In preparation for our upcoming Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour, we hiked down to the Walls of Jericho, which is in northeast (Jackson Co.) Alabama. We spent one night camping in the primitive campgrounds and then hiked back up the next morning.
I’m not really sure what the Walls of Jericho are legally. There is this press announcement on the Alabama State Parks website, but it is not listed as an Alabama State Park. According to this page, it is managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which is strange because I believe the actual landmark and most of the hiking trails are in Alabama. It seems to be mostly owned by the Forever Wild Land Trust according to this page on Outdoor Alabama. As long as I’m providing links, this page, also on Outdoor Alabama, provides a map of the hiking trails, horse trails, and camp sites.
The main motivation for this hike for Daryl and me was to get more training in our legs and try out some new gear by camping. However, we also have one of our young developers from Hyderabad, India over for a month and we like to take these guys out to do something interesting. Another young developer from Huntsville, Andrew, decided to day hike with us, but not camp overnight. Given that Andrew would need to see the Walls and hike back up in the same afternoon/evening, Daryl, Andrew, and Suhas would hike straight to the campsite and on to the Walls as soon as we arrived at the trailhead.
There is another trail starting from the same parking lot named Bear Den Point Loop that is listed at 4.7 miles. I decided to hike that first and then hike down to set up camp. That was an enjoyable hike and I highly recommend it. I encountered a short section of strenuous descent at the beginning and another short section of very steep ascent near the end (while hiking the loop clockwise). Although the trail is well marked, you need to pay close attention to the red blazes and I ended up backtracking short distances a couple of times. The good news is that the blazes are closely spaced so you won’t go far before noticing their absence. This trail doesn’t appear to be heavily traveled. I saw few foot prints even though it was muddy and I ran into quite a few spider webs across the trail even though it was late afternoon. Overall, it was a very good warmup hike. Here are some photos from that trail.
After the Bear Den Point Loop, I headed straight for the Walls. I think it is about 1000 feet of descent on the way down to the valley floor. The trail is well marked and much more heavily traveled than the Bear Den Point Loop; after all, it is the main event. There are a few tricky sections, but they are short. It’s not a hard trail although it is considered strenuous, but I think that is just because so many people come here untrained. Here are some photos including some that Daryl took on the way down with our guests.
I believe the hike down was around 2.5 miles and I made it in about an hour. My friends had already set up camp and had been to the Walls and back already. They were waiting on me.
As we had a couple of hours of daylight left, Daryl volunteered to go with me to the Walls. My original plan was to go early in the morning because I expected it to be covered up with day hikers. However, Daryl said everyone had come out so we headed in. The Walls is a spectacular sight. Some of the best, natural sights I’ve seen are from exploring Maui and this is a sight worthy of Hawaii.
After returning from the Walls, we sent Andrew on his way back up and got to work on dinner. I think it was about 9:00pm by the time we had eaten and washed all the dishes. We couldn’t seem to keep a fire going so we all just went to bed. I got quite chilly during the night having started out in skivvies and t-shirt. I think it got down to between 45-50F. I woke up once shivering and put on my pants and, yes, I had zipped on the legs before turning in. I woke up a while later shivering again and put on my fleece jacket. I woke up a third time cold and put on my buff ninja style and seemed to be ok after that. I was using my Marmot 45 degree bag, which I’ve used on the Emerald Coast Bikepacking Tour last year and have taken on several overnight campouts. The difference was that I was using a new Klymit Inertia X-Wave instead of my Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air Trekker. The X-Wave ends at your trunk so my legs were on the cold ground, even though still within the bag. I had thought before the trip that I would bring my backpack inside and use that to keep my legs off the ground and I really wish I had. The Klymit saves significant weight and a lot of bulk over the Therm-a-Rest so I’m still planning to take it to the Grand Canyon. However, if the weather looks like it will get below 50F, I may bring along Under Armour. Daryl was trying out a new lightweight sleeping system by substituting a survival blanket for a pad and ended up cold as well. I had given our guest from India my Therm-a-Rest and my North Face Cats Meow 20 deg bag and Daryl had given him his tent so he stayed quite cozy.
Brekkie (Aussie slang) went rather quickly in the morning and it didn’t take long to pack up and start the hike back up. The hike out was quite easy as our guest wasn’t conditioned for hiking and needed frequent breaks. I think it was 9:30 or 10:00am by the time we got to the trailhead and back on the road to home. Here are a few photos from the hike back up.
Again, I’m still learning to shoot video so that I can give all my friends and family a sense of the Grand Canyon hike. I tried a few new techniques to shoot video; some worked well, some not so well, and some not at all. But here ’tis.
T- minus one week!!!