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  1. #1
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    Default Sewanee Hiking Trails

    Yesterday I finished the last of the 10 (or 11?) defined hiking trails at The University of the South, also known as Sewanee, a small liberal arts college in TN, almost midway between Nashville and Chattanooga. As accomplishments go, this is very minor, but it has a number of appealing aspects.

    The terrain is pretty representative of the Cumberland Plateau, with a fair bit of limestone and sandstone, natural waterfalls, rocky bluffs, and creeks to rock-hop. The trail blazing and signage is just inadequate enough that you will get some practice with map and compass, looking for faded blazes, and trying to make heads and tails of trail re-routes. Depending on when you go, and what part of the trail system, you may see no one at all, or you may see runners, mountain bikers, and horseback riders (they have an equestrian center). At certain times, hunting may be going on, so you will get practice trying to remember to bring your blaze orange vests/hats/packs.

    The hikes are defined in bite-size pieces to highlight a particular area. Only the Perimeter Trail (20 miles) is officially more than 8 miles long. However, by adding roadwalks and access trails to get to the trailheads from parking, and combining a couple trails or loops, one can put together several 5-10 mile hiking days.

    Sewanee claims to have 60 miles of trail in all, but I think they're including all the multi-mode trails (hiking/biking/equestrian, e.g.) that aren't part of a defined trail on their official map. The defined trails only add up to about 30 miles. But, as mentioned, you have to take some of those access trails/fire lanes/etc anyway to get to the defined loops and trails.

    I'll include a map here, but a higher resolution one is available from Sewanee's website in PDF form.

    Sewanees_Ten_Best_Day_Hikes_Map-800x517.jpg

    There was one area where I literally had to rock climb (free solo!) to follow the trail. I could not believe it went that way, but it did. It went up to a corridor in the rock they call Proctor's Hall. Now, the rock face had some ripples in it and you could get your footing OK. It was not straight up either; it leaned at an angle comparable to that which you'd use for a ladder against your house. So not too bad. But what I didn't figure out is, how you'd get down if coming the other way. There were rocks near the base, and the ground at the base wasn't that level. I guess you'd have to back your way down somehow. So that was pretty exciting to do, esp. since I was not hiking with a buddy that day.

    Notice the location of the blaze - I'm at ground level at the base looking up, and I'm like, what?!

    IMG_3782.JPG

    Looking down from Proctor's Hall:

    IMG_3785.JPG

    Bridal Veil Falls:

    IMG_3769.JPG

    Green's View:

    Green's View 1.JPG

    Creek Crossing near Solomon's Temple:

    IMG_3879.JPG

    ice crystals formation:

    IMG_3877.JPG

  2. #2
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    Default

    Cool. My eldest went to college there.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

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  3. #3
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    One common roadwalk toward the western perimeter trails will take you past the equestrian center and an area where goats are kept. Here are some goats that were tasked last fall with cleaning up the remnants of pumpkins launched from a trebuchet in some sort of fall festival exhibition. [One went further than planned and bored a rather clean hole in a barn roof. ]

    IMG_3668.JPG

    typical Cumberland area rock

    IMG_3781.JPG

    Below, a typical view from rocky bluff/outcropping.

    IMG_3800.JPG

    There are a couple other spots where there's a steep dropoff from a rock that is jutting out, to the forest floor below, but they didn't capture well on camera. You have to sort of realize that just beyond the levels of these rocks are the higher reaches of trees. Like looking over the edge at Beckwith's Point:

    Beckwith's Point 2.JPG

    Dotson Point is another - my camera really didn't capture it, and I didn't venture out to stand on it, but others have - (this external link from TN Trails Ass'n is not a shot of me or anyone I know):

    IMG_0015.jpg


    Below, the Forestry Cabin. Basically a 4-sided lean-to - aside from a table and some sleeping platforms, there's no furniture inside. Note, although Sewanee's trails are open to the public, only students, faculty, and alums can arrange a permit for overnight (e.g., this cabin or LNT camping).

