Friday, August 24, 2018

A Cliff Hanger...Or Two! -- August 24, 2018

Hope everyone had a swell week!  Bo and I did!  Except for one favorite camera, my Panasonic Lumix finally bit the dust.  It was probably 7-8 yrs old...maybe even older.  I have a newer Canon SureShot and really don't like it at all.  I could give it away without a second thought.  I also have two DSLRs, but I didn't want to drag all the lenses out and charge up the batteries, sooooooo a lot of these photos are cell phone photos.  I don't ever take my "real" photos with my phone....but if you like using your cell, download the App "CameraX".  It is way better than using your standard camera phone.  Poke around the app because there are a lot of useful features. The good news is, I found the same Lumix, in excellent condition, rarely used, on Ebay for $75!  But, of course, I won't have it until I return to home base.  I didn't want to splurge on the new Lumix, and there are features on it that don't thrill me, so I'm elated to have a "new", old Lumix!  With all that said, there will be a lot of photos in this post, albeit cell phone photos.

So, now on to our week!  We took off from the revisited Saddle Creek campground Sunday morning and headed north on IN-37.  We stopped for ice at one of the two convenience/gas stores on the way to our next stop only about 30 minutes or so away.  No other shopping available, so we were going to have to make do with what we had on hand for the coming week.  No problem, really...we were still pretty well stocked with good foods.  

We followed Google Maps to the turnoff and in about 6 miles we saw our destination:

We had our fingers crossed the whole way here.  If you recall, I mentioned at the end of the last post that somewhere around here was just a singular campsite.  That's putting all of your eggs in one basket!  Well, I didn't see any campsite as we drove up to the parking lot of this trailhead, where there were about 15 cars parked, by the way.  Hmmmmmmmm......ok -- let's turn around and look for it again.

We drove the 1/2 mile to the intersection and there it was, to our left, set back in the trees.  And, HURRAY!  No one there!  Whoo hoo!  If this hadn't been the case, we were going to have to go to a pay site not far away.  You know by now how I am about having to pay for a campsite!  LOL!  But that's not to say we won't ever do that.... looked like a great site..... so we pulled in and got the van situated so it blocked off any "lookers".  Perfect!

This is a large campsite....the maintenance guy, Fred, told me that during hunting season, sometimes up to five hunters are parked back here with their tents and campers.  There's plenty of room for Bo to run around off-leash down one little woodland path.  That's a huge plus!  Of course, zero amenities here....totally primitive!  But we like that :-)  No canopy, due to its demise at Saddle Lake, but our little kitchen is set up right outside the van.  Just throw a tarp over it when it rains...which it did a bit this past week.  No big deal.  There are plenty of shady spots to sit if the sun gets too warm.

When we drove up to the trailhead upon arrival, as I noted, there were about 15 cars parked there.  That was dashing my hopes to hike this trail, especially with Bo.  And I was really looking forward to it. Fred had said this is the most popular "attraction" in the entire forest and people are at this trail almost every day.  But, as I analyzed the weather and days of the week, I decided that Monday might be the day to try it.  First, it was a Monday (usually the least active day for anything related to camping), and second, it wasn't going to be a picture perfect summer day...rain was in the forecast.

So, we dawdled around Monday morning, continuing to analyze this possibility, and about 1:00pm decided to go for it.  So far, I hadn't noticed any cars going up there, but I wasn't 100% sure if anyone had gone by,  I didn't want to leave the campsite "open" to viewers, so we walked the 1/2 mile up to the trailhead.  It was our lucky Monday, overcast day! No cars!

Off we went down the trail. 

The first overlook looked promising for an eventful hike.

This is going to be an interesting hike!

Very soon, we came upon the first decent....Yikes! Not knowing what was past these stairs, I hesitated to let Bo off his leash.  So, we headed down.....he could have pulled me down and that would have been the end of me, but he knows "SLOW" and "WAIT" and that's exactly what he did all the way to the bottom.

Just to the right of the bottom step, tho', was a very precarious situation..."SLOW" and "WAIT" probably weren't going to work was just too narrow and not foot-steady on the uneven rocks.  I could see a little of the surrounding area ahead of us, so off the leash he went.  He quickly ran down these rocky "stairs", looked around, and waited for me to amble down the slippery rocks.

