The day was July 21, 2007. If I remember correctly, it was a Saturday, of course I could just open my calendar and make certain that was the day and realize that it was a Sunday. And yes I just looked and confirmed that it was indeed a Saturday. HAHAHA. Anyway, we were itching to get out of the house, and I especially was wanting to go on a good hike. So, I got to looking around on the net and in our various trail books and came across a nice loop trail that combines the Gentlemen's Swimming Hole Trail and Meeting Bend Trail in the little town of Rugby just at the Southern edge of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
Rugby, is a small quaint town that was started in 1880 as a colony for Victorian English in the Cumberlands. On most days, you can go there and walk about the community and check out the buildings. Some of the buildings are not the originals as fires claimed a few of them, others are the originals.
Well enough about the town, now on to the hike. The hike starts out in a parking lot across from one of Rugby's cemeteries. When you get to the trail head, you have a choice to go clockwise to the swimmin' hole first or counter clockwise to the meeting place at the confluence. We decided to go to the confluence first as there were a few people coming from and going to the hole.
The hike to the confluence is straight down, well not really straight down but down enough to make you know that at some point you are going to have to come back up. So the hike down to the confluence was quite nice. There were several spots where there were ruts in the trail (this was an apparent jeep road). In the ruts, water had gathered and made the spots look like miniature swamps or something of the like. In these mini-swamp spots, we found all sorts of neat things; tadpoles, dragon flies, etc. The trek down to the confluence was about 1.2 miles.
Once off the jeep road the trail starts to follow a creek and slopes down to where the waters of White Oak Creek and The Clear Fork river meet. After walking down the slope we come upon the neatest spot where the two tributaries meet. Here we decide to put on our sandals and play around for a bit. The water and the rock bluffs on the other side of the river made for a remarkable backdrop to the day. I believe the kids had a good time playing around there and Robin took some real pretty pictures of the area.
Once we were done there we donned our packs and went about our merry way to the swimming hole. The path to the swimming hole follows alongside some amazing rock bluffs. This is one of the reasons I love Big South Fork. You really don't get this type of scenery in the Smoky Mountains. Granted the Smokies are great in their own right, they just don't compare to the Fork.
So from the confluence to the swimming hole was another 1.5 miles or so. When we got there we were hot and there wasn't a soul in sight. We decided it would be nice to take a dip. Of course we really didn't have anything with us for a swim (i.e. towels, bathing suit, etc.). So what do country folk do when confronted with this? They throw caution to the wind and strip down to their skivvies and take themselves a dip. It sure did feel good to get in the cool water. I can see why many a native of the area utilize the hole during the hottest parts of the summer days. We all had ourselves a blast swimming around and whatnot. We were even amazed at the fact Clover was swimming. We've had her at the lake before and she would chase sticks into the water, but she would never really dare venture out far enough to go swim. We've also had her at the pool and she would panic when we would get her in and flail around like a fish out of water. So it was quite surprising that when we got in for a dip she did too. Oh she had an absolute blast swimming in the river and running around like a hyperactive kid with a sugar rush.
It must have been divine intervention or something of the sorts however, we had finally decided we had enough fun and were getting out and getting our clothes back on. It's a good thing we did when we did because it wasn't a minute later that a group of kids came down to swim and fish. I guess it's a good thing we weren't skinny dipping otherwise they might have caught more than an eyeful. So we were finished getting dressed and adorned ourselves with our packs and head back out to the trail for another .7 miles back out to the cemetery. Of course the hike from the swimmin' hole to the cemetery was up. Remember we were going to have to go up to get out. It wasn't that bad as there were stairs here and there on the way out. The rest of the trail followed the rock bluff until we were on top of it again at the trail head.
Total distance on the hike was approximately 3.2 miles. That does not count the side trail down to and back from the swimmin' hole. It was indeed a great day and a great hike. I can definitely see this trail as being one we revisit during the summer months each year.
Be on the lookout for the next entry "What on earth is that Heron mining?"
Tim and Robin