868 in Action
MISCHA MOKWA TRAIL
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Troop 868 last hiked the Mischa Mokwa Adventure Trail back in April of 2001. The troop's scouts who hiked it at that time have all graduated high school and most have moved on to college; several earned the Eagle Scout award and two are now serving their country in the US Army. So this time out a whole new group of Troop 868 scouts challenged the vintage trail; the only repeat hiker being Scoutmaster Meek (who was hiking it for the third time).
The troop made the 5-hour drive from Shepherdsville to Cumberland Gap National Park near Middlesboro, KY on Friday night; arriving at the Wilderness Road Campground shortly before midnight. Thunderstorms were expected overnight, so two tents were erected and used by the leaders while the scouts stretched out across the seats and slept aboard the troop's bus.
The group was up at dawn Saturday morning to enjoy a quick continental breakfast, prepare their sack lunches for the trail, and distribute food and other miscellaneous gear for meals on Saturday night and Sunday morning. The scouts and two leaders began hiking the Gibson Gap Trail from the trailhead in the campground about 10 AM. Meanwhile, two other leaders shuttled the troop bus to the ending point at Civic Park in Ewing, VA about 18 miles away then drove back to the Wilderness Road Campground. This took about an hour; so they were behind the main group on the trail until everyone reunited and stopped for lunch at about the 5 mile marker.
The Mischa Mokwa Adventure Trail consists of three different trails that are hiked in sequence ... the Gibson Gap Trail leads from the Wilderness Road Campground up the side of the mountain to the Ridge Trail. The Ridge Trail runs along the ridge line at or near the top of the Cumberland Mountains for a number of miles ... the Mischa Mokwa Trail includes only the section of it that runs between the Gibson Gap Trail and the Ewing Trail. The total length is around 22 miles depending on visits to sites such as Hensley Settlement, Sand Cave, and White Rocks.
A couple of the younger scouts struggled and drug behind on a few of the more grueling uphill sections of the trail, but, overall, everyone rose to the challenge. The Mischa Mokwa is certainly not an easy trail ... and that is part of the reason for its appeal. Sand Cave, White Rocks, and the panoramic view from atop the mountains is the rest of the reason.
The troop hiked about 12 miles on Saturday and camped overnight in the designated camping area at Martin's Fork. Most hikers carried lightweight tarps and fashioned simple 'A' frame tents by stretching a rope between two trees and staking down the four corners. This provided shelter in the event of rain or heavy dew and was much lighter than carrying actual tents. A small cabin at Martin's Fork had been reserved by another group who were kind enough to share it with three of our youngest scouts; two of whom hadn't brought along sleeping bags adequate for overnight lows near freezing.
|Early on Saturday morning, scouts feasted on juice and doughnuts before making sack lunches.||Hikers Clinton, Chris, Dave, Alex, Philip, Jonathan, Gabe, Tim, Jeremy, Stephen, and Chris pose at the beginning trailhead.|
|Mr. Guelda pauses for a photo while crossing a footbridge on the Gibson Gap Trail. The serious uphill section lies ahead.||Finally at the top, Gabe, Jeremy, and Clinton observe the magnificent view and pose for a picture.|
|The group stopped for lunch at the point where the Gibson Gap and Ridge Trails met.||After lunch, it was back to walking with more uphill yet to come. Gabe trudged along without complaint.|
|Jonathan looks like he could keep going .. and going .. and going ...||Stephen and Tim led the group for most of the hike. Jeremy is visible following behind.|
|Chris, Tim, Stephen, and Philip pause under a rock formation near the Ridge Trail a short distance past Hensley Settlement.||An example of the simple shelters that scouts made with rope and a plastic tarp.|
|Mr. Guelda was up early Sunday morning making coffee.||Alex, however, didn't want to leave the comfort of his warm sleeping bag.|