Gail Rheinheimer at Black Rock (disregard the time/date stamp, which isn't set!).
The heavy storms of mid-week apparently reached deep into the national forest as well as more urban areas, as about a mile shy of the end of Forest Road 59 – and the parking area for the Cornelius Creek and Apple Orchard Falls trails – two fallen trees blocked the road. The Day Hiker, who passionately prefers walking trails to walking gravel forest roads, was swayed slightly perhaps that this road-walk was guaranteed to have no cars, and likely no one on it except us.
We'd planned, pre-blowdown, to go up the Apple Orchard Trail and on to the top of Apple Orchard Mountain on the AT, but the extra mile-plus to start sent us up the steeper-climbing Cornelius Creek Trail toward the AT and the lookout at Black Rock. This trail, scene of the first hike in our odyssey nearly five and half years ago, still provides great stream hops (now re-appreciated by The Day Hiker on behalf of her puppy), and still climbs painfully sharply once it turns away from the stream. In all, it's a nearly 2,000-foot climb from the parking area to the AT.
The AT section from the Cornelius Creek intersection to Black Rock is just a little more than half a mile, but it is a rich, green, lush area at this time of year, with the headwaters of the creek gathering here amid rampant ferns, other low cover and significantly sized oaks and maples, with some of the latter described in the trail guide as virgin growth.
At Black Rock, the formation is made of small-enough boulders that the whiny puppy could not find comfort on its upper reaches. We settled for slightly less views west and north, within a good strong breeze.
From lunch, the route is back along the AT, past the Cornelius Creek Trail and on to the Apple Orchard Trail and the start of heading down those 2,000 feet. Apple Orchard Falls, while not crashing, seemed pretty healthy for late July, perhaps owing to the same storms that had felled the trees. We fantasized, a bit further down, that forest service personnel had come out and cut the trees while we'd walked, and magically delivered the car to the parking lot.
The walk back down the road, through, over and under the trees, was not without its share of road-walk complaints from The Day Hiker, who just gets a whole 'nother attitude with gravel under her feet, 'specially five or so hours after it was there the first time.
July 26, 2009