Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sipsey Wilderness Area- Thompson Creek, Needle Eye, Ship Rock

A couple of weeks ago in November we made attempt to hike a trail that we have walked before, but from the opposite end of the trail. This went well until the trail crossed the creek- without an actual crossing. It's too cold now for wading and after a little wandering to find a shallow spot we gave up before the sun set on us. Regardless, it was a decent hike and the two smaller dogs had some fun being wild wolves.

The trail is along Thompson Creek in the Sipsey Wilderness inside Bankhead National Forest. We started from the south end of trail #202 and continued on #202 until we met the creek. I didn't record a track log on my GPS that day and the trails are not visible on Google maps, but they are on OpenStreetMap if you click this link to the parking area.

Carry me?
Nia climbed up this leaning tree at least six different times, often taking the shorter route to the ground.

Talents include superior balance and agility.

Talents include BUT I'M THE BABY
I swear I'm not consciously humping Esther in this next picture. Sometimes trying to take group shots with the timer just results in awkwardness and unintentional weirdness. This is one of those times. Esther's response to me pointing this out will either be "if you didn't say anything nobody would have thought that" or "GAH! Why did you upload that?!"  


Flash forward a couple of weeks we're back in Bankhead/Sipsey for a few small hikes with extra people- some old friends and others new acquaintances as well as two extra dogs. The first stop was at Kinlock Falls

Past the falls and on the the other side of the Forest Service road is both Kinlock Springs and Kinlock Shelter.

Marker near the springs
Pictoglyphs from inside the shelter

The "big" hike of the day was from the north end of Thompson Creek back to and through Needle Eye and then a quick snack on the bank of the creek. This is the opposite end of the same trail we ventured down on the previous trip. 

The path up to Auburn Falls
Ship Rock and Needle Eye are two formations in the cliffs that are found near the end of the trail that we hiked. "Ship Rock" because it resembles the prow of a ship jutting out over the forest and "Needle Eye" because of the small aperture through the rock itself that you can pass through to get to the other side. I didn't get a picture of Ship Rock on this trip, but Esther has one on her page for Thompson Creek. I'll note that I've seen different sources call it either just "Needle Eye" or the longer "Eye of the Needle". 

Chan, threading Needle Eye
The forest on the other side of Needle Eye are what I think of when I think about Bankhead and the Sipsey Wilderness in particular: fir trees, mountain laurel, huge boulders, and blue-green waters. Some of the trees defy the need for soil and perch on top of the large rocks like giant spiders. The quality of light is different, it holds on to the setting sun a little bit longer than the trail leading up to it and the whole place has a strange sort of diffused glow to it like if sunsets were made of leaves. I've seen more than one person remark that passing through the Eye is like stepping into another world and I'm inclined to agree.

Setting sun on the cliff wall

Persistent tree and hiking dog

Esther through a portal near the Eye

I did manage to record track logs of our hikes on this day. Here's the hike from Kinlock Shelter back up to the parking area. and here is the whole trip at Thompson Creek.

These are two of the same links from the last post, but all the pictures from the two days are here and here.

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