MOTHER (NATUREíS) DAY
I had to juggle family obligations with the need to get outside last weekend.† I had to attend the prom on Saturday (Christy teaches High School), and of course Sunday was Motherís Day, as well as my nieces 1st birthday.† Saturday was a lost cause, but I came up with a plan for Sunday.† Iíd drive from Charlotte to Doughton Park in the morning, hike, and then head to Winston-Salem for my nieceís birthday party, where Iíd see Mom, too.† It was an ambitious plan, but one that would accomplish everything if I could pull it off.
I didnít get much sleep Saturday night, but I still managed a reasonably early start.† Fortunately I can get to Doughton Park in less than 2 hours, so I was on the trail before 11.† It was a hot, sunny day, but the old fire road I was following was surprisingly muddy.† Apparently the mountains had seen a fair amount of rain the night before.
The trail was uneventful until I reached the first crossing of Basin Creek.† This crossing can be tricky, especially at high water.† Luckily, the creek wasnít up too much after the previous nightís rain.† Waterproof boots helped me get across without getting wet.† Beyond, I reached the designated campsites situated between Basin and Cove Creeks.† Doughton Park is often overlooked as a backpacking destination, which is a shame.† The campsites along Cove Creek are some of the prettiest in the NC mountains.
My arrival at the campsites meant I had a decision to make.† Iíd come a mile and a half, but I hadnít decided on the route I would take.† From the campsites, three trails continue deeper into the park.† The fire road continues 5 miles to the Mountains-To-Sea Trail near the Parkway.† The Bluff Ridge Primitive Trail climbs more steeply to join the MST in less than 3 miles.† These two trails can be combined with the MST to form one of several long loops in the park.† I was tempted to do it, but knew that I would be pressed for time as it was.† Instead I choose to continue up Basin Creek to Caudill Cabin.† Itís a 10-mile hike, but is fairly easy and offers a worthwhile destination.†
This hike is infamous for its numerous crossings of Basin Creek.† There are somewhere between 12 and 14 crossings of the main creek, depending on whoís numbers you believe.† I counted 16 on the way to the cabin, but included two significant tributaries in my total.† Thatís a total of 32 crossings for the round-trip (for those that are mathematically challenged).† Fortunately, most of them arenít very difficult unless the water was up.† At the first crossing, I met another hiker heading towards the cabin.† I passed him, but ran into him several times when I stopped to take pictures.
One of my biggest motives for hiking last weekend was to get some wildflower photos at the peak of the blooming season.† I usually hike in Doughton Park in the winter, but I figured it would be a good place for wildflowers.† I didnít find any of my favorites, like Trillium or Lady Slippers, but I did find many others.† Most notable were the bright red Firepink, which I found frequently along the trail.
I continued my hike up the valley, passing a waterfall as well as several old homesites.† At the campground is a grave of one of the areaís settlers.† Ruins are plentiful throughout that area, including the foundation of a church that once served the valley.† Farther upstream, the trail passes several foundations with chimneys still standing.† Of course, the most notable homesite is Caudill Cabin itself.† I reached the recently restored cabin, which is located in a small clearing, in time for a late lunch.†
I explored the cabin briefly after I ate.† The cabin now has a notebook containing photos and information about the cabinís original inhabitants.† The log cabin itself is only a small single room, though it appears that there used to be a loft as well.† When one visits the cabin, itís amazing to consider that the Caudillís had 14 children (though they werenít necessarily all in the cabin at the same time).† For more information on the history of the Caudill Cabin, go to http://www.caudillcabin.org/.†
I was getting ready to leave when thunder rumbled in the distance.† It had clouded up, but the idea of hiking in the rain actually seemed appealing after enduring the morning heat.† I headed back down the valley, but only encountered a few scattered rain drops on the way.† In the last mile, I passed a family and another group of hikers.† It seemed like a crowd after seeing only 1 hiker and 1 fisherman through the majority of the day.† I reached the car at 3:30, which gave me plenty of time to get to Winston in time for the festivities.† The day worked out quite nicely, and I was glad I hiked at Doughton in the spring.† Itís a different place when the foliage is lush and the flowers are in bloom.† Iíll have to hike there again during the greener half of the year.
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