Sipsey Wilderness
Valentine Pool and White Falls

Date: Saturday, March 17, 2012
Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Trails: 201 - Rippey, 209 - Sipsey River
Members: Anthony, Charlie, Cherie, Foster, Gary, Jennifer, Junior, Larry, Mimi
Guests: Gracie, Webster (dogs)

SWHC 17 Mar 2012 Eight of us met at the Randolph Trailhead at 8 AM. Gary came in the afternoon before in order to get in a night of camping. Theoretically, the rest of us would catch up with him in the morning.

The weather could not have been better with the temperature starting at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and rising to the middle 70's by the end. Mostly sunny with an occasional cloud but no threat of rain.

We walked up trail 201 for about a half hour before turning off-trail to the east towards the river, following a very degraded but recognizable old roadbed.

The hiking was perhaps more difficult than most of us had anticipated but proved to be a quite enjoyable type of challenge – something that requires a degree of effort but is still within the realm of possibility so you don't get discouraged. And we knew we only had to contend with about a mile of these tangled vines, downed trees, and minor stream crossings before things would get a whole lot easier.

On the other hand, the pace at which we slogged through all these obstacles could hardly be described as "quick". We did not reach the upper part of White Falls until 11 o'clock. But once there, the scenery put all our tribulations behind us.

White Falls is a two-tier affair with the shorter but wider upper falls pouring into the depression known as Valentine Pool, maybe 10 yards across – and heart-shaped, even for those with limited imagination.

Valentine Pool
top of the lower falls We climbed down to the pool and then followed the outflowing stream over to the top of the lower falls which drop at least 50 feet or more providing a good show from almost any angle.

After returning to our original vantage point overlooking Valentine Pool, most of us followed a steep and occasionally quite narrow trail to the bottom of the falls. This section comprised the most strenuous hiking of the day but no one had much problem.

Once down, we came upon a campsite not far from the falls which was occupied by two couples. A few hundred yards further brought us to another site and this is the one Gary used, though he had long given up on us by the time we arrived.

We thought of Gary as we had lunch at the campsite before following a path along the west side of the river to connect with trail 209. Then up the cascade and back onto 201 which usually poses no challenges, especially when walking south. There was one new blowdown but nothing insurmountable.

Charlie, who is a much better hiker than many of us, arranged this walk and I think he might have felt that maybe this one was too tough. On the contrary. Yes, we had to struggle through the off-trail stuff for a little while but the end result more than compensated us for our efforts. And we were here just at an ideal time when the falls had sufficient water to be impressive but not so much that the ground became soggy.

Foster bailed at Valentine Pool but we caught up with him and Gary on the way back to the trailhead in the afternoon. At over six hours, the day was longer than expected but everyone had a good time, even the dogs who managed to get along with each other after a while.

White Falls

For these and other photos, please see our Picasa Web Album Valentine Pool, White Falls, March 2012.

Submitted 07 Apr 2012
Text: Larry
Photos: Mimi, Jennifer

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