Date: Saturday, 18 Jan 2014
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Members: Gary, Larry, Mimi
Guests: Mark, Scott; dogs Poochie, Webster
Three backpackers, who planned to spend the night, and two day hikers - Mimi and I - braved the below 20 degree Fahrenheit temperature and met at the Randolph trailhead more or less at 8 AM. This was going to be a short day anyway and everyone was willing to give the sun a little more opportunity to warm up the air.
It was easy walking 201, the frozen ground being preferable to what would otherwise have been mud. There were maybe half a dozen trees blocking the trail but nothing too bad nor even requiring a detour. And some of the backpacks were pretty tall.
We arrived at the cabin after about 90 minutes of no rush walking. The building was still holding up remarkably well with no holes in the roof nor any broken windows. The floor boards near the front door sagged a little, however. The premises were clean and even the outside fire ring was unlittered, without the usual relics of misguided attempts to burn metal cans and the like.
It was commendable to see that visitors to the cabin show so much respect for another's property. I wish I could say that more often.
Four of us (and Poochie) took a short hike while Gary and Webster tended to camp chores. We had carried up an axe and a crosscut saw so firewood was not going to be a problem, the overnight low being forecast at a relatively balmy 30 degrees.
For the hike, we started by angling down the hill behind the cabin to connect with trail 209, coincidentally meeting up with a Wild South work party on their way to a project along 209 but across the river. The water appeared to be only about ten inches deep but it definitely had to be cold.
Our group stayed on the west side of the Sipsey and followed the river north along an unofficial connector trail which merges into 206 after maybe a mile. I am not complaining but it's not like there are any trail signs to let you know where the official 206 takes up again from the indistinguishable unofficial walkway.
This whole section is absolutely gorgeous by the way with big rocks reflected in pools of turqoise water, sandy beaches, white water rapids, and the occasional small waterfall or cascade. And that's just the water side. Spectacular sandstone bluffs - today decorated with icicles - rose up to our left.
We had lunch in a pretty spot, just north of the headwaters of the Sipsey Fork which occurs at the the confluence of Hubbard and Thompson Creeks.
From there, trail 206 ascends and circles around a ridge, taking us through Mountain Laurel crowding the sides of the path with some fabulous views looking down into hemlock forest on the river side and some excellent forest scenery in the other direction, enhanced by the absence of leaves on the hardwood trees.
We arrived back at the cabin before 1 PM, in plenty of time to help in sawing more firewood. Another party of day hikers showed up for a quick visit; they were followed by another group of four backpackers intending to spend the night. Fortunately the cabin had seven cots.
Mimi and I headed out about 1:45 and were back to the parking lot in under an hour; there were 17 vehicles packed in and adjacent to the trailhead. The day was mostly sunny with the temperature approaching 50 degrees at its warmest. It was definitely better to sit or stand in the sun.
As for distance, adding up the entire trail 201 in both directions, the river walk to 206, and three times the approach to the cabin, Mimi and I can probably claim eight miles. All said and done, this little outing is actually a pretty good one.
These days we have photos posted both on our Picasa web album at Rippey 2014 as well as other postings possibly on Facebook and who knows where else.
Submitted 26 Jan 2014