Sipsey Wilderness
Rippey Cabin, Trails 201, 206, 209

Date: Friday–Sunday, October 14–16, 2011
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Trails: 201 - Rippey, 206 - Thompson Creek, 209 - Sipsey River
Members: Bart, Charlie, Danny, Gary, Keith, Larry, Mimi
Guests: Webster (dog)

Webster The basic plan centered around a day hike on Saturday starting at the Rippey cabin, which is located near the junction of trails 201, 206, and 209. Some camped overnight at the cabin on Friday and Saturday.

The three day hikers met at 8 AM at the Randolph Trailhead and hiked up trail 201 to the junction with 206 and 209. We followed 206 about a hundred meters to where a tree had fallen at the entrance to the road to the cabin. We of course missed the road but managed to realize our error before wasting too much time. We were at the cabin by 9:30.

Trail 201 presented maybe half a dozen blowdowns, some with already defined walk-arounds, more obstacles than one would have expected since trail maintenance volunteers had succeeded in clearing most of the route in May.

At the Rippey cabin, the windmill was not in such good shape. Most of the vanes had fallen and a large tree was dangerously leaning on the tower, the forked branches near the top posing serious challenges should anyone want to remove them without damage to the cabin's increasingly fragile roof. The interior was holding up surprisingly well, however.

Kitchen at Rippey cabin Windmill at Rippey cabin

For the hike, we bushwhacked from the cabin to 209 and then down the cascade and across the river. We explored 206 north for maybe half a mile, returned, recrossed the streams, and followed 206 back to the cabin entrance road. Including the 201 stints, the day hike lasted about six hours and we must have covered about eight miles.

Trail 209 down to the river was fine. A BIG beech blocks the path at one point but other than that it was the usual moss-slippery rocks down a mostly dry cascade, typical for this time of year.

After we forded the Sipsey at the 209 crossing, we were pleased to discover that the section through the forty-acre privately owned area posed no serious obstacles. We did notice much more sky than we're accustomed to seeing when we reached the bluff which exposes Eye of the Needle and Ship Rock. Once back on the "official" 206, the situation deteriorated very quickly.

We carefully climbed over numerous downed trees to reach Eye of the Needle. I suppose the good news is that the nearby popular camping site in the shadow of Ship Rock no longer has a shortage of firewood.

Bart at Eye of the Needle
Larry crosses Hubbard Creek
We crossed through the Eye and returned to 206. That was about the last we saw of its former pathway. We walked another ten minutes north but we were following other newly contrived paths, all closer to Thompson Creek (and in the flood plane) than the original closer-to-the-bluff route. We encountered some overnight campers who had managed to navigate down from the Thompson Creek trailhead and they said the hiking conditions had all been this bad.

On the return, we crossed Thompson Creek earlier than usual and had to bushwhack along the west side. Perhaps not the best idea. The theory was that it is easier to cross two creeks with low water levels than one that is deeper – author not convinced despite wet socks due to a slip during the earlier fording of the Sipsey.

The western part of trail 206 threw a few larger obstructions in our face, either to be bypassed or crawled under depending on the length of one's legs.

All in all, it was a beautiful day to be outdoors. We ran into several groups of people camping along the river, most coming in from Randolph. The club had planned to hike trails 206 and 209 next month but we may need to rethink that idea.

For these and other photos, please see our Picasa Web Album Rippey 2011.

Submitted 20 October 2011
Text: Larry
Photos: Mimi

Trip Reports