Big climbs and big pigs

I’m tired and sore.  I’ve spent the last two days hiking in Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness. Hard work and a lot of fun.

As I headed out on Thursday, I had careful driving directions, checked out on every site I could find. Even so, That didn’t account for badly marked roads. I finally drove back to Sparta, had a sandwich, and got directions from two ladies in a store. After a bit of waggling about, I finally got on the right track.

Then I came upon this sign:

I pulled into the parking lot and looked about and saw no signs of any other markers or signage. I had seen pictures of various signs at the trailhead, but these were not in evidence. So I jumped back in the truck and drove down the road a bit before deciding there was nothing else and going back to the original sign and parking lot.

I unloaded and set forth.

I found some of the missing signage about 150 feet down the trail, just out of site of the parking lot. Weird.

The first leg of the journey is pretty straight forward. It’s heavily wooded and gently hilly. The trail is easy to follow although poorly blazed. This is pretty much true for the whole trail. I wonder what happens when it becomes covered with autumn leaves.

The day was hot and really humid. I removed my hat and substituted a pink bandanna.

I next came to the ford across Laurel Creek.

I decided that this was a good spot for a break so I sat down on a rock.  Apparently my pink bandanna made me look like a big ole flower as a hummingbird came to check me out very thoroughly.

Fording the creek was an easy matter as there was little water running.  I bet this would be much more impressive after a big rain.

Just across the creek is the first campsite.  But I trudged on.

From here forward the creek travels through a gorge.   The trail travels parallel to that gorge, often going high above.  It is surrounded by huge outcropping of limestone, often in walls.  The creek itself is mostly covered by fallen limestone boulders.  They are also scattered down the sides, sized as big as a house.  Quite impressive.

This all leads to some rough travel.  The trail goes higher above the gorge and gets rougher as you clamber over rock.  My knees started complaining.  I’ve lost some muscle from lack of heavier exercise thanks to the IT Band.  So my knees felt unstable and generally achy.

I finally came to the approach to:

This entailed a climb down a boulder strewn scree.  Slightly scary, and at this point, my knees complained.

This time of year the big falls are not so big.  I’ve seen pictures of them as a raging torrent.  Right now, not so much.

But they provide a water source and there was an authorized campsite at hand, so I decided to settle in for the evening.

I set up camp and settled in with the book I had stuck in my pack.  After a bit I heard voices.  The first people I had seen, a woman and two men.  They were German.  We chatted for a minute.  I think they were surprised to see me, though I expected to see someone as there was a car in the lot when I pulled in.

As the sun lowered, I realized that being down in the gorge meant it would be dark for me pretty early.  So I heated up some water for my freezer bag dinner, Alfredo Mashers. Pretty good, even though I had forgotten any salt packs.

Before getting settled in for the evenings, I climbed down to the falls’ base to catch some more water. This pretty much entails getting wet, so I stripped off my shirt. Good thing I had the place to myself.

As the sun disappeared, I sat looking up trying to figure out what kind of little birds I was seeing zipping around way up over my head. Then I realized they were bats catching mosquitoes.

I changed into a soft shirt for sleeping, then heated some water for a cup of hot chocolate spiked with a bit of Bailey’s. That’ll help you sleep, achy knees or not. I woke up once and had managed to worm my way out of my bag and was laying on the pad with the bag on top of me. Weird.

I was awake for good about 5:00 a.m. and it was still pitch black out. I laid there for a while watching for any sign of light. That really didn’t show until 6ish. Then I climbed out and heated water for coffee and oats.

I lolled around camp for a bit, being generally lazy and watching a chipmunk pop up from behind various rocks. Then after dressing and tending to what ablutions I can in camp, I made a little video which I’ll try to post in a minute.

I packed up and headed out. Surprisingly, the knees didn’t bother at all on the trip back.

Since I had a better idea of the trail, I looked around a lot more. The size of some of the fallen rock is amazing. But there does not seem to be any recent falls as the slopes are well treed. I would like to see one of those huge things when it went down.

I wish I knew something about mushrooms and toadstools. There are all kinds in all colors and shapes.

When I got back to the ford, I sat down on the same rock. Then I was again buzzed by what was probably the same hummingbird. Even without my pink bandanna.

As I traveled the last leg I heard a deep grunt sound. I looked in that direction but couldn’t spot anything. It sounded like a boar, but I thought, “there aren’t boars here!” Then I heard it again. I reached around to the side of my pack and grabbed my bug spray as at least some defense. My thoughts were running to a wild dog. I started edging down the trail all the while looking to my left. Then I spotted one, then more.

Wild hogs. There were five or six of them. They looked just like the picture in the link. Fortunately, they wanted nothing to do with me and started heading away fast. By then I was scrambling to get my camera out of my pocket, but it was too late to get the shot.

A bit later I ran into the only other people I saw on the trail, two guys from Nashville. We chatted for a minute then headed on.

I was glad to see my truck in the lot. I was soaked with sweat and getting hungry.

I’m trying to embed my little campsite video from Flickr.   I’ve only done it from Youtube before this.  If it works, and if you watch, please excuse the poor audio.  It was the first time I’ve tried to narrate a video while shooting and really didn’t give much thought to how far away I was holding the camera from my face.  The tiny mic is on the front of the camera.

For some reason the end of the video is cut off.  I may try to fix it later, but it  mostly shows every thing I intended to show.  It just cuts off a portion of my scintillating commentary.


~ by susancyclist on September 4, 2010.

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