My third day of Fall Break 2011 was like Groundhog Day: I again had a late breakfast at Hillbilly Junction and drove over to Powder Mill Campground to hike, followed by Alley Spring. In my quest to escape the time trap I did try to impose some variations.
I began by ordering French toast instead of pancakes with my bacon and egg. And, like Bill Murray in the movie, I threw in a good deed: helping a lady and her daughter, who were stuck in their SUV, by giving it a jump start. Then I bought a bland turkey sandwich at a convenience store rather than a tastier one at a grocery store deli. I skipped Rocky Falls and drove straight to the campground at Powder Mill Creek and hiked the 1.5 mile trail south to Blue Spring rather than the north trail to the Current River overlook at Owls Bend.
The south trail was a fairly straight flat shot along the riverbank, compared to the vertical oscillations up and down the bluffs the day before. I posed on a pedestrian bridge across a dry feeder and the trail drove through much undergrowth along the riverbank. I spied a few big rocks projecting from the Current and after 1.3 miles reached the Blue Spring Branch feeding an average of 87 million gallons of water daily into the Current, as told by the signage.
The spring certainly earns its name, with water gushing out of the deep blue 310 foot deep fissure. It pours out and over a rocky barrier towards the Current, with much greenery growing in the clear waterway. I posed and ventured out on a lower walkway to peer down into the blue fissure, where I could spy several large fish. Climbing to the upper platform, I spied a couple who had walked up to the spot where I’d stood a few moments earlier.
The surface of the pool was covered in tiny circular ripples. It looked like a shower was in progress, but the ripples were bubbles rising up through the water from the green growth below. Several large rocks poking up out of the branch were festooned with greenery as well.
As I backtracked I encountered three fit gentlemen wearing wader boots. Their attire and athleticism were explained a bit later when I spied three kayaks now pulled up along the shore. A butterfly along the trail was feasting on flowers, but I resisted the berries.
I then drove back west to Alley Spring, arriving about three o’clock to have a light late lunch by the Alley Branch and then tromping over to the mill, which was open this time. I did not find the interior displays very enlightening, although they had all of the old equipment, albeit not operating.
I took a 1.75 mile overlook trail up to where I could see the mill and Story’s Creek School building far below. The trail led along the ridge before descending in a series of switchbacks to a sweeping set of stone steps at the south trailhead.
I thought that would finish out the day, but on my way eastward I stopped off at Flat Rock Lookout Tower, one of the typical high Aermotor fire towers of these forests dating back to the early 20th century. I was charmed to see that, unlike like its cousin the Sugar Camp tower I’ve climbed so many times, this one was still kept in shape and there was no discouragement to climb up.
Well, only two discouragements: a swarm of yellow jackets at one of the upper landings and the padlock on the cab’s trapdoor, protecting what appeared to be a still-active antenna. From up there the rolling forest looked almost flat, but through a gap in the tree cover I could see the undulations of the highway I’d just travelled. The sun was lowering in the west as I descended and drove over to The Hungry Moose at Summersville. The menagerie inside the entrance made me wonder what sort of food would be on offer, but I had a traditional chicken fried chicken meal and left as stuffed as the animals adorning the establishment. I didn’t spot a groundhog in the bunch.
I haven’t hiked much distance this break, with only about four miles per day instead of my typical six and up. But I’ve enjoyed myself nevertheless. Tomorrow is another travel day to return to Bartlesville for laundry duty, but I plan to stop off in Springfield for more garden photos, this time at a large park on Scenic Drive, which sounds promising.