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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:)