CT BLOG » Camping
Posted on October 23 2015
CHICKS LIKE ME: CT TRAIL RUNNING RETREAT REVIEW
Two weekends ago, just after turning 45, I finally had the opportunity to go to “camp.” I was never able to attend camp as a kid, and the Cumberland Transit Trail Running Retreat was my birthday gift to myself.
My friend Cheryl Moss and I left Clarksville around 4:00 p.m. for the hour and twenty-minute drive down country roads to Lyles, TN, which is somewhere near Dickson. I was glad to have one of us driving and one of us navigating! The retreat center was a bit off the beaten path, but the Cumberland Transit folks had placed signs at several important turns, which turned out to be very helpful.
The retreat center was gorgeous.
Cheryl and I checked in and found out we were assigned to the BIG basement bunk room with 20 other ladies. We were lucky enough to get bottom bunks.
I was honestly a little apprehensive about 22 of us sharing one room with only two full bathrooms, but it worked out fine. In fact, I think being in that room allowed me to make many more friends than I would have otherwise.
Dinner that first night was outstanding, probably my favorite meal there. We had acorn squash stuffed with jamabalaya. I chose the meat version, and Cheryl had the vegetarian version. We both enjoyed kale salads on the side.
After dinner, I went downstairs to the bunk room, and about 10 of us, all total strangers, sat in a circle and just talked. We chatted about running and nutrition and parenting. We talked about races we had done in the past and what we were training for. We had an immediate camaraderie. As I sat there talking with these women, I couldn’t help but think,“These are my people. They get it.”
At 10:30, the lights were turned out. We had an early morning run planned. I had hoped to sleep, but I found that I just couldn’t quite fall asleep or stay asleep. (That’s my own fault for choosing a bed near the bathroom!)
A light breakfast was served the next morning, and then we hit the trails. We could choose a 3-mile, 5-mile, or 10-mile run. I chose to run five miles. The trails were still lush and green for the most part and were surprisingly hilly! Steep hills greeted us every few minutes. I have a hilly half marathon coming up, so it was good training!
The support on the run was great. We had a run leader and a sweeper for every distance, so no one could possibly be left behind. There was an extremely well-stocked aid station with gels, water, sports drink, and even some real food.
After the run, we had brunch with a very filling egg and spinach casserole. Again, the food was excellent. Then it was time to break into small groups for clinics. There were clinics on cooking and nutrition, stand-up paddleboarding, and running form. Around noon, we had a giant group yoga session. That was the first time I’ve ever done 80 minutes of yoga! (photo courtesy of Cumberland Transit)
After yoga, a light salad was served that was both vegan and gluten-free. I will say I ate healthier this weekend that I have on any weekend in recent memory!
Then it was my turn to stand-up paddleboard! I had only done it once before, so I was a little nervous. Our instructor was fabulous. She was so energetic and gave excellent instructions. It was obvious she loved the sport! This is the end of our one-hour lesson. Our group was great. No one fell into the water. (photo courtesy of Brooke Widmer with Soulshine SUP in Nashville)
After paddleboarding, I took some Merrell running shoes and some Altra running shoes for short test runs. I also scored some free stuff from the reps! I left the retreat with both a Merrell buff and an Altra buff (so versatile!), a Merrell hat and water bottle, and Altra socks, plus a small North Face swag bag.
That evening, we had a huge meal of delicious bbq from a local joint, plus tons of vegan and gluten-free sides. As a gluten-intolerant gal, I really appreciated these options.
For our entertainment that evening, we had wine, beer, and motivational running videos. I left this weekend more motivated to run than I have been in a while! The videos we watched were incredibly inspiring.
That evening, I think everyone slept better. Miles of running, nearly an hour and a half of yoga, and an hour of stand-up paddleboarding will have that effect!
Finally, on Sunday morning, we left on our final group run. A few of us chose to make up our own route and explored the acres and acres of the retreat center. Splashing through a creek on a cool summer morning with like-minded women was so much fun.
