Date: Saturday, April 13, 2013
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Members: Larry, Mimi
Turnout during the club hikes and outings for the Fall 2012 to Spring 2013 season has been down a bit. Today it was for Mimi and I to wonder where everyone else might be. They missed a lovely day in the Sipsey.
We parked at the Gum Pond Trailhead, arriving just before 8 AM. The original idea had been to bushwhack down the old Narrows Ridge trail and return up Trail 207. We didn't feel confident that we actually knew the outbound route and the downed trees right from the start suggested that we might be looking at a substantial amount of effort whether lost or not. So we opted for an out-and-back on Trail 207. We (correctly) guessed that Borden Creek would be too deep to cross and figured we would turn around there.
We have rarely seen the forest so ravishing. The majority of the trees had just started to leaf out a week ago so we were treated to a mix of every possible shade of green. The native azaleas were at peak and we found no shortage of wildflowers displaying all the hues of the rainbow.
Heavy rain two days before made for some mucky spots in the trail. Our boots ended up with a nice patina of greenish mud on them. But as for larger obstacles, the path proved remarkably clear, even in one section where the tornado damage from 2011 is all too apparent. We encountered maybe a dozen logs, all that were easily stepped over; one large American Beech blowdown later on required a small detour.
One upshot of the tornado damage is that I cannot remember ever looking up and seeing so much sky on this trail before. Usually there are just all these tall trees and some bluffs hidden back there somewhere. Now this section of the trail is mostly clear with the dead wood turning to gray. The desolation sparks a certain fascination, at least for me. Fortunately though, whatever one's aesthetics, this passage doesn't last too long.
In the past when we have started from the north end, we would stop about an hour out and follow a winding path up to a sheltered spot under a bluff which provided a splendid view of all that lay below. Today we totally missed the turnoff and just followed the creek. Perhaps this happened because the trail seemed much better defined than it has been in times past. Formerly we grew accustomed to having to look around much more often to make sure we were going in the right direction. Back then, that turn up to the bluff was the much more obvious choice. (A bit obsessed, we managed to find this spot on the way back.)
The swift-flowing, none-too-shallow Borden Creek announced that, if nothing else, it was time to stop for lunch, even if a little early. The water level in Braziel Creek was higher than usual as well.
In addition to the flora, we saw more species of birds on this walk than I have seen on all the other hikes combined (Bird List). Red-eyed Vireos and Black-and-white Warblers serenaded us all day.
We didn't do as well with the butterflies but saw a few Tiger Swallowtails, a Mourning Cloak, a Cloudless Sulphur, and a couple of Duskywings who ignored our orders to please pause their mating rituals long enough for us to positively ID them. Perhaps man does not control the universe after all.
The only negative thing we have to report was that we saw more than a little evidence of horseback riding on this "hiking only" trail. Either that or our fellow walkers have taken to wearing horseshoes. Seriously, this trail was not designed to support the weight of horses and these violations do not bode well.
With regard to human-environmental interaction, we found everything to be in very good shape with hardly any trash and only one fire ring. Our only contact with anyone else occurred almost at the end when we encountered a group of four backpackers with their on-leash dog.
We started walking at 8:10 on 208 from the parking area, ten minutes to 207, lunch around 11:00 at Borden Creek, back up 207 by 1:30 and another ten minutes to the car. The temperature at the start of the day registered just shy of 50 degrees Fahrenheit but rose to over 70 by the end. It was a beautiful sunny Spring day.
For these and other photos including the plants, please see our Picasa Web Album Braziel Creek Trail 207.
Submitted 23 April 2013