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Home Outdoors Hike of the Week: Maude's Crack and No Business

Hike of the Week: Maude’s Crack and No Business

Maude’s Crack is a narrow passageway through the cliff line that makes it easier to access No Business Creek Valley in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area | Ben Garrett/IH

Distance: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 675 ft.
Difficulty: Difficult
Trailhead: Terry Cemetery
Features: Geology, history

Minnie “Maude” Roysden must have felt like she had discovered a gold mine the first time she stumbled across the natural passageway through the cliff line near her Big South Fork home.

In some ways, perhaps, she had.

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The No Business community of the Big South Fork was isolated in more ways than one. Not only was it many miles from the nearest towns, but it was located in a craggy gorge that offered few ways in or out. 

Roysden discovered one such way in and out when she stumbled upon a natural crevice in the cliff line that saved what would otherwise have been a couple of hours of walking to get from the creek valley to the plateau lands above.

There are a couple of legends about how Maude’s Crack got its name. One says that Maude used the passageway to take lunch to her husband — Rev. Isham Roysden — and other men who were cutting timber inside the gorge, and they were amazed that she was able to reach them while the food was still warm. Another says that Maude and Isham used the passageway to reach a rock shelter at the base of the cliff line where they were temporarily staying after their house burned.

Either way, hikers still use Maude’s Crack to get into and out of the No Business valley, and it’s one of the more unique geological wonders of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

There is a quick, easy hiking trail that leads from Terry Cemetery — the end of the road — to Maude’s Crack. But for the purpose of the Twenty Week Hiking Challenge, we’re making a loop out of it by combining the old road through No Business with the hiking trail for a 5.5-mile hike that features both history and astounding sights.

The hike earns a rating of difficulty because of its length, the fact that you have to cross a couple of un-bridged streams, and the climb back to the top of the plateau. But it’s far from the most difficult hike of this challenge, and it’s a hike that’s well worth the effort.

From Terry Cemetery, we’re recommending that hikers complete the route in a clockwise direction, which means starting down the Longfield Branch multi-use trail into No Business valley and returning to the top of the plateau via Maude’s Crack.

The Longfield Branch Trail is a gravel road that is used by both horseback riders and by the National Park Service as an administrative access road into No Business. The former No Business community was a thriving settlement, featuring about 200 residents at its peak. The community was home to several farmsteads, a school, a general store, a church, grist mills, and more. It even had its own baseball team.

There’s very little left of the No Business community today, unfortunately. Hikers who look closely will discover rock walls, homesites that have been mostly reclaimed by nature and other remnants of the settlement era, but little else. Still, it’s fun to walk along the road through the old community and ponder what life might have been like when this entire valley was cleared into pastureland and cropland.

At the base of the hill, where Longfield Branch joins the No Business Creek Trail, the trail crosses No Business Creek. There is no bridge. That’s of small consequence for horseback riders, but hikers may not want to get their feet wet. Fortunately, there’s a log just to the west of the trail crossing that makes an excellent balance beam for crossing the creek (just be careful not to slip!) and reaching the other side with dry feet.

Once you’ve crossed the creek, you can take a detour to the left and head further up the creek valley to the Ranse Boyatt farmstead, the site of the Great Depression era tragedy that saw both Boyatt and his son, Jerome Boyatt, murdered after the younger Boyatt was accused of killing two lawmen in neighboring Pickett County. There’s no home still standing at the Boyatt homesite, but the National Park Service keeps the field mowed and the chimney still stands. There’s also a cemetery nearby, where Ranse Boyatt and several members of his family are buried.

Turning right will lead hikers down the creek valley towards the Big South Fork River. There’s another un-bridged stream crossing where the trail crosses Tackett Creek. 

After a mile or so, the hiking trail leaves the horse trail by turning right (there’s a sign pointing the way). Just before it crosses No Business Creek (there’s a wooden footbridge this time), hikers will notice some large slabs of rock where a boarding house once stood. 

Beyond the creek crossing, the hiking trail begins its climb to the base of the cliffs. At the top of the hill, just before the hiking trail begins its descent back to the BSF River, there’s an unblazed footpath that turns right and leads to Maude’s Crack. Although there’s no sign pointing the way to Maude’s Crack, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you notice signs facing either direction on the main trail that specify the way to the river. From the main trail, scramble over several boulders to reach the base of the crack.

The route up Maude’s Crack is steep and muddy, but it’s easier to climb up than climb down, which is one reason we recommend hiking this trail in a clockwise direction. There’s a sturdy rope in place to assist hikers with the climb through the crack.

At the top of the crack, there’s an unprotected overlook with a gorgeous view of the No Business Creek valley through which you just hiked. From there, it’s a mostly level walk along the ridge top back to Terry Cemetery.

Getting There: Take S.R. 297 west from Oneida 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 reach Pickett State Park, you’ve driven too far), 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. The trailhead is just beyond the cemetery.

Fun Fact: At the end of the No Business community’s settlement days, there were five roads leading into and out of the valley. Three led north into Kentucky (Stoopin’ Oak Road near Tackett Creek, a road to Bell Farm, and another road that headed towards Monticello). The other two were the Stone Wall Road and Longfield Branch, both of which emerged at Terry Cemetery. 

The first settler of No Business was Richard Harve Slaven, who arrived sometime around 1800. The last was his great-grandson, Dewey Slaven, who lived in the valley until his death in 1960. You’ll pass the Dewey Slaven homestead on your hike, but it’s nothing more than a collapsed chimney surrounded by bits of tin and other debris in a clearing being reforested by nature.

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. This trail is not advisable for very young children or pets.

Look For: Before you start your hike, or after you’ve completed it, explore 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. Terry Cemetery was established in the late 1920s after several graves in the Nancy Smith Cemetery, located along No Business Creek, were unearthed by a landslide.

Make it Better: Detour west at the base of the Longfield Branch Trail to explore the Ranse Boyatt homestead along No Business Creek.

Share the Adventure: Tag your photos on Facebook and Instagram, #20WeekHikingChallenge, for an opportunity to win prizes (please be sure your post privacy is set to public in order to be eligible for a drawing.

Don’t Forget: Obey the Leave No Trace ethic by “taking only memories, leaving only footprints.” If you pack it in, please pack it out!

Independent Herald
Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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