Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rock Bridge State Park (Devil's Icebox and Sinkhole Trails)

Finally, fall! I savored every day of summer, believe me, I did. This summer was one for the books for sure. But now that we've been teased with some days of fall weather, followed by days that feel like summer again, I am ready for full on fall. Fall temperatures, fall food, fall scents, and fall HIKING! And a couple of weekends ago, I got my fix. On the first weekend of fall, the weather settled nicely into the 70's with beautiful blue skies and a breeze. Absolutely perfect for a weekend outdoors.

It has been years since we hiked to the Devil's Icebox at Rock Bridge State Park. We've hiked probably every other trail around the area, but we've steered clear of that one simply because there are always

so. many. people. 

And we just don't like hiking in really crowded places. For one thing, our boys are loud. Just naturally loud. So every conversation we had on the trail was in earshot of a dozen other people. Also, on narrow paths, you always have to decide "Do I pass?" "Do I let them pass?" "Should I speed up or just get off the trail for a minute?" Whatever. We went anyway.

On this particular day, on the first cool weekend of fall, this trail system actually wasn't too bad. Shocker. Don't get me wrong. There were lots of people. But it wasn't miserable.

 There's a creek right at the trail head, which means we weren't walking for even a minute before we were taking a detour to explore the rocks and wildlife below.

 And then we were off.

Most (if not all) of the Devil's Icebox Trail is boardwalk. And most of it is on an incline/decline meaning upstairs/downstairs, depending on your direction. To start, it's up and up and up.

A little flat area.

Looking back down after completing this steep climb - Whew!

After that, the incline is gradual.

The whole point of this trail is the Devil's Icebox cave at the end of the trail. We went here when the boys were younger, but didn't go too far in, because we didn't bring a flashlight. You can explore one end of the trail (enter cave, turn left), but not the other side. There are bats in this cave that are victim to White Nose Syndrome, caused by a fungus. The park limits access to the cave to help protect the bats.

The boys looking down into the crevice below before me made our climb down.

And then down the stairs we went.

 Time to explore.

At this point, there was still light entering from outside the cave, so we walked a little further. But the second it started getting dark, I bailed. I have an irrational fear of depths. Depths of caves, and depths of water. I won't ever go deep sea diving, and I will probably never go deep into a cave.

But the boys were up for the adventure, so they trekked on without me (mocking my fear on their way), taking their flashlights and exploring a little further.

I waited for them at the top of the cave entrance, waiting to get this picture of them from above.

We discovered this little guy on my water pack.

And then we were off. So glad we have Jeremy to carry all of our important gear for us. What would we do without him?

We found a connecting trail for the Sinkhole Trail, checked the map, and decided it was the perfect distance to round out our hike. Blazed in green.

 We got off the trail for a little while and explored around under the famous rock bridge. It is an incredible geological feature. We are so lucky to live in this area and can explore places like this.

Once again, there were places to climb, and we were glad that we had flash lights to get up higher on the rocks inside the rock bridge.

 The boys walked across the ledge on the other side of the bridge, before we hiked back to the sinkhole trail.

 Back on the trail, away from all the tourist attractions, there were far fewer people and a wide open trail. That's more like it. The natural terrain, rather than the boardwalk, are much more our preference when it comes to trails.

Eli is almost always, always our hiking leader. He sets a good pace, and has a good eye for wildlife that he can point out to the rest of us before they scurry away. But every once in a while, he lets someone else be the leader so he can walk with daddy.

Lex got to be the leader for a little while, and when I told him to turn around so I could take his picture, this is what he gave me.

We came across this huge concrete silo that we had to stop and investigate.

And then hit the trail.  We ended up taking the white connector trail to cut a little distance off of our total hike, which turned out to be the perfect amount.

The first hike of the season was a perfect family outing. Perfect day. Perfect everything. Here's to a season of many more more hikes! 

Until next time.