Hello everyone! With the rain coming down and a ton of MBA homework to be done, there was no hiking trip this week. An unfortunate occurrence, but hey life happens every now and then and we have to roll with the punches. So while my wife works on her homework, I thought I would do some book reviews that I have been planning for a while. The reviews will focus on the books I most use for planning our hiking adventures
Cherokee National Forest Hiking Guide edited by Jim Casada. I consider this to the the trail bible of MOST of the trails in the Cherokee National Forest. I have only used the half of the book dealing with the southern half of the forest so I cannot comment on how it handles the northern part. I find that this book does a good job describing the trails and giving mileage that is fairly close to what we step off on a hike. One of the things I like about this book is that the authors tell you what to expect on the trail without giving anything away. Some book are written in a way that after you read the description, there's no point in going on the hike due to every little detail being given out. That is not the case with this book. The down side to this book is the maps. Just a general over view with dotted lines and numbers showing the trail. I would not use the maps in the book to direct me on trail. Plus at a total 566 pages long, it is a little heavy to carry on the trail; even though I have done it. The directions to the trail head are written in a strait forward and easy to follow manner. Just make sure to watch the odometer if they list miles to a turn! If there is any interest at all in hiking the Cherokee National Forest, pick this book up. I linked it to Amazon, but bought mine at Books-A-Million and have seen several copies at the National Forest Office in my town. I give this book 4 1/2 stars.
Jackie bought the next book, Waterfalls of Tennessee by Gregory Plumb. It is an ok trail book. She loves to go to waterfalls on hikes. She loves them so much, that in the 7 years we have known each other we have been to 57 waterfalls and counting (that total does not count the repeat hikes we have taken to some of the falls). The book is good for a general overview of where the falls are located and how the trail is getting there. I do find Mr. Plumb's ratings of the waterfalls to be fairly accurate. If he says there isn't much to see, then unless the creek/river is in flood stage, there isn't much to see. The trail descriptions are just blurbs and do not count on using the maps while on the trail. The driving directions are okay at best. There have been a couple of times while going to the some of the falls in the book that I had to turn around or stop and ask locals for directions due to how they are written in the book. It would have been helpful to have a GPS location of the trail head listed, but they are not. Just a throwback to the days of paper maps, no GPS, and cheap gas I guess. Please don't think I hate this book, it is nice for what it is and that is a book all about waterfalls and a general way of how to get there. I used this book to find Lula Lake Waterfall on Lookout Mountain and Falling Water Falls in Walden, TN. If you want more details of the hike, you need to buy another book dealing with the area where you will be hiking. I give this book 3 stars.
After stumbling upon Savage Gulf's Stone Door, Jackie and I stopped on the way home and bought, 40 Hikes in Tennessee's South Cumberland by Russ Manning. This is a slim book coming in at a total 141 pages with some blank pages in the back for notes. The book deals with a selective list of hikes south of I-40 on the Cumberland Plateau. This book walks the fine line of a detailed trail description and giving the hike away. There were a couple of times that I felt a little less info could have been given an the description would not have been the worse for ware. Mr. Manning gives mileage, that again is close if not right on to what I get, and a difficulty rating of the trail. Pay attention to the rating, I have found that Mr. Manning is a fair trail rater. There are maps included before each section being discussed. In a pinch, and I have done this as well, the maps can be used on the trail. The maps are not super detailed, but they are workable. With the Cumberland Tail Conference working hard to finish their trail and the book being published in 2000, the information in the book is now a little dated. It is still a very serviceable book though. Some trails will not change, like those in the State Parks or the trails around Sewanee, but just check the Cumberland Trail Conference page before hitting any of their trails from the North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness northward. I really enjoy this book and use it to plan my trips in Savage Gulf. I give this book 4 1/2 stars.
The next two book really go together, Hiking Tails of the Smokies and Waterfalls of the Smokies both published by Great Smoky Mountain Association. These are top notch trail books. A lot of people call Hiking Trails of the Smokies the Trail Bible of GSMNP. Each and every trail of the park is listed in detail. Each trail comes with an elevation profile, so you know what you are getting into, and a trail rating. Since Jackie likes to hike to waterfalls, I use both books to plan out the hike. I like how one plays off of the other. For a quick overview of what we will be getting into, I look over the waterfalls, but for a detailed turn by turn mile by mile, I look at Hiking Trails. Hiking Trails also comes with a large park map, the kind that you can pick up at the Visitor's Center or download from the website; not great for being lost in the woods, but serviceable for being on trail and figuring out how to get there. The good thing about both of these books is that they are pocket sized. Now Hiking Trails may be a little bulky but it still would be a good thing to have in the top of your pack. If you were only to get one book on Smokies Hiking, get Hiking Trails for it's depth of information. I give both books a 5 star rating.
The newest book in my collection is 50 Hikes on Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau by Johnny Molloy. I have yet to use this book on trail, but reading his descriptions of some trails that I have previously been on, he is spot on. He has the usual length, difficulty, and elevation loss/gain and serviceable trail maps. I wouldn't really want to carry the 240 page book through the woods, but it wouldn't too bad. I am already using the book to plan a couple of trips to the Scott's Gulf area by Virgin Falls. Some of his descriptions are better than the ones in 40 Hikes in the South Cumberland, and both books cover the same ground but I like having both to compare. Mr. Molloy's book covers more of the Cumberland Trail than 40 Hikes, and it also runs from the Kentucky line to the Alabama line. His book is the first I have found to mention hikes in Frozen Head State Park, which is one of the main reasons I bought it. So being untested, I will give the book 4 1/2 stars.
I hope that this review will help you if you are in search of trail guides for East Tennessee. There are many trails out there and not every trail is covered by a book. Sometimes part of the adventure is just finding the trail. I know I don't think I will ever forget that herd of blood thirsty Chihuahuas that came after me when I stopped and asked a guy how to find Turtletown Falls, but that is a story best left untold.