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The Crazy Owls is Cumberland Transit's trail running club that meets every Monday at 7pm at the Deep Well Entrance of Percy Warner Park.  We usually split up into groups to accommodate pace and distance.  If you want to get crazy one Monday night, come and join us.  Bring water and...

Crazy Owls Trail Maintenance Day at Percy Warner Park

The Crazy Owls is Cumberland Transit's trail running club that meets every Monday at 7pm at the Deep Well Entrance of Percy Warner Park.  We usually split up into groups to accommodate pace and distance.  If you want to get crazy one Monday night, come and join us.  Bring water and a headlamp.  And if the weather is gnarly, check our Instagram to make sure we are meeting.

We run the trails almost every week, so we decided it was time to help out and give our time to some good old fashioned trail maintenance.  All of us here at Cumberland Transit consider Percy Warner to be our backyard, adventure sanctuary.  It's very important to us to be good stewards of this place.

We met at the usual place, but this time it was daylight and we were wearing work clothes instead of our usual running attire.

Paul from Friends of Warner Parks maintains the trails at Percy Warner.  He was our crew chief for the day and planned work for us to do on the Warner Woods Trail.  When you see him out on the trails, give him a high five.  He's an awesome dude!  If you have been on the "white trail" during the winter, you know that it can definitely use some love.  There are a few sections that get really "soupy" muddy.

We spent the day using fire rakes to clear water bars and also added gravel to some of the really muddy sections.

Even with 10 volunteers and 3 hours, it didn't feel like we got much work done.  So if you enjoy these trails as much as we do, please consider becoming a member of Friends of Warner Parks.  We plan do to these trail maintenance days at least once a season, so if you want to help let us know.

Frozen Head December 11, 2016 This past Friday we woke up at 5:30 AM, loaded up the car with all of our backpacking gear and Milo, and drove east through the frigid Tennessee countryside. Only two and a half hours later we were transported from the Nashville basin to the...

Hiking at Frozen Head

Frozen Head

This past Friday we woke up at 5:30 AM, loaded up the car with all of our backpacking gear and Milo, and drove east through the frigid Tennessee countryside. Only two and a half hours later we were transported from the Nashville basin to the towering mountains of Frozen Head State Park. After a few glances at the map, we were off walking on frozen trail through seemingly untouched land.

As we wound around the mountain, switchback after switchback, we climbed in and out of the morning sun up the primarily oak forest of the Chimney Top trail. As we moved into the sunlight, sounds of distant birds and squirrels were constant, as the trail switched back into the shadows it became eerily quiet and the only noises we heard were our footsteps and Milo’s breathing. It quickly became apparent that we had the entire park to ourselves apart from the workers in the valley below. M.E. noticed in the shade there were thousands of hexagonal ice crystals lining the trail just underneath the top layer of leaves. A thick layer of crystals had formed underneath the dirt pebbles on the trail and gave the appearance that we were walking on floating rocks. It was magical. We were not necessarily happy that the park was empty, but excited that we got this incredible mountain all to ourselves for the cold December day.


After a period of time we followed the trail the the top of Rough Ridge where we stopped to look at the small sandstone capstones that littered the top of the ridge. For a brief moment we were unsure if we had reached the top of our climb, but as we looked towards the east we noticed a peak at least a thousand feet taller than where we were standing. Then the trail began downwards. One of the things learned after thousands of miles of hiking is that trail builders usually do things for a reason. It seemed that the only reason we would be descending off of a ridgeline was that there was a water source at the bottom of the valley. About fifteen minutes of descending later, the prediction stood to be true as we crossed over Rocky Fork Branch and then immediately began ascending again.

There are things in the eastern United States that unfortunately are uncommon; the beautifully colored darters, the high towering American chestnuts and Hemlocks. While we did not get to see any of these, we did get to walk through a very old growth oak and hickory forest as we reached the top of the mountain. The trees towered high above our heads and appeared to be well pruned upwards of seventy feet. Even though we see trees everyday in Nashville, and even big trees when we hike in Percy Warner Park, the size and multitude of these trees stopped us in our tracks. Eastern Tennessee’s rich history of logging and mining extracted most of the large timbers in the state to use for large buildings, structure for coal mine shafts, fuel to melt iron ore and removed trees to clear land for agriculture (link below). At that time, resources seemed inexhaustible and there was not much care taken to preserve the trees. One hundred year old pictures of the American chestnuts show trees rivaling the redwoods of the west. Trees that are now nearly extinct in our region. To walk through a forest of massive trees that had to have preceded this time is a very powerful thing.

