This year, my sister, dad and I celebrated father’s day with a weekend of camping (at Cave Mountain Lake Campground) and a hike to Devil’s Marbleyard.
We met up at the campground Friday night, grilled some burgers and hung out around the campfire drinking some good beer.
Saturday morning, we headed out early because the description of this hike says that the parking lot is tiny and warns of “predatory towing” of cars parked along the road. We had a little trouble with directions (even though the trailhead is almost a straight shot and less than three miles from the campground…) A trip that should have taken less than 10 minutes took closer to half an hour. We were the third car in the lot and a truck pulled in right behind us. Arriving early is probably sound advice.
Our plan was to do the 11.3 mile route which included an out and back on the AT to “one of the most spectacular 360 degree views in the state.”
Selfie at the trailhead.
The trail started out at a fairly gentle grade, but got steeper and steeper as we approached the marbleyard.
The view from Devil’s Marbleyard is pretty spectacular.
We climbed around some on the rocks but honestly I was a little scared about starting a rock slide. Some of the rocks did move when you stepped on them and they made an eerie, deep echoing sound. I found it a little disconcerting. I wasn’t the only one. There was a lady there who refused to venture out onto the rocks at all. She watched from the sidelines as the rest of her family explored.
Selfie at the marbleyard.
We didn’t climb all the way to the top but if you do, be prepared to climb back down as well because there isn’t a way to access the trail from the top (or at least, that’s what our maps said).
I was happy we were doing the longer hike because I’m always excited to see some white blazes.
This section of the AT was particularly nice and offered some great views into the valley.
Our directions told us to be on the lookout for a 100 yard clearing which we never saw. We took a detour on the Sulphur Springs trail and several other unmarked trails, but each time we turned back once we all agreed that we had traveled well beyond the 30 yards it was supposed to be to the view.
We were all in agreement that we had gone much further than the mile and a half it was supposed to be to the view, but we hadn’t come across any section of trail that could be described as a “100 yard clearing” which was supposed to be our cue to look for the trail to the view, so we kept pressing on.
Eventually, we came across a thru-hiker, but he had no clue what we were talking about. He pulled out his maps and guidebooks, but they made no mention of any views in the area. It was after noon at this point. We had wanted to have lunch at the 360 degree view, but were all starving. Reluctantly, we headed back in the direction we had come and very quickly decided to stop along the side of the trail for lunch. While we were sitting there, about half a dozen more thru-hikers and one guy out for a trail run (headed in the opposite direction) passed by us.
On the way back, as Jen and I were off exploring yet another trail, the trail runner we had seen earlier passed back by. Dad stopped him and asked if he knew where the trail was and he actually knew what we were talking about!! We had indeed missed it. He said that at the time our guide map had been written, there had been a 100 yard clearing and a spot just off the trail that offered spectacular 360 degree views, but that is because there had been a forest fire just prior to that. Since then, the trees have had almost a decade to grow back.
And grow they have.
The trail runner was kind enough to mark the trail to the (nonexistent) view for us with an arrow made of sticks and his business card.
I’m sure wthe view was spectacular when those trees weren’t there.
There was a family sitting in the little clearing having a snack and I wondered how the hell they had found the place. We went up the trail a little beyond them and enjoyed a few swigs of icy cold beer from the growler Jen had given dad (and I had carried up the mountain) for Father’s Day.
At one point, not long after we’d reconnected with the original loop, we came to a spot with no clear trail in any direction. We picked one of the semi-paths and followed it. We hadn’t made it very far at all when we saw the same family we’d met back at the “view” heading back towards us. The dad said, “we followed that trail until it seemed to disappear, then we tried this one, but it just seems to sort of peter out, too.” We followed them back down and we all tried a third trail which ended up being the right one.
There were some more views along the ridge and quite a few blueberries. We ate our way along.
The path down was exposed and hot, and also very overgrown in places. There were supposed to be 13 switchbacks. We stopped counting when we got to 17.
Eventually, we made it to the Glenwood Horse Trail, which was gently graded and passed through some beautiful wooded areas and meadows full of bright wildflowers, but it was dinner time at this point and we were all ready to be off our feet. We dubbed this the never-ending trail because nice as it was, it seemed to go on and on and on and on and on.
Seriously, the end of this hike had a bit of a Twilight Zone feel to it.
We did make it back to the car, though.
And celebrated with an impromptu tailgate party before heading back to camp.
None of us had a GPS with us but dad had his step counter running on his phone and it said we’d covered about 16 miles.
I believe it.
It ended up being a really nice weekend all around. I’m thinking we should maybe make a father/daughter camping/hiking trip an annual Father’s Day thing. 🙂