Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Weekend ride and hikes

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Riding around Lake Lemon

I was planning on doing a long ride on Saturday morning, and got up a bit after 8:00 am. It was already pretty hot and extremely humid, so I decided to do a shorter ride around Lake Lemon (about 35 miles) instead. I was glad that I did, because while the humidity dropped a little, it only got hotter. Sarah and I were also planning on hiking with a local hiking group that afternoon, and I didn’t want to be so worn out I wouldn’t be up for it.

It was mostly an uneventful ride. I was a bit sluggish due to the heat, but not too bad. I stopped a few times to make some adjustments to my Brooks saddle, which I still don’t have adjusted to my liking. Eventually, I stopped messing with it and just rode, and that was the best part of the ride. Instead of worrying about slight changes in saddle angle, I just enjoyed the ride. I need to figure out some more good routes, though, because I’m getting a little tired of doing the same ones all the time.

As I was heading back to State Road 45 on Bethel Lane, I heard what sounded like an AM radio. As I approached a barn, I realized the sound was an auction that was taking place there. There were a lot of vehicles (mostly pickup trucks) outside, and a sign read “Real estate and personal property auction.” If I hadn’t been decked out in my cycling clothing and anxious to get home, I might have stopped. I heard the auctioneer, in a prototypical redneck fast-talking auctioneer voice, say “Do I hear $2 for this barn? $2? … OK, how about $5? Do I hear $5? $5 for this barn?” … I didn’t hear how high the bidding went, but I think Sarah and I may go back there sometime to see if it’s a regular auction, and see if we can buy a barn for $5.

I was pretty tired after my ride, but I took a shower and we got some lunch. We headed to the meeting point for the hike. It was well into the 90s at this point, and we were sweating just driving around.

Hiking at Spring Mill State Park

We met the hiking group. I had offered to drive, but the air conditioning in my car doesn’t work. However, I have a state park pass, so we could get into the park for free. The other car was air-conditioned, but nobody in that car had a pass, so the choices were: suffer the heat and get in for free, or ride in an air-conditioned car and pay to get into the park. I think if there had been enough room in the other car, everyone would have ridden there.

Upon arriving at Spring Mill, some people wanted to check out the pioneer village they have there, so we watched a water wheel-powered sawmill and corn mill. I had talked about buying some of their corn meal, but I didn’t feel like dealing with it, so I didn’t. We walked around a museum there a bit, and one or two people were really into that, but the rest of us just wanted to hike (Sarah and myself included). I wouldn’t have minded looking around the village if it hadn’t been so damn hot outside, but we only brought enough water for a hike, and I had already spent 2 1/2 hours in the sun on my bike (although Sarah kindly pointed out that I just “sat around” for 2 1/2 hours). I was trying to limit my exposure somewhat.

Eventually, we settled on a 2.5-mile “rugged” trail and started hiking. The first thing we did was to go down a bunch of wooden stairs to Donaldson Cave. This was a really cool cave (both literally and figuratively). Only one person in the group had a flashlight, but you really couldn’t go in all that far anyway. We walked through part of the cave, and climbed out a small exit that had us outside again.

Climbing out Hikers climbing down and children playing in the creek
Climbing out of the cave /climbing down a rock wall

Some people decided to scale down the rock face to the ground below, but Sarah and Ahad and I decided to check out the cave some more. We found a tunnel, which we followed for a while. It got progressively smaller, and in one part we had to straddle some water below to get through. It was really cool — I forget how awesome caves can be. We stopped after a while and didn’t really want to crawl, so we went back. Maybe some other time, we can do some actual caving, but we weren’t equipped for it this time, and the group was waiting for us.

