Packed ready for a four-day trip
Except there has been a change of plan, now it’s only going to be three days. This morning I found out I can get a COVID-19 shot Tuesday afternoon, so I’m probably going to cut my trip short and return home Monday, rather than rushing to hike out Tuesday morning.
I cannot be bothered to unload the extra food. Anyway, I may change my mind and stay the extra night. Time will tell. Before I get to go, I have a work (Deanery) meeting to attend, then it’s off into the woods for me.
I’ve rearranged the way I pack the outside pockets of my backpack and it’s a lot easier to get to everything and I’ve got more room inside my pack too. Review, revise and improve. It’s a continuous process.
I had three goals:
- Complete hiking all the official trails at Piney Creek Wilderness. I have not hiked the entire length of the Piney Creek Trail because the western end is badly overgrown and difficult to hike. I’ve not hiked the Woods Trail at the western end of the wilderness, and I’ve not hiked the entire length of the Siloam Spring Trail, which runs between the Piney Creek Trail and The Siloam Spring Trailhead.
- Get some more miles under my belt, hopefully, 15 or more.
- Get in some downtime relaxing by the lake.
Day One. Because of a Saturday morning meeting, I wasn’t going to have a lot of time on my first day. I planned to bushwhack my way west along the Piney Creek Trail, and either stop near the start of the trail or if I did really well, try and hike along Farm Road 2185 and stop at Siloam Spring.
Day Two. Hike the Siloam Spring Trail back down to Piney Creek trail, and then take the Piney Creek Trail down to lake and my favorite camping spot.
Day Three. My original plan was to do nothing. The revised plan was to do nothing until late in the day, and then hike out via the ‘Farm Track Trail.’ I put that trail name in quotes because that’s what I call it. However, the name seems to have stuck and more people are using it now. You never know, at some point it may become its official name.
My research for this trip revealed that it is an old road, the original route of Farm Road 2150, and it served several homesteads along Piney Creek leading down to the James River. All of which was subsumed into Table Rock Lake when the dam was built on the White River.
Food for four days
Prepare to Descend
This is one of two very steep sections on the Tower Trail and one of the steepest sections in the wilderness. Here’s a picture of Ginger on this section of the trail on our June 2012 visit (more about that later) which really gives an idea of how steep it is.
Lunch break on the Siloam Spring Trail and plans for my trip
Despite a late start, I decided to stop and have a hot lunch (noodles) along with some tuna. I arrived at the trailhead shortly after 1 p.m. so I was happy with my progress–it was now 2:30 p.m. My plan for this trip is to hike my last two unhiked trails in this wilderness and hike the Piney Creek Trail from beginning to end. Hiking down the Tower Trail, I changed my mind about the direction I was going to hike the trails. Originally I was going to go counter-clockwise, I decided it would be better to hike the route clockwise, starting with the Siloam Spring Trail. When I get to the end of that, I have a 2.6-mile hike along a gravel road to get to my last unhiked trail, the Woods Trail, which ends at the start of the Piney Creek Trail.
I’ll camp somewhere along the Piney Creek trail tonight. Then tomorrow hike my unhiked portion of the Piney Creek Trail and end up at my favorite spot by Table Rock Lake. That’s the plan.
Climbing up the ridge
Despite knowing the climb was going to be hard for this out-of-condition aging Brit, I was still surprised at how hard it was. I’m not going out hiking often enough to keep my condition up. The view was spectacular, and near the top of the ridge, I saw a hammock slung up by the trail. The occupant was on a day hike, and that was the limit of our exchange.
The trail was difficult to follow at the top of the ridge, but I knew where it was heading and so I bushwhacked in the general direction until I picked it up again. The top part of the trail runs parallel to the Farm road I needed to take to the Woods Trail, and I was tempted to not bother hiking the entire trail and just take the road to my next hike. But I didn’t feel I could claim to have hiked the trail if I didn’t get to the end. So on I went.
At the Siloam Spring Trail trailhead
That’s the Siloam Spring Trail checked-off on my list. We’ve been here before. You’ve guessed it, June 2012. Then, instead of hiking all the Siloam Spring Trail, we diverted off to visit Siloam Spring and then took what is now called a ‘Social Trail’ that is an unofficial trail up to Farm Road 2185, which we hiked eastward to this trailhead, where we then headed off down the Tar Kiln Trail. Completing the Siloam Spring Trail has taken nearly nine years!
Now it’s time for me to hike 2.6 miles along the gravel farm road to the start of the Woods Trail. Maybe I’ll stop for a selfie where the unofficial trail from Siloam Spring meets the road.
I’ve been here before
This is where the trail down to Siloam Spring joins the farm road. I didn’t have anyone to take my picture this time, and the lack of leaves to block the sun is making me squinty. Well, that’s my excuse.