    IMG_3812s.jpg

    The Perimeter Trail is blue-blazed, interestingly. Blazing can be rather inconsistent in frequency, quality, medium, and so forth. Occasionally you may see what looks like a really modern and helpful sign like this one.

    Post.jpg

    They are few in number, however, and there are several frustrating things about how these are used. For one thing, you may have multiple defined trails running concurrently (e.g., the Perimeter Trail and another), but the sign will only mention one of these trails, not both. So if the trails diverge at a point, you may not know if you're still on your desired one. Secondly, as this post illustrates, it will mention trails that aren't even on the map. Third, and especially seen on the Western Perimeter Loop, you'll see a post with no badges/plates. There's no substitute for a map, compass, and a sense of where borders/landmarks are!

    I think this tree was an extra in The Wizard of Oz (1939):

    Tree.jpg

    Anyway, it's a worthwhile place for dayhiking and for some, it's quicker to get to than many other places.

  4. #4
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    There was one area where I literally had to rock climb (free solo!) to follow the trail. I could not believe it went that way, but it did. It went up to a corridor in the rock they call Proctor's Hall. Now, the rock face had some ripples in it and you could get your footing OK. It was not straight up either; it leaned at an angle comparable to that which you'd use for a ladder against your house. So not too bad. But what I didn't figure out is, how you'd get down if coming the other way. There were rocks near the base, and the ground at the base wasn't that level. I guess you'd have to back your way down somehow. So that was pretty exciting to do, esp. since I was not hiking with a buddy that day.
    It sounds like you have not been to northern New Hampshire. Your description evokes memories of climbing in the Wildcat Range of the White Mountains.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsailor View Post
    It sounds like you have not been to northern New Hampshire. Your description evokes memories of climbing in the Wildcat Range of the White Mountains.
    That is true, I have not.

    Rock climbing is very popular in this area, and trails often involve rock hopping and sometimes boulder-hopping. But I'd never previously seen a blazed trail go up a rock face, even if it was maybe only ~12' high.

    I take that back - I have, but until this, there's always been a ladder, steps, or some hybrid.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    That is true, I have not.

    Rock climbing is very popular in this area, and trails often involve rock hopping and sometimes boulder-hopping. But I'd never previously seen a blazed trail go up a rock face, even if it was maybe only ~12' high.

    I take that back - I have, but until this, there's always been a ladder, steps, or some hybrid.
    You didn’t mention that you are 6’2” (or is it 6’3”?) Can’t imagine how high that climb would be to my 5’. Dangerous if icy.

    (very nice trip/trail report)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Traffic Jam View Post
    You didn’t mention that you are 6’2” (or is it 6’3”?) Can’t imagine how high that climb would be to my 5’. Dangerous if icy.
    (very nice trip/trail report)

    There are times when my lower back soreness and countertop height at home make me feel like I'm eleven feet tall. But I am just 6'1" (barefoot). True, I don't hike barefoot so maybe your estimate is more appropriate.

    Yeah, that rock was actually wet in a few spots when I climbed it, but not icy. I think that wetness only affected a hand hold, not a foot hold. So not a big deal. But I did stand there for while debating whether to proceed; there was no one around if things went badly.

  8. #8
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    Hey! I live in Sewanee. I teach at St. Andrew's-Sewanee, the local boarding/day high school. We have about 10 miles of trails for hiking/running/biking that adjoin to the university trails. I'd say if you do the perimeter trail of Sewanee plus our campus, you'd get about 31 miles in total. If you want closer to 50 or 60, then yes, you'd have to add in all of the mixed-use trails that crisscross the perimeter (many of these are jeep trails). The area is great for long distance trail running, day hikes, and climbing. You could easily do a 1-3 night beginner backpacking trip too. Of course, Savage Gulf is nearby too with a lot more overnight options and technical trails with rewarding waterfalls.

    If anyone ever needs any insider beta on this area, let me know! I'm happy to accompany hikes and talk about geology, trip planning, waterfalls, swimming holes, archaeology, and more. These are great year round trails that offer scenic views and solitude. The lack of crowds makes it a great day or weekend trip for Chattanooga, Nashville, Birmingham, and Atlanta folks.

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