In short order, though, we came to Butter Gap and the intersection with the Art Loeb Trail. I was impressed with the A-frame shelter that the National Forest Service erected there. They've built several shelters along the Art Loeb Trail, and this is a good one. It needs a little repair work, but largely it's in decent shape and offers a great place to sleep for weary backpackers.
Then we pushed on, and the trail soon took us into lower country where the small streams began to build into larger tributaries. Passing through Pickelsimer Fields we encountered a huge area that had been a beaver dammed lake in recent years, but which is now abandoned and drained. The sign of beaver activity is everywhere, but the animals have moved on after transforming the landscape. Soon after this we were at the first of the waterfalls where we lingered to take many photographs. Then it was on again to the next one where we were surprised to find more than a dozen people gathered there to take photographs. Everyone seemed to have big SLR digital cameras and ponderous tripods which they were using to snap memorable photographs.
And soon after that we were pushing into the parking lot. The hike turned out to be roughly ten miles in length and we had gained and lost over 1800 feet of relief over that distance. I was bushed, of course, and as I write this three days later I'm still physically recovering from that effort. But I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I enjoyed the views and the forest and the waterfalls and the company of five decent people (and two dogs). It was a great hike. One for the ages.
Okay. Whenever I come to a steep rock wall, I'm like a big kid. Yes, I was very tired at this point, but I could not resist scrambling up that steep wall of granite. Matilda beat me to it. So much easier for four legs! I copied her a bit and crabbed up the rock to a nice high point to take some shots.
Near Pickelsimer Fields we came to this abandoned and drained beaver pond. You can see the work of the busy beavers everywhere.
The empty beaver lodge. Whence the critters? One of my hiking companions, Johnny Corn, gets all of his hiking staffs from such beaver lodges. I was too tired at this point to go digging for a proper wooden hiking staff. But the beavers do all of the work for you. They cut them, peel them, and generally have them the proper length.
The next waterfall we came to. This one was actually quite crowded. There were easily over a dozen people there taking photographs. Everyone but me seemed to have a good SLR digital camera. Alas!