Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gans Creek Shooting Star Trailhead

We hit another amazing trail last weekend and hiked for more than three miles through a beautiful terrain. Jeremy's Fit Bit said we had climbed more than "30 floors" when it was all said and done. It was probably the most difficult trail we've done with the boys, including the trail at Three Creeks where you climb a steep incline at the base of the river to get back to the trail.

I first wrote about Gans Creek Trails a few weeks ago when we hiked our first hike of the season. We couldn't resist the crisp air and melting snow, but didn't hike for long that day. While we were there, we picked up a brochure and looked at the extensive Gans Creek trail system that is actually connected to Rock Bridge State Park.

The entrance to this side of Gans Creek is east of the entire trail system so pretty far removed from the Rock Bridge trails. Compared to Rock Bridge, Gans Creek is much less touristy, much more rugged and way more expansive. We were worried when we pulled up and saw so many cars in the parking lot, but over the 3+ miles, we only saw about 10 people so basically we were hiking alone.

 It was in the 50's and sunny. Perfect.

With the weather we've been having, these trees may soon have leaves! I was surprised to see this area so overgrown. The forests along our typical hikes are a little clearer.

The trail did not start out too promising. Balancing on the edges of a mud pit is not my idea of fun. Fortunately, this was just the beginning and the trails did dry up.

It was so quiet.

A glimpse of Gans Creek. The creek is pretty far down there but it's hard to see in this picture.


 I am in love with this tree. This picture may be going on my wall. There's just something about it...

Here are Jeremy and Eli overlooking the creek. There were several lookout points on this trail loop. The kind where you stand on the edge of a bluff and look across the ravine and creek bed. Also the points where we hang on to the boys for dear life, because there's a straight edge drop off.

 But the views...

And then we were on our way. Most of the rest of the trail was narrow like in the picture above. Sometimes, it was so narrow that you couldn't see too far ahead where you were supposed to go. Eli was so cute on this hike. On several different occasions, we had to choose one direction or another, and Eli would point one way and say, "This way looks promising." Precocious little 4 year old. We took his advice every time.

At this point, we were maybe just under a mile in to the trail and we were sloping down towards the creek.

A view of a bluff along the way. All the while we are going down, down, down.

And then we finally got to the creek. At this point we saw our first fellow hiker who was actually running the trail. We let him pass because as always, when we get to water, we have to stop and skip stones. Or in the boys' case, throw them. All I could think was that this would be the perfect swimming hole when the weather gets warmer.

Check out that bluff in the background! It was so beautiful down there.

Here's the cool part. See all those large stones across the creek? That's part of the trail. Because the trail actually continues on the other side. So you have to skip your way across.  So fun.

Lex and Eli. These little hikers make me so proud. 

And one with mama. Because sometimes I need proof that I was there too.

So when I said earlier that crossing the creek across the rivers was "fun...." well what I really meant was that it was fun for Jeremy, Eli, and me. That picture above is Jeremy and Eli who quickly crossed with only one wet shoe (Eli) from a slip at the very end. Lex on the other hand... well if you read our story about Three Creeks you may know that Lex is terrified of living things in creeks. He saw one sign of life in the creek and immediately refused to cross. No amount of encouragement could make him take one more step.

So daddy came to the rescue. Back across to carry Lex.

Forward march.

Oh my goodness. I could have a picnic right here and then stay all afternoon. If only we had packed a picnic.

We hiked along the edge of the creek bed before heading back up the trail.

Look at that determination on Lex's face!

 The trail was so well maintained. Of course there were some fallen trees we had to climb over along the way, but that's just par for the course.

By this point, we had gone all the way down to the creek and climbed all the way back up to the top of the ridge again. We had probably gone more than 2 miles and Eli was starting to slow down. I wish I had captured this picture one second later when he wasn't hiding behind the tree.

A different view of the creek from above.

As we looped around to head back down to the creek, we hit the edge of the forest.

A dried up creek bed. I would give an explanation here, but I honestly don't even remember this spot.

 This is where the trail got really narrow. A few times, I wondered if we were still even on the trail. Fortunately, the trail marking are great out here, so we just kept looking for the brown diamond markings on trees.


And then finally, we were back down to the creek bed to cross back to the other side. So if you're keeping track, we started at a higher elevation, hiked down to the creek, hiked back up to the peak of the bluff, and then back down to the creek. And we will still have to go up to get to the car. I'm sure we had hit mile 3 by this point.

This creek crossing was much easier as you see. What a great natural bridge. What's really cool is that spot right in front of me is kind of like a natural water slide over the rocks. It would be a great spot to come back to in the summer so the boys can try it out. Other than than little spot to step over, though, this was easy compared to the first trip across the creek.

And then....After a climb back up, we came to a beautiful lookout across the ravine that these pictures barely do justice. It was seriously so peaceful and so magnificent...I want to come back here and just sit.

It was a great finale to this amazing hike and a restful break before our last push to the end.

You could see forever.

The sun was just beginning to set as we entered this tree tunnel. See the tip of Lex's head on the bottom of the picture?

The third and best hike of the season so far! And it's not even March yet! Spring fever has definitely taken hold in this household. We are so lucky to have these amazing trails around us. We are definitely hooked.

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