Sipsey Wilderness
Trails 223, 204, Big Tree

Date: Saturday, January 13, 2007
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Trails: 223 connecting via 208 and 224 to 204 and East Bee Branch Canyon trail 
Members: Larry, Mimi, Bart, Gary, Joy, John, Nena, Bomber, (Foster and Danny camping on Friday)
Guests: Josh, Jean, Anthony, Jennifer, Robby, Chad, David, Jerry, Keela, Sonya, Shelby, Doris

I don't know if it was the near perfect hiking weather or the allure of the Big Tree, but a record-breaking 20 folks showed up tor the January SWHC day hike.

We assembled at the Braziel trailhead at 8 AM. The sun was shining through the clouds in just the right amount so as not to bother your eyes yet render a soft golden glow to the trees and rocks. The temperature was around 58F and the forecasted "slight chance of rain" looked even slighter.

The route followed an upside-down lollipop shape, with the stem composed of trail 223, short jogs along 208 and 224, and the northern first mile of 204. At the fork in 204, the day hikers joined up with some of the club members and friends who had camped out the night before. We all then began the loop part, heading southward along the "unofficial" trail toward East Bee Branch Canyon and the Big Tree.

The Big Tree is a yellow poplar (a/k/a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera). The height is about 150 feet and the circumference at the base about 25 feet. While this is not the largest tree on earth or anything, it is nonetheless a "big tree". And there are a few others in the area that aren't exactly toothpicks either.

After a break to enjoy the tree and the waterfalls and for photos (and the interminable snacking we all do), we followed the quite lovely flowing stream south to the equally gorgeous Sipsey River. Then we formally stopped for lunch and serious eating.

The sun became brighter after lunch and even felt a little warm as we paralleled the river along trail 209 to the southern end of 204. The temperature never rose much over 73F, the occasional breeze mitigating the heat in any case.

We hiked north on trail 204 to complete the loop. Some of the group remained at the campsite for another overnight. The rest of us retraced our steps back to the Braziel trailhead.

The entire walk measured close to 12 miles and we completed it in just over eight hours. With no one limping, scowling, or in apparent discomfort at the end, and the fact that the conversations, wisecracks, and laughter never let up, leads me to think that everyone had a good time.

Submitted 15 January 2007
Text: Larry Barkey
Photos: Chad Bell

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