Sunday, January 18, 2015

Savage Day Loop 10/25/2014

     About five years ago, Jackie and I made our first trip to Savage Gulf State Natural Area.  We fell in love with the place.  We love it so much, that I proposed to Jackie at the Stone Door.  Last year was an interesting year for us, with so much going on.  I regret to say that we only made one trip, yes just ONE trip to Savage Gulf, but it was an interesting trip none the less!
     We decided to do the Savage Day Loop Trail.  We unfortunately did not have a ton of time to do a backpacking trip and my knee was still giving me fits from the Rainbow Falls hike in September.  It was a good thing that we did not plan on doing an overnighter anyway because all of the back country campgrounds were full.  We arrived a little after lunch to find the parking lots completely full.  Outside of a handicapped space, I grabbed the last spot in the open lot.  There was another parking lot, but it was closed due to being the off season.  With great anticipation, I got my pack out of the trunk and helped Jackie into hers and we were off!
     The trail beings just to the right of the Ranger Station.  For those interested, there are a couple of restrooms at the Ranger Station.  I did not use them so I cannot comment on size and cleanliness.  There was a group of about 7 people at the trail register when we arrived getting ready to head out.  They all had 60-80 liter packs and grunted under the weight of lifting them up.  They asked me to take a group picture for them, which I gladly did and asked how long they were going to be out.  A guy sheepishly said, "One night."  I laughed and said, "At least you all will eat pretty well."  We signed the register and the group told us to head out before them, but they were out pacing us, so we let them by.
Trail Register at the Savage Gulf Ranger Station
     The trail was fairly level.  It just meandered its way through the woods and was well graded.  We met several people heading back to their cars.  About .4-.5 tenths of a mile from the trailhead, we came into and area with substantial blowdown damage.  I was a little depressed to see all the trees down along and around the trail.  The trail goes through the damaged area and twists and turns its way past cut trees.  The damaged area of the trail is maybe 2 tenths of a mile in length. 
Part of the trail with downed trees.
      After the damaged area, there was a suspension bridge over a creek.  I always enjoy suspension bridges, and this one had the customary 2 people only sign.  The trail then came to a split.  We could go straight and then turn right to go to Save Falls and Rattlesnake Point overlook or we could go right and see the sights in reverse.  We chose to go right and hike the loop counterclockwise.  Going against the flow is something that we do.  By going right, we were on the path to connect with the North Rim Trail.  As an aside, I have heard that the North Rim Trail has some of the best overlooks in the Park, but I do not know for sure since I have not hiked any of it.  We set out on this route heading towards Rattlesnake Point 1.2 miles away.  This part of the trail follows an old narrow gauge logging railroad that went through the area in the 1920's.  That translates to easy grades and no real sharp turns.  The trail goes through forest, weaving its way through stands of trees and along the sides of hill.  When the trail reaches about 3 tenths of a mile from the point, it begins to drop down towards the edge of the Gulf.  It is a gradual decent, but I would not want to climb it on the way out after hiking about 2.5 miles and going back to the car.
Then there it is, Rattlesnake Point.  It is not a developed lookout like Laurel Point or the Stone Door, but the view is nice.  There are some rocks that you can step out on to get a better view, but do not expect wide open views.  I was please that we started with the overlook.  We had a few snacks and read the plaque.  The plaque commemorates the husband and wife who bought the land to help found the park in the 1930's.  There is not a lot of room at the overlook; so if you have little ones, keep a close eye on them.  Also, do not plan on being able to cook lunch at the point, as there is not really enough room, especially if there are other people there.  The trail comes out of the trees just to the left of the picture and runs at the base of the rock bearing the plaque in the picture.  Coming from Savage Falls, Rattlesnake Point could take you by surprise.    
     We continued our counterclockwise route.  The trail follows along the edge of the gulf for a little ways before climbing up and down some of the drainage routes that go to the edge.  After half a mile, the trail goes to the Savage Falls Overlook.  It is a fairly steep tenth of a mile down to the overview.  There is a small platform built to look at the
View of Savage Falls from the Overlook
falls.  Jackie and I were both barely able to stand on the platform and I had to hold Mia.  Jackie took several pictures of the falls and used her longer zoom lenses to get super close up pictures.  The picture to the right is the best that my Pentax WG-1 camera could do.  We could hear the roar of the falls from where we were standing.  The Park had set up signs saying that the trail ended and to not go any further.  I saw where people had gone past the stand to get a closer look.  If you want to go to the base of the falls, it is only .5 miles on the South Rim Trail to reach the overlook and the stairs leading to the base of the falls.  I had brought my film camera but was unable to take any pictures of the falls due to a family coming down the trail and trying to fit their 5 people onto the stand with us on it and there was just not room.  I just put my camera away and began to climb back up the trail.  It is times like that, that reminds me why I like to hike, to get away from everyone and spend time in the outdoors. 
Trangia 25 cooking my lunch
     After climbing back up to the trail, we continued on to the intersection with the South Rim Trail, and then the sign where we turned right.  We were a mile away from Ranger Station at this point.  We met a lot of people coming down to see the falls.  Even with the camp grounds full and closes, we passed several groups going in with packs on their backs.  I hope that they had a way to reserve a spot ahead of time.  Going back to the car either seems to take forever or flys by.  Today it sped by.  We made it back to the car in what felt like rapid time.  I got out my Trangia 25 and cooked us some grilled cheese sandwiches on the grills in the park.  I have not cooked much on the Trangia, but it can hold its own cooking grilled cheese and fried bologna!  I generally take it to work and cook a quick sandwich or two for lunch.  
     Overall, the trip was very enjoyable.  I felt like the Savage Gulf Ranger Station was out of the way compared to the other entrances of the park, but after spending time there, I think that it is well worth the effort.  If you go there and arrive too late to hike to one of the camping areas further in the park, there is a campground about a tenth of a mile past the Ranger Station.  It is not as developed as the Stone Door Entrance, but not as spare as the Collins Gulf and Greeter Falls Entrances either.  If you are only interested in seeing waterfalls, and get up early enough in the day, it is possible to hit Savage Gulf and then drive 19 miles on Hwy 111 to Fall Creek Falls State Park as well.

Directions: The Savage Gulf entrance and ranger station is located halfway along Highway 399 between Cagle and Gruetli-Laager. (from the State Website.  Oh so super helpful I know.)

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