaissance Man’
Tom Eckert is a modern “Renaissance Man.” Growing up in Dayton, OH, music and art were significant elements in the development of his life. He spent many afternoons roaming the halls of the Dayton Art Institute.
Daniels to entertain at Fair Park
Lonnie Daniels worked as a school teacher in the White County schools, but did better with his upholstery shop in the basement of his home. He is better known to many as the leader of the very musical and famous Daniels Family Band.
COMMUNITY OF CHARACTER: Talking about fairness
Fairness is concerned with actions and processes that are morally right, honorable and equitable. From an early age, people develop strong opinions about what is fair and what isn’t. However, fairness is one of the most difficult core ethical values to define because it’s often a matter of perception. People tend to view decisions that help them as “fair” and those that don’t as “unfair.”
Quilts old and new needed
It's once again time for the Stitch and Share Show – Quilts Old and New, sponsored by the Stitch, Show and Share Quilt Guild in Sparta. It will be May 2-3 at the Agricultural Building on the White County Fairgrounds. Hours are Friday, May 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, May 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission fee is $5.
TAD Center plans several events for March
The month of March begins tomorrow and that means a host of activities are planned by the TAD Center. Tomorrow, March 1, is the annual three-on-three basketball tournament.
Archives seeking historic photographs
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The Cumberland County Archives and Family Heritage Center is looking for historic photographs of Cumberland County people and places. Early county schools, churches and families – hopefully with people identified — are just some of the topics they are hoping to find.
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