Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Singed and Stung at Singing Sisters Falls!

Twenty avid hikers met at the Bi-Lo in St. Elmo and caravanned from there down to Hwy #136 where we travelled up Lookout Mountain and turned left, driving several miles down to Lookout Highlands subdivision. Once inside the gate, we drove a few miles down to Billy's Park at Shelby Lake where we parked and got our boots on, sprayed bug spray, and headed out behind Steve Barnes, our guide. Across from the road from the pond, Steve gathered us for a talk, giving us the scoop on what to expect on the trail, and then we took off, excited at the prospects of discovering a new trail!

Soon, it was as though we were miles from civilization, underneath a heavy canopy of trees, virtually enveloped in humid heat. The path was pine-covered; easy walking. Soon we turned right and descended a rocky ledge down to a more narrow trail, following along a creek with interesting formations. A 'bridge' took us across the creek, turning left we wound in and out along the path. The front of the group caught sight of a deer hiding amongst the trees. We finally emerged from the woods and were on one of the gravel roads in the subdivision. When we realized that a few in the back were taking an awfully long time to catch up. We found out they were fighting of yellow jackets! Probably stirred up by our poles sticking in their ground nests! I know that Bill and Monty received several stings, and I believe Gary and Bob at least once..yikes.

Together again, Steve led us across the gravel road into the woods again, and our hikers meandered along the path on the side of Lookout until we came to an intersection. Steve stopped the group to give us a warning that we were about to head on to the more difficult section of the trail (what we had been on was easy-peasy). We all plunged in behind him, descending at a bit of a steep grade, and soon we were at the edge of the bluff, overlooing a small lake at the bottom of the falls which fell across the gorge from the bluff. The volume of water was diminished from the dry weather, but you could see where it could be substantial in normal weather. Patti decided to prop her poles up on a scraggly tree on the bluff, turned around, and poof- one pole fell over the edge, disappearing from view.
Stormy a/k/a the Goat scrambled down a manageable rocky path to get down to the creek that fell over to the lake below. Others followed, and soon there were seven or eight hikers across the creek. Stormy, Betty, Pat, and the Trail Chronicler, took their boots off and stuck their feet in the cold water- heavenly! Pete fought the urge to throw rocks in the creek where we stood. (I think he realized he would be in big trouble with the female contingent if he had!) After a brief respite, those who had stayed on the bluff began to head back up the trail, and so the 'across-the-creek' crowd followed.

With a bit of a climb back up to the intersection, we paused to get our breath, and then we were headed back. All was going well, plodding along the trail, small groups talking easily, laughter could be heard in spurts as trail friends visited, and then we were back at the same area where the earlier hikers were stung. The worst happened when Arlene was stung by a yellow jacket that got stuck beneath her sock and Linda was stung by one that got under her short leg. The trail chronicler handed off some neosporin and took off to get away as one of the buggers was after her, telling Pat that she needed to move! (Pat was in front of her). Lo and behold when we got near the end of the hike, the trail chronicler found out Pat had also been stung! Way not to go trail chronicler! Poor Bill got stung again! They were all troopers and got to pose in a picture as 'Purple Heart Hikers'.

When we arrived back at the cars, we gathered our lunch and Steve led us down past parking lot on a short path to a picnic spot beside the lake (actually private property!). We all bunched in and ate and visited for a bit.

The Singing Sisters Falls hike was delightful and could be a wonderful hike in the fall with the colors abounding. The heat was a bit stifling at the first of August and the yellow jackets weren't any fun, but we still managed to have a good time, as always. Sometimes it's just the company you keep! Thanks Steve for the adventure!