We had a huge brunch after the run, and then it was time to pack up and leave. I said my goodbyes to the amazing women I had met, promising to see them on the trails in the future. In fact, this weekend, I hope to reconnect with a couple of them at a trail race in Dickson.
This retreat was so well done. The organizers did an incredible job serving great food, planning fun and educational activities, and giving us a BREAK from the real world.
The women in attendance were smart, kind, accomplished, and like-minded. Some were experienced trail runners, some were novices; others were triathletes, weight lifters, paddleboarders, and yogis. There were teachers, nurses, doctors, bankers, stay-at-home moms, and fitness industry professionals. ALL were friendly and encouraging.
It was nice to spend a weekend in the woods, no make up, hair in a ponytail, being active and eating nutritious foods with chicks like me.
Post by: Donna Pittman
OCOEE RIVER BOUND!
For anyone with an adventurer’s heart, or even a bad case of wanderlust, the ceaseless hum of an urban environment can sometimes become too much to handle. After my old ’89 Ford Bronco II, lovingly named Becky, decided she needed a new fuel pump in early June, I was forced to stay close to home. There are plenty of things to keep one busy in this town, but, after two months of confinement to the urban landscape, I needed an escape. No longer than two days after my beloved truck was repaired, I headed out with my friend Tim for a well-overdue adventure. We loaded Becky down with some whitewater boats, our mountain bikes, and all of the essentials to spend my birthday weekend in the woods.
Ocoee River bound, we jammed to some good tunes and talked over the river beta we could remember from our last run down. The Tanasi Trail System runs adjacent to the river, so we planned for two days of morning rides and afternoon paddling to cool off from the brutal August sun. The river was gushing from the dam when we arrived. We knew they had also released the dam above the Upper Ocoee, which runs at a solid Class III+/IV and includes the 1996 Olympic section used for the dual slalom event. Since neither one of us is too smooth in a boat, we opted to run the more familiar Middle Ocoee, which still boasts some stout rapids at Class III. But first, we hit the trail before the afternoon heat cranked up.
The trails that make up the Tanasi trial system are some of my favorite in Tennessee. Just west of the North Carolina border, the elevation kicks up quickly and makes for some punchy climbs and short, steep descents. Both of us were aboard our steel hardtails and felt great ripping through the rocky, rooty riverside terrain. We were able to burn about 8 miles of trail in just over an hour and a half. One of which included the Thunder Rock trail. This one-way spur was the most talked-about descent in the area. As we clipped in to head down, I was only able to get in two pedal strokes before a pin in my chain popped out, leaving me more than disappointed and a little worried that our plans for a ride the next day might be ruined. I decided to make the most of the trail ahead of me and kicked my bike scooter-style down the trail until I found enough momentum to carry me through the turns. I couldn’t help but dream that I was World Cup Downhill Champion Aaron Gwin on his famous chainless championship run from last season. I made my way down, clumsily kicking for extra speed when I had the chance and doing my best to lay off of the brakes. When I made it to the bottom, Tim and I both shared a laugh about my bum ride and coasted back to the car to gear up for our run down the river.
We ran into some old friends from our Wilderness First Responder class we had taken the year before, and decided to put on with them so we could try out some new lines. It didn’t take long for us to realize that this crew was way out of our league. All of them were instructors in some capacity at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and they could handle their boats. After we both took a crack at their lines, we decided we had better stay above water for the rest of the day and forget trying to keep up with those guys. From there on out it was smooth sailing. We cruised down the rest of the river, both making it to the other side of Tablesaw, the longest and most daunting rapid on the river.
Once we took off of the river, it was time for a hot meal and a few brews. We cruised up a dirt road until we found a spot that was tailor-made for a couple of hammocks and a campfire. We kept it simple when it came to dinner. There’s nothing better than fire-roasted brats to put some calories back in an empty stomach.
