Leaf Peeping

Posted on 10 Oct 2022 by Steve Markham

Two outings during the peak of colorful fall foliage. Captions will come later–I’m headed out the door to Colorado Springs until Thursday night. If I make a stub of a post like this, I can hopefully update the text remotely.

Our first Fall adventure was to hike Cat Mountain with the Packs and Will. It was a beautiful day and the leaves were everything we hoped for.

Edgecomb pond was very still when we passed it on the way up Cat
Edgecomb pond was very still when we passed it on the way up Cat
Adele was done hiking just a little before we got to the top, but she made it eventually
Adele was done hiking just a little before we got to the top, but she made it eventually
Lewis is pointing to Uncas, where we camped this summer
Lewis is pointing to Uncas, where we camped this summer
We all enjoyed lunch together on top
We all enjoyed lunch together on top
Will enjoyed sitting on the cliff. Look at those trees!
Will enjoyed sitting on the cliff. Look at those trees!
Every time I go hiking with Janet I think 'I don't go hiking with Janet enough!'
Every time I go hiking with Janet I think 'I don't go hiking with Janet enough!'

On Friday I left for a solo trip to Wilcox Wild Forest. I’ve been to Bennett/Middle/Murphy several times, but never to other attractions in the area. It looked like I could park at East Stone Creek, bushwhack a half mile or so over to the B/M/M trail, and then hike a ~35 mile loop back to where I parked.

It rained a little as I drove up but was just a light sprinkle by the time I hit the trail
It rained a little as I drove up but was just a light sprinkle by the time I hit the trail
I passed a half a dozen good car-camping spots near Tenant Creek Falls, which the kiddies and I will explore in the near future
I passed a half a dozen good car-camping spots near Tenant Creek Falls, which the kiddies and I will explore in the near future
Somebody made a pretty fancy bathroom at this spot, sometime in the past
Somebody made a pretty fancy bathroom at this spot, sometime in the past

Eventually I came to the spot where I needed to cross Stony Creek and bushwhack over to the other trail. It took me about 30 minutes to find a place to cross entirely on rocks (as opposed to wading and getting my feet wet). Unfortunately, one of the nice big rocks I stepped on rolled right over, so my left foot ended up in the water anyway. I’m happy to report that my boots are indeed waterproof, and I didn’t go deep enough long enough for the sole of my foot to get wet. The top of my sock down to my ankle was wet, but not my toes or heel.

Once I was across the creek, I just had to head due West to hit Middle Lake. What I hadn’t realized when I looked at things before was that I would gain over 400 feet of elevation, and it was more like a mile, not a half a mile. So I didn’t connect up with the trail until 3pm.

Normally I hike right past Middle Lake, but the view from the other side is delightful
Somebody has put solar powered lights on the Murphy lean-to since the last time I was here
Somebody has put solar powered lights on the Murphy lean-to since the last time I was here

If I remember, I’ll take a screencap of my topo map to show the path I took. It was almost four o’clock by the time I left Murphy Lake, meaning I had gone 3.5 miles in 2.5 hours. That’s not a very good pace. I knew I’d be going faster now that I wasn’t stopping at each new breathtaking view of the foliage, and since I was on trail instead of bushwhacking. BUT, it seemed not super fun to try for 30 miles in two days. Luckily, I could hang a right at Pumpkin Hollow road and take a 16 mile loop instead of the longer one I had planned. If I hiked the four miles out to all three falls on Tenant Creek, that would still be a pretty good day. So, I hike to Willis Lake for dinner, then off into the woods towards Wilcox Lake. Once it got dark I hiked off trail a ways, strung up my hammock, and went to bed. I got into bed at 7:30, turned on a 30 minute sleep timer on my audio book, and had to rewind 15 minutes in the morening. Meaning, I think I fell asleep at 7:45. It was cold in the morning, and my hammock is rather cozy, so it was 10 o’clock or so before I hit the trail again.

I ate lunch at this lovely spot in the middle of an unnamed creek
I ate lunch at this lovely spot in the middle of an unnamed creek
Just after this bridge I met three other people, including a bikepacker
Just after this bridge I met three other people, including a bikepacker
Doesn't that big old rock look like a lovely spot for a snack? It was.
I had another snack at another lovely big rock in the middle of Stony Creek
I had another snack at another lovely big rock in the middle of Stony Creek
This is the view from my snacking rock
This is the view from my snacking rock
If you look carefully you can see my bag on the shore, left of the green flare

After I got back to my care I had to decide whether to a) go home in time for dinner, b) hike up Tenant Creek to the falls, or c) drive up to some other car-camping sites in the area, as reconnaissance for a future tripe with the family. I decided on b, so off to the falls I went, with just a towel and a snack.

The first falls were the best
The first falls were the best
The second falls were OK
The second falls were OK
The third falls were pretty close to the second falls

None of the falls were great for swimming, and hiking without a pack doesn’t get me warm enough to sweat. So, the towel stayed dry.

By the time I got back to my car it was almost 6. I could have car-camped at another spot, but I headed home, instead. The family was halfway through a cohousing online social where we taste-tested random snacks from the Harrisonburg international grocery store. And ate home-made pizza:)