Sugar Hollow Park
- 5.8 miles
- 4:49 duration
- 569 feet elevation gain
- 11 geocaches found at Sugar Hollow plus 2 at Pinnacle
- 1 DNF (did not find)
With a threat of rain in the forecast, LakeBum (Rob) and I decided to hit the trails today rather than the river. Whatever possessed us to hike on and August day with temps over 80 degrees and the humidity hovering around 100% I can’t really say. The things we do for a smiley on a map.
Since neither of us had visited Sugar Hollow Park in Bristol, VA, we decided to head in that direction. But first, we stopped off at The Pinnacle in Bristol, TN so that we could look for a couple of caches I had DNFed (did not find) in the past. We walked approximately 6/10 mile there which is not added into the total above. Along the way we met up with a worker who was using a leaf blower to clean the sidewalk. We joked later that he must have wondered about the two weirdos using big wooden hiking sticks for a stroll along a paved sidewalk. Of course, not all of our journey was on paved sidewalk, but through waist high grasses and wildflowers, causing us to break our first sweat of the day. But, we did find the two caches and I avenged my previous DNFs
After a successful outing at The Pinnacle, we headed on up to Virginia to Sugar Hollow. As we pulled into the parking lot, the first thing I saw was several women and a man wearing tutus, and covered from head to toe in various bright colored powder. It seems they were having a 5K color fun run/walk to benefit a local prep school. As that group went by the announcer’s both I heard the him say, “You may not be the fastest group, but you sure are colorful!”
As we were leaving our car, a young lady hailed us and asked if we would take her picture so she could send it to her husband. This was her first color run, and he was out of town. I asked how she did, and she said she had to cut her race short by one lap because she had a hair appointment in a little bit. She said she needed to go home and take a shower first. I thought about telling her she also needed to brush her teeth, since some of that color was on them, but decided to let her deal with that on her own.
Our first goal at Sugar Hollow was a cache between the ball fields. We spent a good bit of time searching for it without success. We are pretty sure we could see it way up inside a pipe, but couldn’t reach it to pull it out. We used a stick to try to fish it out, but had no luck, so finally decided to give up and move on. As we headed back toward the car, we realized the two other caches we wanted on that side of the park were along the route of the race that was still going on, so we decided to drive to another parking area and hit the trails through the woods.
Once we moved to the next parking spot, we tried to find a cache there without success. Fortunately, later in the day when we got back to the car, we found it so only had the one DNF for the day.
This was to be Signal the Frog’s® first significant hike. He got to ride in style in the side pocket of my backpack.
We then started following trails and finding caches along the way. We also quickly realized that there were a lot more trails in this park than the ones showing on Google Maps. Several times we came to an intersection where there would be three or four trails going off in all directions. We weren’t sure at some of these points which way to go, but did a pretty good job of navigating from cache to cache. It was only after we had found about four caches and hiked at least a couple of miles before we saw our first trail signs at the intersection of Turkey Traipse and Fox Trot trails. After that we saw many signs with colorful names like Copperhead Ledge (GULP!), Salamander Tail, and Wild Goose Gulch. I commented that they should have named that one Wild Goose Chase. Rob said he didn’t even know what a gulch is. I said I thought it was a deep ravine with water at the bottom. After I got home I looked it up and was pretty much on target with my description. Yea! I was right about something!
At the site of our sixth cache, we paused for a standing lunch. There really wasn’t a good place to sit down, and we were waiting for word from a friend we had texted to confirm we were on the right track with that cache. We thought we had found it, but couldn’t figure out how to open it. Once we heard back from him that it was indeed the cache, Rob managed to bang it on a fence post until the rust broke loose and he was able to get to the cache log inside. In case you wondered, I am being purposely vague about this so as not to spoil the experience for future cachers. Needless to say, this was a cleverly hidden cache.
We continued on from there, and had to text that same friend for help at a few more cache sites. Our phones were confused much of the day because of the cloud cover and thick foliage, so the GPS was not very accurate. I was very glad that mine was in a waterproof case, not because of rain but because sweat kept dripping off of my hat brim onto my phone. Did I mention the 80 plus degree weather and 100% humidity?
We saw some interesting sights along the way. Three different times we saw a turtle in the trail or along our route through the woods. When we saw the third one, Signal talked me into taking him out of his pocket of my backpack so he could converse with the turtle. Unfortunately, Mr. Turtle was very shy, and went inside and locked the doors.
This park is also a great place to visit if you like mushrooms. We saw a wide variety of mushrooms in different shapes, sizes and colors. At one point, Rob spotted a big patch of orange across the way, and we had to walk over to investigate it. It turned out to be Laetiporus sulphureus, a type of fungus that is commonly called Chicken of the Woods because it purportedly tastes like chicken.
We finally made our way back into civilization in the form of picnic shelters. A group in one of the shelters had an impressive array of food laid out that no one seemed to be interested in eating. I thought about sauntering in and helping myself, but one woman kept giving us the stink eye so we kept going. In the parking area we encountered an older man carrying several containers of food from another shelter to his car. He said, “We all brought too much food. We had way too much fried chicken.” I offered to take some off his hands, but he just laughed and put it in his car.
I could have used that extra fuel for what was to come next. Rob had identified one more cache that we needed to find that was by itself in the center of the area we had just circled around. From the picnic shelters there did not seem to be a trail leading in that direction, so we decided to bushwhack to the trail that did lead to it and follow that. Sounds easy, right? Not when that bushwhack is up a steep hillside. In 80 plus degree weather. And 100% humidity. Oh. Did I mention that already?
We stopped and started a couple of times, but finally I saw a man pushing his bicycle along the trail above us. Overjoyed to find the trail, I didn’t think about the implications of him pushing his bicycle. That was because it was a steep trail. And we had to go up it to reach that cache. After already hiking five miles. In 80 plus degree weather. And 100% humidity. I may or may not have whined a little bit. Okay. I whined a lot. But finally we reached the spot where we needed to veer off trail again and the cache was within 30 or so feet according to our phones.
It was only then that Rob looked at the cache page and saw that the last several searchers had logged a DNF. DID. NOT. FIND. I am pretty sure I threatened him with bodily harm at this point. Fortunately, as I was wandering about aimlessly searching for the cache, he yelled, “There it is! You walked right past it!”
From there, it was all downhill to the car which was quite lovely. Except for the moment when my feet flew out from under me on the muddy trail and I ended up sprawled ungracefully on the ground. After checking if I was okay, Rob said that it was a good thing I didn’t slide into him and knock him off his feet so he fell on top of me. That would not have been a good ending to our day.
We finally made it back to the car, and found that cache we had looked for earlier in the day. It felt nice to change into a dry shirt and sit down for the first time in nearly 5 hours. It felt even better to take a nice hot shower when I got home to work out the kinks.
Now I’m ready for the next adventure!