Sipsey Wilderness - March 27-29, 2011
A friend, Trail Mix, and I just got back from a trip into the Sipsey Wilderness. Thought I'd post a short trip report. I might have a video later.
Arrived at the Sipsey Rec area trailhead planning to hike to the Big Tree, Ship Rock and back in two days. We hiked up to trail 209 at the Borden Creek crossing. There were three beautiful waterfalls in just the first 0.4 miles. All the rain we had a couple of days ago made the falls amazing, but also made Borden Creek impassible. We came back to the trailhead and switched to plan B: Start at the Thompson Creek trailhead. On the way there we stopped at Kinlock Falls (again, amazing because of the volume of water).
We left the trailhead about 5pm and hiked in. The three creek crossings were more difficult than anticipated (again, high water and fast current). After a mile or so we decided to make camp. It was overcast and the forecast called for rain. We set up on a nice site next to Thompson Creek. For those who care, the setup includes a Grand Trunk Ultralight hammock with whoopie slings and Arrowhead tree huggers, my new Gear Guide 12x12 tarp and a DIY AMK Heatsheet underquilt.
We turned in around 8:30 because it had started to rain (I lowered the tarp from "porch mode" to "low to the ground" mode. At about 10pm the first of FIVE thunderstorms rolled in. I have never had a more harrowing night of camping. EVER. I kept peeking out under the tarp to see if the creek was getting close, which it didn't (we were at least 15 feet above the creek).
The good news: My new Gear Guide tarp performed admirably. Not a single leak, stayed tight in the storm, and the huge tarp was big enough to keep my gear safe and dry.
The bad news: My 45F sleeping setup wasn't ready for the 38F we faced that night and I ended up quite cold by morning.
Here's Thompson Creek when we got up:
My camping buddy had water in his tent but not enough to force us to abort. We broke camp and hiked the last couple of miles in to Ship Rock.
I set up my tarp and we stuck our packs beneath it, then set off to find the Eye of the Needle. Didn't take too long. We hiked to the Eye...
and I was surprised to see my tarp when I looked down the other side through the Eye. Cool! The Gear Guide tarp is certainly not for stealth camping.
This part of the Sipsey has it all: Beautiful rock features, rapids, beaches, and the spring flowers were just beginning to bloom. I'll try to get those pics into the video.
After hiking down to the northern end of 209 to see the Sipsey Fork River, we came back to Ship Rock camp for a nap. I brought a surprise for my hiking non-hammocking buddy: A second GTUL! I set up both hammocks and we settled in for an afternoon nap.
We may have a convert. We'll see. Here's my setup for night 2:
Notice that I broke out my AMK Thermolite Bivvy for extra insulation that night.
After a foggy 43F night where I stayed warm and comfortable (no storms, no rain), I awoke to significant condensation in my bag thanks to the bivvy sack. We ate breakfast, broke camp and hiked back out. The streams were much lower and crossing was easy.
I would rate the trail as easy in dry weather (it's mostly flat) and a low moderate in wet weather (very slippery with stream crossings).
What a great trip, with a bit of weather excitement to make it even more memorable. I highly recommend a visit to the Thompson Creek Trail. Thanks for letting me share with you.
Thanks for the report, Navigator. Looks to be a nice trip. Glad you stayed warm the second night.
Five thunderstorms in one night? That's gotta make ya love having a new tarp with good coverage. Looks like a cool place.
Here's a link to the Storm Prediction Center's storm reports for that day. Plenty of action in northern Alabama:
Good stuff. I too have spent some great rainy nights in the Sipsey!
Glad you enjoyed your trip.
Next time you go to Thompson Creek TH, you should try the Whiteoak Hollow route into West Bee Branch. Only one creek to cross before the Big Tree on that route.
another note - if Borden Creek is up one approach is instead of going all the way to Thompson TH go to the Crooked Bridge (aka Borden Creek TH) and cross the bridge and hike downstream on what I call Alt 200 down to 209 and continue as you had planned.
Great pics. I'll probably never get to Sipsey but i've been impressed with the beauty of the area that i've seen in yours and other folks pics. It seems like a great place to hike and camp. Thanks for sharing
Looks fantastic down there....been wanting to go do Sipsey for a while now.
'Preciate the report. Looks like a fun and wet trip.
Great report. Thanks for posting pics too.
Radar from that night
Just for grins, here is a shot of the weather radar at 9:20 pm Sunday evening. Note the bands of storms to the west of Alabama. That's what we "weathered."
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