Date: Saturday, 13 Sep 2014
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Members: Anthony, Bart, Charlie, Erika, Gary, Junior, Larry, Mimi, Ray, Wayne
Guests: Christian, Elder Hadley, Jody, Elder Johnson, Kirk, Rich, Elder Vance, Elder Weintz; Luke (dog)
SWHC Getting Started, First Hike of the Fall
The call of autumn was in my head all week; hurricane lilies and spiders had bloomed and there was a barely perceptable hint of cooler weather even during mid-day bicycle rides.
Saturday dawned and fall arrived. It was chilly in the morning and cloudy. When we all assembled at the Randolph Trailhead, the clouds prevailed but the colorful duds I spotted were many and varied. There were 18 of us, almost a new record for SWHC with folks from Texas, Utah and California among us! Since the FS rules allow only groups of ten at a time on the trails, we split up into two groups of nine and headed out twenty minutes apart.
We shared the trail outgoing with a group of colorful hunter oranges who preceded us by ten minutes.
As we walked along, there was no chance for stealth as we all were chatting amiably. The Rippey Trail looked pretty clean, just a few small step overs down to the junction. I always love to see the hemlocks; they are a sign that I’m not too far from the river.
We all stopped for a break at the junction of 201/206/209 and then turned onto 209 and carefully negotiated the slippery rocks which led helter-skelter down to the river. The moss was thick on most of them and the creek was mostly dry. My stick came in very handy here.
Ray and I reached the river and turned back to the right. I initially was going left but Ray spotted Larry's bright orange shirt and corrected my mistake. The river crossing was nice! Some just used the stepping stones. I gladly removed my footwear and walked across in the squishy soft sandstone sand.
As we all got over I noticed that our second group were just approaching the opposite bank. Erika spotted a colorful grass snake and called out to warn me but I didn’t actually see it until its colors delighted me on her iPhone.
The river trail was as lovely as ever with the clouds making it look clearer than usual around the edges of those big boulders.
We stopped for lunch near Bee Branch, small stoves hissed and Erika played with a Daddy Long-legs who seemed quite taken with her. Charlie had a hitch hiker on his Australian bush hat, a glowing green caterpillar with a turquoise and black mottled horn waving on its behind, probably some sphinx moth larva. I planted a few feather stick flowers along the trail, which Jody had cleverly carved out from a stick. Perhaps the little grove of three brown and white blossoms will baffle you when you pass?
We arrived at the junction of 209 and 202 before I realized it. There was the river down below, and Erika was laughing up at me. We all crossed over okay – with most of our second group was right behind us. I was glad to see everyone all accounted for. Even Luke, Gary's new puppy made the last crossing okay despite his leash.
The Johnson cemetery was our last stop for gobbling up the rest of our food and enjoying the peacefulness that always surrounds this place.
The speedier hikers had already departed when I reached the end of the trail, back at the Randolph kiosk. We took our signature photo there, said our goodbyes and headed out our separate ways.
As a point of information, the first group of hikers set out at about 8:10. The four earliest back arrived at 2:45 and the rest over the next half hour. So without pushing it too hard, this loop is about a seven hour hike. Kirk's GPS tallied exactly ten miles.
PS: Red Cardinal flowers down by the river were blooming as well as the purple Lobelia up in the dry spots and I even spotted some very tall, although hanging heavy, pink Joe Pye!
With so many on Facebook, we do not have an "official" photo page for this hike. Anthony, Mimi, and probably others have some postings.
Submitted 16 Sep 2014