Sipsey Wilderness
Trail 202, Feather Hawk Falls

Date: Saturday, January 14, 2012
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Trail: 202 - Randolph
Members: Cherie, Keith, Kelly, Larry
Guests: Phillip, Vickie

SWHC 14 Jan 2012 In spite of the 21 Fahrenheit temperature, six of us met up at the Randolph Trailhead by 8 AM. Those who had been planning to camp overnight on Friday apparently decided against it since the only cars present were our own.

Likewise despite the sun now shining brightly, clouds had deluged our intended route with heavy rainfall during most of the week. Though down from its peak on Thursday, the water gage on the Sipsey near the picnic grounds was reporting both the discharge rate and depth at above the 80th percentile. Our plan to take 202 to the river, cross it, hike 209 to Borden Creek, and then do yet another crossing – hey, that wasn't going to happen.
Not a serious problem, however. Author here happens to like trail 202 quite a bit and is of the mindset that walking a trail in one direction is a different experience from walking the same trail in the other direction. So not only is there nothing wrong with hiking out to a point and then returning the way you came, it may even be desirable. But I digress.

For some reason, we all pretended that we might be able to cross the Wild and Scenic Sipsey and thus we set out down 202, never minding that we didn't have any vehicles at the other end even if we could pull this off.

A very pleasant hike to the river. With abundant sunlight and an absence of leaves on the trees, we could see further back into the woods than usual. The hemlocks approaching the river are still magnificent, as was the waterfall near the end of 202. Just enough icicles to decorate the scene without inducing inordinate worry about getting too close.
falls at end of trail 202
walking toward Feather Hawk Falls We continued to the river and found it just as expected. While the current would probably not have knocked us over, no one expressed any interest in fording waist-deep 45 degree water. The banks themselves would have been formidable enough.

It had only taken us a little over an hour and a half on 202 since we were not carrying all that much gear and did not stop much. The trail itself was mostly clear though there are some new blowdowns, especially as you get closer to the river. All can be climbed over or detoured without much difficulty.

Before turning back, we decided to try to find Feather Hawk Falls, about a half mile distant. This was my third attempt and I finally remembered the easier route – keep the creek to the right and go up and over rather than hugging the stream when given a choice. This is bushwhacking but it's not as if nobody has ever been here before.

Feather Hawk Falls was gushing splendidly as were the little cascades below it. The rains may have scuttled our River Trail hike but they more than compensated with these beautiful waterfalls.

On the return walk, the temperature climbed to over 50 degrees. We encountered several groups of boy scouts out for a weekend campout. No hunters.

We were back at Randolph around 12:30. The total distance came in at least seven miles but probably not eight. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day.
Feather Hawk Falls

Submitted 16 Jan 2012
Text: Larry
Photos: Keith

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