This is apparently not a trail for least this part...but it was worth the little bit of semi-treacherous finagling!  Our first view!  This is the introduction to Hemlock Cliffs.  Archaeological excavations indicate Native American occupation as early as 10,000 years ago.  Throughout this canyon are rock shelters like this, which undoubtedly provided cover and defense to the early occupants of this area.  So cool!

A few steps away was a huge, very deep ravine......
I had Bo tethered at this point.

Bo is waiting patiently for me to get away from the edge so we
can continue our hike....

Along the way, I will interject photos of the interesting vegetation we noticed.  You've realized by now I'm a big fan of wildflowers and mushrooms!

Most of the rock here is sandstone of the "Tar Springs Formation". Much of the sandstone is "honeycombed" by the weathering of iron ores.

Marching onward on this 1.3 mile trail we quickly come to the next big decent to the bottom of the canyon.... Bo did his on-leash "slow" and "wait" routine all the way down!  He's amazing!

At the bottom was a gigantic boulder in a dry creek bed.  I wondered how long it had been there, probably having tumbled from far above our heads....glad it wasn't the day we were at that spot!

Now we are finally at the bottom of the really wasn't that far from our starting point, but we had seen a lot already!  Now the trail was a little more "do-able" as far as obstacles and steep stairs, but we did have to watch our footing for rocks and gnarly tree roots in the path.  I had to remind myself to keep looking up at the surrounding vista...not just straight ahead...

Now we were noticing a lot more interesting vegetation along our pathway...

It was so nice having this entire valley of beauty to ourselves.  
So tranquil and cool.  There were occasional glimpses of sun and it never did rain!

After ascending this little staircase there was an option of going straight ahead or continuing around the trail loop. 

I'm sure glad we decided to go straight ahead...out of sheer curiosity!  The walk wasn't too long, but rocky and precarious. I was wondering "where is this leading"??  But, in short order, as soon as I took in what was ahead I knew we had made the right decision!  It was quite rocky and uneven, and we were now far above the bottom of the canyon with the cliff to our right.  I tethered Bo to an outcropping of tree roots while I ventured forward to get some shots....holding him and a cell phone at this juncture wasn't going to be a good idea!  Lol!  This edge was just too if-y to try to get a photo looking down, but who needs that when you have this in front of you -----------

A natural feast for the eyes!

This is a HUGE outcropping overhang.  Without a wide angle lens I really couldn't get the breadth of this unique formation.  Since we were on this trek alone, the next photo isn't mine, but I wanted to relate the magnitude of this natural structure.  I'm quite sure this was a sanctuary for Native Americans.  What is reflecting on the right is a waterfall!  How cool is that??  I definitely have to come back here, probably in the spring!

This was the highlight of this trail.  Lesson learned....if you ever have the option to take a turn, with a good feeling about what is probably coming up, or straight ahead into the unknown.....go straight!  

The rest of the trail was enhanced by looking for more wild plants and fungi....

Toward the end of the trail, we came upon a pretty little, natural pond...

So, that's our tour of Hemlock Cliffs.  Hard to really show it off in photos.  It's a really superb hike if you are ever in this area!  We were really fortunate that the singular campsite was available - within walking distance to the trail - and that there was no one else at the cliffs that day!  Since Monday, there have been quite a few visitors, so that was the best day for us.

Back at the campsite, we found wildflowers and mushrooms along Bo's walking path and into the woods.  

These mushrooms "bloomed" overnight....


A sign of fall??

Can you see the van from our woodland path?

It's a great spot!

In the blog title I referred to two "cliff hangers".
Hemlock Cliffs was obviously the first one...
here's the second one...

I will probably be at home base a little longer than usual after I leave here this weekend.  I have a ton of "business" to take care of, then the Labor Day weekend will be upon us.  I don't really want to venture out next Thursday or Friday and look for a campsite.  Finding our type of spot at the start of a holiday weekend is too unpredictable in this lifestyle unless you like a lot of traffic and noisy people!

So, my plan is to write a little blog from home base getting into the details of the above photo.  It will be something a little different...hence, a "cliff hanger"!  LOL!

Have a great weekend!
Thanks for continuing to follow my blog and
thanks for hiking with us!

I'm venomous...but beautiful!


  1. Great find and great photos! Love this time of year in the woods!

  2. Great hike! I also love fall in the woods...none of that here! Bo is doing so well.

  3. Love CameraX! Heck of a backup to the traditional camera.

    And great hike... glad you found it.