The next day dawned with that unmistakable smell of mountain air, and the certainty of an adventure to be had. We got in another two-hour ride (thanks to a quicklink in my chain) and one more push down the river. The sun shone bright in the Tennessee sky and we managed to keep our gear and our bodies intact this go ‘round. By the time we hit the final takeout, I was burned, sore, bruised, and happier than I had been in weeks. Sometimes it just takes a little escape and some good company to put the world right again.
Post by: Jake Lee
THE CUMBERLAND TRANSIT EXPERIENCE
Cumberland Transit has been a Nashville staple since 1971. If you ask a native Nashvillian where to go to find quality outdoor gear and knowledgeable staff, they will inevitably tell you to head to Cumberland Transit on West End. They either know, Allen “The Godfather”, Ronnie “Grumpy”, or “Bungalow Bill” in footwear. CT is a perfect example of a successful locally owned business. It is the exact opposite of big box stores and franchised businesses. At CT we consider Nashville our family. Just like a regular family, you take care of your loved ones and as part of our family, we want to take care of you. This means that we aren’t trying to sell you gear you don’t need or don’t want. If we don’t have what you need and can’t order it, by all means go to a competitor and take care of yourself. We believe that a successful business is not about selling the most products, but reaching your customers on a deeper level and building a relationship of trust. If we can do this, we trust that you will come back even if it is just to say hello. Every week we get people coming in the store who got their first bike from us and are now buying one for their son or daughter. These are the kind of relationships we cherish.
If you have the time, we want you to leave the store more knowledgeable than when you opened the door. We staff each section with experts who have years of experience. Our staff includes road and off-road bike racers, yoga instructors, rock climbing guides, ski instructors, Appalachian Trail thru hikers, fly fishing guides, ice climbers, and this just scratches the surface. If you know what you need and want to get in and out fast, then we will gladly point you in the right direction. Otherwise, we use the gear we sell and are more than happy to talk about it and share our knowledge. We don’t want you to just survive your next adventure, but thrive having the knowledge and the best gear possible. Please come in and check us out whether you are just visiting or are a Nashville native. Check us out on Facebook and as always stay venture ready!
Until next time,
After spending the last 6 years working in Utah and taking advantage of the infinite outdoor adventure opportunities, I’ve moved to Nashville to start another chapter in my life. The 1,631 mile drive was not the first time I’ve traveled across the country to search for new life experiences. It was a little nerve racking, and there was plenty of apprehension & second guessing. Still, absolutely every time I’ve gone outside my comfort zone and taken a risk, it has been rewarded with inner growth, wonderful new friends, beautiful and different scenery, and exciting opportunities.
Upon arriving in Nashville, I immediately wondered who the adventurers were, what they were doing and where were they doing it. Nashville is known for a lot of things but not as a mecca for high outdoor adventure. Everyone I asked talked about Chattanooga, Asheville, and Red River Gorge as the closest places to find high adventure. But, with a full time job and limited free time, I then asked the question, what can we do right here? The common answer is typically, “not much.” Then I think and skeptically ask “why not?” I realize that there aren’t mountains and roaring rivers like Colorado, or picturesque slot canyons like Utah and Arizona, but we must have the opportunity for adventure. We have to be more creative in how we seek our outdoor thrills because we don’t have huge expanses of open land. In a city of foodies, up and coming musicians, dive and hip new bars, the adventurer has to look at the world in a different way to find their outlets. It could be anything from trail running, slack lining in your backyard, rappelling some local cliffs, or attempting to boulder a large rock you find while hiking. The adventures are here, but we have to search through the urban expanse to spot them.
This past week I found my first adventure in the Nashville area. People had told me about some cliffs by the Cumberland River where you can rappel and even do a little bit of climbing. I was a little skeptical, but always open to exploring new areas. Since it has been months since I’ve been rappelling, I, of course, had to make sure that all my climbing gear was set and organized (in case my new acquaintances were right). Remember, plan ahead and prepare so that you are ready for anything. For that matter, be careful to assess your own abilities and don’t even attempt an effort like this until you get proper training and the right safety equipment.
