Date: Saturday, 13 Dec 2014
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Trails: Narrows Ridge and 207 - Braziel Creek
Members: Charlie, Gary, Jane, Larry, Mimi, Wayne
Guests: Luke (dog)
We started out from the Gum Pond Trailhead under sunny skies but with the temperature just around freezing. This loop hike had us following the old Narrows Ridge road south for a couple of miles, climbing down to lower ground to connect with trail 207, and returning northward to the trailhead.
There is no official trail on Narrows Ridge and this former but now untended road throws up about what you would expect in the way of blowdowns, vines, briers, twigs snapping at your face – all that plus a path which was not all that easy to discern on occasion.
So we had to plod carefully along this old raised road bed (which possibly might show up as Lawrence County Road 8 on some older maps). No one got lost or hurt and we reached the end of this section after about 90 minutes.
While we all were hoping that the sun would finally start to warm us up, it went the other way. We hiked under cloudy skies for the rest of the day and had to keep our multiple layers of clothing on most of the time, especially when we stopped walking.
Getting off the ridge proved to be the most challenging part with just sheer bushwhacking, always seeking the least steepest route, not always successfully. My knees were not happy with me by the time we intersected with trail 207 – which fortunately was easy to recognize; I mean here was something that looked like a trail as opposed to what we had been struggling with so far.
Charlie and Gary did an excellent job of guiding the rest of us through this initial bushwhacking stage where the route alternates between the obvious and pure guesswork. I am not sure I could repeat this on my own unless I had the security of a GPS device or something like that.
The advantage of walking south on this path is that you eventually will reach either Borden or Braziel Creek (granted it would be helpful to know which one). But to hike this road northward might give you cause for concern when you haven't seen anything like a worn path for several minutes and you are aiming at a single target.
We came out in the section of 207 about a half mile north of Borden Creek where you are walking up and down in the woods with Braziel Creek visible though at some distance down a steep incline off to the west.
Trail 207 has been well-maintained. There are a few blowdowns but all these appeared to be of recent origin and not anything too serious in any case.
After being up on the hill for a way, you descend to walk along near Braziel Creek which is one of the most scenic sections of this trail; albeit, a little sunshine would have been an improvement.
On previous hikes, we have taken a side trail up to an overhang under the bluff. But as has happened before, we missed the connection; it is not like there is sign or anything. No matter. This section of the trail borders on almost theatrical with high, large bluffs off to one side but far enough away to be awesome. Looking out the other way you see hollows extending into the distance with more high land rising up beyond. This scenery certainly benefits from reduced foliage in wintertime. That said, the pockets of American Beech which retain their soft-colored tan leaves are mesmerizing as well.
All in all, this was a pretty good hike. We left at 8:10 and arrived back at the trailhead at 1:10. The distance must be something like 7 miles. When we would stop, the dog would immediately take a nap and wake up re-energized, ready for more. The humans observed with envy.
Click here for more photos.
Submitted 15 Dec 2014