Saturday, December 27, 2014

East Bee Branch Falls and The Big Tree

 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.

Borden Creek!

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.


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!)

Riding Boy!

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! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Cliffs of Ruth

There's this cliff in the woods we like to walk back to that we have taken to calling the Cliffs of Ruth after Matt's aunt who lived here in this house when he was born.  It's a major Dog Event around here and in warm weather is often combined with the steep descent to the creek to the dog swimming hole. I have not headed that way in a long time, though Matt took all 4 dogs there just at the end of November..

I was ready for something cheap and local, maybe involving a ton of carbs.  I settled for 'lower carb' since I don't really need the empty calories and 'not leaving the property' since it's Christmas Day.  I made a frittata and set that off to cool and we headed into the woods to walk with the dogs.

Nia has been sick, I have been like a crazy person.  I think she's clear of it now, but I am not sure I can handle one more 'thing' right now.

I was surprised at the amount of mushrooms that were out.  But I think I say that every December.

We made it to the cliff with no trouble.  I had it in mind to scope a spot to put a fire pit and make a regular camping spot over there.  But I got busy watching the dogs tree squirrels and did not think about it once I was actually there.

I am so glad we feed them, they'd starve in about 12 hours without us.

That's the tree I look for every time.  It does not look huge in this picture, but you can see it from a good distance.

We headed down under the cliff after standing on top listening to the creek below.  It's been raining for the past few days and the creek is only a few feet wide, but the way it is located in the bottom of a steep V canyon makes it sound much bigger than it is.

We decided to walk down the hillside to the creek, the cliffs are above this hill on another bluff back a little way.  It's a fairly long climb down.  Which I forget until I have to get back up it.

This tiny fall makes a LOUD noise, we laughed when we reached it.  We must have been expecting the valley to have caved in and there to be a 30 foot drop, the noise it was making.

It was warm enough to swim, I guess.  She and Jessie both played in the water.

We walked along the creek all the way back up to where the old log road comes down from the pasture.
Between the wet ground, slick leaves and hidden rocks, I stumbled around a few times and my ankle was achy.

Back out in the pasture!  

One of several groves of sweet gum and false pear trees.

I don't think Jess will ever tire of putting her whole face in holes she finds in the ground.  I have seen her so swollen from stings that she looks like a balloon dog.

Nia seems to be feeling better.  She threw up and of course I went into psycho mode.  We made her anise tea and had her drink the whole pot over the course of about 36 hours.  We mixed it with almond milk and Vienna sausage juice and raw egg.  She sucked it down, there was no coercion.  Anise is the basis of Tamiflu and that has been shown to stop Parvo damage caught early enough because it stops the virus from replicating.

I gave her papaya enzymes in case it was worms making her ill.  Papaya breaks down protein in the gut, the enzymes can break down intestinal parasites anywhere in the digestive tract and the stomach acid will dissolve the rest.  Wormer without the gross of seeing the worms.

This is all 'stuff I had on hand because the vet is closed until Monday' and not necessarily my first choice for dealing with sickness, especially if Parvo is suspected. I suspect it was probably eating Christmas goodies too rich for her tummy.  Either way, it did her no harm and may have done her a world of good.  I needed to be doing something.

Anyway, tomorrow we have a hike with friends planned and I am looking forward to that.  Other than the repair shop ordeal (dropped off the car and the check engine light started flashing in the van.  They fixed that, took the car back, it's still there), I have not left the house since I took Kai to the vet last Thursday.  It today proved anything, it's time to get out and get some air.  Just need to wrap my ankle better!

I am trying to get back on an even keel.  I feel beaten down and I don't like that at all.  I need time to process everything-without a new thing popping up-and I have not gotten that, not this whole year.  Maybe that's life, but that's not how I am able to manage things.  I need my list, my plan, things I can count on, people I can count on.  I feel like I have been pared down to the core this year on all accounts and left that way.  That probably does not make sense.

I just know I am looking forward to the long walk in the woods and the campfire lunch we have planned and having a few hours of nothing more that putting one foot in front of the other and seeing the scenery.  Maybe take a picture or two.  That's all I want.