Sipsey Wilderness
Trail 201, Rippey Cabin

Date: Saturday, November 14, 2009
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Trails: 201 - Rippey and west-of-the-river sections of 206 - Thompson Creek and 209 - Sipsey River
Members: Anthony & Jennifer, Charlie, Doris, Foster, Larry & Mimi, Nita & Tom
Guests: Amy

We gathered at the Randolph Trailhead at 8 AM on a cool but sunny morning. Our original plan had been to hike up 201 to its end at the junction with 206 and 209. Then we would take 209 all the way to its end at Borden Creek (and then down to the Picnic Grounds). But high water levels, further exacerbated by rain showers during the week, confined us to the western side of the Sipsey.

No matter. When we arrived at the water crossing spot on 209, we turned north, tracking the river along a trail of sorts until we came to 206. We followed that up the ridge and back towards the three-trail junction, stopping at the Rippey Cabin en route.

Sipsey Fork
Western Section of Trail 209
We encountered about twice as many downed trees along 201 than we saw last year. Most were easily stepped over, under, or around but still...

Walking down 209 to the river presented a greater challenge than usual due to the amount of water running down the middle of the trail at the steepest point. What stopped us at the river was not so much its depth as its width and fast-moving currents.

As far as anyone could recall, the club had never planned a group hike that included the off-trail, cross-country section along the river between 209 and 206 on the west side. Needless to say, humans have been there before, many of them, and for at least 75% of the short distance, the route is pretty obvious. The remainder has a few blowdowns to get around and some gullies where the path is not that easy to discern. But as long as you don't stray too far from the river, you pick it up again. To reward your perseverance, this stretch along the water features some very nice scenery with tall bluffs on one side and rapids on the other.

The climb back up to the ridge along 206 is fairly steep but with plenty of rock ledges and places to put your feet (and no flowing currents beneath them).

We approached the Rippey Cabin following the "driveway" off from 206. After lunch in the cabin, Doris suggested that we try a cross-country shortcut down the ridge back to trail 209. That proved to be no more effort than backtracking the obstacle-strewn old roadway and we came out on 209 about half way between the river and 201.

The return walk was uneventful except for chancing upon a fearless Phoebe (bird) who flitted around close by, caught an insect, and cleaned his feathers, totally unperturbed by our presence.

The hike came in at about five hours. We passed three other groups during the day – mostly backpackers – and the parking area at the Randolph trailhead was crowded when we left.

This was a pleasurable hike and it is good to know of an alternative route in this area for times when stream crossings are not an option.
Sipsey Fork

Submitted 18 Nov 2009
Text: Larry Barkey
Photos: Mimi Barkey

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