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Stone Door Hike Next Sunday

We're switching the hike we had originally planned next Sunday on the Shake Rag Trail in Sewanee.  We're going to the Stone Door overlooking Savage Gulf instead.  We're making this switch due to the fact that all the blooming plants have come early this year, and, although the Lord blessed Shake Rag Hollow with a beautiful display of flowers this spring, they have, for the most part, come and gone. 

On the other hand, we are blessed with an early flowering of the mountain laurel that proliferates on the plateau, especially along the bluffs.  It should be close to its peak next weekend, and the Stone Door Trail is an excellent place to experience the beauty and fragrance of the laurel.

If you were not planning to make the originally slated Shake Rag hike because it was too demanding, please note that the Stone Door Trail is easy, although there are occasional roots and rocks in the trail.  In fact, the first section of the trail is paved for handicap access with a beautiful overlook of the Laurel Gorge at the end of the paved section (.2 miles from the parking lot).  From there it is .8 miles to the Stone Door, which is located in a section of dramatic overhanging bluff that looks out over the beautiful Savage Gulf - a canyon cut into the plateau drained by the Collins River.  The trail will move through dense stands of mountain laurel that will feel like walkiing through a tunnel of flowers.  The Stone Door is a space between fallen sandstone slabs that permits entrance down into the gulf.  This "door" has been used by travelers for centuries.

There are lots of places to sit and just enjoy the view at the overlooks, which is our group's destination.  If some people are inclined to take some side hikes, there is a side trail to Laurel Falls that begins at the ranger station back at the parking lot.  It is short, but demanding.  At the Stone Door some people may want to walk down through the rock below the bluff on the carved steps, but they should know that this is very steep and demanding, as is the trail that goes down into the gulf to the river some miles away.  Some people may want to saunter along the South Rim Trail that continues along the bluff line.  It's pretty easy.  But the group's destination is just the bluff itself.

There will be lots of people on the trail if next Sunday is pretty, including, very likely, teams of rappelers descending the bluff overhangs on ropes.  It can be fun to watch the teams work.

The ranger station for the Stone Door trailhead is actually a beautiful small park in itself that provides one of the two major accesses to Tennessee's jewel: the Savage Gulf Wilderness.  There are full restroom facilities and and some vending at the station, along with a ranger to answer questions.

We will leave from the church parking lot at 2pm.  Stone Door is in the Beersheba Springs area in Grundy County, a trip of 40 miles from the church.  People in Sewanee and Monteagle may want to meet and make carpool arrangements along the way.

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