Every travelogue mentions how it’s about the journey and not the destination, but can’t it be both? I came to this place to rappel and ended up finding an environment that looked more like Ireland than one you’d find within a 30 minute drive of Nashville. Just look at these beautiful unspoiled clumps of soft green moss in the middle of winter!
Here I’m preparing for descent down the cliff. If you look closely you can see the remnants of a fire showing others have ventured here before me and have possibly experienced how wonderful food tastes out in the open. Chacos on, water knots tied, and an equalized anchor, I was almost ready for my adventure to begin.
Just out of sight of this picture is one more ledge to stand on. It’s actually the perfect transition into rappelling. Fortunately for me, it was necessary so that I could safely check to make sure that my rope hit the ground. Luckily I had about 15 feet to spare, making this a 135’ rappel. Always make sure your rope hits the ground before you start your descent.
This rappel is going to be a little different during the summer. Can you guess why? Not sure if this is kudzu, but it’s going to be a bit more problematic getting through this leafed out growth during the summer. The main beta (technical tips) for this rappel is to kick out just before getting to the ivy and rappel really quickly until you are past it.
Just as we were calling it a day and getting ready to head home, we were rewarded with the site of this huge and silent barge that happened to be passing by. It was a true reminder of the power of nature. The Cumberland River carved the cliffs that we just rappelled and continues to provide an effective means of commercial transport to this day.
Bluewater II 7/16” Static Rope 150’
Bluewater 1” Tubular Webbing 50’
Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
Black Diamond ATC-XP Belay/Rappel Device
Black Diamond RockLock Carabiner
Black Diamond Super 8 Belay/Rappel Device 2014
Patagonia Down Sweater
Chaco Z/2 Unaweep Sandal
Until the next find,
Posted on October 30 2014
TWO NIGHTS IN TUOLUMNE MEADOWS, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
When my husband and I traveled across the country to spend a few days in Yosemite National Park, we expected seclusion, quiet, and a departure from reality. Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared for how populated and tourist-heavy the park would be in Yosemite Village. After two days and one night seeking solace on busy trails and mountain overlooks, we headed to Tuolumne Meadows for part two of our Yosemite experience.
It’s only about 54 miles from Yosemite Village to the meadows, but it takes at least 1.5 hours to get there. If you’re the type who gets carsick (like me), get ready for winding mountain roads with not shortage of twists and turns. After climbing from 4,000 feet to 8,000 feet elevation, we finally reached our campsite at the Tuolumne Meadows campground. Since it was starting to get dark, we headed straight for our site to unpack and get set up.
The campground is rustic with dirt roads and no access to electricity. For us, it was perfect. We had plenty of fellow campers, but once night fell, we could hardly see them. The campground is near dozens of trailheads, mountain lakes, streams, and meadows. In other words, there’s plenty to do.
At 8,000 feet elevation, the temperature dropped dramatically at nightfall. To our relief, our 30-degree sleeping bags proved to be worth the extra cost. The next day, we sought out a plan for where to hike. We only had time to try out one trail, but we picked out one for next time, too:
Lembert Dome Trail. This was the trail we chose for our early morning hike. It was perfect. Our legs were shot after a strenuous hike the previous day, and this path was short, but difficult enough to keep us interested. The 1.4-mile trail leads hikers to the top of Lembert Dome, where you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the valley floor. We spent an hour at the top making new friends and taking lots of pictures before turning back. (2.8 miles round trip, moderate).
Cathedral Lake Trail. If we had more time, this would have been the trail of our choosing. The 7-mile trail leads hikers up a 1,000-foot elevation gain, which provides incredible views of Cathedral Lake. The entire hike takes about 6 hours, and it’s one of the busiest trails in Tuolumne Meadows. (7 miles round trip, moderate).
