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.

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