Recently, I explored more of Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester, Tennessee. I hiked a new trail, learned about the park's edible plants, and tasted new foods in Seasonal Interpretative Recreator Indiana Calloway's Tastes of Tennessee program.
I intended to start my day in the park by hiking the Chumbley Woods Trail, a 1.65-mile loop. To beat the heat, I arrived early and discovered that this trail is closed until 8:30 a.m. I had never before considered the opening times of trails and parks and just assumed they all opened at sunrise. Learn from my mistake, and always check whether the park you're intending to visit will be open when you get there. Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park opens at 8:00 a.m.
Instead of Chumbley Woods, I hiked the Garrison Road Trail, a loop of less than one mile. This trail is on the other side of the Duck River from the Visitor's Center, and the bridge connecting these two areas of the park was closed to vehicles. So I parked near the Visitor's Center and walked down Stone Fort Drive, the main road, and crossed the bridge on foot.
Garrison Road Trail starts behind a small check-in station.
It's a shady natural path, and a small section follows an old paved road before rejoining the natural path. Don't miss the little footbridge on the left to rejoin the trail.
The Garrison Road trailhead is also the trailhead for the Nature Trail. The Nature Trail is less than a mile one-way, and you can either hike back the way you came or follow the paved road along the campground to make it into a loop.
After my hike, I joined a group for SIR Calloway's Tastes of Tennessee program. We started by hiking the Enclosure Trail. This Trail encircles the Native American ceremonial grounds here, and you can still see the earthen mounds built by Native Americans. (1)
SIR Calloway is so knowledgeable about edible local plants and showed us how to sample the ones he found along the trail. Yellow wood sorrel was my favorite; it looked like little shamrocks and had a lemony flavor. He described how some pine and cedar trees can be used to make tea, and he showed us how to pinch off new stems of greenbriers for a trail-side snack. We also got to smell twigs from a sassafras tree.
After our hike, we gathered on the patio on top of the Visitor's Center for a Tastes of Tennessee breakfast. SIR Calloway had made homemade clover biscuits, dandelion root coffee, and an assortment of jams for us. I was surprised that I could not detect any dandelion or clover in the coffee or biscuits; they were delicious! Neither ingredient was a complete replacement of the coffee or flour we are used to; by substituting clover flour or roasted dandelion for part of the recipe, you could make your flour or coffee supply last longer.
SIR Calloway described to us the process of picking and drying the clover flowers before grinding them into a flour, and he described the importance of ensuring before you pick that the plants have not been sprayed with chemicals. To this warning, I'll add a reminder not to consume plants you find in nature unless you are an expert on them or are accompanied by someone who is an expert.
I think it is fascinating that so many of the Tennessee State Park programs seem to stem from the individual interests and knowledge of park rangers and SIRs. It's fitting too; in this way, the Tennessee State Parks are a reflection of Tennesseans themselves.
I appreciate how much work SIR Calloway put into the program; it was fun!