Monday, May 19, 2008


Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park - Eva, Tenn.

Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park is home to the highest point in West Tennessee, Pilot’s Knob situated 669-feet above sea level, and located on the west bank of the Tennessee River at Kentucky Lake. An obelisk flanked by light cannon memorializing Confederate General Forrest, stands guard at Pilot’s Knob and provides the park’s best view of Kentucky Lake.

A friend and I decided on an early afternoon hike. Under partly sunny skies and an unusually mild temperature for May of 68-degrees, we stepped off on the 10-mile trail. The trailhead was located just behind the museum on top of Pilot’s Knob. To begin, we traveled northeast along a prominent ridge that overlooks Kentucky Lake. After a half-mile the ridge descends rapidly into the river valley and Chester Hollow. This hollow, in the shape of a Maple leaf, spreads out and runs between six prominent fingers. We followed the outline of the leaf, bringing us back toward the lakeshore, and then entered Hallmark Hollow. The hollows were teeming with shallow creeks that trickled east to the river. Traveling northwest we traversed Hallmark Hollow which ended with a steep climb of 300-feet to the ridge top.

Prior to the hike I had studied the topographical map of the park and visualized hiking along a ridge, that overlooked the river 350-feet below, that would present a grand vista of the river. I had also imagined the hollows as thinly wooded, allowing one to view the opposing ridgelines across the valley floor. Unfortunately, this was not reality; the terrain is so heavily wooded that the view of the river from the ridgeline is totally obstructed and the undergrowth in the valleys were thick, obscuring any discernable terrain features. On occasion I would pull out my compass and check my bearing against the map just to determine where on the trail we were standing.

Back to the hike description... On the ridge top we found a primitive campsite in a clearing, an Adirondack style Boy Scout shelter. The trail took us in a southerly direction before switching back to the north and to Campground Road, nestled in a shallow depression. Here the trail began a gradual descent toward the river then back up another ridgeline back to Campground Road. The path then went to the southwest entailing minimal cross-compartment hiking, and eventually turned southwest onto Pilot Knob Ridge. Once atop Pilot Knob Ridge we deadheaded southeast back to our starting point, Pilot’s Knob, with part of the leg hiked on blacktop.

The 10-mile hike took approximately 3.5 hours. It consisted of bland cross-compartment hiking with only one strenuous climb of a short duration. The trail produced little scenic value. The only wildlife encountered was a turtle, a deer, numerous frogs, and a legion of ticks.

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