We’re halfway through the month of September, and I’m happy to say I’m a little over halfway to my goal in the 2020 Hiking Marathon.

This past weekend, I put on my hiking shoes and explored new trails in Fairfield Glade and Grassy Cove, adding six total miles to my official hiking tally since Sept. 1.

This is my first year taking part in the hiking marathon. Usually, September is just so busy that I never thought I would have the time to hike all the trails. Last year, I had the best of intentions, but an early September vacation took away about a week of my hiking time. And you know how vacations go. I spent the rest of the month trying to catch up from my time away.

This year, my travel plans are on hold for a bit. So I hit the ground running — or, at a brisk walk, at least.

I like hiking. It’s a fun way to spend a weekend morning. But I was a little overwhelmed by the list of 12 local trails. I wasn’t familiar with many of them. Sad to say, but after all my years in Cumberland County, I have stuck to the same four or five well-worn trails. 

Take, for example, the Pioneer Long Loop at Cumberland Mountain State Park. This is an extension of the Pioneer Short Loop I’ve done many times. To keep the length to a very do-able 2.5  miles, you actually enter the trail from South Old Mail Rd. There’s a little parking area just past the old stone bridge with room for a few cars.

This trail takes you from Old Mail Rd. along Byrd Creek to the swinging bridge, and then back to Old Mail Rd. on the other side. 

You’re in the forest the entire time. You pass along the edge of Bear Trace Golf Course, and I saw several people out enjoying a beautiful late summer afternoon on the links. 

The folks looking to add a few more miles to their hike can always start from the parking area in the park by the boat house and just keep going past the swinging bridge. This would give you five miles. It’s on my list to do as soon as I finish up the 12 trails of this year’s hiking marathon.

The newest addition to Cumberland County’s extension network of trails is the Maryetta Trail. This 1.7-mile loop starts at a gravel parking area off Sparta Hwy. next to the city’s wastewater treatment facility. You hike in and the trail splits into the loop. I went to the right, up along the ridge and then down to the headwaters of the Obed River and back to the starting point.

I went the morning of Labor Day, because that’s a great way to celebrate a day off from work. I felt so good when I finished up that I went on over to the Woodlawn Loop Trail to add another 1.2 miles to my tally for the day. 

The Overlook Trail in Fairfield Glade is a standard trail for the hiking marathon, now in its sixth year. I can’t believe I have waited so long to explore this gem. At the top, there’s an overlook of Daddy’s Creek. Located on the edge of Fairfield Glade, the land across the river is part of the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area; it’s wilderness as far as the eye can see.

Volunteer trail builders made a great trail. It takes you down to the creek bank, and you follow Daddy’s Creek for a good while before the trail heads back up the ridge and to the starting point. There are several benches to offer a nice place to sit and soak in the quiet beauty of this area, or to catch your breath before walking up the trail. Switchbacks help keep the climb from being too strenuous. 

The trails are in great condition. Volunteers have been out in force, making sure the trails were clear, bridges in good repair and any turns well marked. 

This Sunday, I took on the Windlass Cave Trail, which takes you halfway up Black Mountain from the trailhead in Grassy Cove. There was a little breeze Sunday morning, before the rain came falling down. There was definitely some elevation change on this trail, but it was worth it. 

The hiking trail began as an event to encourage physical activity in the community and to introduce everyone to the amazing trails that can be found in every part of the county. I’m sure many people keep going once the hiking marathon is over, taking on other trails in the county or venturing to our national park lands nearby or the many state parks in the region. 

It’s a great time to get out and explore your neck of the woods. Late summer on the Plateau is beautiful. You’ll find amazing scenery and benefit from the time out in the fresh air. 

And, if you finish all the trials, they’ll give you a hiking marathon patch. I’m determined to get that patch this year.

See you on the trails!

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.