Alum Gap, South Cumberland State Park

Story, Theory and I  headed out to backpack to Alum Gap in South Cumberland State Park.  We stopped in at the visitor center and paid for our site and headed to Stone Door to get going.  We decided due to a technical malfunction (damp sleeping bag from hydration bladder leak!!) to just camp at the parking area campground.  I called and got the reservation changed, no problem at all.

It was only around 2:30, so we opted to not unload yet and just hike to the original campsite and check it out for next time.  We took the trail from the ranger station that headed away from the Stone Door trail, it’s 2.9 miles.

It’s a boring trail, as trails go.  Nothing visually stimulating, it feels like walking through the same section over and over and it’s all open woods that skirt the occasional field.  The trail is rarely ‘flat’, but undulates up and down the entire way.  We made it in about an hour.

Alum Gap has some beautiful campsites, a few along the rim of the gulf.  We decided number 4 was our pick!  Number 3 is also on the rim and it’s somehow very far away from the rest of the sites.  There are fire rings in each site, a kiosk with info and a privy.  That’s it!  Oh and wooden number posts to ID each site.  Despite being 3 miles from the ranger station, there’s an access road just a few feet from the campsite area so rangers can patrol quite easily-something I like very much.

We hiked back along the rim trail toward Stone Door.  It’s 3.2 miles that route and the trail has many more swings up and down as well as over to the rim for views, then careening back into the woods to skirt a stream bed.  We bet as the crow flies, it was a mile from the campsite to the Stone Door. hahaha  That trail was wiggly!

From Stone Door, it’s just a mile back to the ranger station making it an easy 7.1 mile loop.

We set up the tent quickly, got the air mattresses inflated and the down bags shaken out and left to finish recovering from their day spent in stuff sacks.  Since we were so close to the van (1/8 mile, maybe), we brought along a few extra blankets.

Being so close to the parking area was a good thing in the end.  We used a picnic table under a security light to cook dinner on the BioLite stove, used the bathroom and brushed our teeth, put our packs and food back in the van and the next morning, I particularly enjoyed just carrying my bag out instead of wrestling it back in a sack!  Backpacking requires the most tedious of chores when the hiker is either exhausted or sleep-wonky!

We have a new tent, it’s a 3.3 pound 3 person tent that was fully tested our first night out! That was snug, especially with my 25-inch wide pad.  Story and Theory have 20-inch pads or else it would not have worked.  Despite the colder temps (42) (Hey, I am from Alabama! That is cold!) and steady wind, we stayed warm.  I am the only one who used a blanket with my bag, the kids slept in down jackets, well, I did too, but I sleep cold.  There was some mild condensation on our bags, about 3 inches by half an inch, where our legs brushed the side of the tent.  That would have been eliminated by guying out the rain fly to allow more ventilation.   I got it for solo camping (I know, I am a space hog) so it will be great for that! It was awesome split 3 ways, I barely registered the 1.3-pound tent body.  Story had the fly at a pound and Theory had the poles and tarp for another pound or so.  Pretty nice!

In all, a great overnight trip!

The entire trail to Alum Gap looks like this.  Open woods, undulating path
Several of the sites at Alum Gap are quite level

As Jodie at the park who made our reservation said, “Don’t pick a site because there’s a log in the photo.  Logs tend to roll.”  I guess fireside seating gets shuffled around if there are enough folks to heft a log.  hahaha

Theory enjoying the view
The one red tree we could see
2 seconds after arrival, packs and jackets dropped.  Right on schedule!
The campsites are on a wobbly loop and each has a little trail leading to the camping area.
On the Big Creek Rim Trail returning, we stopped at all the overlooks.  This one was unusual in that the canyon floor is visible.
The trail back along the rim danced between views and trying to get above where little creeks were dropping off into the gulf.  Many easy crossings, but likely muddy after a rain.
Stone Door.

We did not go to the Great Stone Door, which is just the next little outcropping over.  We thought we would be back the next day and there were some…not rowdy, but very excited hikers enjoying the view with whoops.  I do the same thing sometimes, not complaining.  We were just tired and ready for some quiet.

Laurel Gulf

I sometimes wish the Internet were a thing back when places were getting named! hahahaha  Maybe there would not be so many Laurel Gulf/Creek/ Falls and Cane or Caney Creeks around if folks could have compared names.  Or, maybe it would have just led to more feuds.

Marmot AMP 3 person tent.  It fits 3, no gear, there is a vestibule.


Story and Theory work out a few kinks in using the BioLite stove the first time outside of ‘in the yard, in the day’ conditions.  It’s not really supposed to blast fire out of the sides that.
Spider Light Says “GOODNIGHT”


Pros of the campsite at Stone Door:
Access to a vehicle, running water (spigot IN the campsites near the privy!)
Access to bathrooms, picnic tables, trash cans and the ranger’s residence is nearby in case of real emergency.
Full cell phone coverage (ATT) in the area, all the way at Alum Gap and Stone Door in fact.

Cons: We were there alone, but the campsites are WIDE OPEN.  Each site can easily be seen from the next site and there’s little undergrowth.
Site 2, in particular, is LOW, it would hold water and be mushy.
Dogs in the area barked off and on most of the night.  It didn’t keep me awake so much as I just noticed it when I did wake up to shift around.

Neutral: The Barred Owls demanded to know who did our cooking for the first 2-3 hours after sunset.  If unfamiliar with their call, they hoot a ‘who cooks for you, who cooks for you all’ sounding call.  It’s wonderful the first 10 times…


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