Which is what I’ll be doing for the next ten months. I recently was given a book contract to day hike all the state parks and two of the national parks in Tennessee—about 120 trails ranging from one to ten miles in length.
It’s all very exciting—a literal “Wilderness Road.” I’ll be learning about all aspects of Tennessee, from its geography and ecology to its flora and fauna. And, obviously, I’ll be spending a lot of time alone. I am thinking of this as my “La Vie Bohème: Or living a hermitic gypsy life for a year”. So to speak.
I will, of course, be car camping, and sleeping in a tent, not a vardo. And, not backpacking as when I through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. But, I’ll be moving around the state from the Mississippi River in the west to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the east. Did you know that Tennessee borders more states than any other (well, at least from my brief glance at an atlas)—Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. Eight states. It is long and thin, which means a wide variety of terrain.
Not unlike my home state, Georgia, land-wise the largest state East of the Mississippi, which embodies everything from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the north to the coast on the Atlantic ocean with its numerous barrier islands and the wiregrass and flatlands in the southeast (and the famous Okefenokee Swamp) to the rolling red hills in the southwest where you can even find an erosion-created canyon.
So, I am excited to explore Tennessee, which I know only from my time along the A.T. and other trips to the Great Smoky Mountains. Only more recently, did I have the chance to hike Panther Creek State Park (still in the east) with my sister and nephew. I look forward to seeing it again in the spring and maybe spotting some of the trout lilies that bloom there.
I start October 1st and my first park will be the Cherokee-centered Red Clay State Park. No camping there, just one short trail, but it seems like a good start because it’s just north of the Georgia border.
So, during the next 10 months, The Wilderness Road, in addition to other spiritual meanderings, will feature those things I discover while exploring a new state and, perhaps, a new state of mind.