After we descended Lembert Dome, we headed to Tenaya Lake to hang out on the shore and eat some lunch. This photo pretty much speaks for itself:
At sunset, we wandered into the Tuolumne Meadows to watch for wildlife and watch the sun sink behind the mountain ranges. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually see any wildlife, but when we heard a pack of wild coyotes howling, we decided to head out before they came to find us.
I wouldn’t necessarily change how much time we spent in Yosemite: We managed to do and see a lot in 3 days, and we wanted to check out King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks before headed back to Tennessee. But next time, we’ll carve out more time for hiking and exploring in the Tuolumne area. It was the trip we were after: seclusion, quiet, no cell phone service, and plenty of time to sit and stare off in the distance. Our neighbors at the campground were fly fishermen, climbers, backpackers, and serious hikers. Our beginner’s approach to camping and hiking definitely put us in the minority. And that’s a fun place to be when you’re out in the wild.
CAMPING AND HIKING IN YOSEMITE VALLEY
by Megan Pacella
When my husband and I were invited to a wedding near Los Angeles, we immediately started brainstorming ways to turn the wedding trip into a backpacking trip. After lots of planning and researching, we decided to fly into San Francisco, rent a car, and drive to Los Angeles by way of three National Parks. First on our list was Yosemite.
To avoid elevation sickness, we decide to start out by camping at Yosemite Valley (approximately 4,000 feet) before moving up to Tuolumne Meadows (approximately 8,700 feet). When we arrived to our campsite at North Pines campground, we were a little disappointed to find that it was full of RV campers. With plenty of electricity available, the site never got dark, and we didn’t really feel like we were in the woods yet.
The valley is great if you’re doing a major backpacking trip and you want to end your time in the park with a shower, a hot meal, and a cold beer. Since we spent our first two days there, we weren’t ready to have all the comforts of home just yet. This isn’t the place for you if you want a rustic, secluded retreat to Yosemite.
To get away from our fellow tourists, we decided to try a few different hikes. Here are our picks for great, moderate to strenuous hiking trails in Yosemite Valley:
Vernal Fall Trail. Avoid the lower trail completely. It’s a paved path that takes about 20 minutes to complete, and you’ll be surrounded by iPhones and cameras the entire time. The upper trail offers better views and secluded areas—however, the falls are completely dry by the end of summer. This is a great trail for spring and winter hiking when the snowmelt has produced an incredible waterfall. It’s easy to get to the trailhead: Just hop on the shuttle and get off at stop Happy Isles, stop number 16. 4.8 miles (round trip), moderate.
Four-Mile Trail. This is one of the best ways to get sweeping views of the entire valley. From Four Mile Trail, you’ll catch views of El Capitan and Half Dome, as well as several lesser-known mountain ranges and the valley below. It’s not a long hike, but it’s tough. During the four-mile hike, you’ll climb about 3,200 feet on switchbacks and rocky terrain. Around the 3-mile mark, Union Point provides a great resting area and overlook, but I’d recommend completing the rest of the trail and making your way to the top. The way down is faster, but hiking poles are highly recommended. 4.8 miles (one way), strenuous.
There are so many great trails that it was hard to stick with two, but time didn’t allow us to spend any more time in the valley. Next time we visit, we hope to attempt these two trails:
Half Dome. Hiking Half Dome involves some advanced physical training to prepare your body for a long day of hiking and strenuous climbing. The 14- to 16-mile round trip trail takes hikers anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to complete, so most people start around sunrise. The trail takes hikers up almost 5,000 feet, so the views are worth the trip. We would have attempted the hike if I hadn’t found out I was pregnant shortly before our vacation (whoops!). 14 to 16 miles (round trip), strenuous.
Snow Creek Trail. This is supposed to be a pretty grueling hike that starts out on the valley floor and climbs up 2,700 feet to the rim of Tenaya Canyon. Parking isn’t available at the trailhead, so plan to park at Curry Village and take a shuttle to the trail. Once you’re there, allow about 8 hours to complete the hike. It gets hot as you climb, so prepare with plenty of water. 9.4 miles (round trip), strenuous.
