Date: Friday - Sunday, 11 - 13 Apr 2014
Location: Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, Colbert County, Alabama
Trails: Devil's Hollow, Underbluff, Cane Creek, Steep
Members: Bart, Erica Robin, Jane, Jessica, Junior, Larry, Mimi, Sherry, Vanessa
Guests: Cole, Dana; Ruby (dog)
We adore this place and this year's outing was among the best ever. We had near perfect weather though it was a bit windy, requiring four of us to hold down the ground cloths to get tents mounted. The wind also scuttled a proposed Saturday night bonfire but the breeze was actually pretty welcome now and then while we were hiking.
The temperature ranged from the low 70's Fahrenheit during the daytime to low to mid 50's overnight. The moon was just a couple of days away from full. We hardly used the lanterns at all. Jane remarked that she wished she had brought an eye mask.
Mimi and I arrived Friday around 3:45 PM. We had just managed to get set up when Bart arrived; we just managed to get Bart set up when Sherry, Jessica, and Cole arrived. So the afternoon's main entertainment was setting up camp though a couple of us wandered down to the Waterfall, not too far from our campsite at the Small Point. Mimi, Sherry, Jessica, and Cole played frisbee before dinner, that consisting of grilled steak, chicken, and homemade fajitas that Dana contributed to her son's well-being.
After dinner and near dark, all but campfire-watcher Larry walked about a half mile to see Dismalites glowing under an outcrop near the Tree Fern Cave.
On Saturday, the self-proclaimed "not morning people" remained in their tents at 6:30 while Larry revived the fire and got the coffee percolating on the Coleman stove. We had only the one stove this time since Bart's antique - many times repaired, refurbished, re-you-name-it - finally refused to perform. Bart ostensibly seemed delighted to finally be forced into an opportunity to buy a new and presumably less cantankerous device. The rest of us assumed that he would just take it home and try to fix it again. After all, his stove is only about thirty years old; Gary's is forty and still in the original box. (Gary did not make this trip, opting to represent us at the Alabama Hiking Trails annual conference. We missed his biscuits at breakfast.)
Sherry is a volunteer at CCCNP and knows the trails rather well. She suggested that we all squeeze into a couple of the larger vehicles, drive to the northern entrance to the preserve, and hike our way back through Devil's Hollow and then down and east back to the campsite.
An excellent idea. The club had hiked all of this territory one time or another in past visits but we always started and looped from the campsite, making for kind of a long hike by the end and we may not have appreciated some of the splendid places to linger a moment along the way. Today, we kind of threw ourselves into some of the best spots while we were fresh and were able to still be attentive on the way back.
The northern end is all of about a ten minute drive from the south. That is one of the logistical niceties of this place - there is much to see but the preserve is not so large that it takes days to just cross it.
We began hiking at about 9:45 AM and were back at the campsite around 2:45 PM. Highlights of the day included: French's Shooting Stars, just starting to bloom; the Underbluff Trail where you literally walk under the bluff up quite a way from Devil's Hollow and the creek down below; Black Vulture and two eggs; Karen's Falls though an apparently unnamed cascade along the way provided some competition for scenic beauty; Creekside Campsite and three beaver dams, the latter functioning well enough to flood the trail at one point; a Columbo plant and two giant trilliums; Boulder Garden and the adjacent Steep Trail up to the Point with its spectacular view. Numerous privies along the way plus containers of fresh well water certainly eliminated some of the usual hiking trail concerns.
After catching our breath and retrieving the vehicles, six of us left for the Rattlesnake Saloon, some twenty miles away. Jessica and husband Paul met us there. We arrived about 4 PM. The restaurant does not serve alcohol (beer) until 5 PM but none of us seemed to particularly care. The food is not of the quality that deserves a serious wine or even Lite Beer list. But the atmosphere is great (sitting under a rock cliff), the food (like burgers, chicken fingers, onion rings) is better than most fast food places, and the clientele features all these cowboy types from the nearby horse camp plus what looked like refugees from Duck Dynasty. There were almost as many motorcycles as cars in the parking lot. It is worth a visit and we will probably be there again in spite of always saying we should find somewhere else.
The Saturday bonfire had to be called off due to breezy conditions but we managed to get a campfire going. Bart volunteered for safe campfire duty this evening while Larry, Mimi, Jane, and Sherry paid a visit to the Dismalites.
Larry was up early on Sunday to get the fire going and make coffee. This club does like its java. Jane even ordered coffee with dinner at the Rattlesnake Saloon which I thought was pretty gutsy.
We broke camp after breakfast. Larry, Mimi, and Sherry basically redid last night's moonlight hike but included the Tree Fern Cave and the Canyon Rim Trail with its scenic - though, for some of us, vertiginous overlooks - and then headed out, stopping at the house to express our sincere thanks to Jim and Faye Lacefield for taking such good care of this wonderful spot.
From Double Springs, CCCNP is about 45 miles or about an hour of driving. It can also be easily reached from US 72 for more northerly situated visitors. The preserve comes highly recommended for everyone from day hikers to backpackers and especially for wildflower and geology enthusiasts.
The club has become rather Facebook-centric as of late. If you wish to see more photos, Jessica has some excellent work publically posted on the Friends-of-Cane-Creek-Canyon-Nature-Preserve Facebook page. If you have a Facebook account, Mimi and Sherry have additional offerings as well. Where did we find all these good photographers who like to hike?
Submitted 20 Apr 2014
Photos: Jessica, Mimi, Sherry