Friday, October 14, 2011

White Rock Rim Loop

Last weekend, I took my 7 year old out for a hike on the White Rock Rim Loop. I have been eying this hike for some time. I knew the tree colors would be peaking soon and was eager to go. The one part that concerned me a bit was the many "cautions" I had read about the bluffs and children. Then I had a nightmare that we took our puppy and she went over one of the bluffs too. In the end, it all worked out. Hubby ended up twisting his ankle the night before, so he stayed home with the other kids and the pup while I took Little Miss with me...she is my hiking buddy.

I will not lie. The drive there was a challenge. The first part of the drive was breathtaking due to the fall trees. And it was paved. The second part of the drive consisted of narrow dirt roads climbing a mountain. There were a few parts I was nervous on, either due to the lack of a shoulder or to the nature of the people who lived along the route (from what I could tell). But I was determined, so we pressed on.

Thankfully there was wonderful signage on the way up the mountain. Between that and Google Maps, I had NO trouble finding White Rock. Finding the hiking trail was a bit more challenging but thankfully it is not that big of an area. We finally found the parking spots for the trail. There were some bathrooms (nothing fancy) at the site. Then we headed out for the 2 mile hike.

This is the first sign that greeted us.

Not only is there a warning about the cliffs but also one about black bears. I would love to see a bear at some point but I don't know that I want to be on a cliff when I do. :)

We hiked down a trail (very wide) that had numerous picnic tables along the way. I was beginning to wonder where we were headed when this view greeted us.
I was a bit confused about which way to go. The trail was not clearly marked (though there was a definite trail once we found it). Thankfully we saw some people who gave us a brief description of where to go.
The trail really does consist of walking around the rim of White Rock Mountain. And the view was just breathtaking. There were several high cliffs. I would be very cautious about taking young children. I think we could have taken the youngest but we would have held his hand the entire time. My 7 year old is very cautious and would only step out partway on the cliffs. I was a little braver which is a bit ironic considering my fear of heights. I would have been a wreck if the puppy had been with us even on her leash.
There were several areas that made me think there could be a creek or some running water but it was very dry when we were there.
Along the trail there were pavilions every so often with benches and rails. It was nice to stop and truly take in the view.
The colors were beautiful.

We also enjoyed the rock formations along the way.

At one point, we had to cross the road (one of the few "non scenic" parts of the trail) but thankfully it was marked with signs. What was interesting to me was that this trail marker was kind of in the middle of nowhere. Not sure why.

At the end of the hike (or could be the beginning depending on the way you hiked it) there was a pavilion with an incredible view. One neat thing was the direction/mileage markers along the "rock railing" of the overlook. It was neat to see how far we were from other places in the state. The funny thing is that this shows us as being about half an hour from home (if we could have gone straight there) but with the roads and curves, it was an hour and a half drive.

I imagine this trail would be incredible at sunrise or sunset.

I would characterize this trail as easy except for the hill out (though it wasn't as steep as others I have been on). It was fairly even all the way around. The part of the trail that was more difficult was that the plants were overgrown. We often had to push our way through plants that crowded the narrow paths. It is probably one of the more dangerous paths I have hiked with a child though I didn't feel like my daughter was in danger. I just encouraged her to stay to the side and away from the edge. As far as scenery goes, it was an amazing view almost all of the time. Well worth the drive (though I did have to have a carwash afterwards). We (daughter and I) give it two thumbs up.

Happy Hiking!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Alum Cove Natural Bridge

About a week ago, we took a little drive over to Alum Cove Recreation Area to hike the "Natural Bridge". It took us a little longer to get there than it should have, but it was well worth the drive. (Hint: Find the SHORTEST way possible BEFORE you leave the house. Once near the Buffalo River, cell service is scant and so are your chances of searching for the next direction...)

I have to say, a good GPS (or in our case, our phone when it would work) helped a lot because the signage to get to this was NOT easy.

But we were determined, and we finally made it.

This hike is a short hike...1.1 miles. It is also not particularly strenuous other than a few inclines. However, I will list it as moderate due to those. (To get an "easy" label, it has to be about as flat as a pancake which is near impossible in our state) It was a kid friendly hike though, as well as dog friendly. We took our pup for the first time; she LOVED it.

After making our way down the hill (gradually and with several benches along the way), we came to the Natural Bridge almost immediately. I wasn't expecting that! This bridge is really neat; it is over 130 feet long and one of the longest natural bridges in the area. There should be a creek beneath it but we have been without rain for quite a while. When you are on the bridge, you don't realize how incredible and vast it is until later when you are UNDER it.
The path is fairly narrow and mostly dirt/rocks. But we didn't have any difficulty maneuvering it.
There were typically "stairs" if you had to go up or down. That helped quite a bit.

The scenery throughout the hike was beautiful.

There were several "bluffs" to walk around/through.
Just look at these rocks...amazing!
The kids had a grand time running through and climbing some of the rock formations.

I imagine this is a creek during the wet times of the year...

Absolutely beautiful
This is a view (a sneak peek) UNDER the natural bridge. I told you, you can't get the full awesomeness unless you go under it...)
And one more view from the top of the bridge before we headed back up the hill (which to me was the hardest part of the hike :)
All in all, this was a kid friendly hike. In terms of scenery, it was one of my favorites. I think there is even a waterfall IF we had had any rain). It was very peaceful (other than when my kids were all talking at once) and a good starting hike for the pup who had no trouble keeping up even with her short little legs.

