Campground Review: The Borden Creek Trailhead where we started our hike used to be down at the bottom of the hill but several years ago they moved the parking to a quarter mile away to help protect some of the areas down by the river. This means that coming into this site will require a short hike down a forestry road which isn’t shown on most of the maps. We loaded up all our gear into our hiking cooler and backpacking packs and trekked the 15-20 min downhill to this site. It is the 3rd campsite you pass after turning right at the bridge. This is also listed as trail 203 on most Sipsey maps and meanders along the river a short way. The campground will be on your right and is a large cleared out area with a fire pit in the middle.
Sipsey Wilderness is a protected but unmaintained area in Northwest Alabama that is well known for its intersecting creeks, streams, and rivers that play together with the many waterfalls and magical rock faces. The wilderness area is contained within the larger Bankhead National Forest and is accessible from a variety of different trailheads many of which are only reachable on dirt roads. Hiking here you definitely get the feeling that you have left the rest of the world behind and are in complete wilderness. Different times of year provide completely different experiences whether its the exciting and boundless blooms of spring, the overgrown wild of summer, the bold and expansive colors of fall, or the high river levels and easy boating access of winter. Just make sure to always do your research and plan ahead since it can change so drastically depending on when you go. My favorite is either fall or spring since the summer can be particularly hot and buggy.
This trip we had planned to kayak down the river from the Sipsey River Trailhead to the Highway 33 Bridge take out but were thwarted by a recent lack of heavy rain and unusually low river levels for the season. Several sites online suggested over 4 feet gauge height would be fine but after talking to the Rangers we were told the only time that it was really navigable was in the winter or fall for a couple of days after a major rainfall. With that plan out the window, we decided instead to throw some packs in the car and move our gear around to make it a semi backpacking/hiking trip.
This particular campsite was where we stayed our second night and it was an amazing option. It is fairly large but buried in the trees so you are both protected in case of storms and won't boil from the sun in the morning. It also provides a nice bit of privacy from both the trail and the other nearby campsites. We were able to rig up a tarp between the trees and could still have a nice campfire and stay dry despite the rainy weather. I really liked how close we were to the river and could easily pump water and rinse off our feet and bodies after a sweaty day of hiking. Overall, I would suggest passing the first two sites on this trail and checking if this one is available since you will appreciate the serenity the close grouping of trees provide.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to try out new and interesting products at campgrounds I visit. On this trip, I tried out the Liquid IV Sleep drink supplement to help get a full nights rest out in the woods. My takeaways from using the powdered sleep aid are:
- Effectiveness: This drink mix knocked me out and that was after sharing it with 2 other people. Their mixture of 3 different natural sleep aids worked effectively to help me fall asleep and also stay asleep throughout the entire night. This is a tough feat when out in the woods so I was very impressed on that aspect.
- Taste: Although there was a little saltiness in the flavor due to the electrolytes the overall taste of the drink mix was very good. I wish they had more options available for the sleep version but the blueberry lavender was a great choice. It is not too sweet and none of the individual flavors are overpowering.
- Ease: Since it comes in small pouches as a dried powder it is easy to bring along on any camping trip and you should always have water available so it is no problem to add to a Nalgene. You won’t notice the weight and in general, you can keep them in your day bag or any other pack where it could be useful.
Overall, I would say this is a well-made drink mix that is very effective in helping you recover and fall asleep after a long day on the trail. I know getting a full night of deep sleep is often challenging for me out in the woods so having some extra help is well appreciated.