We joined Foster, Anthony, Jennifer and Gina on a chilly morning at the picnic grounds in the Sipsey Wilderness. We hoped for more friends and fellow hikers and waited until almost 9 AM to start. We left one vehicle there and took the other two to the Gum Pond trailhead.
We hiked downhill, crossed the bridge at Hagood Creek, and began a steady but leisurely climb up and alongside the familiar rugged bluffs of the Sipsey.
At trail 224 we took an extreme left turn (it’s easy to miss) and hiked along the narrow new growth pine trail interspersed with curious rustles and fallen trees (due to pine beetle damage). We hiked past the turn off to the Big Tree, and though others of our club were hiking there, we never crossed paths.
After lunch, we began to appreciate a change in the terrain. The sandy pines gave way to hemlocks and the view opened up to where we could see water flowing down below. We eventually arrived at the Borden trailhead, crossed the bridge, and bid Foster farewell.
Trail 200 along the river was deeply shaded and although the water was low, it looked inviting. Cold yes, but we did observe a few brave souls actually swimming! We came to the “hidden cave.” It’s as though you’ve hit a solid wall of rock and a waterfall, but there is just enough room to squeeze through if you remove your pack and place it in front of you. A flashlight would have been helpful, but we all came out into the sunlight on the opposite side in a matter of two minutes time.
We saw lots of Falcate Orange butterflies, Dusky Wings, and those spunky Yellow Swallowtails as we hiked along the river. There were Yellow Trout Lilies (Erythronium) blooming en masse, Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), and a veritable carpet of Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) colonizing an entire meadow! The forest opened up and the myriad small pink blossoms among green grassy leaves and moss-covered tree trunks, these in turn interspersed with a colorful tent or two, suggested a charming home in the wilderness.
The river was low but the waterfalls were all active. Cow ants cavorted and frogs called down in the valleys as we traversed the canyon trails. Joyous dogs greeted us along with friendly backpackers. The temperature warmed and was perfect for hiking and we all enjoyed the day although no wee little elves were spotted.