John Litton Farm – Grand Gap Loop
April 23rd, 2019
Hikers: Julie, Patrick and Luna
I spent a little time in the morning exploring the campsite since I had spent most of the day prior up on the Grand Gap Trail. I really liked our first campsite but honestly, I think I liked this one even better. The bridge over the rocky creek and the rhododendrons created a picturesque area just made for relaxing.
I could have spent the whole day just hanging out at camp but we were on bit of a schedule. We packed up and retraced our steps on the Fall Branch Trail in order to meet back up with the John Litton Farm Loop trail. At one of the rock shelters, we came across a tree that I thought was a perfect example of perseverance. The tree had grown as high as it could in the rock shelter, then turned and started growing out horizontally, reaching for the sunlight.
We made good time once we were back on the John Litton Farm trail. It was mostly level and mostly clear with just a few down trees requiring some gymnastics. When I first started hiking with Luna, she was afraid of absolutely everything. If I stepped on a stick, she would panic. If leaves blew across the trail, she would panic. If she had to duck under, or jump over something in the trail, she would panic. And panic for her meant running back to me and trying push herself between my legs. More than once she can close to taking me off my feet. I’m happy to say that we’ve come a LONG way since those days and she tackled the tree jumps with ease. Some were almost waist high on me! She had a couple of indecisive moments on a couple of bridges (ones that sagged when you stepped on them) but I have to say, I am super proud of how well she did on this trip.
One of the reasons we chose to go clockwise on the John Litton Farm loop was because we had read about a campsite near the farm and we were unsure if there were any other good camping spots on the loop. Turns out, there is a nice campsite on the south half of the loop as well, right at Fall Branch Falls. Another large, level spot with a fire ring but not as many trees for hammocking. Sleeping next to the waterfall would be nice but I’m not sure I liked this site as well as the others. It’s located right at the top of the waterfall and there is a path leading directly to the top. That obviously means water is available but it could be a little sketchy with the slippery, moss covered rocks lining the shore. There was another path to the water at the site a little further upstream. Despite not being my favorite, it was still a very nice site.
The remainder of the trail from the falls back to our starting trailhead mostly followed the creek. At times we were up fairly high on a ledge with a steep drop right off the trail. One of the reasons for choosing Luna’s pack (Ruffwear Approach Pack) was because it could be used as a harness. I usually had her leash clipped to her collar but for the steep sections, I clipped to the pack so that if she did slip off for some reason, she would be supported by her body and not be hung by her neck. Fortunately we had no issues and she following the trail perfectly. She even gave the two ladders on the trail her best effort before moving around and taking the steep, but entirely doable side trail. If you have dogs you want to take on this trail, do not let the ladders concern you.
While the day started overcast with pleasant temperatures, it soon became quite warm. We had originally planned this trip for May but moved it to April to try to avoid excessively hot days. We spoke with a local resident who said that the temperatures this week were about 15 degrees above normal. Lucky us! We always be sure to pack after hike treats and this trip was no different. Once back at the Jeep, we pulled out our camp chairs and enjoyed a little picnic in the shade while Luna took a nap.
I really enjoyed this trip and if I lived closer, would probably make this a somewhat regular weekend outing. It is perfect beginner trip with several beautiful campsites from which to choose, historical structures, interesting geology and at least for us, plenty of water available. I would not mind coming back and exploring more of the area!