Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CCC Road- Morgan Lake/CR 24

The weekend before last, Brandon and I decided to go backpacking.

We selected a hike from the CC road, where Dad and I left off last time, to CR 24 at Morgan lake. (The paved road to Cheaha.) It was said to be 7 miles, and looked like it followed along various creeks, including Hillaby Creek.
Dad joined us for the first two miles or so, and the three of us set off from the end of the accessible CC road. A short distance down that road was the thin snaking path of the Pinhoti. We began down this path, contemplating the sheer distance that this walking path network could take you. The Pinhoti meets with the Benton Mackaye trail, which connects to the Appalachian Trail, leading all the way to Maine.
Just down the trail stood the stoic, bullet ridden sign stating the distances to various landmarks.

That top one used to read "CR 24   7." This distance again proved to be incorrect, but less so than normal.
I am not sure exactly why, but it seems as though it rains bullets in the national forest, as every man made object out there is full of bullet holes.
We then proceeded along the trail, which wound through different microbiomes. There were pine forests, smaller thickets, and large, more open stretches with really old trees and a thick canopy.
Before long, we came to a place called Zulu Canyon. It was a pleasant little canyon with a fire ring and some logs for sitting. We took a brief break there.
After this, the trail followed along a creek for some distance.

 Eventually, we came to a slightly uphill stretch, where dad decided to turn back. He had planned to accompany us for a little ways, and ended up going further than planned. We waved goodbye and headed deeper into the wilderness.

Before long, we came to a power line cut.

Shortly thereafter, we came to the area of Hillaby Creek.

 There was a campsite with a fire ring there, and the trail crossed the creek. Brandon and I sat down to eat a small snack. We observed that someone had left a fair amount of stuff there, some old underwear, jeans, a fly or ground tarp of  a tent, and some assorted trash. We speculated about bigfoot attacks and the like, and then headed on. It hadn't rained recently, so the creek wasn't too deep, but it was wide. I can see how it would be a major obstacle in the wet season. I crossed it fairly easily in my boots, but Brandon was wearing tennis shoes. He opted to cross barefoot, which seemed cold, judging by his exclamations.
It was a beautiful area. We sat there for a little while as Brandon dried his feet.

 The write up I printed from the Pinhoti Trail Alliance website said that the next reliable water was about 2 miles down the trail, so we set off in that direction. There was a pretty steep climb after the creek, but the trail went back down to the creek valley again. We came to the spot the write up was talking about, a flat area between two converging creeks in a stony, low, cool valley. We set up our camp there, in the remote gap carved in the earth. The atmosphere of this valley was very cool.

This stretch of trail appeared to be extremely remote, and very rarely trekked. We did not see another hiker the whole trip, and the campsites had very little trash or appearance of use. Many popular campsites have very little wood, due to other people using all the dry wood. This wasn't a problem here, as the stone fire ring was the only sign that people had ever been here. We managed a pretty good stack of dryish wood, but none of it was bone dry. The valley ground was fairly moist, even though it hadn't rained much. None the less, we managed a pretty good fire after a little while.

We ate dinner and sat by the fire talking for a while before retiring to our shelters.
We did find a jar of instant coffee under a log, with a 2005 expiration date. Brandon and I debated whether or not it would burn, and eventually he sprinkled some of it on the fire. It made some sparks, then a blazing fireball. I say its likely that that is what gave life to our fire.
I slept well, falling asleep to the recognizable "Who cooks for yooou?" of a Barred owl. I then woke up around 6:45 the next morning with flecks of sunlight hitting the trees a hundred feet above the camp.

We ate some cheese grits for breakfast and broke camp. The sun still low in the eastern sky, we set out.

That tree had fallen over the trail, leaving only a small accessible path toward the base of it. The trail was still following along a creek here, giving a cool atmosphere and flat walking.

 This soon changed however, when the trail turned toward the sky and caused us to exert a tremendous effort scaling these hills. The last two or three miles of the trail were by far the hardest. With each hill, the trail would track to the summit, we would rest for a minute, then it would decent a bit only to turn up again. Eventually we came to an old roadbed, and the trail followed along it. Following this for some distance, we came to an ambiguously marked crossroad.
 We stayed here for a moment, resting and consulting the map. In the distance, we heard a motorized sound, and thought for a moment that we may be close to the road that ran by the lake where we had parked the Jeep, but then we noticed that the sound was getting closer. Soon, a four wheeler whipped around the corner and jumped over a hump before speeding off into the distance. We waved, but he didn't acknowledge us. Nor did the second four wheeler, which came by a few minutes later.
We hiked on, down into another creek valley, until we could hear the road pretty clearly. Coming around another corner, we saw the causeway of the road. About a hundred yards from the road, I stepped on a loose part of the trail. The edge of the trail gave way into the valley below, and I fell to the ground. I threw myself backwards to land on my pack, and something in all that prevented me from falling down the cliff. I got back up, and we walked out of the forest onto CR 24. However, (pardon the pun) we weren't out of the woods yet. The Jeep was still a little ways up the road at Morgan Lake. So we waited for traffic to clear, and then crossed the road. We walked on the side of the road for a short ways and came to the turn of the lake's road. We walked a ways down, and soon we saw the Jeep.
At the end, we had hiked 9.3 miles.
We left there, showered, and then went and got some nice steaks. All in all, it was a great  hike.There weren't the dramatic views of the more southerly hikes, but the beauty of the stream valleys easily made up for it. Like all of the hikes i've been on, it was pretty great.  

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