Sleeps With Skunks and I headed out Friday morning for three days at Savage Gulf State Natural Area. We intended to hike a 22 mile loop out to Hobbs Cabin, then down into the Gulf, with a second night at Stage Road Campsite, and out past Savage Falls. But after conferring with rangers who were “almost sure” the springs at both areas were dry, we decided to change our plans.
We instead chose a loop with spurs on the northwestern edge of the area, staying at Alum Gap Camp first night, then Sawmill Camp (with fairly reliable water from the streams in the area) for the second.
We stowed a water cache 3/10’s of a mile in from the Greeter Falls parking area, then parked at Stone Door Ranger station and headed up the delightfully mellow 2.9-mile Laurel Trail to Alum Gap CS. We stopped just long enough to snap a picture at the old moonshine still site.
From there, we set up camp, hung our bear bag, and prepared to head (with nearly empty packs) the 1.4 miles to Greeter Falls and our water cache.
The walk down to Lower Greeter Falls is rather enchanting with multiple stairways, including an actual spiral staircase.
SWS enjoyed a break and a view of Greeter Falls at the same time.
The plunge pool was truly remarkable, deep and startlingly cold for a day in the mid-80’s. The falls on the far side were warm as they fell from shallow pools up top.
After a luxurious swim, Skunks and I grabbed our water cache and headed back to camp. We enjoyed a dinner of freeze-dried lasagna with diced bits of fresh sausage links. Then I turned in to the comfort of my hammock.
I awoke about 2 AM and placed my thermarest pad into the hammock. Its wonderfully cool fabric (of 8 PM) had grown a bit chilly in the 65 degree air. With pad in place, I quickly returned to sleep.
The next morning SWS was happy to rise to a skillet breakfast of hash browns, with the last of the sausage and fresh scrambled eggs. Once we were packed and moving, we headed down the rocky trail into the Savage Gulf.
Two miles into the walk, we dropped packs for the half-mile side hike to Ranger Falls. Along the way, we encountered a bashful little rattlesnake who was polite enough to give Sleeps With Skunks a warning before it tried to hide itself under a boulder.
We carefully continued on, eventually arriving at the lightly flowing Ranger Falls.
By this point Skunks was debating options for walking out today. She suggested we drop packs at the next intersection and dayhike the 6.4-mile round trip to Sawmill Camp and back, then walk the remaining 1.8 miles up and out. I suggested we base the decision on how we felt once we arrived at the intersection.
The trail had been fairly rocky for much of the morning and it was becoming moreso with each step it seemed.
By the time we reached the intersection, SWS was quite tired, and I wasn’t my usual spry self either. We were approaching noon, and temperatures were in the upper 80’s. While this was a full 10 degrees cooler than Nashville, it was still warm. Skunk’s blood sugars were very low (around 70), a condition she often experiences despite good nutrition while hiking at altitudes or in substantial heat. We stopped, ate, and rested a bit. Skunks only felt a little better.
At this point, we decided to cut the trip short here and simply hike up the steep .9 mile trail to Stone Door and out.
We took our time, and SWS took a couple of Gu’s. After 55 minutes, we finished the .9 miles and arrived at Savage Gulf’s famed Stone Door.
The area is popular for climbing and rappelling and today a group of about 30 was busy on multiple pitches.
We grunted up the last 100 feet and enjoyed the view from the top.
From there, we walked the relatively benign and level mile walk to the ranger station and our car. We cleaned up and headed for home.