Friday we decided to go someplace new. Amanda and I had talked about tackling the hike to the Big Tree over in Sipsey, so I had been reading about it and checking my maps. I found a book at the library-50 Hikes in Alabama by Johnny Molloy and the 3rd hike in there was the Big Tree. He laid out the route step by step, so I decided that was our best bet after my last plunge into the Wilderness without a clear plan ended with the arrival of a wide swath of water. I knew fording was not optional with the littles along, not to mention it's COLD.
Before we headed out, I baked traveling cookies. These are so moist that they don't crumble in your pack.
And there's no gluten.
3 bananas all mashed up
2 cups whole oats
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
vanilla and cinnamon
I added chocolate and peanut butter chips to one batch and flax and hemp seeds and dried fruit to the other. Each batch makes 12 good sized cookies. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
Armed with our cookies, we hit the trail, leaving out from the Borden Creek trailhead. It's been redone since our last visit, parking is limited to way the heck up the hill from the old bridge, there's a gate and signs and everything. We headed out knowing it was a 10 mile hike, so that first bit downhill was quickly forgotten. On the way out...gah!!! The parking area moved uphill another 1/4 mile at least. Plus the hill was steeper.
Rho, Chan, Eyrin
The path was crazy overgrown until recently, so there are stobs and little stumps ALL over the place. We watched our feet 97% of the way.
From the bridge, we stayed on old CR 5, which is now called 224/Bunyan Hill Trail.
It climbs out of the valley over about a half a mile with a climb of 150 feet.
It turns into the above for 4 miles. A tunnel in the pines. The trail undulates over the miles, but never more than 50 feet up or down, it seems fairly flat. It is easy walking, just long.
The junction to trail 204 is clearly marked with a sign. We headed off down that way and less than a mile in, the trail splits. There is a sign that says 204 and that's all. No arrow! You take the right fork (204 A on the map)-the left is 204 which misses the tree canyon entirely!
After the close pines the whole way, the open ridge was very nice!
|this tree is mentioned in the guide book.|
At the 204/204A junction, a group came up behind us. We stepped off to make room and they stopped to chat a moment. I realized-I knew them! It was Jamie and Rachel from theater. His girlfriend and parents were along as well, that was bizarre to run into someone we knew out there.
They headed off to explore the canyon, we saw them most of the rest of the afternoon as the canyon is teeny! In fact, Nia and Juke sidled up to their picnic on the rock just in case they hauled in too much food.
Nearly identical shots of East Bee Branch Falls from the top.
I thought I could get a better sense of scale, but...well, I think I just got twin shots.
The trail to the canyon was nearly flat, but getting to the falls overlook and then on into the small canyon required some scrambling and careful navigation. Amanda opted to stay at the top with Bird while Sammy headed down with Eyrin. The kids just ran amok.
THE BIG TREE!!!
East Bee Branch Falls
I wondered why the two sights are always lumped together as 'East Bee Branch Falls and the Big Tree'. Then I went to see them and realized, it's because they are about 30 feet apart.
I love the green in the canyons.
This is an unnamed falls just down from Bee Branch. You can see it from the tree, too.
See, here it is below, directly behind where I was standing.
More shots, this time with panorama because I could not get it all in one frame.
Turns out, it did not all fit in two frames, either.
Three Frames for the Win!
I put henna in my hair. It's red now.
I was not actually expecting that to happen.
Above Matt's head is the tree and below the BIG tree is Sammy, smoking a pipe and regarding Nia who has taken up log walking.
I attempt a Chanorama. She uses the panorama feature on the camera to take unrelated photos and they stick together. This is the unnamed falls and 180 degrees away, the Big Tree.
Look what I spotted!
A heart-shaped lichen. I was delighted.
Heading back out.
One more shot of the Tree.
The canyon trail
A final rimshot (be-dunk-bunk! TING!)
The trail back was long. Seriously, it's been a while since I walked that far. But the 6 year old walked the whole way, which according to the GPS was 12.6 miles by the time we got back to the van. It took us 6.5 hours total. I am still a little amazed.
I arrived ahead of the other adults and when I got JUST past here, the kids screamed and Jake came FLYING at me and Rho went tearing off the other way. Nia had jumped in the creek and they were running down to man each bank in case she did not make it against the current. She swam out and then headed back (with Juke in tow) to do it again. I quit watching, that dog is going to give me angina.
"I'll just jump in there" is the first thing any rational mammal would think.
We headed down 200 to the first campsite and set up a lovely fire to hang out and have dinner and chat a while before heading home. We gathered wood and got it all ready to go (Sammy had the fire starter) and just as he and Amanda showed up, it started sprinkling! Eee.
We immediately began to regard the much-anticipated hot dog dinner with some skepticism and a certain Mexican restaurant back in town was recalled. So, we stowed our gear and made the final (much longer than it should have been) climb out to the cars. Birdie had had a nap and was in fine spirits riding in his wrap. He talked about allllll the trucks he's loved like a blue eyed magpie and when Amanda set him down to get things squared away to head out he said, "Matt! Guess what!? I am going to eat Mezigan food!" That mass of fluffy hair and his little tipped-up face and wide grin, he is a balm for achy hearts. Matt just said today that he and Eyrin and Inde have been so good for us to be around. I have to agree. We are lucky.
This was an awesome tally-4 days worth of steps in one day!