|We all met up at the Sipsey Trailhead by 8 AM and carpooled to the Randolph Trailhead . We left most of the vehicles at Sipsey, correctly guessing that the parking area at Randolph would be crowded.
Though a bit cool at first, the weather was just gorgeous all day with plenty of sunshine to highlight the newly emerging fall foliage. The early morning sun filtering through the green, yellow, and red leaves along 201 was particularly beautiful.
Wild South volunteers have recently been maintaining 201 and the trail is now in excellent shape with most of the nasty spots cleared. We kept up a good pace and were at the junction of 201, 206, and 209 in 45 minutes. After a break, seven of us continued on 209; Charlie and Owen opted to just visit the Rippey Cabin.
Keith, Nancy, Mimi, and I remembered 209 from our outing last March when the streams were muddy and swollen and the hiking difficult. Seven months later, the situation was completely the opposite. We were all able to cross the Sipsey without getting our feet wet thanks to a well-placed accumulation of stepping stones. Some of the smaller tributary streams were completely dry and the rest, including Borden Creek(!), could be stepped over easily. I didn't even recognize Bee Branch, the site of the spring hike's log-crossing challenges. Fall Creek Falls could only muster three thin dribbles.
We stopped for lunch on a hillside location just past the junction of 209 and 202, having covered this half of 209 in about 2 hours 20 minutes. After lunch, we finished the second half in just under two hours. After one-stepping across Borden Creek, we returned the quarter mile or so to the Picnic Grounds along the southern end of trail 200.
Trail 209 still has a number of obstacles but by this time most of them have well-established walk-arounds. In a couple of places where the trail forks, you have a choice either to climb up the hill towards a bluff or to stay down closer to the river. In general, following the river seems to be the better option but definitely go for the path more traveled, assuming you can figure which one that might be.
We did not encounter nearly as many other hikers and backpackers as I had anticipated on such a lovely autumn day. The foot traffic picked up in the afternoon, however. We only came upon one violation of the campfire ban and it was obvious even there that someone had made sure that the still warm coals posed no threat.
As for wildlife, we saw no evidence of feral pigs. The bird list includes Pileated Woodpecker, White-throated Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, and Carolina Wren. At Fall Creek Falls, we were surprised by a Rat Snake, either a Gray or possibly a young Black. He was only interested in getting away from us – and our cameras.
Speaking of which, more photos have been posted to Picasa.
|Submitted 21 Oct 2010|
|Photos: Larry, Mimi|