My usual hiking buddy “skillet” and I had planned a quick trip to the Sipsey Wilderness over Memorial Day weekend. Our plan was to meet Sunday afternoon and visit several locations that we have passed many times, but have never stopped and/or explore some new areas close to the road. We were then going to car camp and explore a bit more Monday morning before heading back to friends and family to enjoy Memorial Day activities.
Par for the course, we left later than planned (not that there was really a plan) and met at the trading post in Wren. As usual, I was packed, ready, and excited for exploring new to me areas. He shows up in shorts and “flip flops.” That’s not really appropriate attire for off trail exploring…. He explains that he packed everything (including some extra socks) but had forgotten shoes. Well, that drastically changes our plans….
We went to Wolfpen to set up camp but it was quite full. After discussing and looking at other possibilites, we headed toward the Eagle Creek “parking area.” I have been to this location and have camped at Eagle Creek several times, but we wanted to stay close to the vehicle. Instead of going North toward Eagle Creek, we noticed a trail heading East and walked down it to find a suitable campsite not far down the trail. We set up camp and it was time to explore.
Our first destination was Kinlock Spring/Shelter. We parked and found the spring very quickly. As expected, it was a spring. Many years ago, someone had built a stone/concrete area around where the spring comes out of the ground. We got a sip of water, but didn’t explore down the trail any further.
Next we headed to the Kinlock Shelter. Man is this thing HUGE. It was approaching dusk, so it was rather difficult to see much deep in the shelter, and I will have to come explore this area more in daylight. We did see the initial “JGB” and the date 1912 as well as “grooves” in a rock. I have been told (but can’t confirm) that this is where Native Americans would sharpen/grind various tools using the rock as an abrasive. I took a couple of pictures from the deepest part of the shelter as well as one looking out from the main section. There was also a neat area where the water dripping from the shelter edge made indentions in the rock below. We walked through a mini field of wild ferns. This is a beautiful area.
We left Kinlock Shelter and headed for the old CCC camp just down the road. We explored around the area, but didn’t see anything noteworthy. There are many quite a few concrete columns laying around that I assume are the foundations or supports for the old cabins. After I left, I learned there may have been an old mill site nearby, so I’ll do more research and see what I should be looking for in this area.
One of my pastimes when hiking is looking for various flowers (even if they are weeds). I take pictures of them because my wife appreciates them more than pictures of rock. I took a few this trip that turned out pretty well.
After leaving this area, we went exploring via vehicle. We turned on FS 215 and drove to the turn around area. We ran across quite a few hogs, but the picture was blurry. It was not nearly dark so we headed to camp. The next morning, I woke up early and decided to see where the trail we were camped beside headed. I grabbed my GPS and headed off down the trail. It followed some old roads. I’m assuming they were logging roads since I can’t find them on any of the older maps I study. At one point the trail forked. After referring to my GPS (and knowing the area), the one to the right headed toward Wolfpen Falls and the one to the left headed toward Hemlock Falls. Since I haven’t yet seen Hemlock Falls, I took the trail to the left.
Not long after turning left, the trail became less evident and I lost it several times while heading toward Hemlock Creek/Falls. When I arrived at what was labeled Hemlock Falls, I was dissappointed. It was only about four feet tall and a bare trickle over a cascade even after all of the overnight rain. I wasn’t sure if the large Hemlock Falls was upstream or downstream… Since I had left camp about 40 minutes earlier, I decdided to turn around and try to find the REAL Hemlock Falls another day. I arrived at camp to find my buddy was awake and had already packed up his equipment. We ate breakfast, packed up my stuff, and headed out.
With all things considered, we had a great time and I have a couple new areas to research and investigate (CCC Camp and Hemlock Falls) for a return trip to the wonderful Sipsey Wilderness.