Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beech Bottom Trail to Jack's River Falls on 3/23/10

The forest service road to the trailhead from Ladd Springs Road is long and mostly gravel and dirt, making a few (me included!) wonder if the hike would be worth it. The answer was an unequivocal yes! It couldn't have been a better morning for the 21 hikers to be in the woods. We started out in groups, meandering along the wide trail headed into deep hardwoods behind our hike leader, Gary Smith. Except for distant hilltops seen through the trees to our right, there wasn't a lot to break up the scenery. We did have to pass through a tree broken across the trail and I showed my lack of agility! Soon, though we went around a bend and the sun warmed the trail, overshirts started coming off.  In no time, I began to hear the distinct sound of water gurgling below the trail and a short distance beyond that, we came down into an opening in the trail with a wide creek to get across. My boots came off (I have to make note of the first creek crossing!) and my water shoes came on. I'm not sure I really needed to, but I wanted to!

Beyond this, we had a gradual climb, winding in and around curves. About 3 miles in, we took a sharp right, turning back along a trail that followed Jack's River. From here the scenery was beautiful. Lush moss growing green, boulder areas along the creek; even a profusion of striking yellow daffodils. We went about 1 1/2 miles alongside the scenic river, including rock hopping a boulder area and crossing another small creek before arriving at the large rocky ledge above Jack's River Falls.

A few of the group stopped to eat their lunch at the rock ledge above the small falls. Below the small falls, we found a rounded pool area that held deep green water before it rushed on down the rock-lined chute of the main falls where a mist swirled and water churned into white froth. Several wide, slanted rocks beside the big falls is where the remainder of the hikers ate their lunch. All except Stormy. She caused the Trail Chroniclers' heart to flutter when she walked out along the ledge of the falls to plop down and eat her lunch! But, she did look so peaceful out there.

The sun was warm on the rocks, the company was good, Che had dark chocolate to give as a seemed so easy. But then we had to head back. :-(  Just to make sure we knew we were back in the real world, when we reached the parking area the gnats attacked! Sorry, Larry, I'm really not complaining...just chronicling.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fort Mountain Gahuti Trail on St. Patrick's Day

It was chilly St. Patrick's Day morning when 19 of us headed to Ft. Mountain near Chatsworth for our Wednesday hike. After stopping in at the Park office, we drove to a parking lot near the trailhead and were soon on the trail. Winter held the woods in its grip, but it was beginning to lose the battle; rhododendrum and mountain laurel were greening the trail as we wound around the mountain. The blanket of leaves underfoot were no longer crunching but rotting and creating a soft footfall. Not that it was quiet....our group is known for chatting it up as we meander along and Wednesday was no exception!

The first overlook reminded us why we were there...the view of the surrounding hillsides and farmlands was spectacular! We continued on the well-marked paths and were soon in the thick of the woods, encountering many areas with trees, big and small, fallen over either from blowdowns or snapping from the winter freezes. A little past three miles, the group split. The Trail Chronicler joined Stormy, Debbie, Gary, Monty, John, and a new member, Georgieann (sp.?) and bypassed the trail around the lake to make the hike a little longer by continuing on around the mountain. I was told the first group enjoyed their lunch at the lake, although the breeze made it a tad bit cool. Geogieanne was out ahead of our group at one point! She's a go-getter! Soon, we found a primitive campground and settled down at the shelter to eat out food.

After lunch, we encountered some prettier scenery: a picturesque creek with green moss-covered rocks, large hardwood areas, and interesting rock formations. After we found the designated spot to intersect with the first group, Stormy decided to hasten the pace a little bit (that girl doesn't let any moss grow under her feet!), and in no time, we were all together again.

As usual we had a bit of an uphill hike (isn't that always the way!) to finish up the trail. When we got back to the parking lot where the cars were, most headed on over to check out the views from the Tower and to see the mysterious rock wall formations that have been rebuilt. All in all another great hiking day with some great hiking friends. I'm guessing the group who hiked the longer trail got in 9+ miles so the others would have a little less! Not bad either way.