Soon we arrived on top of a steep ridgeline and decided to go ahead and eat a couple snickers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Milo had dog food and a few treats of course). Even on a short hike, maintaining energy to continue is crucial for an enjoyable day. Although it is possible to hike a long distance with little food, hills that would normally seem easy become more and more difficult. A few hundred feet later and we came to the fifteen to twenty foot tall sandstone capstones of Chimney Top. Icicles hung over a small overhang in the rock that appeared to create a perfect campsite. To the south a small trail led up to the top of the rocks where a sign read “Chimney Top Elev. 3120.” This prominent overlook felt massive compared to the elevation of Nashville (~500 ft) only a couple hours away. The Crab Orchard mountains appear to form out of nowhere from the surrounding farmland, making them feel even taller.

After hanging out at the top for awhile, we decided to head back to the ranger station before the trails closed. We talked and laughed about the amazing day on our way down the mountain, filled with the happiness and joy that only comes from spending the day outside. We had not even been phased by the sub freezing weather and gusts of wind due to the excitement of the beautiful hike. There is something to be said about this feeling. What causes it? The fresh air, the solitude, the physical exertion, the silence, or even just the visual stimulation. No matter what the exact reason is, these are all reasons that we are hiking the Continental Divide this summer. Just the opportunity to prolong that feeling is refreshing to think about. That feeling drives both of us everyday.

Below the ridge, our car became visible again and we had completed another beautiful hike in a beautiful park. A park that is not as well travelled as some of the others in the state and does need donations to continue to maintain and protect its beautiful trails. To donate to Frozen Head State Park or to just find out more information, visit the park or click the link below.


My name is TJ Maurer,  I live in Chattanooga, TN, and I am a sales rep for Fayettechill. My wife and I moved to Tennessee 5 years ago not for a job or out of necessity.  We moved here because where we are now, while I am writing this, is...

One of our Sales Reps TJ Maurer, On Balance in Work & Play

My name is TJ Maurer,  I live in Chattanooga, TN, and I am a sales rep for Fayettechill. My wife and I moved to Tennessee 5 years ago not for a job or out of necessity.  We moved here because where we are now, while I am writing this, is exactly where we wanted to be – which is a whole other idea of serendipity we can talk about on a long drive or around a campfire one evening.


I climb rocks, I ride bikes through the foothills, I chase trout, I run about both visible and invisible trails through forests, I sleep in my truck, I have two chickens, and when I am not doing any of that, I rep for outdoor brands that I believe in.  I escape to the mountains as often as I am able, which seems to motivate me to work as hard as I can while in town, which then leads to anticipation and drive for more play. Both the love of home and the strive for balance in all facets of life seem to be two similarities shared with Fayettechill, myself, and countless other individuals.

Seeking balance in life is a simple idea, ancient and easy to practice, yet seemingly overlooked. I strive for a balance of work and play, of urbanscapes and natural environments.  A balance of encircling myself among like minded individuals and also those who think differently.  I see it pretty simply – I work hard and, thus, play hard.




But there is an imbalance in work and play that is two sided. On one hand, those who despise their job. Problem doesn’t lie with the 40-hour work week, but within the increasing number of people who settle for situations they detest. On the other side, those who deny jobs all together, a generation of social media enthusiasts quitting their job, living out of a van, and traveling to see the world. I’ve done this myself and I can assure you I would make the decision to travel and drop everything again, again, and even again. However, we have begun to romanticize people dropping everything and unsubscribing to the conventional way of thought previous generations laid out before us. If one thinks a bit more about the consequences of this lifestyle, especially if we all lived this way… we would not exist, the luxuries we have would not be available, and there would be absolutely no way to live in vans and chase adventure.

I hope I portrayed both sides of the equation fairly here.  The main point I want to make is that both ways of living are not mutually exclusive.  We can work a conventional job, even a 9-5 one, but find balance through habitual satisfaction of our wanderlust. I think the simplest way to practice this balance starts by appreciation of the zip code you live in.

Since living in Chattanooga, my concept of vacation has changed. Now when on vacation, I do not dread that last day or even the day leading to that last day of the vacation, the long road back home and the restart of daily life.  It could be because our vacations are adventures in the woods, the high desert, or lesser known coastlines – all generally without warm showers.  At the end of it all, our return to the daily grind is coupled with the return to our hometown of undulating trails, warm hued southern sandstone, overwhelming vitality of the Appalachian foothills, a community of some of our best friends, and warm showers.  


