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A Year of Hiking, Part 1: January – April

December 13, 2015

Last November we set a personal goal to take at least one serious hike each month in 2015.

Trestle on Mill Creek Trail (Ansted Rail Trail)

It actually seemed to us like a modest goal, because we both love to hike and it sounded completely doable to us at the time: Memories of biting winter chill and sweltering summertime heat are less vivid when you are sitting inside a warm house in the fall. Determined not to let the weather give us an excuse, though, we took a trip to the local outfitter store to outfit ourselves with long underwear, waterproof boots and balaclavas. Good thing we did, too, because when the winter weather showed up just in time for our first hike of the year, we were prepared. Mostly.

Mill Creek Falls

Not ones to put off getting started on a project, we took our first hike of the year on New Year’s Day on the Mill Creek Trail in Ansted (aka “Ansted Rail Trail”). Mill Creek was running full and the many waterfalls caused us to stop often on the way down for photo ops. We also loved seeing the ice formations hanging from the cliffs above the trail and loved exploring the old mine opening off a side trail. The views at the bottom of the New River and the Hawks Nest crossing and the beautifully preserved trestle near the top made this one of our most memorable trails of the year. Two miles down and two miles back along the old railroad grade was just about the right distance for our warm-up hike.

Captain Amy

We decided to be over-achievers in January and before the month was over we had also explored a couple of Summersville trails: Battle Run (to visit sunken boats while the lake is at winter pool) and Long Point (the Lake one, not the Gorge one). The warm day, however, meant that the lake bed was muddy instead of frozen, which made walking very difficult. We still made it down to the sunken boats, though.

The trail to Summersville Lake’s Long Point is beautiful any time of year, but the frozen-over lake was a sight to behold from 120 feet above.

Bridge Trail

Our cold-weather gear was much in demand for our February hikes, plural because we thought two shorter ones would be safer in winter weather than one long one. ¬†First, we braved the Bridge Trail on a day that wasn’t so terribly cold, but in the shadow of the south rim of the Gorge, the footing was icy and treacherous on the downhill switchbacks that lead under the bridge.

Ninja Hikers on Long Point Trail

On the second hike of the month, we were determined to see what Long Point (the Gorge one) was like after a deep snowfall, but we had to turn back short of our goal. Next time we take snowshoes.

March also provided us with two hiking opportunities. The first was an obligatory sojourn around the Fayetteville Town Park Loop trail on a sunny afternoon. Park Loop is the closest trail to Lafayette Flats, and while it is no great beauty in the early spring before the foliage returns, it is the town’s gateway to the rest of the National Park trail system.

Sunrise at Long Point

March’s second hike was a photo safari to Long Point to try for a sunrise shot over Fern Creek Falls across the Gorge. Obviously this meant getting on the trail before daylight and walking by flashlight. The sunrise that morning proved to be a dud, but the satisfaction of setting and achieving the goal was savored over pancakes and coffee at Cathedral Cafe before most of the rest of the town had rolled out of bed.

Upper Falls of Fern Creek

In April we had our easiest and hardest hikes. The easy ones coming at Grandview, as we stayed along the road on the Tunnel and Turkey Spur trails. But later that month we attempted a bushwhack approach to Fern Creek Falls on the north side of the Gorge. We finally made it to the upper falls, but we were too tired and scratched up to attempt the lower falls even though we could hear its thundering torrent just a few hundred yards below us.

In May we journeyed with our friend Emily to the Nuttallburg area for one of our favorite hikes of the year. More about that in the next post.

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