And below, here I am in 2012.
It’s gone 4 p.m., if I’m to get to some water, I’d better get moving. Many miles still to go.
Farm Road 2185
It seemed a very long 2.6-mile hike from the Siloam Spring Trail trailhead to the start of the Woods Trail, one on my last unhiked trails in Piney Creek Wilderness. The view from ‘Big Buck Lodge’ gave me my only glimpse of the surrounding countryside.
Piney Creek’s Woods Trail meets the road
The official start of the Woods Trail
Woods Trail, Piney Creek Wilderness
Back on the Piney Creek Trail
It doesn’t look like it, but it is a 20′-30′ drop to the creek. I was looking for good camping spots. The best sites are probably at the very start of the Piney Creek Trail, but I wasn’t too keen on camping there because the trail overlooked them. I do like my privacy when I’m out in the wilderness. Not that anyone was likely to come past.
Carrying on down the trail, it became increasingly overgrown and difficult to follow. I found this spring which isn’t marked on the maps, which is always a good thing to find. The further I went, the narrower the hollow became, the steeper the sides were, and more bush-whacking was required. I was zigzagging from side to side of the hollow, looking for a nice spot to stop. Good and even bad campsites were in short supply, and I kept on heading down the trail. I’d find somewhere to stop eventually.
Piney Creek – the start of Day Two
Camped by Piney Creek
I spent a long time searching for a decent campsite yesterday evening. The sides of the hollow here are really steep, and while I could hang my hammock, it would have been a risky business moving around. The flatter areas are very brushy and finding a couple of trees with nothing sprouting up between them near impossible. And the hollow is so narrow it’s not practical to get the regulation distance from the trail or water source. I didn’t fancy hiking an overgrown, intermittent trail in the dark, and the light was rapidly fading when I picked this spot as the best I could find.
It is very pretty, but I do not like camping next to creeks. I don’t like how the noise of a creek masks any other sounds in the neighborhood, and it’s best not to mention the hidden voices that running water manages to conjure up. The air is damp, it is cold, and the bottoms of hollows are scruffy with washed-out debris, limbs, and trees. All in all, I’d rather camp somewhere else.
Looking up Piney Creek
The View from my hammock, Piney Creek Wilderness, Day Two
You are not supposed to camp this close to a water source, but this was the only spot I could find. It was getting dark when I arrived, and the hollow is so narrow, it’s impossible to not camp near the creek or the trail. I opted to put the creek between me and the trail.
It was cold overnight 33°F. The forecast was for the low forties, but I expected it to go lower, it always does. I brought my 40°F top and underquilts, and wore my merino wool baselayer, plus my puffy jacket to bed and I was warm. Though I did refuse to get out of the hammock until the sun touched the ground.
The trail is quite clear and easy to follow (In places)
This whole area was cultivated at some point. I found a big concrete spring box at the end of one hollow. Unfortunately, cultivated land means cleared land. The trees are young and small, and cat briars more than abundant. I have named this next section of the trail ‘Cat Briar Central.’ Where the hollow opens out, there are briars, and where it narrows, the creek washes out the trail, so whatever the arrangement of the land, the trail is hard to follow.
It would be very hard to get lost though. Keep following the creek downstream and eventually you will get to the well-traveled portion of the trail (more on that later).
Piney Creek glinting in the sun
Large pool on Piney Creek
Cat Briar Central
What is it with old truck cabs in the woods?
Loop complete. The start of the Siloam Spring Trail
That’s it, I’ve completed all the official trails at Piney Creek. Now to head off down to the lake and have some quiet time lake watching.
Wind on Table Rock Lake
I was hoping for a nice, as in flaming oranges and yellows, sunset. It didn’t happen, but this cloud formation and an otter made up for it. The otter was easy to follow swimming out on the lake, as it left a little trail of reflected light in the dark surface of the water. Then I lost track of it. A few minutes later I saw the otter again. This time it was swimming along parallel to the shore coming towards me. It stopped every couple of yards, lifted its head out of the water, and inspected the land, presumably looking for ottery goodies. I kept very still and didn’t try to take a picture. It was 15 feet from me when it realized I was there. Like an aquatic meerkat, it rose out of the water, stared at me, and then dived. I didn’t see it again.
I have a suspicion it’s the same animal I saw here in 2020.
My lakeside camp at night
My campsite by Table Rock Lake
Gary and the tower at the Pineview Trailhead
Trip over, 14.5 miles hiked, 1,300 ft. climbed, and some downtime by the lake. Just what the Dr. ordered.
And now for more of what the Dr. ordered. My COVID-19 vaccination tomorrow.
See below for the tracks for my three hikes for this trip.
Breakfast in America
Living happily ever after still means you have to clean house and do the dishes