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Historical hike provides a nice break from holiday hoopla

The Soddy-Daisy Trails Association invites the community to learn about the area’s coal and iron history through a leisurely one-mile hike at Laurel Snow State Natural Area Saturday, Dec. 29. The group will meet at the Laurel Snow Wilderness Trailhead at 9 a.m.

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Railroad retaining walls are among the relics of Dayton’s mining history that participants will view on the Soddy-Daisy Trails Association’s upcoming hike focused on the area’s coal and iron history.

“We figured that hike would be a not too strenuous one to get people out between Christmas and New Year’s,” said Park Ranger Andy Wright. “It’s a nice break to get out in the woods.”

Laurel Snow State Natural Area is scattered with visible ruins of the coal operation, which employed most of Dayton in the late 1800s, he added.

“Every community up and down the Cumberland Plateau had a coal mining history,” said Wright. “This gives people an opportunity to see what communities like Soddy-Daisy and Sale Creek looked like 100 years ago.”

He said the area contains a total of 337 coke ovens, though participants will only have time to see a few along with railroad retaining walls, a dynamite shack, bridge abutments, air shafts and water storage areas. A highlight of the hike is the main Dixon-Slope Mine entrance, a massive stone archway 2 feet thick and 20 feet wide.

“The area’s development as a state park can be directly related to its industrial history,” said Wright of the chain of events that occurred between the area’s industrial heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the decline of the mining industry and the property’s transfer of ownership to Bowater, a pulp and paper company.

Bowater turned the area into a pocket wilderness that is now part of the state park system. Wright said an application was recently submitted to designate the area as part of the National Register of Historic Places, which would allow the park to apply for grants to fund further protection of the area.

The hike is considered easy and lasts about an hour, and is a great way to introduce out-of-town guests to the area’s history as well as its recreational assets, said Wright.

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