Have you ever had one of those days when you work all day and accomplish nothing?Well, I can top it.I spent last week working in Wisconsin.The weather was hideous Ė with temperatures in the upper 30ís, heavy rain, and brutal winds. Fortunately, I finished my job a day early, which gave me the chance to visit a friend who lives in Chicago.Unfortunately Kevin was out of town on business himself, but returned on Thursday evening.So, I drove from Wisconsin to Chicago and picked him up at the airport.Itís pretty goofy when you think about it Ė Heís the one that lives in Chicago, and I was picking him up at the airport.


We hung out that night, and I was up early the next morning to check my flight options.I was booked on a flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte at 6:30pm, with a connection in Chicago.I called American Airlines, hoping that I could simply show up at OíHare airport in Chicago and catch a stand-by flight.Unfortunately you canít change your departure city when you fly stand-by, so I headed back from Chicago to Milwaukee to catch a flight to Chicago. Duh-huh. I left that morning, as I was hoping to catch an early afternoon flight that would get me home before midnight.


I reached the Milwaukee airport shortly after noon.At check-in, I discovered that my 6:30 flight had been cancelled because of ongoing weather delays.Since that was the last flight, Iíd been re-booked on a flight on Saturday.I managed to convince them to move me to the Friday afternoon flight, but that would only get me as far as Chicago.They assured me that all other flights from Chicago to Charlotte were either cancelled or horribly overbooked, and there was no chance that Iíd make it out of OíHare until Saturday.So I called Kevin, and told him that Iíd be spending another evening with him.


I eventually made it out of Milwaukee and found myself back in Chicago late Friday afternoon.After nearly a full day of banging my head against a wall, I was right back where Iíd started.I was all set to catch a train to Kevinís, when I passed a gate with a flight scheduled to Charlotte.The flight was overbooked, and there were already 15 people on the standby waiting list.I decided to put my name in anyway, and settled in to wait.Because so many connecting flights were cancelled or delayed, practically none of the people originally booked on the flight showed up.By some miracle, I got on the flight, and made it home by 7:30, which was a full 4 hours earlier than I had expected.My luggage was a different story Ė it arrived on Sunday.


I had Monday off, so I took Saucony for a hike.I wasnít in the mood for a long drive (lots of travel will do that to you), so I decided to visit South Mountains State Park.I hadnít been there since the floods following the 2004 hurricanes.Most of the damage in the park has been repaired, although a couple of trail bridges are still out.Iím not sure what the status is on the bridge repairs, but the new visitorís center is coming along nicely.


After an 80 minute drive, I parked in the large lot at the main trailhead at the end of the road.For this visit, I decided to hike some trails Iíd never experienced before.In addition, I would make another visit to High Shoals Falls, where I hoped to get some better photos.


My hike started on the Jacob Fork River Trail, sort of.This trail begins on the Hemlock Nature Trail, but immediately crosses the river.Unfortunately, this is one of the parkís missing bridges.I didnít realize this though, because the park map seems to indicate that the river trail begins at the other end of the parking lot.I headed that way, and wandered around near the picnic shelter for awhile before deciding that the trail had to be on the opposite side of the river.Fortunately, water levels were low, and I didnít have any trouble rock hopping.I found the trail on the far side and headed downstream.A few minutes later I reached the Raven Rock Trail at a bridge.I headed up this trail, which is a rather uninspiring dirt road.After a moderate climb, I reached a junction with the Upper Falls Trail.I followed this trail back down to the river, and rock hopped again.On the far side I found a lovely designated campground in an open, grassy forest.This campground is one of the nicer ones in the park, though itís worth noting that it is on the opposite side of the river from what is shown on the map.


A few minutes later I reached the trail to High Shoals Falls.I followed it to another bridge over the river, and hiked down past the upper cascades.The upper cascades are pretty, but a fence along the trail eliminates most photographic opportunities, unless youíre willing to climb over it.I then descended a long, steep staircase to the base of High Shoals Falls.The falls are probably the parkís most popular feature, but I was there at the right time.There was nobody around on this Monday morning, which gave me the opportunity to explore the photographic opportunities.Although it was a sunny day, the cliffs surrounding the falls created enough of a shadow to allow for decent photographic conditions.


Some time later, we backtracked to the Upper Falls Trail.I continued west on this trail, which is also an old road.Frequent ups and downs keep this stretch of trail from becoming monotonous, and there was one nice view across the headwaters of Jacobs Fork to Benn Knob, the highest point in the park.In addition, blooming mountain laurel along the trail added color.


Some time later, I left the road for the Jacobs Branch trail.This footpath was a nice change of pace, at least until it started climbing straight uphill.Fortunately the climb didnít last long.I joined the Fox Trail, and some time later I reached the Fox Trail campsites in a large meadow.This camping area provided a sunny, breezy, quiet place for lunch.


After lunch, I followed the Lower CCC trail and the Headquarters Trail.I passed more wildflowers along the way, including a couple of Pink Lady Slippers and a single Trillium.I returned to the trailhead on the Shinny Creek Trail, which was another nice change from the old roads I had been following.This trail also had several steep ups and downs, as well as a couple of minor creek crossings.I was almost at the trailhead when I passed two families heading in the other direction.They were the first people Iíd seen all day.I returned to the car at 3pm, having covered around 10 or 12 miles.Sometime in the future, Iíd like to backpack in the park.The park features nice backcountry sites.Most are scenic and feature amenities such as fire grates, picnic tables, and privies.Of the ones I saw, Upper falls was my favorite.


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