Savage Gulf

Last month I went hiking at Savage Gulf. Savage Gulf is part of the South Cumberland State Park located in TN. Specifically, I hiked 20+ miles in one day, my personal longest, from the Savage Gulf Ranger station, to Hobbs Cabin and back. This would usually make a great overnight backpacking trip however my faithful hiking companion, my wife Tammy, would not be available this day. This is a hike I have been wanting to tackle for quite sometime but various factors have prevented me. See, to do this mileage in one day, I would need plenty of daylight. However, the hot summer months are not conducive to long hikes. So, late spring appeared to be the best time. I was graced with spectacular weather this day as well. Partly cloudy most of the day with temperatures in the low to mid 70’s.

I did bring two companions with me. They were begging for a long hike. Literally. My trusty dog Noah and my new puppy Howie (6-7 months old at that time) would experience this with me. Noah I knew could handle it however this was Howie’s longest by 15 miles to date. He appeared eager and I brought him plenty of Tammy’s homemade dog biscuits. Due to the rain the night before, I knew the wet weather springs would provide them water.


This hike appealed for numerous reasons but foremost was due to the fact I had not done it! I also knew that though long, it would not be overly strenuous as it stayed up on the plateau. Additionally, there would be a diversity of sites I had not experienced. Perfect to help myself document sections of the park I had not previously done. So I packed up my gear and headed out long before daylight.

Gear for this trip was simple. Plenty of water (3 liters and a diet redbull for a lunch recharge), food for the dogs and myself, headlamp for caution, 2 sources of fire, knife, and two lightweight cameras with plenty of film. Film you say! Yes film. You see, my digital slr, though a compact (canon 5dmkii) compared to a a 1d series canon, is still very heavy compared to a comparable film kit. Add to that a zoom like the 24-105L and I would be weighted down with more than I was willing to carry. I also prefer c-41/negative film for daylight shooting as it handles highlights more effectively due to it’s almost infinite shoulder characteristic, it’s tonalities and predictability. I was not chasing magic light. I was documenting the rich natural beauty of this hike. And I was carrying one of the lightest camera setups ever made. A cheap (in case I trashed it in a fall) Nikon FG-20, a series e 50/1.8 pancake lens and a series e 28/2.8 lens. My backup camera was an Olympus XA4 (28/3.5 lens) loaded with black and white film (kentmere 400). Film for the Nikon was a mixture of Kodak Gold 200, Kodak proimage 100 and Fuji 200. I was set.

The trail began upon a path I knew very well. After the first junction, the trail began to cut across the plateau following the old Dinky Line Railway bed.
Dinky Line
10 miles of trail would meander through the forest with one climb of Cagle mountain. The scenery was very pleasant and without a soul in sight, peaceful. The following are images capture along the way.

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Eventually we came up on Hobbs Cabin, but not before a spectacular view of the gulf! The mountain laurel was also out in full bloom.

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As I had my lunch and the dogs their rest, we headed back out. I knew this section would be beautiful and was not let down. View upon view, overlook upon overlook was provided with endless viewing pleasure. Though as is natural for me, my image taking slowed down as my endurance began to slacken. Regardless, I still burned another couple rolls up. Here are a few more images from the second 10 mile leg.

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I made it out by around 5pm. Sore and tired, I was glad we made. The dogs were too. At a later date, I will expand upon my journey’s through the South Cumberland State Park.