My husband and two year old were both out of the house for the day, and I envisioned checking off many boxes on the eternal “to do list,” including enjoying solitude. Since I walk the line between extrovert and introvert I savor every moment alone during this pandemic. That morning, I sipped my morning coffee and listened to the late summer winds blow in birdsong… my mind relaxed. I was completely in that moment, and was helpless to the growing smile on my face. I knew I had to toss the “to do list” and get to the woods instead. It would just be a shame to let the rare coolness and low humidity of the day be wasted on house chores and a good book.
My pack was ready in no time, and I knew exactly where I wanted to explore. It would be a long enough hike I’d break a sweat and eat my lunch along the way, but I’d still be home in time to check a few boxes off the list before my family returned. Fanning Trail was the one, and I added Stevenson Trail for an extra half a mile. It would be my first time along that particular route, and I was thrilled to get some new ground under my boots.
A quarter mile in I was still skeptical. The rock formations and elevation gain were exactly what I’d hoped for, but the droning noise of Cecil Ashburn traffic distracted from the scenery and sounds of nature. A half mile in I was still somewhat preoccupied with the sound of traffic, but was trying to focus on the winds as they thrashed the canopy high above. I watched the leaves of shagbark hickory and oak dance against the sky’s backdrop and decided I was on the right path.
I followed the mountain’s contour lines into solitude.
As the trail climbed higher I passed boulder gardens, groves of Paw Paw, the sweet smell of cedar, and the quiet scurrying of wildlife near the forest floor. Once I reached the elevation peak I followed the mountain’s contour lines into solitude. No great overlook, waterfall, or single feature was the goal, but each new turn offered a glimpse of surprise. A family of deer in a one time forest meadow, now overgrown with trees half way to maturity; a rock filled stream with mushrooms sprouting in its center; and tiny wonders each time I paused to discover my surroundings.
The trail is one you have to want, simply for itself. The climb is challenging and rocky, and seemed to be a favorite among trail runners (the majority of the others I passed). The rewards are simple, yet sweet. The end is not marked by a view, but instead by a temporary “blasting ahead” construction sign. Was it worth it? Absolutely! It was the exact path I needed that day.
What to know?
- Be prepared with appropriate clothing, footwear, water, snacks and other essentials
- Tell someone your plan, and hike with a buddy
- Know your limits, and those of your children and pets
- Follow all Land Trust rules, such as keeping your pet on a leash
- For more tips on preparing for a hike read Planning Your First Hike
- Visit Blevin’s Gap Nature Preserve to plan your trip
- Consider a donation and/or membership to the Land Trust of North Alabama to support local conservation, community events, and trail projects
Let us guide you on a private adventure or group hike. Contact ButterflyOutdoors@gmail.com for rates and more information.
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