Sunday Hike/Run: Rock of the Ages Loop via Horsetail Trail, Devils Backbone and Oneonta Trail.
A quote I heard said, "We come out of a storm different than how we went in". I've often wondered, if we come off a hike, or a run, or a night sitting by a campfire - each time just a little bit changed. It feels like that for me. Maybe it was the rain, wind, snow or cold river water that felt cleansing. Or the surreal sunlight, filtering through hemlocks and mist. For me, those glimpses seem to catch the breath and make the eyes water. I like it.
The first drops of rain from a cold-front started to filter through the trees in the parking area at Horsetail Falls. Before half an hour up the mud, moss, rocks and roots that define the faint trail on this loop, pellets of grauple were bouncing off leaves and our heads. The wind sounded like a coal train. Then just as quickly as it started, it stopped, the clouds swirled, letting sunlight filter through before yielding to a steady rain, then snow. It felt magical up there. Then again, when does it not feel that way?
The trail is beautiful. At times the way becomes faint and there are some areas - in the first couple of miles - that demand caution, especially in wet conditions. Coming back down the first couple of miles would be challenging at best, so it's practically a one-way loop. After climbing about 3000 feet and from mile 3 onwards, the trail is smooth and relatively flat, before dropping down to Oneonta Creek. The way forward is across the creek. Due to the steepness of the drops and the high water flow, there wasn't an easy way through the fast flowing water which was waist-deep in the main channels. Crossing a downed tree seemed like the best option. After twenty minutes inching across the tree, post ice-water bath, I'd decided that next time, I'll do this hike in summer.
From the creek crossing it was three miles down past Triple Falls, back across Oneonta Creek and then under Upper Horsetail Falls before dropping down to Horsetail Falls parking area.