Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina, October 4, 2019.

Sassafras Mountain, SC (3,560') October 4, 2019.

Directions:  Route 178 (from I-85) to the town of Rocky Bottom to Road 199 (or F. Van Clayton Highway). Drive 5 miles up hill, park and follow a small path the rest of the way.  (This highpoint was much easier to find than anticipated.)

Visited Sassafras Mountain for the second time, this time with my friend Sandy.  

The transformation of this highpoint is remarkable - see my first report of 2009 to truly understand how far it has come.  

The broken sign has been replaced.

Nice new sign.
The wide path up is concrete, with a less steep path that is considered handicap access but it's gravel and I can't imagine a wheelchair using it.
Wide path up - I'd think wheelchairs would fare better here.

As we rounded the corner we were greeted with a black line, indicating the border of South and North Carolinas, which led to the overlook.
The black line halves the overlook structure.

Very nice overlook.

Top of the overlook with the black border.

Most impressive to me was the transformation of the cell tower area.  Below was what we found in '09.  Note the small block center of the photo next to the resting cell tower.  That's the USGS marker.

In 2009. this appeared to be an abandoned site.

Today, that USGS marker is still there, as is the small building on the right. Everything else has changed.....

Same view in 2019.

In 2010 the land was transferred and is under the care of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.   Thanks to Duke Energy, the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund, Pickens County, the Felburn Foundation, the SC Heritage Trust and private donors, this highpoint received the honor it deserves.

Randy works for DNR as steward here - and snake catcher!

AT Approach/Len Foote Hike Inn Loop, Georgia, September 21, 2019

Appalachian Trail (AT) Approach/Len Foote Hike Inn Loop, Dawsonville, Georgia, 9/21/19

Mileage: 10.3 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 2195'

Directions to trailhead: Hike begins at Amicalola Falls State Park, 418 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd, Dawsonville. From Ellijay, take GA 52 East approximately 20 miles.  Entrance is on the left. There is a $5 fee to park.  

To access the trailhead via car take a left at the Visitor Center (onto Top of the Falls Road) and then take the second right to a group of parking lots.  Park in the third (and highest) lot.  Trailhead is well signed.

The Appalachian Trail Approach is a 7.3 mile trail that begins at beautiful Amicalola Falls State Park and ends at the summit of Springer Mountain - the Springer Mountain summit marks the start of the AT, a south-to-north 2,192 mile long-distance path. AT hikers can choose to reach Springer via this trail, though not required as it's not part of the AT.

Hiked with Rich today.  I'd been wanting to check out the Len Foote Hike Inn (only accessible on foot) but read that the trail to it is a just a 5-mile-500-feet-gain hike and was looking for a bit more of a workout.  The AT Approach trail runs somewhat parallel to the Len Foote Hike Inn Trail allowing us to combine the trails for a more substantial loop hike. 

We planned to walk the loop clockwise, up the AT Approach Trail first thinking it would be a more rugged ascent.

We signed in at the Visitors Center and paid the $5 to park. Some choose to first climb the stairs up the falls before starting up the AT Approach trail. We asked at the info desk and were told by park staff that adding the 604 steps that led from the bottom to the top of the falls before beginning the loop makes for 14 mile mile hike; without the stairs it would be 12. This is incorrect (it's best to do your own research before heading out). We decided against the stairs and headed right to the trailhead.  (If this is your first time to Amicalola Falls, take the stairs - the falls are beautiful!)

Several other hikers were at the trailhead when we arrived.  The beginning of the hike didn't go well for me. Right out the gate I tripped, fell and banged up my knee.  Then a few miles in I lost my sunglasses, the third expensive pair lost in as many years.  

Still, it was a good day in the woods!

Upper parking lot (there are bathrooms).

After tripping, I brushed myself off, wiped my bleeding knee and continued on (after all, I still could walk!).  The AT Approach and Len Foote Hike Inn Trails start together for the first five minutes or so, then split off.

Trails run concurrent.

Who trips and falls on this?!

We crossed a road (we'd be crossing several on this loop).

Road crossing.

Two years ago we took the short route up to Springer Mountain to see the beginning of the AT - see previous report. (We've also hiked the northern end of the AT, Mt. Katahdin - see previous report. Guess now we have to start working on the in-between!)

Springer would've been too long a hike today.

The ascent is so gradual, with many small "ups."  According to the map, we'd been on Amicalola Mountain and the trail appears to visit the summit of Frost Mountain.  

Another road.


Another road.....

We passed at least eight campsites the first ten minutes into the hike.  My first thought was "if I was starting the AT no way would I be camping the first mile on the Approach Trail." But not everyone wishing to camp is hiking the AT, and southbound AT thru-hikers use these sites for overnight stays after finishing their journeys.

Many campsites on either side of the trail.

