So, last Friday, around 1 am, I couldn’t take it any longer! I had been tossing and turning almost since I had laid down around 9:30 the night before… I had planned on getting a few hours of sleep, then getting up around 2:30 am, showering, and climbing in my car to make the 3.5 hour drive to Savage Gulf, but it just didn’t happen that way… Instead, I got about 30 minutes of sleep somewhere in those few hours, and then couldn’t get back to sleep… So, as I was lying there at 1 am, I said “Forget it!” I got up, showered, and was in my car just before 2 am to begin my drive!
On my whole drive up, I was just ahead of a large storm front that was headed east. Most of my drive had been dry, however, during the last hour of driving, the storm had caught up with me. It began as a light rain, with some lightning flashes in the dark skies above me. Just before I pulled into the parking lot, the rain had stopped, although, dark clouds still loomed overhead.
Around 6:45 am I pulled up next to 2 other hikers that I was meeting. I parked, then got out of my car and walked between their vehicles. Charles (AKA: Hiking Shoes) was sitting in his truck, and in the next spot over was JJ (from JERMM’s outside). They each had their window’s down, discussing the hike, and of course the weather conditions… The area that we were in was actually under a tornado warning until around 8 or 9 that morning.
We still needed to wait on Chris, the last hiker that would be meeting us that morning, however, we were not expecting him until around 8. Then, as we were talking, the rain came back, only this time, it was coming down much harder than before… So rather than sit in a dreary parking lot, we all piled into one vehicle and headed into the nearest town and had some breakfast at a Hardee’s while we waited out the rain. And of course, we all relished that last little meal (as most hikers do when they know it will be the last “normal” meal for a few days).
While we were eating breakfast, I got a call from Chris. He told me that his truck was acting up, but that he was almost at the parking area. So, we finished our breakfast, and headed back to the parking area to meet up with Chris.
By the time we got back to the parking area, things started looking a little brighter. It was still overcast, with mist in the air, if not a quick shower, but the daylight was taking over, and things started looking better. Shortly after, we all decided it was time to set out…
Because of the rain coming in, we had actually decided to do our trip in reverse. Originally, we were planning to start the hike by taking the South Rim Trail, then dropping into the gorge, and then following the North Rim Trail back out. By going in this direction though, it required us to stay at Saw Mill campgrounds the first night, which is in a low area. After talking with the rangers, we were afraid that the Saw Mill campgrounds would be somewhat wet, or maybe even a little flooded due to all the rain, so we simply reversed our plans. (Outlined in the picture below.)
So, we started out by following the North Rim Trail and slowly made our way to Hobbs Cabin for the night. Being that we only had to hike around 7 -8 miles the first day, we made sure to stop off at the side trails to take in the views looking out over the gorge, or at the random waterfalls. The rain had moved out for the most part, although, we still had random, short-lived showers, and of course the wind was constantly blowing the rain out of the trees… I gotta say, I was glad to have my umbrella! :)
(Above) We crossed numerous suspension bridges like this throughout our entire hike… they were so much fun! Very wobbly…but fun… :)
(Above) Savage Falls, a beautiful waterfall, which I got closer pictures of on the way out…
(Above) Charlie coming out of his rain jacket.
(Above) JJ’s Gossamer Gear Mariposa.
(Above) My most awesome, small size ZPacks Zero, in all black!
(Above) Who’s that handsome guy?! :)
(Above) Charlie was all business on this hike… :)
(Above) One of the first, and many, spectacular overlooks…
(Above) I stood on that rock jutting out on the opposite side of the picture while hiking back out, and took another picture looking back…
(Above) The group… minus Joe, but he got there the next night!
(Above) Refilling water bladders… pretty water…
(Above) A hidden gem…
We arrived at Hobb’s Cabin around 3-ish that afternoon. After checking out the cabin itself, we decided that we would rather sleep in the campgrounds just past the cabin. So, we soon headed over and began picking out our spots, which was quite easy. The camping area here was very nice, with lot’s of flat spots to choose from!
(Above) The bunks inside Hobbs Cabin… are quite narrow!
(Above) My humble abode… luvin it! :)
(Above) Charlie’s “Palace.”
(Above) JJ’s cuben MLD Solomid.
(Above) Chris’s Kammock set-up.
(Above) My food bag, water, and yes… my Jetboil Sol Ti! (Crazy, I know…)
(Above) Charlie’s cooking set-up.
