Hiking the Black Mountain section of the Cumberland Trail March 30, 2021 on Michael Harley's blog

On Saturday, March 27th, I hiked the Black Mountain section of the Cumberland Trail. The hike is described as a point-to-point hike of 3.6 miles, but I parked at the Brady Mountain trailhead and did it as an up-and-back. I found the description from the cumberlandtrail.org site to be accurate in locating the trailhead, so no updates there.

I'm from Crossville, so I've hiked in the area quite a bit. This part of the Cumberland Plateau is a beautiful area, and I think I've always taken the area for granted. I was expecting this to be more of a training hike, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

The Stats

The Hike

I was at the trailhead by 6:30am, but I had to wait in my car to allow a thunderstorm to pass. In retrospect, this was an ominous sign.

This is first time I've hiked Black Mountain since the start of the trail was changed in 2017. I think the new route to the base of the mountain is a nice improvement. The trail was in great shape and well marked.

The weather was overcast, and the temps were pleasant. I saw a few small flowers along the trail, but it's still pretty early for most wild flowers to be blooming.

Small white flower.
Look at this little lady.

As I started my ascent of Black Mountain, the trail became shrouded in fog and mist (or clouds?). Hiking in fog/mist always feels a bit surreal to me and makes me think of hobbit adventures. The final push to the top revealed that there was no view of the valley this day. Hrmph. I consoled myself with an RX bar and the promise of a fish sandwich from Gondola in Crossville.

Fog shrouded view from the top of Black Mountain
Look at the gorgeous view of the valley below.

As I started back down the mountain, the fog/mist/clouds became really thick, and it became very dark. I started to hear peels of thunder from an approaching storm. I've never been particularly afraid or worried about storms in general, but the thunder, and thus the lightning, seemed serious. I donned my rain jacket just as it started to rain. It went from a light rain to heavy rain very quickly. Then it started to hail. Oh, boy.

I wasn't really sure what to do, if I'm honest. I felt exposed, but I didn't feel that just standing there on the mountain top, waiting for the storm to pass was a great plan, so I decided to keep going. There's a section of the trail that passes from the mountain top through the rocks where there are some stairs, and then you're at the bottom of the bluffs; there are some overhangs and even a cave. As I passed the cave, I saw there was some other hikers sheltering there, but I just kept going without thinking too much about it. As I started to clear the bluffs and continue down the mountain, lightning struck very close to me. I was legitimately concerned for my safety at this point. I've always heard that you shouldn't try to shelter near a tree during a lightning storm, so I turned around and booked it back to the bluffs. I was able to find a spot under the cliffs and waited for the thunder to seem far enough away for me to continue. Whew. Needless to say, I have since done a little research (too little, too late, right?), and you should read Eight Tips for Surviving a Lightning Storm for Hikers.

It rained for another 30 minutes as I was descending, but it finally stopped, and I was able to shed the rain jacket. I think the adrenaline of the lightning storm really took it out of me because I was struggling to finish the hike, which I finished uneventfully.

I did get that fish sandwich, and I, once again, failed to die in a lightning storm. Yay! Note: I might actually look at an hourly forecast before my next outing.

Photos

Hiking trail with bluffs on either side and a cave.
The cave as I was apporaching the top of the mountain.
Mist shrouded stairs going up.
Yep. Definitely some orcs around here.
A small stone shed with a tin roof.
The spring house!

Gear List

No changes to the gear list this trip. Really enjoying the backpack. I'm able to use the hip belt and the pouches plus the structured frame feels nice

Pack

Water & food

Clothes

Electronics

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