CPC Hikers

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December, 1996

Our Purpose...

Attendance on our hikes has been lower than what I've expected most months. There are usually 6 or 8 of us on each hike. While headcount isn't the proper criteria for determining whether this venture is successful, those numbers can be a little discouraging. Headcount is immediate and effective feedback. Unless there is other feedback, it can be easy to rely on that as the only measure of effectiveness. When someone asks me how our latest hike went, I can honestly say "It was great!" When they ask "How many came?", sometimes I'd like to swell a little and say "15", or "28", like we had on the first couple of hikes. Pride is a sin that I struggle with daily. The Lord has provided an effective way to teach me about false pride, for which I praise Him - the numbers haven't been that large. But the Lord has also graciously provided the means to avoid becoming discouraged - the encouragement of others; words of encouragement from friends like Ernie, Hank, Martha, and Diana. (Julio even skipped a home Vols game for our last hike!) The encouragement I receive from these brothers and sisters has taught me that the strengthening of the relationships within the family of God, even (maybe especially) when the groups are small, is a much better measure of the success and validity of this group. Thanks to those who've provided a word of encouragement. I thank God for you.

We need to keep in mind that the same situation can occur within our congregation. We need to ensure that our church leaders get the encouragement they need from us, so that headcount isn't the only feedback they get.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."(NIV)

Our Next Outing...

On December 21 we'll hike in Savage Gulf. We'll leave the church parking lot promptly at 8:30 AM - please be there by 8:15. We should be back at the church between 5 and 6 PM. This is a good opportunity to avoid the crowds of the busiest shopping day of the year.

The Savage Gulf State Natural Area surrounds and includes a rugged, deep gorge in the Cumberland Plateau. It contains creeks and waterfalls, dramatic bluffs, and some large, old-growth forest. Several creeks, and at least one of the waterfalls, lose much of their water into sink holes. The water from Ranger Creek Falls stays underground for about 2 miles before coming to the surface near the Stone Door, which is a crevice in the bluff providing access between the plateau and the gorge.

This area has an interesting history in addition to beautiful scenery. The Stone Door mentioned above is part of the Chickamauga Trace Indian Trail, used long before DeSoto came through this area. The Stagecoach Trail is a section of the stagecoach road which ran from Chattanooga to McMinnville. That road was built in 1836, primarily with slave labor. Savage Gulf was used during the Civil War by bands of horse rustlers to hide their stolen steeds.

We'll walk the Stone Door Trail, have a choice between the Big Creek Rim and Big Creek Gulf trails to go to Alum Gap, and return by Laurel Trail. This will provide us with a hike of between 7 and 8 miles, depending on which trail we take. The Stone Door, Big Creek Rim, and Laurel trails are rated "easy" by Evan Means in his book, Hiking Tennesee Trails , while he rates the Big Creek Gulf Trail as "difficult" since it descends into the gulf and follows Big Creek until it leaves the gulf to ascend to Alum Gap.

Be sure to bring a lunch or snack, and plenty of water.


Drinking plenty of water is important while hiking, even in the winter, so I'm going to reprint an earlier article where we discuss water bottles and water treatment.

There are many different ways to carry water, and for an occasional day hike, just about any non-breakable, sealable container you've got around the house will do. You can simply fill it with water and throw it into your day pack with your lunch and rain gear. Old 32- or 64-ounce soft drink bottles work well for this.

Another good type of bottle many people already have are those used by bicyclists which have the pop-up nozzle through which you can drink, and then easily reseal. These are designed to be used with one hand, which makes them nice if you're trying to get a drink while walking on the trail with your hiking stick in your hand, or while hanging onto a tree to keep you from sliding down a steep mountainside. Many fanny packs come with holsters for these bottles, which can make them very convenient to carry. You can also buy the holsters (usually including the bottle) to attach to your belt in case you've already got a day pack. These bottles normally hold 20 ounces of water, although you can get larger ones which will hold 26 ounces. They don't normally have a loop with which you can secure them to your pack, so you either need one of the holsters or you'll need to get into your pack to get the bottle.

The bottle I use is a 32 ounce "Nalgene Trail Bottle." This bottle has a large "mouth" and a screw-on cap which is tethered to the bottle with a plastic retainer. You can get holsters for these bottles with which you can attach them to your belt or your pack strap, but I use carabiners to fasten them to my pack strap. See the October newsletter for my opinion about carabiners.

Water weighs a lot. If you're going to be going to an area where water is available in a lake or stream, you can reduce the weight of your load by "treating" the water on trail, rather than carrying all you'll drink. I don't recommend that you drink untreated water, even in wilderness areas. There are a number of natural ways for water to cause illness to those of us who are "citified." Further, you might just be getting your water downstream from a human campsite, and many humans' sanitation habits leave something to be desired.

The least expensive and least complicated way to treat water is with iodine tablets. The usual dosage is one tablet per quart of water, and the water is normally ready to drink in about 10 minutes. Be sure to follow the instructions included with the tablets. The disadvantages to iodine treatment are that there is some flavoring of the water by the iodine, and some people are allergic to iodine. There are ways to deal with the flavoring (Kool-aid is one), but iodine isn't an option for those with that allergy.

For people who are going to spend a lot of time in the backcountry, a water filter is a good option. Good filters have gotten less expensive lately, and a serviceable filter can be purchased for around $50. Water filters pump the water through an element which will remove most "critters" that cause problems to humans. Some of these remove things as small as .2 microns, though most of the other quality filters have .5 micron filter elements. The smaller size gets pretty much everything that could harm a human with the exception of viruses, and those are usually not a problem in USA waterways. The larger size will get all the more common problem-causers, but some also add a little iodine to the water to ensure that everything is killed. The smaller the pore-size the more cleaning the filter will need.

I normally carry a water filter with us on our hikes. If you run short of water, come see me. Don't do without water.