I imagine it to be no different for the folks at Fayettechill. They adventure all around the world, climbing mountains, fishing rivers, and surfing waves.  Despite their near utopian travels and weeks abroad, I can safely bet they long for Fayetteville at the end of it all.  They are motivated and inspired to realign themselves with their work and continuing to better themselves, the company and those around them upon returning.

Despite working a “real job”within the real economy, we can still attempt to inspire both ourselves and others through the other 80 hours a week. We can still take post worthy pictures, we can still embellish the already pretty awesome stories around the campfire. We can still strive to create – create photos, stories, climbs, trails, flies, gardens, and shiny new bikes. We can stop wasting time thinking about greener grasses and see the absolute best in where we are and where we are going.  We can love the home and community we chose to reside, grow, and learn within.  We can be involved a bit more than we maybe feel comfortable doing and meet a few more people outside our social circle. Hell, maybe have a beer with them. These are things we can do. These are things we should strive to do as people and organizations and collectives of people. As we do it, we motivate others to do the same. We play hard and work harder, all for an end goal to leave this planet a little better off than we came into it. We all take a personal responsibility to inspire ourselves and those around us. We aspire to be a collection of individual who value both the journey and the destination.

Words & Photos by TJ Maurer | @ticklejeans

As soon as I heard that running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim was a thing, I knew I had to do it.  It's been on my list of goals for a while now and this year I finally made it happen. Disclaimer: Running the Grand Canyon Rim to...

Trip Report: Running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

As soon as I heard that running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim was a thing, I knew I had to do it.  It's been on my list of goals for a while now and this year I finally made it happen.

Disclaimer: Running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim is tough!  Although, with proper training and gear, it's not impossible.  Grand Canyon National Park sees tons of visitors in a year; so, as with any adventure in a National Park, do your best to cause as little impact as possible.  Be polite to other folks experiencing the canyon.  Just because you are running doesn't make your experience any more important than others.  Announce yourself to hikers and always yield to folks coming uphill.  Pack out everything you take down and don't forget to have fun.

My wife and I have both worked in the outdoor industry and we have very similar gear.  One of us will purchase a nice piece of gear, the other one will be jealous and then purchase the same thing in a different color.  So when we enjoy the outdoors together, we look like a sponsored team of some sort.  We are not sponsored, but we do call ourselves "Team Thienel."

For this particular adventure, Team Thienel flew into Phoenix and we drove North to Sedona to do some acclimating and fun running.  Sedona is an awesome place with enough Trail Running, Mountain Biking, and Rock Climbing to last a lifetime.  One of our particular favorites was Wilson Mountain.


In the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, Wilson Mountain is the highest peak at 7,122 feet.  The trail leading up to the peak is steep and rugged.  We got pretty lucky and saw very few people.  Living in Nashville, we don't get many opportunities for real elevation.  Although the altitude was mild, we were feeling it in our flat-lander lungs.

After a couple days running and eating Mexican food, we headed up to the Grand Canyon.  I had considered changing the day I would run down into Canyon because the forecast wasn't looking so hot.   Turns out the forecast was off by a day. So when we arrived it was very cold and windy.  It had been about 5 years since I had been to the Grand Canyon and I had a picture in my mind of what it looked like.  When I actually showed up and stepped up to the edge, that picture in my mind was nothing like the real thing.  This view can definitely stir up some emotion.

We snapped a few photos, took in the view, and then headed back to the hotel to pack up and go to bed early for our 4:00am start the next day.  I really like ultra marathon races, but my favorite outdoor pursuit would be long, unsupported runs in the wilderness.  I have done plenty of long runs, but this was my first time doing 50 miles unsupported.  I tried to go as light as I safely could.  I went back and forth on whether or not I would run in my Salomon S-Lab vest or the Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 20.  I decided to go with the Salomon Vest and stay light.  The weather was perfect with a high of about 65, so I didn't need a ton of layers.

