Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Rock Shelter Trail

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

On Sunday, Sarah and I hiked the Rock Shelter Trail at Morgan-Monroe State Forest. It’s a 3-mile trail and a smaller loop within the Low Gap Trail, which runs 10 miles. We haven’t done a lot of hiking yet, and we have been wanting to do more — we figured this would be a good trail to hike to get more experience.

The first part of the trail is not impressive, and involves walking down a fire road covered with chunk gravel. It’s difficult to walk on, as you’re basically just walking on a big pile of loose rocks. This went on for maybe half a mile, and then the actual trail started.

We hiked along the top of a ridge for a while, which is something I always enjoy. I get to feeling like I’m on top of the world when I’m hiking, riding, or driving on a ridge. Even with all the trees, you can look both ways and see that you are the highest point around and look at the ravines on either side of you.

After a little while, the trail started winding its way down into the ravine. The descent was pretty gradual, and lots of switchbacks made it easier. I couldn’t help but think how cool this trail would be on a mountain bike, but it’s not open to bicycles. However, hiking affords more opportunities to enjoy the scenery anyway, and it’s great to be able to hike with Sarah.

There was a creek at the bottom of the valley, and the trail followed the creek for a while, crossing it several times.

Creek II
The creek

We saw some newts in the creek, and some frogs or toads hopped in as we walked by. Sarah didn’t see the frogs/toads, although we stopped a couple of times to look.

Eventually, we reached the rock shelter for which the trail is named. It’s a big, somehow naturally scooped-out rock structure in the side of a hill. Some water dripped from the top, and it was pretty cool in there. The only downside was that there were a lot of bugs. Still, it was a great way to cool down before finishing the hike.

Rock shelter from below
The rock shelter from below

In the rock shelter
Me, in the rock shelter

Once we left the rock shelter, it was time to hike up the other side of the valley. I’m not sure what the elevation change was, but it was a bit of a climb. Fortunately, like the other side, the grade was pretty gradual and winding, with a lot of switchbacks. It was a really well-designed trail and made it not seem too hard to climb out of the valley. Still, it wasn’t easy, either. We stopped to pick up a walking stick for Sarah.

Sarah with walking stick
Sarah with her walking stick

There was a pond along the trail once we had climbed most of the way out, and then another section of fire road, although this one didn’t have the awkward chunk gravel.

We saw a lot of cool plants and wondered what they were. I took some photos of some for later identification, but we’ll probably need to get some kind of book for that purpose. Last night, I started searching for one online, but didn’t have much luck. Seconds later, Sarah had several good candidates. I began to wonder how she’d found them so quickly, but then I remembered: she’s a librarian! Anyway, any plant/flower identification book recommendations would be much appreciated.

One weird plant


We made some mistakes. We brought water, but left it in the car. We need to carry water with us. At only 3 miles (actually, I think it was about 4 if you count the fire roads), it wasn’t a big deal not having water, but it still would have been better to have some with us. Also, we had a map of the trails at the state forest. It was a crappy map, but we left it in the car. We didn’t need it, and I’m not sure it would have helped if we had it, but still … it definitely does no good in the car. Another lesson I learned is to check for ticks regularly; I found one on my leg and got it off before it could attach itself to me.

After the hike, we went to Cherry Lake and sat on the ground by the lake, looking for frogs, tadpoles,  bugs, fish, etc. We still didn’t see any frogs, but we did see tadpoles and fish and a crazy underwater world that looked like something out of a scifi movie. We must have looked exactly like this photo of furiousBall’s son.

Cherry Lake
Cherry Lake

4 Responses to “Rock Shelter Trail”

  1. furiousball Says:

    Thanks for the Bubba shout-out. That is one messed up looking plant, did you smash it with a stick because it was weird, I think that’s what you’re supposed to do with anything weird.

  2. John Says:

    Separating hiking and biking is sometimes best. I was on a great hike once and some trail bikes showed up. They seemed very offended that we did not get out of their way quick enough, and had to stop. A straggler came by and asked which way his friends went, and we all pointed to the opposite direction.

    Cross training is good.

  3. Marty Says:

    Looks and sounds like a nice hike. Nice pictures of some of the stuff you saw and the terrain. I can\’t wait – we actually have a hike scheduled this Saturday (scheduled? Well, yeah – but because we\’re doing a bird count). We\’ve been meaning to get out for weeks, but have been defied by nature and/or illness. I can\’t wait…

  4. Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » Rock Shelter Trail Says:

    […] great hiking weather. On Saturday, we hiked the Rock Shelter Trail, which we have hiked before (read about it here). We took our dog Rob with us, who really needed the […]

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