It's that time of year again: The Fifth Annual Long Hunter Mega-Hike is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29th at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, TN. As always, the plan is to hike all of the park's trails - about 26 miles - in a single day. This free event is sponsored by the Friends of Long Hunter State Park.
Participants should meet hike leader Jason Allen at the Couchville Lake parking lot (in Area 2) and be prepared to hit the trails at 7 a.m. sharp. The plan is to complete the hike by sunset, but there's a decent chance hikers could still be out on the trails after dark. So participants might want to bring a flashlight or light source.
If you're unable to hike all 26 miles (or just aren't interested in hiking that many miles), no worries - you can stop whenever you want. The main objective is to have fun while enjoying the fall colors and variety of habitats that Long Hunter has to offer - whether you hike just two miles with us or all 26 miles.
Those who complete the hike will receive a frameable certificate of merit signed by Park Manager Thurman Mullins. (A certificate listing last year's survivors is currently on display in the park visitor center.) In addition, there will likely be some giveaways/freebies courtesy of the Friends of Long Hunter State Park. There's also the possibility of your photo appearing in a newspaper or on a website. (Last year The Tennessean showed up for the event, and the following day there was a nice story about the mega-hike and a photo gallery.) And if enough people are interested, commemorative Mega-Hike t-shirts might be printed up for participants or for those who complete the hike.
As always, those who feel up to it afterwards are invited to the after-hike dinner/celebration at Angelo's Pizza on Murfreesboro Road.
Just remember to bring plenty of water and lunch and snacks -- and perhaps extra socks and clothes. Since Long Hunter's trails are spread out and many of them do not intersect, participants will return to their cars several times in order to drive to different areas of the park; in other words, you can leave your food or extra clothes in your vehicle and get them later if you wish. You'll also have access to park restrooms at a couple of different locations.
As for the weather, the hike will take place regardless of the temperature. However, if it's raining or if the weather looks threatening, the event might be postponed until Sunday the 30th -- because attempting to hike 26 miles in the rain might prove to be difficult and probably not much fun.
The plan is to hike the trails in the same order as last year: Couchville Lake Arboretum Trail, Nature Loop, Inland Trail, Bluff Trail, Deer Trail, Group Camp Trail, Day Loop, Volunteer Trail, Couchville Glade Trail, Jones Mill Trail, Point Trail, Bryant-Grove Trail. The order is subject to change, but the hike will definitely start at Couchville Lake.
One more note: Mega-hikers will be forced to "cheat" a bit on the Volunteer Trail. As some of you know, the Volunteer Trail is a six-mile, one-way backpacking trail. If participants were to hike all the way to the end and back, it would be 12 miles total and they would be re-tracing their steps for six miles. Plus, it would be impossible to re-trace those six miles and hike all of the other trails before dark. So the plan is to hike to the halfway point of the Volunteer Trail and then turn around and walk back for a total of six miles; in other words, the total mileage will be the same as if he we had hiked the entire Volunteer Trail one way.
No pets, please. Kids are welcome.
Directions to Couchville Lake parking lot: Enter Long Hunter State Park at the main park entrance (2910 Hobson Pike) and then take the first left (which is Area 2) and proceed to the parking lot beside Couchville Lake.
If you have further questions about the Long Hunter Mega-Hike, call the Long Hunter State Park office at 615-885-2422. You can also keep up with all the latest news on the Long Hunter Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/longhunterstatepark