Plan A for the spring art hike was to hike the 2.2 miles up to Rainbow Falls and take our time enjoying the sights in Jones Gap State Park. We had a big group signed up and when Blue and I arrived at the park entrance, there was a line of cars waiting to get in.
According to the Park Ranger, this happens every weekend, but it was a first for me. Our people carpooled as best they could but we were still scattered out among 7 cars in this line. The Ranger told us we'd be in for a long wait. Later he came back and suggested that if we wanted to actually hike that day, we might want to think about Table Rock.
I let everyone know that Table Rock would be a longer hike (3.5 miles one way) and everyone agreed this was an acceptable Plan B. So we turned the caravan around and changed plans. Cell signals were almost non-existent but we did manage to let everyone still en route know the new location.
Table Rock was also crowded but we did find parking and after a long wait for everyone to hit the bathroom, we were ready to walk uphill. (In a somewhat left to right order: Ashley, Blue, Armir, Cessquatch, Dylan, Ellie Dog, Metal Megan, Elizabeth, McCaylah, Dakota, Drinkwater, Laura, Singletary with 3 dogs, Ricardo, Buttermilk, Erica, Rashaad, Oscar, Cameron, Andy, Alana, Thackham and Spencer)
When I registered the group for the hike, the park employee made sure I knew that a group had to be rescued off the trail the night before. He told me to keep the group together as much as possible and to make sure everyone knew to stay on the trail. Not an ominous start at all.
We had some first time hikers and a couple who may have been less than prepared for a hike. But everyone pushed up the hill and we only lost 3 people at the halfway point.
This is the overlook at the halfway point. We got such a late start that most everyone had their lunch here.
From halfway, the trail turns and gets very steep in places. Just before Governors' Rock there's an area where many people needed to crawl up the big rocks on their hands and feet.
A few people thought this was the top and were disappointed when we told them we still had a ways to go. Ashley "The Whisk" and Cessquatch were our returning alumni for this hike. They were pros and led the way most of the hike. They even struck model poses to show they didn't break a sweat.
Blue huffed and puffed a little but he did great keeping up with everyone. This was his first time hiking to the top of Table Rock. He seemed more interested in the rocks and sticks than in the panoramic views.
The weather was overcast but the temperatures were perfect for hiking. It misted a little on the way up, but once we got to the top, some light rain moved over us.
Everyone got their photos in and quickly took a look around from the top.
Armir and Buttermilk are dependable hiking buddies from way back. We let them bomb our goofy selfie.
As the rain grew more and more steady, we grabbed a quick group photo before heading back down.
We let most of the group start down while we walked around the lookout from the left...
...to the right side.
Blue thoroughly enjoyed himself. He smashed small rocks, sharpened sticks and tripped over roots. He loves Adam and he got to talk to him about movies and video games most of the way down the trail.
We were the caboose group to make sure everyone made it back to the parking lot safe. We stopped at the halfway point again briefly on the way back down.
And we stopped at a big rock to leave our temporary mark. These were the only breaks we needed going downhill.
We arrived back at the trail head just in time to see Andy getting out of the water completely soaked. Andy got up late and thought it was going to be colder so he wore jeans and a flannel shirt. I saw him coming out of the cold water barefooted with jeans and no shirt. I asked him if he fell in and he said that he just wanted to jump in. I asked him if he had clothes to change into and he said no. So he drove home in his boxers and got stuck at a toll booth with no change. Andy's great.
So we didn't lose anyone and though they were tired, everyone had a good time. We came, we saw, and we walked 7 miles with some of the coolest students around. Here's to a good Plan B.