(Above) JJ’s fuel bottle…
(Above) LUVIN’ IT! WOOHOO… :)
(Above) Yes, I cooked Ramen in my Jetboil Sol Ti… so I am sure I have voided my warranty… oh well… (I recommend the aluminum version anyway…)
A number of other hikers began filling in the remaining camp sites as night began taking over once again. By the time it was upon us though, we had all filled our bellies, Chris started us a fire, which we all continuously tended to for a few more hours, and we hung our food bags. Not to long after night fall, Charlie decided to turn in, and Chris followed suit not much after. JJ and I sat up and talked for a little longer, watching the fire die out, and then we also took to our own shelters for the night… which was about as perfect as one could ask for. Around mid 30′s, a little wind, and a clear sky… that’s good stuff right there!
The next morning, we woke up around the time the sun came up, and we each went about our morning routine of cooking and tearing down our tents. Once we were all packed up and ready to go, we followed the trail which descended down into the gorge, and then made our way towards the Saw Mill campgrounds. When we arrived at the campgrounds, we found that it was indeed still a little wet, and was likely a bit wetter the night before, so it turned out pretty good that we decided to do our hike in reverse.
After hanging out at the campgrounds for a bit, we decided we had better keep going. We still had to push further down the trail to Stone Door. On the route towards Stone Door, we crossed a few more of those cool suspension bridges, as well as a super cool water fall that fell into a very inviting pool of water. Chris and I actually talked about taking a quick dip on the way back if time allowed…
We made it up to Stone Door just a little after 2, and wow, it was so worth the hike! I kept calling it the Savage Gulf version of McAfee Knob on the AT. We had excellent views all around us, at least from side to side (not quite a 360, but still quite magnificent). After having some lunch on Stone Door, and taking a bit of a rest while taking in the views, we decided we had better head back. Our campsite was still around 8 miles away, and we still had to meet Joe.
(Above) The trail leading down into the gorge was a rather rocky, but fun trail…
(Above) The dried up river bed. There was a sink just up the way a bit…
(Above) One of the campsites at Saw Mill campgrounds.
(Above) This was beautiful… a perfect swimming hole…
(Above) The stairs leading to more stairs to get to the top of Stone Door.
(Above) The stairs leading to the top of Stone Door.
(Above) Looking out into the gorge from Stone Door.
(Above) Me and my umbrella, on top of Stone Door.
When we made it back to the Saw Mill campground, Joe was still not there, so we decided to continue on to the next campsite up, which was Stage Road campgrounds on the South Rim Trail. Just after climbing back up to the South Rim, we met Joe hiking towards us.
Once we all said our hello’s, we continued on to Stage Road campgrounds. When we got there, there were already a few of the sites filled with other hikers. We checked out the few remaining spots, and settled on the largest one still available, however, the campsites here were not near as flat, or as nice looking (to me) as the ones at Hobb’s Cabin, or at Saw Mill. But, we each picked a spot, set up our tents, and then got to making our dinners. As well, Joe was kind enough to get us a fire going.
Night came a little quicker, but it was yet again, another beautiful night. We all sat around the fire, throwing twigs in at random, and eating our last dinner for the hike. After talking for a while, and watching the fire die down again, we again began retiring to our own shelter for the night…
(Above) Looking down the stairs from the top of Stone Door.
(Above) Another water fall… these were awesome!
(Above) The stone wall built at the switch back, climbing back up to the South Rim Trail.
The next morning was a bit overcast, and a little cool. During the night, I had looked at my watch and it read 32 F. However, we had to get up and moving… There was rain in the forecast, and we still had to finish hiking out, so we could drive back home.
As usual, we each went about our own specific, morning routines. After we finished packing up, we headed back down the trail. There didn’t seem to be as many overlooks on the South Rim Trail as there were on the North Rim Trail, although, there were still a few, short, blue blazed trails leading to the edge of the rim. And of course, these overlooks were just as beautiful as before, just from a different angle…
Near the end of the trail, we came next to the Savage Falls. These were the falls that Charlie and I had seen from a distance on our first day, so I made sure to climb down and take some better pictures. And of course, this was another beautiful area… The sun had come out, pushing many of the clouds away, and sitting on the large rocks in the middle of the stream was so relaxing…
(Above) The sunrise…
(Above) Organizing my stuff, and packing up…
(Above) Our packs, all lined up!
(Above) The site of an old still.
(Above) Sitting on the rocky outcropping seen from one of the first photo’s.
(Above) Savage Falls…
I have got to say, Savage Gulf is a beautiful area, and I am excited that it is only 3.5 hours away from me. Hopefully, I will be able to make more trips to the area, and even bring my kids… Those that have been there know what I mean, and for those that have not, well, you just need to get out there and experience it for yourself… you’ll be glad you did!
And of course, I made some videos from the hike… and here they are, all mashed into one video:
Also, be sure to check out JJ’s write up on the trip HERE.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed it! :)