My Gear List:

  • Petzl Nao Headlamp
  • Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles
  • Patagonia Houdini Pullover
  • Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts
  • Patagonia Airflow Singlet
  • Patagonia Duckbill Hat
  • Defeet Wool Arm Warmers
  • Khatoola Micro Spikes
  • Spot GPS device
  • 2 Buffs
  • Suunto Ambit 2 GPS Watch
  • Icebreaker Sierra Wool Mittens 
  • Swiftwick Aspire 4 Socks
  • Altra Lone Peak 2.5 shoes
  • 2 GU Flasks 
  • 2 Camelbak insulated Podium bottles
  • Body Glide
  • As much high calorie food that would fit a gallon ziploc bag

Some highlights to point out that made the day more comfortable:  The Petzl Nao headlamp is my favorite headlamp ever – its comfortable, brighter than I need, and the Reactive technology gives it a great battery life.  A friend let me borrow the Spot GPS device.  It has a tracking feature that allows friends and family back home to follow your progress via the web, as well as send out pre-written text messages when you so choose.  Also, if things go way bad wrong you can send out a distress signal.  I will probably purchase one of these for future long runs.  There was snow at the North Rim, but nothing to warrant the Micro Spikes, but better safe than sorry.  Body glide was my best friend, I re-applied several times to prevent chaffing.  The GU flask was perfect for this run since I needed to pack everything out.  I ate GU every hour, so this system saved me from having to pack out 10 or 15 sticky GU packets.

Our alarm went off at 2:00am and I jumped right up with excitement.  I am usually a cranky zombie in the mornings, but on days like this I have no problem getting up. I had read that the mule trains start down the canyon at 5, hence the early start.  I also wanted to be finished before the sun went down.  We packed up our things and drove to the Bright Angel Trail head.  I chose to run the Bright Angel Trail to the North Kaibab trail and back the same way.  This route is slightly longer but not quite as steep as running the South Kaibob Trail.  My wife, Amber, was running to the river and back and we thought the Village near the Bright Angel Trail Head would be a cool place for her to wait for me (and also eat pizza).


We got to the trail head and tried to take a selfie, but quickly gave up because it was dark and also 18 degrees.  It was really cool to have this part of the park, which is usually very crowded, all to ourselves.  We both had an overwhelming feeling that we were doing something wrong – like we were sneaking into the Grand Canyon or something.  My original plan was to run with her to Indian Gardens (about 5 miles), but we were having so much fun that I decided to hang back with her and run together all the way to the river.  I'm so glad I did.  We got to the river just as the sun was coming up.


We said our goodbyes at Bright Angel Campground just on the other side of the river, and I headed  off for the North Rim.  The next 10 miles were beautiful and easy and I was feeling really strong.  That changed as soon as I started to climb.  I definitely underestimated how hard climbing the North Rim would be.  I knew it would be hard, but I had to do some serious work to get it done.  I had never been to the North Rim before and the views were truly spectacular.  Getting close to the serious climbing, this one was one of my favorite views:

I topped out feeling a little slow but in overall good shape.  I knew now that I could finish strong and do the second half faster than the first.  At the North Rim Trail Head, I met a guy named Brian and his either 3 or 4 kids (after running that much details get blurry for me.)  The youngest of his kids was 5 and they were doing R2R2R in 3 days.  Pretty cool! I wish I could have done that when I was 5!  Brian's girlfriend had opted to stay in the Cottonwood Campground closer to the bottom rather than hike all the way to the North Rim.  Brian was nice enough to take my picture and, in return, I would deliver a message to Dawn, his girlfriend, that he and the boys would be back down later that afternoon.  So I finished my snack and headed back.


One of the real challenges was planning where to fill up with water.  Most folks choose to run it a little later in the year, more like late April or May instead of late March .  The North Rim doesn't open until May 15th.  You can always check the back country office for updated water availability so you can plan accordingly.  Because of the cool weather (high of around 65), I was able to get away with not filling up at the North Rim.  If it was any hotter, I would have taken some sort of water filtration.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful.  As I got closer, I tried to push it to go faster so Amber wouldn't have to wait as long (and maybe she would have a piece of pizza and a coke waiting for me.)  For me, the later hours of an ultra seem to pass very quickly.  It seems like every time I looked at my watch another hour had passed, and it was time to eat again.  I had a few really dark moments, but I forced my self to sit down, empty the sand from my shoes, and eat something.  Then I told myself that I chose to do this, it's fun, and this is a really beautiful place.  As I got closer to the South Rim, I started seeing more and more people.  By the time I got to the top, I had to push through a crowd to reach Amber.  It took 13.5 hours total, but to me it seemed like only a couple of hours had passed.  This is one of my favorite experiences ever, I really liked the fact that I could see most of the trail that I ran when I finished.  Maybe next year I will do R2R2R2R2R...