Tag Archives: Big Sout Fork

Trip Report – John Muir Trail TN

My wife and I were visiting my dad in-law the other week in Kentucky, and I had the opportunity to throw a pack on and visit the Big South Fork National Recreation Area on the TN and KY border for a couple of nights.

It turned out that Patman (a fellow Trailspace Review Corps member) was able to do the same, and we took the opportunity to meet in person. My wonderful wife shuttled us up the Divide Road so we could walk south on the John Muir Trail, Tennessee style.

The trail was relatively flat as it ran along the plateau above the Cumberland River, so I had a pleasant Friday afternoon walk with great company.  Patman mentioned a meteor shower that weekend so we tried to hunt for the best campsite view, but settled for a nice flat spot with sparse canopy. We didn’t see any meteors that night, but had a good evening of backpacking/gear testing talk and found many similarities in our approach and attitudes toward our favorite pastime.

Saturday started cool in the 50s. A pleasant walk along interesting geology…

And a very pretty section of trail. I was glad we had the chance to meet and also allow Patman to hike sections of trail in his local area that he hadn’t seen before.

The views began to open up quickly down to No Business Creek and the Cumberland River.

Two Trailspacers at the John Muir Overlook.

The overlook itself.

Patman on one of several bridges on the well maintained trail.

No Business Creek.

More interesting geology…it just kept cropping up!

We stopped for a late lunch at the Cumberland River and enjoyed watching a deer and later two backpackers (father and son) cross Stations Camp ford.

And then parted ways as Patman had plans to camp in an open field on the way to his car and meteor watch, while I was planning on an early exit so my wife and I could start the long drive home.  With his multiple trips per month, I am sure he pulled off another ten miles after lunch without me holding him back!

I think Mr. Muir and myself were probably the only two Scottish-Americans on the trail that day, and I enjoyed seeing his profile as I hiked that afternoon.  The fact that he and I moved here from Scotland around the same age has given me a connection that is difficult to explain.

I could include a bunch of rock photos, each one slightly different from the last, but since this is not a geology website (and I am no geologist) I’ll refrain.

Not sure if this is on purpose, as there is a Big Clifty Wilderness a few hours north.

The JMT here may not compare to the High Sierra version, but views of the Cumberland River Gorge were frequent.

After a solid 15 mile day with temperatures in the upper 70’s (but not much climbing), I enjoyed a great campsite (thanks for the advice Patman!) on the rim of the gorge.

View out my bedroom window.

Dusk view…followed by glimpses of a few meteors that morning before…

a beautiful sunrise!

Looking back from the south, maybe with spellcheck?

A sobering memorial along the trail to a child who died in infancy.

Views of the Gorge were frequent and it was constantly filled with rolling fog which I really liked – I stood at several outcrops for a number of minutes despite the time constraint that morning and just watched the fog roll by in silence.

Looking north along the Cumberland River from Angel Falls Overlook…I could only hear the falls that morning.

I love trees rooted in rock.

After my last view from the rim of the gorge, I dropped down through more interesting geologic features.

And some slightly confusing ones…man-made?

Then down to the river itself and a pleasant stroll to the pickup point…this last hour reminded me of the walk back to Lincoln Woods parking lot from the White Mountains trip this summer, just drier and without the railroad ties.

The low water crossing at Leatherwood Ford was out and the reroute took me across the road but gave a nice view of the original crossing.

Overall, a really enjoyable trip with good company. I’ll be back in colder weather as a nice local option when in the area.