Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bald Rock-CCC Road Hike

This last Saturday, Dad and I decided to hike from Bald Rock down to the CCC Road. On the map it claimed to be less than three miles.
We set out walking down the Bald Rock boardwalk, and then turned back east heading down the mountain.
The view from Bald Rock

About half a mile later, we hit the Pinhoti Trail, and turned northwest on it. The road where we had left the Jeep was only a few miles as the crow flies, but that distance is rarely similar to the actual walking distance. 
We stopped in a rocky area not far along to adjust our bags. 

Father had most of his stuff attached to the outside of a fairly small backpack, which worked, though not optimally. He carried a tent and an air mattress, as well as a fairly large sleeping bag. 
The area here was fairly nice, on a hump protruding off of Cheaha. 
 The occasional view would peak through the trees, though the intensive growth obscured most of the dramatic views. 
 The trail then began to follow the relatively flat ridgetop, which had thicker brush. 

We also noticed that the trail here was lined with a huge amount of Poison Oak. 
We continued along, stopping to check the map at times. 
The trail continued, often no more than a faint track winding along the side of the mountains, changing environments as we trekked along. There were more open areas with low shrubs and enormous, ancient trees, 
 and areas where the trail passed through fern filled gullies carved by small streams over the last couple millennia.
We left fairly late in the day, as we were planning on staying the night, and the sun began to get low in the sky. 

The GPS claimed that there was a "Spring Crossing" ahead, so we decided to aim for that as a campsite. When we arrived there, we found a small, bubbling stream emerging from within the earth, and a pleasant grove of trees. The spring was nestled in a little valley on the west side of the blue mountain ridge, with the late evening sun casting a red-orange glow on the area. In the middle, there was an enormous Longleaf pine tree that could have easily been 200 years old, based on its size. Since we had not seen any people, or any recent sign of people, we decided to camp close to the trail. The large pine tree had a flat place behind it large enough for Dad's tent, and I easily found a place to hang my hammock. 

Father and I both ate Mountain House freeze-dried meals, I had beef stroganoff and he had chicken and rice. 
We sat by the fire for a while, and then went to bed. 
 The following morning,we woke up around six. The sun had not yet risen over the sizable hill behind us, but there was a fair amount of light. 
  It was a rather nice campsite. 

We boiled some water and made some cheese grits for breakfast, and then began to pack up camp. 

As we hiked away from there, the trail continued to meander back and forth around more valleys, following the contour lines. 

For the first mile or two, there were deep gorges dropping off to the side of the trail, but the valley was slowly beginning to get closer as the trail slowly descended. Father and I commented on how the Pinhoti was a lot like an art museum, with each tree, rock, view, spider web, and even mushroom being like a different work of art, created by God and placed out there in the wild. 
Some of these trees were enormous. The area must not have been logged or otherwise affected by civilization for many years. 

 Eventually, the trail meandered down to the bottom of the valley, where the long-closed CCC road was. The Jeep was parked at the end of the open part of the road, about a mile from the Pinhoti. 

We walked down this lonely road, passing the hand-built rock arches placed by Civilian Conservation Coreists. After a fairly short ways, we came to the barriers placed in an attempt to keep vehicles out of this portion of road, and we saw the Jeep sitting there, unvandalized. (We were somewhat worried.) 
It was a great hike, fairly short, but really quite good. Everything worked well, and went more or less according to plan. We even managed to have a nice campfire. I always enjoy spending good time with Dad like this, and I always enjoy being in the wild. With there being no trailheads or significant landmarks for many miles in the direction we went, I suspect there are very few people who ever walk this part of the trail. We never did see another human, or even any real sign of humans. Nothing but a single cracker wrapper, which was tattered and ancient. I think the next section I wish do do is the valley between the CCC road and C.R. 24/ Morgan Lake. It'll be a long stretch, but a good one for the dry season with it being in such a wet area. At the beginning of this I mentioned that the map and the signs claimed that this hike was three miles, plus the one mile of CCC road. This is what my GPS said at the end. 
 I'm not sure what unit of measurement they use, I suppose they are just measuring as the crow flies... 

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