Thursday, July 4, 2013

Trip Report: A Birthday Hike to Oscar Blevin's Farm

This past Saturday, I celebrated another year of life. In honor of that, I decided that I wanted to go hiking with my girls. The night previous, we hadn't a clue as to where to go. We wanted to make sure that where ever we ended up going, there was a destination for Bug to get down and explore, so that hiking becomes a "Fun" activity for her and something that she'll want to continue to do.

The next morning, we awoke and hung out around the house doing the usual morning routine and overall we were just being lazy. After a little while though, we started to get things ready and packed into the car so that we could head out to go hiking.

The weather was perfect. Mostly sunny and in the mid 70's. We finally hit the road just after noon and decided that we would head up to The Big South Fork NRRA. We had a couple different trails going through our heads, and finally decided that we would hike the Oscar Blevin's Farm Loop. This was a relatively easy to moderate trail that we hadn't done since Kiddo was about 5 or 6. That happened to be the year that we beat a nasty storm front off the trail and watched an amazing light show put on by mother nature. What we didn't realize at the time, was that the light show was a precursor to the destruction that hit the area we had been hiking in later that evening.

After stopping for food we made our way up the interstate and towards our hiking destination. It took a good hour and a half or more to get there, which is pretty typical. Once we arrived though we started gearing up. Robin proceeded to spray the kids down with bug spray while I got the kid carrier out and ready to load Bug into it. Kiddo and I took turns in keeping up with Bug and Clover while Robin got all of Bugs stuff ready and into the kid carrier for the hike. It wasn't long before we were set and ready to put our feet on the trail.

The Oscar Blevin's Farm Loop starts in the trailhead parking area in the Bandy Creek section of The Big South Fork. It is mostly single track except for where it joins up with one of the many bike trails in the park. The beginning of the hike is an out and back stretch of trail that leads almost a half a mile to the fork of the loop, crossing a horse/bike/hiking trail and a runoff section to the creek. At the fork in the trail we opted to do the loop in a clockwise direction. It was the same way we did it before if I remember correctly and to me, that was the best way to do it today.

Within the first quarter mile from the fork, we descend the trail a good 100 feet or so and find ourselves hiking between the creek and a nice bit of rock wall. There is a small bit of water fall to the left that we stopped at to let Bug listen too. We continued down until we reached a spot that one could consider a rock house even if it's not officially called one on the maps. In front of this portion of the rock wall is a small footbridge that Bug had to patrol 40+ times like a militant rooster. Meanwhile Robin was happy to take pictures of all the action.

After our stop at the bridge, we got Bug back in the carrier and continued our trek down the trail. Through hardwood, rhododendron, mountain laurel and various other flora and fauna, we continued our hike, winding our way down to Bandy Creek hence the name for the area of the park we where in. The hike brings to 3 different crossings of the creek, which at several points along the way, has nice spots in which to wade to cool off if one so desired.

Close to the two mile mark, we reached our highlighted destination along the trail, Oscar Blevins Farm. It's been quite a few years since the last time we hiked out to here. Matter of fact, it was back in 2004 if I'm not mistaken. On that day we reached the farm only to look out on the western horizon to see that there was a nasty storm front moving our way. We ended up  booking it out of there almost 2 miles in less than an hour. That trip will stick in my memory for ever. Robin drove us home that day while Kiddo and I watched one of the most amazing light shows I've ever seen mother nature put on. Non-stop spiderweb lightning all across the sky. That next day, we found out that a tornado had touched down close to where we hiked and left a wake of destruction to the town close to the park.

This day was different, there were no fronts on the horizon, the weather was beautiful and there were five of us instead of three. We let Bug out of here carrier and let Clover off her lead so we could all rest and enjoy the area. One other difference this time was that there were no horses in the field like last time. The farm is still used by what I imagine to be the park system. There is an access road to the farm, to which Robin made the funny comment, "You mean I could have drove back here". We spent a good thirty minutes or so let Bug explore the area. It's always fun to watch our little explore new places, the gestures, the faces, the reactions, nothing brings smiles to our faces more than watching her learn and discover.

After our exploration was over, we all packed up again to hit the trail out of there and head back to home. The last portion of the hike, as I mentioned before, was almost 2 miles and we had to regain all the elevation we lost on the way in. It wasn't bad though, less than 200 feet or so stretched out over the 2 miles distance.

A good quarter of a mile away or so from finishing the hike, Bug ended up falling asleep in the carrier. This was the first time she'd actually fallen asleep in it. We were curious if she ever would during a hike. Knowing this means, we can go a little further on some of our future hikes. When we reached the end, we had hike approximately 3.75 miles with just over 200 feet of elevation gain throughout the entire hike. We loaded up in the car and headed back home for further birthday celebration complete with a stop for milkshakes and a cookie cake wreck that Robin made just for me, which was absolutely delicious nonetheless. Even Clover enjoyed it.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

P.S. Below is the trail map/details for those interested.