I hope we get to go back!

Happy hiking!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Devil's Den: The Lake Trail

Last weekend, I was ready to be out in some fall weather. But our time was fairly limited. So we hopped in the car and drove on over to Devil's Den. We have been there several times, but I was determined to try a new trail. The Lake Trail sounded perfect. It is 1 mile round trip (not a loop), and is on the "easy" list.

Unfortunately, I failed to read the fine print on the Devil's Den State Park site. The lake has been drained for some repair. Oops!

The path itself follows Lee Creek to Lake Devil (when there is a lake).
The one part of the trail I was really looking forward to was the suspension bridge. I saw a perfect "photo" op in my future. Apparently I didn't read the fine print on that one either. I had totally forgotten about the whole flooding issue we had in the spring when we had some torrential rains. As we approached the bridge, I noticed it looked a little...out of sorts.

Then I realized it was completely taped off due to the debris still left from the floods. No photo ops here, at least not the kind I had planned on. :)

As you approach the dam, you can't help but be struck with the beautiful rocks they used to build it. The water near the dam is typically a blue/green color from what I have read. But for right now, it is a very deep brown.
Here is Lake Devil. Well, where Lake Devil normally would be...
Looking out toward Lee Creek
We saw a lot of what I would guess was flood damage. Even then, it was beautiful. I imagine when we have had more rain, water would be flowing along some of these areas.
On our return to the car, my oldest son remarked how beautiful the trees were lining the path. I agree! He insisted I take a picture.
This wasn't actually on the trail but as we drove away from the trail to visit another one, this guy (about as big as my hand) was crossing the road. I had to take a picture but I did use gave me the heebie jeebies!

The trail itself was easy and probably is fairly scenic when there is no flood damage and no drained lake. Very kid friendly. However, it wasn't quite enough for my kids. They wanted more adventure. So we headed over to our usual Devil's Den trail (which I cannot believe I haven't posted about before; I will have to fix that this week) for some rock climbing and more hiking fun.

As I emerged from the end of the trail, I was struck again at how beautiful our state is...especially in the fall!

Happy hiking!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kings River Falls

On Father's Day, we decided to take a little hike. The weather was actually cloudy and a bit cool when we left our house, so I was a little nervous we would drive and then get rained out. I had been wanting to combine a hike with a little waterplay, so I thought Kings River Falls would be a good place to explore. I have seen it listed in several hiking books and a swimming hole book. It was time to check it out ourselves. I wish I could tell you directions to get there. It was not easy, and I would have you ending up in another state. I will say if you head to Huntsville, then head out of town, it is that direction. It was a LOT of driving on very rocky dirt roads too. Just when you think you won't ever get there, there is the trailhead. The books all say that is only 1.2 miles long, round trip. My husband and I don't agree with that but I have no evidence to tell you otherwise. I wish I had worn my pedometer. It was more walking than I had planned on. It is also listed as an easy hike. I don't know if I totally agree with that either. It wasn't difficult or overly hilly. But it wasn't smooth sailing either. It is a very rocky trail and there were some slight inclines. I was fairly worried about twisted ankles. But then I have been on tougher; I wasn't overly out of breath at any point. I would call it a moderate easy. :) Here is the only sign that there is a trail. The trail is not very wide and is surrounded by really tall weeds. I would do a tick check after leaving there. And watch for slithery creatures...
The first part of the trail you are walking along the edge of a field (private property) on one side, a creek (which was pretty dry) on the other.
At one point, you come across a rock wall between you and the field. Apparently the wall is from a long time ago. I wonder how much time it took to build it?
There were also some pretty bluffs (not very big) in the area. Then finally you come to the waterhole and the "falls". From pictures I have seen, the water was VERY low this visit due to lack of rain in the area. But there was still a nice little area to swim. I think the waterfall is typically much wider.There were some nice little bluffs to jump from. If you jumped toward the center, the water was deep enough to not break any bones. :) Oh, the water was a bit chilly but that didn't stop my kids from jumping in repeatedly.
It wasn't the biggest swimming hole but it was quite popular. By the time we left, there were several people there swimming, jumping, laying in the sun, and exploring.

I knew with woods and water and warm weather, seeing a snake was a very real possibility. Sure enough, there was one (and supposedly another) swimming in the swimming hole too. It was just a water snake that tried to stay away from people as much as possible. I also saw a really large black snake along the trail on the way out. However, as soon as it heard us, it slithered away as quickly as possible.
One of the sights on the way back to the car. It was more beautiful than the picture shows.
Walking along the creek...
A neat little bridge to cross (which probably comes in handy when there is more water flowing).
Overall, it was a fun little hike (just longer than we expected). I would love to go back after a really good rainfall. My kids thoroughly enjoyed it and have already asked to return. We would probably frequent it more often if it were a bit closer and not such a bumpy ride. But I have a feeling we will be going back. In terms of kid safety, it was very safe. No dangerous spots during the hike. Just be careful at the swimming hole/waterfall (or any body of water). The water does get deep pretty quickly.

Happy hiking!