Us Us, backlit by another hiker's flashlight
Us, in the cave

Donaldson Cave Cliff
Right inside the cave / cliff outside the cave

Next, we climbed countless stairs out of the ravine and started our hike. We had a bit of a false start, but quickly corrected our mistake. The trail was supposed to be rugged, but it was covered with gravel almost the whole way, and it was wide. I guess its “rugged” description must be because it goes up and down a lot. It had a lot of elevation change, sure, but to me, that’s different from a “rugged” trail. I expected a narrower, rougher trail with switchbacks. The trail also went by the road a lot, which was disappointing. Overall, it was an enjoyable hike with a very diverse group of hikers — I particularly liked Ahad’s zest for exploration — but the trail itself left something to be desired. On the other hand, we did go by another cave, and there are two more that you can tour by boat.

Hiking around Crooked Creek Lake

On Sunday, Sarah and I decided to go for a short hike together. We chose to hike around Crooked Creek Lake, which my friend Dave said is his favorite lake in this area. It’s pretty remote, located in a section of Yellowwood State Forest that is little known. The only problem we had was that Dave is a master of understatement. “Cross the creek and park,” his directions said. What they didn’t say was, “drive THROUGH the creek to reach the parking lot,” which would have been more accurate. We probably could have made it, but instead, we parked in a meadow and crossed the creek on foot.

Creek crossing to the parking lot
Please drive through this creek.

Crooked Creek Lake
Crooked Creek Lake

As we walked across the dam, we saw an unbelievable number of butterflies and dragonflies. I tried to get a shot or two, but with a point & shoot camera, it was hopeless. I wouldn’t have a proper lens for those kinds of shots, anyway, though. It was really cool to see so many (and so many different kinds) of butterflies and dragonflies all in one place. We crossed the spillway by balancing on the lip of it, although it was dry inside and we could have just walked there.

Walking across the spillway
Crossing the spillway

For a while, there were two trails, one down by the water, and one up a little further. We stayed by the water for as long as we could, crossing a lot of rocks and having a lot of fun in the process. The trail was angled down toward the lake significantly, which made for some interesting challenges.

Hiking right by the water
Resting on the rocks

Resting on the rocks

After a little while, the lower trail became impassable, and we had to move to the upper one. Not long after that, the upper trail became impassable, and eventually disappeared. We were bushwhacking our way through at this point. We had a small argument over whether to continue back into the cove or cross in the marshy area below. We crossed in the marshy area. This whole time, we were worried about copperhead snakes, because Dave had a warning that we might see some there. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any.

When we got to the other side, we couldn’t find a trail at all. Dave’s other understatement “the trail can be faint at times” came into play. We could easily see where we needed to go, but there was no trail to get there. We bushwhacked our way in that general direction. A few times, Sarah asked which way to go and of course I had no idea. We kept going in that general direction. The horse flies were in full force, and were driving us crazy, particularly Sarah. She always gets the worst of the bugs.

Sarah, swatting at something Beaver-chewed tree
Sarah, swatting at something / a beaver-chewed tree

A cool tree by the trail lake

Eventually, we came across another marsh. We debated whether to around it or through it, and I saw a huge spider blocking the way around. Of course, we could have gone around it, but I took it as an omen and said we should cross the marsh instead. There was already a bit of a path there where someone had clearly crossed before, so we followed that.

Sarah, hiking through the marsh
Sarah crossing the marsh

Crooked Creek Lake, from a marsh
We were treated to this view of the lake from the middle of the marsh

Not long after crossing the marsh, we found a trail! It was amazing how much faster we were able to go once we had a trail. We were back at the dam in just a few minutes after that.

It was a really fun hike, moreso in retrospect than it was at the time. I’m not sure if I think it’s the prettiest lake in this area, but I did like it a lot. I also loved how few people were there — we saw one canoe the whole time we were there, and nobody else. We’ll have to go back sometime.

Crooked Creek Lake Panorama
Crooked Creek Lake (Panorama)

One Response to “Weekend ride and hikes”

  1. Marty Says:

    Man, you guys are finding some great places – it’s awesome that you go out every weekend and find cool places and spend so much time outdoors.

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