Elevation gain: 279 ft.
Trailhead: Terry Cemetery
Beginning and ending at Terry Cemetery off Divide Road in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, Maude’s Crack requires the longest road trip of the Twenty Week Hiking Challenge, relative to Oneida.
The drive from Oneida to Terry Cemetery takes the better part of an hour, but the geological oddity of Maude’s Crack makes the trip well worth it.
Located at the end of a ridge high above No Business Creek near where it empties into the Big South Fork River, Maude’s Crack is a natural passageway through the cliff that lines the BSF gorge. It is a fissure, created by time and erosion, that makes it possible for persons — and animals — to get from the top of the cliff to the bottom, making it one of the few places along this stretch of the gorge where entry and exit are possible.
Maude’s Crack is named for Minnie “Maude” Roysden, who is buried in Terry Cemetery where the hike begins. As the story goes, Roysden discovered the fissure in the cliff line when taking lunch to her husband and his fellow timber cutters, who were logging in the river gorge. The men couldn’t understand how Roysden could get the food from her home atop the plateau to the gorge while it was still warm, until she told them about the natural passageway she had discovered through the cliff line.
After exploring Terry Cemetery to find Minnie Roysden’s grave, hikers will find the walk along the ridge top from the cemetery to Maude’s Crack to be a short one. It’s only 1.2 miles to the end of the ridge. The trail is level and the walk is easy, as the ridge gradually narrows between a pair of steep drainages on either side.
At the end of the trail, there is an unprotected overlook that offers a panoramic view of the No Business Creek valley and of Burke’s Knob, a butte that rises above the gorge a short distance away.
Scrambling down through the crack can be slippery, and you’ll want to exercise caution, especially with children. It is steep and, when wet, can be muddy. It’s easy to lose one’s footing. And if you’re claustrophobic, you aren’t going to be a big fan of Maude’s Crack, which is sometimes no more than shoulder width from one rock wall to the other. (If you have trekking poles, they will make the climb back up through the crack a little easier.)
Still, exploring this natural passageway is worth the extra effort that it takes to get back up it again — and it will require a little extra effort to scramble back up through it to the plateau top above!
Getting There: Take S.R. 297 west to its intersection with S.R. 154 in Fentress County. Take S.R. 154 north to Divide Road. A right turn will place you on Divide Road (if you come to Pickett State Park, you’ve driven too far north on S.R. 154), and it’s another five miles to Three Forks, where you’ll turn right onto Terry Cemetery Road. Several miles later, the road ends at Terry Cemetery.
Be Careful For: Maude’s Crack is steep and slippery. Use caution, especially with children. The overlook near the top entrance of the crack is unprotected, and extreme caution should be exercised with children and pets.
Look For: Before you start your hike, or after you’ve completed it, be sure to eplore Terry Cemetery for the grave of Minnie “Maude” Roysden and her husband, the Rev. Isham Roysden. There are a lot of other interesting graves in the cemetery as well, which is where many of this area’s early settlers were buried.
Make It Better: Hiking to Maude’s Crack and back to Terry Cemetery is a 2.4-mile, easy walk. But this hike can easily be turned into a loop that includes a portion of the John Muir Trail along No Business Creek and the Longfield Branch Trail back to Terry Cemetery, for a 4.5-mile hike that is rated moderate in difficulty.
To “make it better,” descend through Maude’s Crack, and then follow an unmarked foot trail through a series of boulders until you reach the John Muir Trail. Be sure to go left on the John Muir Trail; going right will take you back towards Station Camp and leave you a long way from anywhere. By going left, you’ll quickly begin the descent into the No Business Creek valley. After crossing the creek on a wooden foot bridge, the John Muir Trail will join the equestrian trail that runs along No Business Creek.
A short distance later, the John Muir Trail will depart the equestrian trail on the right. However, you will want to stay on the equestrian trail and continue hiking up No Business Creek. The Longfield Branch Trail will turn left just ahead, fording the creek and beginning the climb back to the top of the plateau and to Terry Cemetery. But before you head up Longfield Branch, you’ll want to continue along No Business Creek for a half-mile to visit the Ranse Boyatt homeplace. This is where Boyatt was murdered by vigilantes because he refused to give up details of the wherabouts of his son, Jerome Boyatt, who was wanted for killing lawmen in a nearby mining camp. His father’s death convinced Jerome Boyatt to give himself up, and he, too, was murdered after vigilantes kidnapped him from the Scott County Jail in Huntsville.
Remember To: Use the #20WeekHikingChallenge hashtag in your photos on social media, or email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the names of all members of your hiking party, in order to log your miles.
Don’t Forget: Obey the Leave No Trace ethic by “taking only memories, leaving only footprints.” If you packed it in, please pack it out!