Four of us showed up for this hike on the last day of summer.
Milton lives in the Homewood section of metro Birmingham and has visited
(and even camped in) the park more than the rest of us. I think I heard
Gary claim to have never been there before.
Mimi and I had lived in the city some four years back and
had hiked most of the trails then. We were delighted to rediscover them.
We all met up at 9 AM in front of the Cracker Barrel restaurant at I-65
exit 246, drove our various vehicles into the park, and somehow managed
to find parking spaces in the North Trailhead lot by 9:30.
With the weather promising to be a bit warm, we set out on the South Rim
(Blue) Trail. This trail has numerous "connectors", i.e. short cutovers,
to other trails originating from the North Trailhead, thus facilitating a bailout if
things got too bad. They didn't.
We worked our way up a moderately steep grade to the summit. Views were
generally obscured by the leaves on the trees but with breaks now and then.
At one point, we could see the Galleria shopping mall in Hoover. With
due respect to shopping in Hoover, all agreed we were at a desirable
distance from the Galleria for a Saturday.
We were intrigued to find small groups of the rush-like plants known
as horsetails (Equisetum) growing in the lower sections and
patches of Long Leaf Pines on the ridges.
We stopped for lunch near the junction with the Orange Connector. We had
hiked about three and one-half miles at this point. Only the first
mile or so required any serious uphill effort.
Trail junctions always had signs indicating distance.
At every quarter mile (we think), a trail-color-coded, numbered post appeared.
We weren't exactly sure what they meant or how anyone arrived at the
numbering scheme but they let us know we were still on the right path.
The trails were blazed as well. I suppose you could get lost
out here on these well-traveled paths if you completely stopped paying attention.
After lunch, we almost stepped on a black snake known locally as a
Spread (or Spreading) Adder. Though harmless, when threatened the snake
flattens out his head, hisses, and does his best to resemble a cobra.
is also known as an Eastern Hognose.]
The Orange Connector crosses the Double Oak (Red) bike trail before joining
with the Shackleford Point (White) Trail. Milton aptly describes hiking the rocky
ground of the White Trail as "like walking on someone's backbone".
The distance from the connector back to the trailhead is about two and
one-half miles. The downhill on Shackleford Peak is rather steep and
we were pleased that we did our loop in the direction we did.
We stopped midway back at a gathering spot with some benches
known as Maggie's Glen.
We reached the North Trailhead at about 2:45 PM. The 30% probable showers
never materialized. Temperatures in the morning were in the upper 70's but
had risen to the mid 80's after we descended from the summit and left that
nice breeze behind us.
We encountered 19 other people on the trails and two dogs.
Conclusion: nice hike, better than expected. We may have lucked out on the
route we selected but I think the club will return here and explore some more.