According to my old Webster’s, rocky means full of rocks- as a rocky mountain (Daniel may have hiked the Signal Point Trail!). Also, meaning very hard; stony; obdurate; insusceptible of impressions, as a rocky bosom. Well, we had it all on the descent down from the beginning of our hike on Wednesday from the parking lot atop Signal. Every type of step imaginable from rocks, wood, cross-ties, even boards, we stepped on as we descended the top. With careful steps, I made it to the very last board. It was a sloping wooden board, slick as a wet fish, and I went splat before I could even think about it. Fortunately, my backpack saved my lower back from real injury.
Continuing on,I was rewarded with a beautiful trail and just like having a baby, I soon forgot the pain. We passed through huge boulders nestled in white snow and deep forests to emerge at our first rocky cliff with a view of the mighty Tennessee off to the left and Julia Falls spilling down the mountain in front of us.
Travelling near the edge of the brow, we could nearly always see the river. We crossed Middle Creek and then meandered on a well-blazed trail to Edwards Point. What a scenic wonderland! Gorgeous views. Here the group stopped for a short break and snacks. With instructions from our leader, Che, on where to stop for lunch, small groups took off on the trail that very shortly turned left down a trail toward the Gorge between Prentice and Signal. Again, we followed near the brow, turning inward occasionally to cross creeks where green vegetation grew. If water wasn't nearby, the winter forest was stark and barren with its own kind of beauty.
Finally, we came to a spot near the brow where we stopped for our lunch. Afterward, it took us another mile or so to reach Mushroom Rock- a magnificent rock edifice that is easily identifiable! From there we headed down the mountain, winding our way across a few small creeks until we came to the swinging bridge at Suck Creek. Across the bridge we tackled the hardest part of the day with a hike back up a portion of the Gorge. Up and up I went, praying for flat ground until, at last, past a huge rock formation, I found it. The relief was short-lived as I soon began heading downward, oftentimes the trail seemed to follow the middle of a creekbed and I found myself rock jumping. My left knee was screaming for relief before I reached the bottom where another short bridge took us across to the road.
Our group had a bit of a wait for the drivers to arrive and arrange everyone’s ride back. It gave us time to chit chat face to face instead of back over our shoulder. Signal Mountain Trail was truly beautiful and I'm ready to do it again! Since beginning our endeavor to hike all the Cumberland Trail’s near our location, there has not been a bad one yet!