By Jacqueline Cross (libellule) September 29, 2011
Fall is the best time of year for hiking the peaceful trails in forests across the country. Here is a look at two areas of the Southeastern U.S.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 26, 2008. Your questions and comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
One of my favorite things to do when the weather cools in autumn is to be outside walking through the woods. Hiking is a very enjoyable way to spend a day. It is a perfect way to get away from the hustle and bustle of every day life and spend quality time with family and friends. I relish the time spent on the trails that wind through peaceful woods.
One of my favorite places to hike is the hills of Tennessee. I have spent countless hours doing just that.
From short hikes on the hillsides, searching for wild ginseng to all-day hikes in the state parks, a camera is a must-have. You never know what is just around the next bend or over the next hill.
Sights captured on recent Tennessee hikes. Above: Caney Fork River between Smithville and Sparta. Below: Views in White County.
Lace up your hiking shoes, grab your water bottle and meet me at the trailhead. We will breathe in the fresh clean air, listen to the leaves rustle, birds sing and squirrels chatter above. Along the way we will try to spot the critters running through the brush.
Sights captured on recent Tennessee hikes. Left to right. Water over rock near Wildcat Falls in White County. Moss on boulder in Morgan County. Deserted Mine in Fentress County.
If you would like to hike in a Tennessee State Park, there are many wonderful parks with great hiking trails to choose from. In Cumberland County, Cumberland Mountain State Park is riddled with trails for every skill level. There is even an overnight trail for those who may want to spend the night on the trail. Trail maps can be picked up at the park office.
Sights captured on recent Cumberland County, Tennessee hikes. Left to right. Footbridge over Byrd Lake at Cumberland Mountain State Park, Byrd Creek along one trail in the park, Boathouse at the park. Critter home in tree, fall red berries and dry creekbed.
For an extended get-away, rent a cabin or townhouse at the park and take several day-hikes while you're there. Accommodations are reasonably priced and comfortable.
Sights captured on recent Cumberland County, Tennessee hikes. Left to right. Berries on wild Privet bush, red leaves, moss on rock, wild grass going to seed and wild fern.
Less than 500 miles south of the Tennessee hills is the Sunshine State border, and a few short miles south of the border is the part of Florida I know best. I have hiked these sandy piney woods for many years.
Florida may not present the glorious show of autumn color that you will find north of the state line but it has its own hidden treasures. In Jackson County, three miles north of the city of Marianna, you will find Florida Caverns State Park. This is the only Florida State Park that offers tours of its caves to the public.
The park also offers campsites, canoeing, bicycle and horse trails. Rather than typical hiking trails, this park has two nature trails that can be hiked up to the bluffs over the Chipola river floodplain. Much of the hike is demanding as it is steep, but it is well worth the effort it takes to find yourself immersed in the unique beauty of this area of Florida.
Sights captured on a recent Deep Springs hike. Bay County, Florida. Left to right. Main trail leading into canyon, topside of canyon, creek at bottom, creek deep in woods, creek through brambles, Goldenrod in bloom, footbridge over creek, trail washed away and view from footbridge.
Deep Springs Park is a very small park with a labryinth of trails. It is located in northern Bay County and hidden down old country roads, in a hamlet known as Fountain. Many of these trails are on the side of the ravine and very difficult to navigate. One must hold to the trees to keep from sliding down the side. While hiking these trails, it is hard to believe the ‘canyon' is located in one of the flattest counties in Florida.
Following the trail on the far side of the footbridge and keeping to the right, you will find the creek is wider and deeper. A good eye can even spot the bubbling spring that gives the park its name.
A lovely way to take a break from hiking is to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it with friends either at the top of the canyon where visitors can find picnic tables or at the bottom on a blanket next to the creek. Deep Springs Canyon is filled with native plants and is alive throughout the entire year. Deep Springs is a county park open to the public and there are no fees to enter.
With fall turning to winter and many long cold days ahead here are a couple of photographs to keep you warm while you wait for spring.
Spring in Cumberland County, TN and Panama City Beach, FL
*A note about the dry creekbeds and low creeks. The creeks in both states are very low. The drought-stricken southeastern U.S. has suffered in ways not noticed until you get out into the forests and see the damage done by low water levels in the normally fast running creeks. Plant and animal life are suffering due to these low water levels. For instance, the crayfish in Deep Springs Park are becoming harder and harder to find; in the past they could be seen without searching for them. Plants that would be found on creekbanks in both states have died back and may not come back.
Photo at top right is of the Caney Fork River between Smithville and Sparta, TN and taken by the author. Some photos used with permission from Daniel and Jeannette Adams, Patricia Penney and Jocelyn Wyatt. (Hold cursor over photo to see photographer name)
Cumberland Mountain State Park 24 Office Drive Crossville, TN 38555 Office: 931-484-6138 Cabin Reservations: 800-250-8618
Florida Caverns State Park 3345 Caverns Road Marianna, Florida 32446 Phone: 850-482-9598
About Jacqueline Cross
I'm a native Floridian...feet planted in the shifting sands of northwest FL. but my heart strings are tightly knotted to the hills of Tennessee.
I live with my poodle, Minnie Pearl, Zsa Zsa the cat who runs the whole show and a new addition, Kitty Belle.
I'm a writer, gardener, quilter, cross stitcher, soapmaker and nature lover. Mother to 3 wonderful daughters & Nana to 6 perfect grandchildren.
I also write for Suite101.com and was promoted to Feature Writer in the vegetable gardens section in 2008.