After a day and a half in the valley, it was time for us to retreat to Tuolumne Meadows, where the crowd thinned out and our camping conditions were rustic. But that’s for another post on another day. In the meantime, here are some shots of our time in the valley:
A CAR CAMPER’S MORNING DAY DREAM
By Jeanett Szyszka
While dropping a chai tea pod into the Verismo machine this morning and watching it brew in less than 30 seconds, my mind began to fantasize of last fall when nothing needed to be so immediate. Upon waking up at 6 a.m., I threw on my headlamp after a nice long stretch in the tent, boiled some water to stir up two hot mochas, and woke my partner before she missed nature’s good morning.
As we sat in our camp chairs watching the sunrise with our best friend and guardian, Cole, I couldn’t help but think we had found our favorite camping spot at Mousetail Landing State Park in Linden, Tenn.
Once the coffee set in and our breakfast of champions was consumed (sweet potato hash, eggs, and bacon) we suited up Cole and hit the trails. On the way there, we stopped at the park office to grab some maps and also learned about the Civil War history of Mousetail. There were several adventures to pick from, but we chose the 3 Mile Day Use Hike since our pup gets worn out pretty quickly.
Some trips I decide not to take my camera on the trail, letting the experience be a shared moment between our family and focusing only on our time together. The second my foot touched the moss trails of Mousetail, I felt my imagination pull into a world of dragons, castles, and tiny elves. In reality, there are lots of Black Racer snakes who also enjoy the squishy, cool path, so keep your eyes peeled or your dog might try to make an unwanted new friend.
Words cannot describe the wonder of this park. You should consider staying here for a weekend if you’re looking for a quiet campsite with boating, hiking, picnicking, and bike paths. You’ll leave with a list of things to do next time and a craving for the Tennessee River wind.
FINDING WATER IN THE DESERT
By Kern Ducote
It is incredible when you stumble around a corner to find the most lovely pool of dark shaded water towards the back of a slot canyon. You cannot help but be overcome with gratitude and happiness. When I stumbled on this particular pool, it had been 50 hours since the last time I filled up my 10 liter carrying capacity. As I approached, I considered jumping head long into the delectable water, but when I grew closer and my line of sight shifted, I slowly came to realize that I had been deceived. What looked like a nice pool of water were only the marks that water had left long ago. The shadows were playing tricks on my eyes. Until that point, I had never seen a mirage. But that, indeed, was a mirage. I was seeing exactly what I had so longed for.
So there I was, in the desert, parched and disappointed. It was the moment of hope being dashed out that really got to me. After so long without a water source, that precious commodity that we so often take for granted, I had come to expect it. I thought, “Surely we must be getting closer to water somewhere. We have covered so much ground that has long been forsaken of such goodness. We are getting nearer thanks to the process of elimination. We must be!”
One of the most beautiful places you could ever find yourself is in the desert where there is water. The amount of life that flourishes off of so little is undeniably remarkable and efficient. I eventually found myself there, at the base of a small waterfall that came from underneath the surface of the rock flowing cool and clear. After filling myself with more water than I should have (considering the sheer number of times I went to the bathroom in the next 12 hours) and finishing a water battle with my compadres, I fell where we were standing and nearly went directly into an afternoon siesta in the shade next to the falls. I was so content and relaxed that drool was flowing freely from my mouth. I was care free. There was water–and at that moment, water was all I needed.
Take caution when going into the desert. You will certainly learn some things–some of which you will not be ready to learn. The best thing you can do is plan ahead and prepare (Leave no trace is principle number one), but there are some things that sneak up on you, take you by surprise, or catch you off guard. Enjoy the lack of bias that the desert and wilderness offer, and immerse yourself in creation. Take your experiences and learn from what you have gone through.