Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hiking up the Little Devils Stairs

Sunday was another attempt at finding and hiking the Little Devils Stairs. This time I was fully prepared and had directions on my GPS and also written down. Sandra and her two dogs, Tobit and Hope, were joining me, the weather was perfect for a hike, there was nothing going to mar this day.
Trundling along the tiny back roads I came across this gravestone and had to stop. Why on earth would somebody have their grave on the side of a road? There were no markings on the ground or railings around the plot, just a lone, solitary headstone. There must be a story behind it, but I had no time to inquire, a mountain was waiting.
The parking lot was unusually full when we arrived but I suppose on a gorgeous day like today, everyone must have been chomping at the bit to be outside. Last fall I had done some of this hike with another group but chosen to walk up the fire trail and then back down as I didn't feel I was fit enough for the rocky climb, but today I was ready, and it felt great. We got started and followed a path that led up a gentle incline for about a mile and then gave way to rocks and more rocks. For the rest of the ascent we would be crossing back and forth over Keyser Run which splashed and tumbled over huge boulders down through a gorge.
Sandra and Hope making one of the many crossings and a selfie before we started climbing seriously, although Hope's expression clearly says, "Do I really need to be in this photo?"
Spring was busting out all over as we climbed and rock hopped. Each side of the narrow path, where there was one, was lined with clumps of white and purple violets, dutchman;s breeches, bloodroot and fiddlehead ferns. There were plenty of other shoots and unfurling leaves that I couldn't identify but it was evident that Mother Nature was introducing many colorful and plentiful characters in the first act of this year's play.
We hopped and jumped, wobbled and balanced our way across the creek while Tobit seemed to instead bounce and spring his way across. He was always in front but continuously trekked back to ensure that we were still moving along at a steady pace behind him. Hope stayed close to Sandra and was often assisted at crossing over the larger tree trunks and higher rocks.
The gorge rose high above us like the walls of a cathedral and all the way we were accompanied by the bubbling and trickling gurgles of the water splashing and bubbling it's way down. I lost count of the numerous little waterfalls and pools that we jumped over or peered down onto.
 Sandra and Hope posing for a photo and Tobit romping in a pool. He managed to get in most of my photos and I have to admit at first I found it a little annoying, but very soon I liked it as he made an excellent reference point to show how big the boulders or waterfalls really were. But he would not sit still for a second so I struggled to capture a decent photo of him but this one turned out well. I never got one of little Hope but will remedy that on the next hike that she joins us on.
As we climbed higher up the gorge, we saw icicles still hanging from rock faces.It seemed strange to see ice on this sunny day, especially with so many plants and flowers sprouting up announcing spring was here, but we had to admit that the few times we stopped we could feel the cold in the air.
There were a few steep places to climb up and little Hope had to be assisted again, lifted up on to ledges and steps. Tobit just sprang and bounced his way up with such abundant energy that I was a little envious at how effortless he made the steep incline appear as I puffed along in his wake.
We did manage to keep him in one spot for a few seconds so I could get a photo of Sandra and her two woofers. I was amazed at capturing a shot with both dogs looking towards the camera, and very glad I got it in focus!
As we got near to the top of the gorge our grand finale was a 20ft waterfall that cascaded down to begin its descent into the rocky depths below. We were really happy we'd done this hike today, the many falls and rapids we'd admired must surely dwindle as the heat of summer increases. We had enjoyed the sound of bubbling and splashing for the whole duration of our ascent, it had been a glorious accompaniment.
The final climb was a path that led to the top of the mountain and the fire trail that we would follow down to the end of our hike. This last stretch was a killer for me, I'd much rather be rock scrambling than simply plodding up a hill. But we got there and were extremely happy to start finally descending.
There's only one outlook to enjoy on the way down and then a small cemetery that we pottered around. Small ancient headstones stood silent in the dried brown leaves of last year but spring was announcing her arrival here too, with clumps of daffodils and tulips, splashing yellow and scarlet around to brighten the little area. I took a photo of the headstone above, hand carved, likely by a family member.
We arrived at the parking lot, our cars the only ones left. Tobit posed for one more photo while waiting for treats from Sandra and then it was time to head home to rest tired feet. This was a wonderful hike, one I'll likely try to repeat in the fall, and there will be many more for me this summer. Sandra's in training for an upcoming Grand Canyon hike so we plan on some more strenuous trails, White Oak Canyon and Old Rag are likely to be on the agenda.  Happy Trails!

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