We enjoyed the rooty trail, all of it in the woods (no views). The long stretch of PUDs (pointless ups and downs) continues just over four miles before reaching the Len Foote Hike Inn trail junction.

Finally!  The trail junction.

I expected the junction to be very well marked and truly, it would be hard to miss this sign but if you do, you're headed up to Springer!  We turned right and swung east, through lush greenery.

The day was heating up and so was the Galax, a flowering plant whose thick skunk smell permeated the air.  A mile after the junction we reached the Len Foote Hike Inn.  The Inn offers bunks (max is 3 people to a room), dinner, breakfast and lunch.  And showers.  We stopped to eat in the dining hall then headed down the "five-mile-500'-gain" path.  

Mile markers along the way.

The Inn path wasn't that wimpy. It too had a number of ups and downs.  By the end we were ready to be done and headed for a beer!

A place to rest. The path considers all fitness levels.

After the boots came off we drove back to the Visitor Center to sign out and see if someone turned in my sunglasses.  Behind the visitor Center is the famous arch.

The AT Approach Trail isn't memorable for it's challenge or views, but it was exciting to be walking the path so many travel in anxious anticipation of their first miles, days, weeks and months of such an extraordinary long-distance trail. 

We had a beer at Cartecay River Brewing Company afterward. 

Someone found and turned in my glasses!  Love hikers....

Alltrails map.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Inglis Falls, Owen Sound, Ontario, August 21, 2019

Inglis Falls via Harrison Park, Hub and Bruce Trails, Owen Sound ON, 8/21/19.

Mileage: 4.2 miles RT

Elevation gain: 270'

Directions to trailhead: Hike begins at Harrison Park, 75 2nd Ave E, Owen Sound, ON, Canada. Once in the park, access the trail via Mile Drive Trail or through the campground.  Trail entrance is adjacent to a park bridge (see map below).

The Bruce Trail is a 550 mile long point-to-point footpath in Ontario that stretches from the Niagara River to Tobermory.  It is the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in Canada. The trail offers spectacular bay and cliff viewpoints as it follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. Click here for more information on the Bruce Trail.

Hiked with Toby today.  We did a quick hike in Wiarton in the morning (to Spirit Rockbefore heading southeast to Owen Sound.

At Harrison Park we parked the car and walked past picnic tables and playgrounds looking for the entrance to the trails. The camp office helped us out with directions and a park map. (This map is limited to park amenities and shows only the entrance to the trail system.)   

Instead of passing through the campground, we opted to cross a lower bridge and walk "Mile Drive Trail" to the end, where we crossed a second bridge and found the trail entrance on the left.

Park entrance (Photo courtesy of Woodall's).

Just past the bridge is a sign. Turn left.

Trail starts slightly uphill.

The route to the falls is well marked and getting there is easy provided you pay attention to blazes and signs.  There are plenty of lefts and rights; a labyrinth of trails - all lovely paths.  

There's a left up ahead.

Blue blazed side trail connects to the Bruce Trail. Turn right.

We crossed power lines - with beautiful wild flowers.

The route is an entertaining combination of woods, streams, fields and power lines - and an arboretum!

There's not a lot of uphill trekking, particularly in the first half of the hike.

After you pass the buildings and parking of the Grey Sauble Arboretum, the trail swings left and downhill.  There are cross trails in this area but the main trail is pretty obvious.

Approaching the arboretum.

Slight downhill.

Cross the Sydenham River here.

There's a trail junction here where the side trail from Harrison Park (blue) meets the Hub trail (red). Follow the red and blue to the junction of the Bruce Trail.

And just like that, we were on the Bruce Trail.

It's exciting to be on the Bruce Trail -  I wanted to follow it to the end!  (That would take us weeks.) But today Inglis Falls will be our turnaround.

This portion of trail briefly follows the river; very cool and soothing. Salmon make the swim from Georgian Bay to here to spawn in the fall.  Many come to view this event.

There are several boardwalks over wet areas.

And just as we were feeling zen, the path turns rooty and rugged, giving us our first serious incline. 

One of a series of uphills (got our blood going).

Love this little path between a mini "escarpment."

The uphill is short lived and we're back on the flat in no time.  We'd pretty much topped out; the falls is a few minutes' walk from here.

We passed restrooms and the Discovery Center, crossed the parking lot and continued for a few hundred feet to an overview of the falls.

The approach.

The Discovery Center is housed in an old mill.

The falls are a spectacular 59 feet tall. Beyond the falls the Bruce Trail continues with a series of stairs leading down, allowing visitors access to the bottom of the cascade.  

Witness the Sydenham River spilling down the Niagara Escarpment.

View from the top of the falls.

After many photos, we headed back to Harrison Park, following the signs and blazes through the many rights and lefts that led us back to our car. On the way back we stopped in at Big Bay General Store for ice cream!

The falls are a must-see and for sure I will be back on the Bruce Trail in the future.  

Map of Harrison Park.  Trail head is at the top.