The Friends’ Hiking Challenge -- “Hiking in Mack’s Tracks”
The Friends of South Cumberland dedicated their 2017 Hiking Challenge, "Hiking in Mack's Tracks," to Mack Prichard, State Naturalist Emeritus, for all he has done to advocate for nature, both here in the South Cumberland region and at dozens of other special places all across Tennessee.
The kick-off event for "Hiking in Mack's Tracks" was held on a sunny but cold February morning, starting with brunch at the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City. Following the brunch, everyone caught a courtesy shuttle out to Raven Point on the Fiery Gizzard Trail, from where they had a unique opportunity to walk the entirely new, rerouted portion of the Gizzard Trail, taking in all the amazing trail structures and work put in by our awesome Rangers and dozens of dedicated Trail Crew volunteers over the past 18 months, while appreciating the majestic natural beauty of the Fiery Gizzard Cove, one of Mack's favorite places in South Cumberland State Park.
«« At left, South Cumberland State Park Manager George Shinn enjoying some "quality time" with Mack (his camera ever-present and ready around his neck!) out a Raven Point, overlooking Fiery Gizzard Cove.
Click on the photo, below, of a younger "rock hopping" Mack, to watch a ten-minute video, produced by the Friends of South Cumberland, honoring Mack, and introducing you to the hiking challenge we are proud to name "Hiking in Mack's Tracks..."
Click on "rock-hopping Mack", below, to view the ten-minute "Hiking in Mack's Tracks" video ...
WHY "HIKING IN MACK'S TRACKS"?
After Governor Winfield Dunn signed the Tennessee Natural Areas Act in May of 1971, the job of identifying exceptional areas with good state park potential, acquiring land, and planning basic infrastructure such as access roads, trailheads, trails and other facilities began in earnest. One of the most dynamic and dedicated individuals in that effort was Mack Prichard, who developed his passion for nature and the outdoors as a teenager, growing up in Memphis. Mack’s interests ranged from archaeology to botany to environmental preservation and everything in between, so it’s no wonder his career, most of which was spent with the State of Tennessee, covered a lot of ground — both literally and figuratively. Along the way, Mack served as State Archaeologist, State Natural Areas Administrator, and culminated with his being named State Naturalist, a position he held until his retirement a few years back.
A young Mack Prichard leading Gov. Winfield Dunn (in the navy blazer) and others to the old growth forest at the bottom of Savage Gulf (1971). Dunn emerged from the hike as a strong advocate for the creation of South Cumberland State Park.
L to R: Gov. Dunn, Kenny Dale of the National Park Service, and Dr. Elsie Quarterman of Vanderbilt University inspect a massive poplar in the bottom of Savage Gulf (1971).
In 1971, Mack lobbied then newly-elected governor Dunn to come look at Savage Gulf, a wild and beautiful area with deep canyons, multitudes of waterfalls, and one of the most rich, diverse and fragile ecosystems in eastern North America. Mack wanted the governor to get “up close and personal” with Savage Gulf, and so he, working with Tracy City businessman Herman Baggenstoss and other preservation-minded leaders, arranged for Dunn to traverse Savage Gulf, with the first part made on horseback; the second part, on foot; and the third part, by Jeep.
The rest, as they say, is history. Dunn was enormously impressed with what he saw, and returned to Nashville as a champion for acquiring land in this area, specifically Savage Gulf, to create what we know today as South Cumberland and Savage Gulf State Parks.
But Mack’s job didn’t end there. He had to convince land-owners to get on board and sell their property to the State, lobby for funding to complete the land purchases, and help guide the early development of the parks' facilities and trails.
A tireless advocate for nature, Mack, along with Herman and other environmental leaders, brought countless groups of civic, governmental and environmentally-focused people to the South Cumberland region. He took them on expeditions deep into the forests and canyons to show them the wonders of nature — without the benefit of trails, bridges across creeks, or other park infrastructure we now take for granted. In the largely wild and untamed forests of both Savage Gulf and the Fiery Gizzard, Mack preached the gospel of conservation and environmental stewardship to anyone who would listen.
Some of the expeditions had more than their share of excitement; not all who followed Mack’s call to action were up to the challenge of rugged hiking in the canyons of the Cumberland Plateau. While he never lost any hikers, he always gained allies who, after surviving one of Mack’s expeditions, became believers in Mack and what he was trying to accomplish.
— Rick Dreves