Our group of eighteen hikers on Wednesday, the 17th, discovered there are only so many ways to say 'Wow'. I heard it uttered many times as boots scuffed through soft snow. The same snow that lay like white down on trees and bushes alike, creating an enchanting winter wonderland. The air was frigid and laden with icy temperatures; but it left the impression that our world was contained in this white snowscape; nothing could interfere or take away from its' beauty. Mother Nature didn't have to ask for homage; it was freely given.
The dips and turns in the trail were gentle as we slowly descended toward School Branch which led us toward a 20 ft waterfall with churning water flooding into Big Fiery Gizzard Creek. Following the creek, we passed Hanes Hole Falls. The rocks along the creek banks were lined with frozen ledges of icicles; defying gravity. We continued on toward the confluence of Big and Little Fiery Gizzard Creeks and saw the waters join together. Soon, we arrived at the bridge that took our group on a little detour to see Sycamore Falls. A short distance later we began climbing over slippery rocks that slowed our pace as we took care- (remembering that John wanted credit for the hike as long as no one was injured and we all made it back to eat barbeque!). Those at the front of the group were so relieved to make it through, they let off a little steam with some snowball throwing! I heard is was the sweet, but apparently not too sweet, Arlene that started it! (Arlene, it was John that squealed on you!) The trail eased somewhat as we passed by 5 natural wonders known as 'Chimney Rocks', huge rock formations in various odd shapes.Shortly, we arrived at Sycamore Falls and it was worth the detour. We all took a breather, had a snack and enjoyed our snowy wonderland.
And yes, I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to throw a snowball so I threw a girlie one at John, only to turn around and have Larry hand me a really hardpacked one that I, again, threw at John, he bounded it right back at me and I passed it off to Arlene. She proceeds to try to shove snow down the back of Gary's shirt! It was all in good fun though. All too soon, we had to back and retrace our steps to the bridge where we began our detour. We followed the same trail back and then found the loop again that would take us out. We passed by Cave Spring Rockhouse where there is a huge hemlock that is purported to be 500 years-old! In no time at all, we were back at the snow covered parking lot and back to reality.
Dinner was eaten at the barbeque place as John had requested before starting back to ChattTown. A hike for the record books as far as the Trail Chronicler is concerned...absolutely stunning in beauty.