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Copyright © 2000-2002 by Michael Wimble, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Challenge Hike 2002: Fall Creek

The announcement:

This year's Challenge Hike is Fall Creek Unit. The trail is almost all covered. The hike is about 9 miles, with a total of nearly 1400 feet of climb. The climbs are pretty much all in the beginning, mostly over a 2 mile stretch, as I recall, which a few short, steep sections, and the rest is just moderate. The trails are wide and well maintained at the bottom of the mountain, and narrow and hard to find at the top.

A lot of Fall Creek is slippery, either due to sand, shattered rock, tree fall, or rocks. That's why I said that anyone going on the hike should not be wearing sneakers. During our last visit, pretty much everyone wearing sneakers slid several times, and that was on the easy part of the trail.

I plan on bringing my poles, mostly because the last half of the trail has some good steep descent sections. Poles also help me on long climbs - of course I'm overweight and poles help me more than some people.

Plan on at least 5 hours for the hike. Some people are worried about how hard the hike is, and there is quite a sizable group coming, so we may pace it slower. I tend to make hikes sound harder than they are, so that people are prepared for the worst, so I hope I haven't scared people off. But between the Rush Ridge hike and the Windy Hill hike, most people coming are well prepared for the hike. Even if you did the Hidden Villa hike this last weekend, you'll should be well able to do the hike.

Overall, the challenge hike is no worse than several other hikes we've already done this year. Bring plenty of water - it will be 5 hours or more, after all. Plan on having two meals along the way.

We'll leave here about 8, arriving at Fall Creek Unit about 8:45 to 9. The hike will actually have two options - a hard one and an easier one. The hard one will be about 10 miles, climbing some 1400 to 1700 feet (as I recall), lasting about 6 hours. Parts of the climb are steep. The return half of the hike will be along the Fall Creek, and is very scenic.

The easier option is to just go up the Fall Creek, perhaps as far as the barrel mill, and wait for the rest of us to join you for a walk back down the creek. So, everyone should be able to do part of the hike and have a good time.

Make sure you have hiking shoes, NOT SNEAKERS, for either hiking option. Sneakers will kill you at Fall Creek Unit.

The hike:

Thirteen hikers, including Bob. This will become a legend in the future: whenever Bob comes on a hike, be prepared to end up lost, or at least in a different town than planned. With thirteen hikers AND Bob, the result is guaranteed.

Once we reached the lunch rest stop, Bob headed out with a few of the hikers, ahead of the main group. The trail at the top of the mountain is not well travelled at all, and, at times, is hard to find. Worse, the turn off for the return along Fall Creek is no longer marked. You just have to know where the turn off is.

When the main group came to the turn off, we weren't sure that it was, indeed the turn off. And, we had to rush ahead to find Bob and the rest, as they didn't wait at the turn off. As we kept going, we were less and less sure as to whether we were on the right trail or the wrong trail. But, by then, no one really wanted to turn back and climb back up the mountain again to the turn off. Well, no one but Sherman.

Miles later, we came to a road. A bad sign when you're supposed to be hiking in the woods. Well, Dave went a bit ahead of us and flagged down some local teens. He determined that we were in Boulder Creek, about 6 miles from where the hike started. We were tempted to just hike the rest of the way along the road. But Dave convinced one of the teens to give a few of the drivers a ride back to the parking lot where we started.

A typical challenge hike. One of the best, actually. It's not often you end up in the complete wrong town. If you hike with us long enough, you collect adventure stories for your life.

For the gallery of pictures from the hike, click HERE.