Saturday, July 23, 2016

Rim Rock Trail Etiquette

Rim Rock National Recreational Trail
Trail Etiquette
I took a little hiatus from blogging but I'm back and ready for more adventures! I've probably blogged about this trail before but this trip was special, highlights the Summer hiking adventure along the trail along with bad and good trail etiquette.
     This past Memorial Day weekend my cousin came to visit with her husband and kids. Now this particular cousin, Dana, and her family used to come stay with my family every long holiday weekend while growing up. On these occasions we would always hit the Shawnee National Forest for a hike or a cool place to take a swim so when she returned after many years away I couldn't be more excited. Even more exciting was being able to take her children to some of the same places we roamed ourselves at their ages.
      It seemed mandatory that visit Rim Rock National Recreational Trail in the Shawnee National Forest. Just a few miles from Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock is less frequented, doesn't have the amazing views as the aforementioned but has a spectacular beauty all it's own.
    Once parked in lot along the circular drive that leads in/out, you head out along a flagstone lined path that offers glimpses of the opposing ridge line and exposed sandstone bluffs along the way. Benches dot the trail offering a resting place or somewhere just to stop and soak up some nature.
   My cousins youngest insisted upon bringing his toy T-Rex dinosaur with him and they both seemed to enjoy this little section of the trail leading the way and making sure no predators lurked on the trail ahead (LOL).
    The flagstone path leads you to an observation deck overlooking the little canyon below and offering awe inspiring views of moss covered sandstone bluffs and boulders. Once you've soaked in the beauty of the moment you begin to descend wooden stairs that lead down between the damp, moss covered boulders and the walls of the bluff. The stairs end and you are left with a dirt path, hopefully dirt, not mud, that meanders through the narrow passageways of high stone walls, finally leading out into the open forest and stone steps leading off the edge of the bluff. 

    Following the stone path and stairs down delivers you to the mouth of Ox Lot Cave. A small stream babbles it's way along the forest floor off to your left as you marvel at the size of the exposed bluffs to your right.

     As you follow the path beyond Ox Lot Cave you find yourself between sandstone bluffs, the creek following the trail, ferns and moss clinging to the rock faces along the way.

     Soon the trail intersects with Beaver Trail  that leads to Pounds Hollow. Here you will find several bridges over small feeder creeks and we also found a small family of the carnivalesque variety playing in the stream. Screams and yells abounded from them, echoing off the bluffs around us and we were soon informed by what seemed like a "Matriarch" of the family they were there just to let loose and have fun. I smiled & nodded as we made our way by following the Beaver Trail in order to distance ourselves from them.
      We made our way down Beaver Trail, over a couple of the bridges trying to kill time and allow the boisterous family to move ahead of us on the trail as it seemed their creek party was over.

     Our efforts were to no avail as the little rowdy clan decided to take a break 30 foot up trail and wasn't putting any distance between us. My cousin decides it's now time for a military style hike starting with a daring dash through the rambunctious family that were spread out along and on/off the trail on both sides.

     Yet another small creek bed follows this section of the trail, offering up more beauty and wonderment. Still able to hear the shouts and yells of the rowdy little clan more than several hundred yards behind me I tried to just enjoy the beauty before me and shut them out. There were a few stops for photo opportunities but we feared lingering too long lest we face hiking along with those we were trying to avoid.

     The trail starts to take an upward trend and becomes  narrow with overgrown brush and weeds crowding the trail. We plodded our way through, the youngest leading the way and me trailing with back/hip issues flaring up. The forest was now quiet again but also the day was warming up and the humidity to go with it as it always does in the South.
    We reached the large wooden bridge which crosses a mostly dry wash and found several young ladies taking a break from hiking in the shelter of a small overhang of the bluff just off trail. They smiled, politely nodded and sipped from their CamelBaks as we passed by before continuing their conversation about how many times they would do the trail today. All I could think was "How many times had they done it already?" as I put a hand up above my hip on my lower back.
    I was struggling this trip, I hadn't done much hiking recently being busy with the other factors of life that keep people busy and I hadn't had my routine massage therapy in almost a month. The trail had switch backed once crossing the bridge and was now mostly uphill, not too steep but anyone with back issues knows uphill is the pits.
  We were now well clear of the rowdy ones but the pace didn't slow and I was soon trailing by quite a bit. I don't normally hike at such a fast pace, I enjoy strolling along taking in the sights and sounds of nature. My back was unrelenting so I stopped for a rest on a old moss covered stump and the three pert young ladies made their way back by me again acknowledging me with a smile and nod. I let them pass making their way up the trail some ways before I righted myself and forced my body back into a trudging march up the trail.
     I plodded along, resting again upon a bench and trying to stretch out the cramps in my back before crossing a couple more small wooden bridges and entering the area of the parking lot. The trail through this final section is mostly forested and a little overgrown.

    I really would like to stress trail etiquette to those considering an adventure into the woods, even if your end goal isn't to hike you will have to make use of the trails to get to that perfect swimming hole or climbing spot. There's no reason we all can't enjoy the forests even though we may do it differently if we all follow a few simple rules. There are many different "rules" in hiking or for any outing on public lands, I suggest following some very simple ones best laid out by the American Hiking Society.
    What started out as a very peaceful group hike with three very well behaved children turn into a mission to avoid those lacking trail etiquette and a mute button. Overall it wasn't a horrible hike, it was amazingly beautiful, got several good photos, and got to hike with my cousin again on a trail that had us struggling when we were in our teens. Yes, it did get quite humid and my back was killing me but it made for a good adventure!!

Adventure Awaits!!

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