In the midst of all the uncertainty most of us find ourselves in, I’ve found that getting back to the basics has helped to keep me sane and stave off boredom, while adhering to the new social distancing policies enacted during this pandemic. Finding less populated hiking trails in order to reconnect with nature and get a sense of calm as well as clarity has been incredibly helpful in allowing me to have a bit of normalcy during my day. Delving into photography and embarking on a mission to photograph as many varieties of spring blooming woodland wildflowers has been keeping me too busy to follow whatever the news of the day might be.
Focusing my attention on things that I have control over has been helpful in keeping my anxieties over what may or may not happen at bay. As gyms have closed during the time being, I have begun to incorporate weighted exercises to some of my hikes in order to mix things up. Try carrying a weighted backpack with a 20 pound medicine ball on a 2 mile uphill hike and feel your thighs burn up!
Having had to cancel several trips due to State and National Parks being closed during Covid-19 quarantines, my travels have centered closer to home in the last several months. Turkey Run Park within the Parklands of Floyds Fork has become my new go to getaway. I had mistakenly written off and largely ignored most of the trails here for several years. Last fall, wanting to get away from the more popular Beckley Creek Park, I began making outings here to reacquaint myself with the area.
The trail that I can’t seem to get enough of and continue to visit on a weekly basis is the Wild Hyacinth Trail. Located in the heart of Turkey Run Park, it consists of a 1.47 mile loop following Turkey Run Creek through some challenging terrain. This trail has it all: almost a dozen creek crossings, waterfalls, abundant wildlife, seasonally blooming wildflowers, and historical landmarks.
As this trail runs parallel to a large creek it adds the challenge of climbing up and over steep, stone covered ravines. Depending on the weather, the creek crossings can range from dry trickles to ankle deep rapids.
The trailhead is located along the main road traversing the park and is largely missed by guests driving to more popular meeting areas such as Sky Meadows and the Silo Center. My curiosity got the best of me 5 weeks ago during a bike ride with my son along the paved loop that crisscrosses the entire Parklands. Noticing movement between the trees he pulled off to watch a group of hikers climb up a hill and heard one of them mention a waterfall they had just hiked over. We made it our mission that afternoon to figure out what trail they were on and find this waterfall.
We laid our bikes off to the side and began cutting through the thick forest in search of a path. Scrambling over fallen logs covered in Toadstool Mushrooms and climbing down moss covered limestone outcroppings, we finally made it to a deep ravine with a drop off at the far end of it.
Our excitement got the best of us as we hurried down the hillside zigzagging through the brush. Before I had a chance to even react, I slipped on a pile of leaves, lost my balance, and began flying through the air towards the creek 10 feet below. At one point, my hands were flailing as I tried to grab on to anything that would stop me, doing my best impression of Wile E. Coyote from a Looney Tunes episode.
Seconds later I landed on my hands and knees on the field stone littering the creek bed. With my body pumping full of adrenaline I jumped to me feet and performed a quick check of my moving parts. A few scratches here and there. My wrists took the brunt of the fall and they hurt like hell, but nothing was broken from what I could tell. I looked up at Wyatt and with my biggest sarcastic fake smile, I gave him a thumbs up. CRISIS AVERTED!
Regaining our composure, we began to follow the creek till we reached the edge of the drop off. Turns out that this was the beginning of a succession of a half dozen mini waterfalls stretching out a quarter of a mile. They ranged from 2 foot high falls all the way to the very last waterfall splashing down 8 feet into a small pool before trickling down the hillside into Turkey Run Creek. Every creek crossing encountered on this trail can be followed back uphill to find smaller falls feeding the creek as it travels downhill.
A benefit of going to the same place repeatedly is getting the opportunity to see it change throughout the seasons. From visiting during late autumn, not being able to make out the creek from the leaf covered hillsides. Venturing out on sunny 20 degree mornings during the dead of winter to find 4 foot long icicles draping the falls. Some of the pools taking on an iridescent blue hue surrounded by fresh snow. To being caught out during a spring thunderstorm and having to throw boulders into the rushing stream to make a path across.
Nature has a way of transforming itself in wildly incredible ways. Flowers are blooming throughout hillsides that just several weeks back were a homogenous mass of dead brush. The stillness of the forest is slowly being replaced by chirping songbirds returning to nest in freshly budding trees.
The sound of rushing water from creeks, replenished by spring rains, add another layer of noise to accompany the crunching of dirt as one hikes along the dusty trails. Heck as much as I escape to the wilderness to be alone, I can’t help but enjoy passing a fellow hiker and exchanging pleasentries as people begin to trickle back outdoors from their winter slumber.
The difference now is we make sure to stay 6 feet apart. Hopefully this new normal will be as temporary as the changing seasons so that we may all get back to sharing in our enjoyment of the great outdoors!