If you’ve ever felt the serenity of a hike, the rush of a mountain bike ride, or the grit of a trail run, you know that it all starts with the same thing: the trail. No matter your adventure of choice, trail systems are the backbone of outdoor activity. It’s important to remember that those broad paths, craggy steps, and plank staircases didn’t get there by accident; these trails are built and maintained largely by volunteers and non-profit organizations.
Environmental preservation and stewardship is at the core of Rock/Creek’s mission as an outfitter; conservation is in our blood. We believe supporting trail building efforts gains a hard-earned perspective on how sacred our favorite wild places are. For hikers, bikers, and runners, it’s easy to forget that we are partaking in the fruit of others’ labor. Fortunately, local organizations like the Tennessee River Gorge Trust (or the TRGT, for short) help maintain our natural areas while providing opportunities for our community get a little dirt under their nails and see what it takes to forge a trail.
TRGT is one of the primary beneficiaries of the Rock/Creek Trail Race Series. As such, we met early in 2017 to discuss ways that we could further make a lasting impact in the Gorge. During our meeting, we discussed a trail maintenance project that we had co-sponsored with Patagonia several years ago with S.A.W.S. in the Bald River Falls Wilderness Study Area. We sent five employees on a five day trail “hitch,” clearing trail with hand tools. The experience left a lasting impression on the staff who attended, and we thought it would be a positive experience to replicate closer to home. TRGT loved the idea and identified a project that they had been working on completing with the Southeastern Conservation Corps — the Ritchie Hollow Trail.
So, in early April, Rock/Creek pitched the idea to prAna about co-sponsoring a trail building effort in the Tennessee River Gorge in honor of Earth Day. PrAna jumped at the offer and committed 9 days to the effort with the goal of completing the Ritchie Hollow Trail in the Gorge. In order to accomplish the mission logistically, we divided a plan where three teams of R/C staffers would work three days apiece to help the TRGT build out the remainder of the Ritchie Hollow Trail — a trail that starts at the Pot House on River Canyon Rd and will eventually connect with the Cumberland Trail in Prentice Cooper. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust further extended their hospitality by putting our teams up in the Pot House for lodging each night.
From March 28th through April 5th, 40 volunteers from Rock/Creek, the TRGT, and prAna worked on Ritchie Hollow. Over the course of nine days, volunteers cleared one mile of gorgeous trail, unveiling magical drainages, hidden waterfalls, and even historical remnants of moonshine stills. A little over one mile of work remains on the Ritchie Hollow Trail. But, with focus and teamwork, TRGT believes that it will be complete by the end of the year.
“The Ritchie Hollow Trail will be an amazing resource for the community. When complete, the trail will offer easier access to Tennessee River Gorge Trust – protected land, and provide a connection from the river to the Cumberland Trail atop the plateau.” – Chad Wykle, Rock/Creek Co-Owner and multi-day volunteer
We would like to thank the Tennessee River Gorge Trust and Southeastern Conservation Corps for allowing us to partner on this incredible project . Also, a sincere “thank you” is due to our area prAna representative, Aimee Graham, who participated and facilitated the entire event. None of this could have been accomplished without her help and dedication.
For more information about programs and initiatives hosted by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, visit www.trgt.org. Also, be sure to check out races.rockckreek.com for opportunities to participate in trail running events that directly benefit the TRGT.