Lessons from Thoreau on the Cub Lake Trail

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
- Henry David Thoreau

When one first begins to hike and all the trails are unfamiliar, there is a sense of adventure, true, but also a tiny fear of the unknown.

Will the trail be too strenuous or blazed (marked) inadequately? Will we get lost? 

The answer to all these questions, if you are hiking on established trails in a state or national park, state natural area, or national recreation area, is no; however, you will––in all likelihood––get frustrated, rerouted, turned around (momentarily), and bewildered. Hiking is not like going to the movies, out to dinner, or to a theme park. All those activities are fairly predictable, plus, you are surrounded by people paid to help if you get lost or overly tired or confused. 

Hiking requires planning and often pre-planning. In the beginning, I pored over Tennessee State Park websites, looking at the trail list, mileages, and levels of difficulty. We wanted some idea of what we were walking into.

Often there is a visitor center open with knowledgeable staff to assist you pre-hike, but sometimes there is not. Early on, when we were unfamiliar with the trails, I would save the park map on my phone before I left home. Here is what the new Tennessee State Park maps look like:

One of our favorite trails is the Cub Lake trail at Natchez Trace State Park. It is a beautiful woods with great elevation changes. NTSP has made several trail improvements over the past few years, rerouting some sections around trouble spots, but it's tough, time consuming work and there is much work still to be done. 

Here's our favorite hike isolated from the entire map. It's that little orange dotted line. You will note that trail is listed as 4.0 miles, but that mileage is measured from where you go into the woods (the trailhead) to where you come out. According to every measuring device I've worn over the last several years, this trail is just over 5.5 miles car door back to car door.

We love to hike year-round, but, honestly, our favorite time is when we don't have to watch our step for snakes or deal with ticks and mosquitos. That said, the trade-off is beauty. From now until October we will gladly deal with those inconveniences because there is most always something lovely to see.

American Snowbell
Last Sunday, the weather was perfect. Lots of folks out taking advantage of a beautiful day, many were practicing their kayaking skills. I think these ladies thought I was paparazzi.

We met only one other group of hikers, a couple about our age with a 5yo grandson. It was a hot, sticky, buggy, muddy day on the trail, but that little hiker looked as if he was having fun. Maybe there's an age threshold for complaining about those things.

The spring bloom is slightly behind what I've photographed in previous years, probably due to Tennessee's cold snap in April. Still, I happened to see some interesting fungi. . .

a few wildflowers. . .

and a woods absolutely teeming with several varieties of lovely wild azaleas.

Pinxter Flower

Wild Azaleas
So, still listening and learning from the woods, but Thoreau was definitely right.

Until next time,

Mona B


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