Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lost On The Mountain

My father, my sister, and I went hiking again today. We intended to follow the route in my book, ("50 Hikes In Alabama.") to Bald Rock, but we ended up taking an unintentional shortcut and not making it to Bald Rock.
Olivia drove us in her Jeep to the Pinhoti trailhead just down the mountain from Cheaha State Park. We proceeded up the connector to the Pinhoti, and turned north. Soon we came to a hollow with green plants and the sound of running water.

                                                                 It was a bit foggy on the mountain. 
After passing through the greenery, we came to a flowing mountain stream. You can almost smell the water before you get to it, a clean, mountain scent.

Olivia had some issues crossing the streams, as she was wearing the wrong sort of shoes.
            Father tried to help her across them. She pushed on valiantly, despite not knowing that we were going hiking that day.  

We continued up and out of that hollow, then down into another. It rained last night, making the water features far more dramatic. We came across this vista:

 We crossed several more small, pleasant, mountain streams until we came to what the book calls a "sliding cascade." It was a large waterfall off to one side of the trail. These little greenery-filled valleys felt like something out of a Disney movie. Like a fairy glen or something. It was a very pleasant atmosphere.

I wish we could have set up a camp there, but I didn't see anywhere we could do that in the future. 
We continued down the seemingly endless trail, through pine forests and rock gardens, past sweeping vistas,
more beautiful mountain streams,
and eventually to the "Blue Mountain Trail Shelter."
 This is where the journey went a bit off-plan. The sign for the shelter was at a four way intersection of trails. We knew that somewhere nearby was the "Bald Rock Trail," but we did not know which trail it was. We decided to go to the trail that went vaguely in the right direction. After going down this trail for a while, I ended up farther ahead than the others. I began to think that this trail was not the Bald Rock Trail, but rather a service road. By this point the fog had begun to roll in more intently, though I suppose it was more likely just a cloud that we had climbed into.

 I saw the others not far behind, and continued forward. I climbed out of sight of the others, and stumbled across a length of PVC pipe running out of the ground and across the road. I knew I must be close to civilization, so I decided to go on, instead of waiting. I hung my Renovation Ministries bracelet on the pipe so the others would know they hadn't lost my trail. I rounded the next bend, and found a small cluster of loosely maintained buildings.
The rock one in the background said "Spring pump house" (or something to that effect) on the door, and that seemed to be the source of the stream this road had been following. I opened the door of the small wooden shack in the middle, only to be greeted by a flock of birds exiting the shack. Shortly after my heart began to beat again, the others caught up. We could see the tall radio tower to our left, and a collapsing asphalt road. We followed this road as the fog thickened.
 Soon, we emerged from the fog bank to see the sunset over the clouds.
We proceeded on until we found a gate with a sign stating "Service Road, do not enter."  Olivia observed that it did not say "Do Not Exit," so we continued to the paved road, where mother met us in the Yukon. We were very excited to see her. On the way out, we were treated to a last view of the sunset.
All in all it was a great trip. Despite some despair by some in the group thinking we were lost forever, we all seemed to benefit from the experience. In the end our unintentional short cut shaved off nearly a mile and a half from the journey, and we got to see where Cheaha gets some of its water. The mountains are always beautiful, but more so when you are truly out in them. There is nothing like being in nature to make a good day.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Patriot

This past weekend we headed down to Sylacauga to meet up with a Land Cruiser club to do some off roading and camping. Father and I met them at the Sylacauga walmart, and after getting some gas, we headed out to the forest. The first road we took ended up being impassable after a distance in. Though it was open on the map, it clearly had not been used much as fair sized trees were growing in the middle of it.
We didn't know it at the time, but this would be a forshadowing  of things to come. We decided to go the way that Clarence and I had gone previously, which did turn out to be open. We spent quite some time in the forest, we came to many dead ends, but it was fun. There were a few sections with pretty good rocks and hills, though for the most part we were on fairly good forest service roads. Most of the roads we tried that weren't main roads were either closed or dead ends. I rather wish we had more open roads out there. Many of the truly fun roads I have been on out there are now closed. But I digress. About halfway through the day, we came to one of these dead ends. After we turned around, we got back on the main road and turned right. After going about fifty yards down the road, we noticed three of the vehicles weren't behind us. We waited for a while for them to come around the curve, but they never did. Clarence and I took my Jeep back to see if they had gotten stuck or had broken down, but they were gone. We realized they must have gone left out of the road instead of right, and that the road network was too large to find them easily. Luckily, Clarence got a text from one of the lost, and we decided to just meet them at the campsite. We proceeded through the forest, which was very pleasant. The thin dirt road wound though hollows and around hills, over creeks and through fields. At one point we had even stumbled across a closed covered bridge, which was rather cool. Eventually we made it back to Tree Farm, the large campsite we camped at last year. My sisters Olivia and Ashley and my niece Lydia met us there. 

We set up our camp, and a few people began cooking. One member of the group was a competition level bar-b-q-er. We had our enormous tent-mansion.

Before too long, the three missing trucks found the campsite as well, and some time later two more vehicles came. We had ten vehicles in all at the campsite. The people who were there were all agreeable, I thought, and the food was good. I really enjoyed the large group camp. It made me wish we had a Jeep club locally.

You can see the smoker in this picture, the black canister. He used it to smoke some chicken, which was really good. 
Father was rather glad that Rowan and Lydia came. They were really good too, one would expect small kids to be less well behaved out in the wilderness. This campsite was good for the kids too, since it was just a big field.
This blur is Lydia.

I'll have to update this again when I get the pictures from father, but this is all I have for now.

Ps: I titled this the patriot because I had the only American made vehicle there.