Monday, May 07, 2007

Tumbliing Run Hike

Sunday was a day so beautiful it almost hurt to look at it. The humidity was low, the temperature was in the ‘60’s, the sky was blue from horizon to horizon. So a friend and I went hiking at Tumbling Run in Michaux State Forest, several miles south of Fuller Lake. It was her first time there. It was my uppity-teenth, but the first time back in too long.

Tumbling Run Trail isn’t marked with a trail sign by the side of the road. It’s just a small, unmarked pull-off that only holds a few cars. You have to know where it is in order to find it. I can never find the right pull-off on my first try, and Sunday was no exception to this rule. The best way to tell you to get there from the northern end of Rt. 233 is to drive south until you see a small white sign on the right that tells you you’ve just entered Adams County. When you see the sign you’ve gone about 10 yards too far and will have to stop and back up.

I should have known we wouldn’t have the trail to ourselves on a day this beautiful. When we finally reached the right wide spot in the road, 5-6 cars were already there. But we were undaunted and headed downhill towards Mountain Creek.

Years ago a lovely stone bridge marked the path across the creek. No longer. Now you have to cross on hiker-built rickety logs. I use hiking poles to help me balance. The creek isn’t very deep, and the rickety logs aren’t very high over the creek. Likely the worst that will happen if you fall in is a wet foot, but that isn’t much fun on a hike.

Once across this creek, we head upstream along a path that runs perpendicular to the creek we just crossed, where yet another stream empties into the larger Mountain Creek. The best way is to simply keep the creek on your left as you head uphill (and on your right on the return trip). Multiple paths abound, starting and stopping without much warning, as hikers look for the easier path through the rocks and hemlocks. The path that looks easiest today will be different tomorrow as water levels or fallen trees change.

I heard an olive-sided flycatcher call "Quick, three beers!" in the lower section, where the stream was still small. Further up, a large frog jumped just ahead of my tread. One family we passed reported seeing a "lizard" but I have no idea what that was. The hike to the waterfall is only about 1.5 miles up but it requires constant clambering over and around rocks and trees, so it’s a good workout. It is possible to make a 7 mile loop by going above the falls and hooking up with the Appalachian Trail and then a blue-blazed trail, but this section along the stream is the prettiest, and somehow the loop always seems a bit anticlimactic to me.

The hike is lovely in any season, though because it is steep, it is quite slippery when wet. On a dry day like Sunday, it is suitable for older children and dogs. We saw a youngster of 8-9 making the trek, with the assistance of parents. We also saw many dogs, including, improbably, an enthusiastic Pekingese who was doing remarkably well on the boulders.

Our hike culminated at the waterfall where we rested and enjoyed the view. The rocks above us are called Lewis the Robber rocks after an outlaw who, legend has it, hid out here after robbing a payroll wagon sometime in the early days of the Civil War. Naturally, the legend also reports that the money was never found. Whatever the truth (or lack thereof) around this legend, the fact is that it’s plausible someone might have hidden out in this area. It’s fairly remote (and would have been more so back then), difficult and slow to traverse, and someone up near the falls would have a good view of someone moving down below. Whatever, it makes a good story.

After we’d enjoyed the view for a while, we headed back down. It’s always amazing to me that the path that looks easiest on the way up is usually not the path that looks easiest on the way down. We made good time on the way down, despite the rocks, though we had no need or desire to hurry. It was that kind of day.

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