ONEIDA, Tenn. — One hundred miles for one hundred years.
That is the concept behind the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area’s “Centennial Challenge,” which is currently underway and will continue throughout much of the 2016 calendar year, as the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Participants are challenged to complete 100 miles of journey through the Big South Fork’s 125,000 acres. The challenge is self-paced, and is not limited to hiking. Paddlers, mountain bikers and horseback riders are all encouraged to participate as well. The park service is incorporating the honor system, asking participants to download a log sheet — which can be found at nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/centennial-challenge.htm — and record their journey.
In all, the Big South Fork trail system includes 500 miles of hiking trails, equestrian trails and mountain bike trails, including 70 miles of stream that can be paddled by whitewater enthusiasts. Participants who complete the Centennial Challenge will only cover roughly 20 percent of the park’s trail system.
BSF rangers are offering a patch that was specially-designed for the event, and there will be a culminating Centennial Challenge celebration program at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center on Dec. 3, 2016. At the celebration, the youngest and oldest males and females who completed 100 miles will be recognized, along with those who accomplished the challenge incorporating the most categories — such as riding on horseback and mountain biking. There will also be a group photo taken at the ceremony.
The park service is encouraging participants of the challenge to photograph their favorite places and memories along their journey through the BSF. Selected images that are submitted will be used for exhibition at the visitor center, as well as on the park’s website and other venues.
Get started: With the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area challenging visitors and friends of the park to participate in its Centennial Challenge throughout 2016, one great way to take part is with ranger-guided hikes along the BSF’s hiking trails.
The ranger-led hikes program is returning for a second year with hikes every other Saturday. The first will be this Saturday, Jan. 16, when Big South Fork Ranger Mary Grimm will lead hikers on a 5.6-mile hike to the East Laurel Overlook.
The hike will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at the Cumberland Valley Trailhead, located behind the Hitching Post General Store off S.R. 297 west of Bandy Creek.
The hike will allow visitors to explore the historical significance of the Cumberland Valley and how the trail got its name. Highlighting the hike will be a breathtaking view from the East Laurel Overlook.
Well-behaved dogs on a leash are encouraged.