In Search of Autumn – Cummins Falls State Park

In Search of Autumn – Cummins Falls State Park

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I am still getting up early, but no longer before 6 a.m., 6:30 a.m. is good enough for a long day ahead. So far the weather has not been very much like autumn here. I did expect the temperatures to be higher than during the Norwegian fall. However, I did not expect them to be like the Norwegian summer! As a matter of fact, we have broken heat records every day since I have arrived. Heat records that were often set in the 1930s but were almost broken a few times in the early 2000s. So this might not be the one exception to the rule, as so many are claiming. This weather might rather be the beginning–or even the middle–of climate change. These rather hot temperatures came with a drought, a drought that in some areas now has lasted for two or three months already. All this is delaying, if not preventing, the bright reds and yellows of fall foliage that I had been hoping for. But hey, this is not my last day here yet. It might still happen while I am here and besides I am having a great time.

Steep Hill and Long Hill

After breakfast, we decide to go out for a bike ride again. This time we are going to take on Steep Hill and Long Hill on a route that creates the figure of an eight. I have been on this ride before; I will not get lost this time, right? Solo takes the lead again. For the first few clicks, I can stick to him. However, when we have to turn left, at an intersection, a car blocks my path, and I have to let it pass before I can turn. Solo is gone far ahead before I can make it around the corner. At least I can still see him in the distance. He is waiting for me at the next intersection with the Highway. Making sure that I can follow him toward the next corner that will lead us to Steep Hill. Soon we are off the Highway again and on one of the small streets, narrow, only wide enough for a car. We are in the countryside of Tennessee; a few cars are passing us but no close encounters. It is a relaxed ride, though it is not easy to keep up with Solo. Then there is Steep Hill, though not high with its 215 meters above sea level, it is a 2.2 km long continuous climb. The last 200 meters of this climb take on 15 meters in elevation, they are brutal if you are not used to them. I am not, not yet at least. Slowly but steadily I make my way up to the top of the hill following Solo. After a short rest, we take on the long and relaxing downhill. It is a fast downhill, and we can almost roll to the beginning of the climb of Long Hill. We are taking a short break on the shore of the Cumberland River, before climbing up Long Hill on our bikes. Solo is making sure that I do not lose my way again, one wrong turn and I would end up god know where. Suddenly on the Long Hills downhill ride, my chain is not catching. If I try to pedal through it, I will build up too much speed for the next curve. I will not be able to make it through that one. Damn. After a short stop to fix the issue I am back on my bike, catching up with Solo again, who is waiting for me. On we go over the rolling hills along the Cumberland River. Solo is never far away from me, but always leading the way.

Not again!

A short look down and when I look back up, he is gone. He cannot have put that much of a distance between us in this short amount of time, can he? Who is he? Superman? I keep on going. I am following the road. He must be here somewhere, or am I wrong again? Should not Solo be in sight of me? OK, girl, you can do this! Don’t allow the panic to get hold of you know. I can see a steep hill in the distance. Solo is going to wait there for me, if this is the right road, he knows I am not fast on hills. Slowly but steadily I make it up to the top of the hill. No sign of Solo. I do not recognize the area. OK, I must be wrong. Again. Two times in two days is a pretty decent new record. A look on my GPS, confirms this is not where I am supposed to be. If it had not been for my GPS, I would be completely lost now. However, this tiny device with its too small screen gives me the confidence that I need to make a decision. The choice to turn back and see if I can find the intersection with the Highway. If I can find it, I know how to come home. If not…well I will not think about that now. I do not allow myself to think about that now. Going down a road in the opposite direction the area somehow never looks the same. As if it is trying to fool you, mislead you even more. When I make it to an intersection with a bigger road, I am wondering. Is this the Highway that I need to go on? Into which direction? Left or Right? After a few minutes and another reassuring look on my GPS, I make my choice, turning Right. I can only hope for the best now. If I have made the wrong choice I am in trouble.
Just a few hundred meters down the road and I am starting to recognize a few things here and there. Relieved I am going on; this is the right path! Another climb, and there is Solo in his car. This time I was so far behind that, he got home and jumped into his car and to start his search and rescue operation. We both make it back home independently. At least this last turn I know well enough not to miss it. Poor Solo, losing me twice in two days…

Where was I going this time? Much later, it turns out I had not been that far of. I had climbed Steep Hill a second time. If I had followed the road down the hill, I would have made it to the intersection which leads up to Long Hill. I only would have had to turn left there to make it back home. However, the GPS’ small display mislead me into believing that the road I was on was a dead end. Without a connection to the streets that I needed to be on unless I turned back. Never mind. I had a great ride. Next time, however, when Solo and I go on a cycling tour together, we need a communication system. He said he had given signs, and I believe him. He thought I had seen them, must have seen them. However, I had not.

We both made it home, and now it is time for lunch, and then another adventure is waiting for us.

Cummins Falls State Park

We are going to Cummins Falls State Park, near Cookeville, for a hike. The waterfall is Tennessee’s eighth largest in water volume and should be rather stunning. We might even be lucky and see some colors in the foliage since the State Park is at a higher elevation than Solo’s farm. Cummins Falls State Park is 211 acres (0.85 square kilometers) large. Once upon a time buffalo wallowed here in a shallow basin formed by the river. Many arrowheads that have been found in the park prove that Indians hunted them here.
In about 1825 John Cummins bought the land and erected two mills on it. The State purchased it from his ancestors in 2011 and created Cummins Falls State Park.

After parking the car and a look at the map at the park’s entrance, we make our way to the Overlook, from where we have a great view onto the waterfall.

We want to try to reach the bottom of the waterfall, but unfortunately, neither of us took a map of the area with us. We both agree to follow Blackburn Fork River Trail with the hope to get to the river and from there to the waterfall. However, our search stays futile. We are only getting farther away from the waterfall, not closer to it. So we decide to turn back and try another path. It leads us to the river, but the river on top of the waterfall. There is no path alongside to climb down. However, it is a beautiful spot to spend some time.
Much later I will find out that had we followed the Blackburn Fork River Trail for longer we would have come down to the river and from there could have gone back to the waterfall…maybe another time.

Only too soon it is time to return home. Cummins Falls State Park might in size not be one of the huge ones, but it is for sure worth a visit. If the colors should turn while I am in Tennessee, we are planning to visit Cummins Falls again. I can only imagine how beautiful it might look in fall foliage, and then maybe we can make it to the bottom of the waterfall too? I still have almost three weeks left, that should be plenty for another visit to this beautiful place.

If you liked this post, you might also like the other stories from my In Search of Autumn adventure:

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