Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Devil's Bathtub

Three weekends ago we were stymied by high water in our attempt to make a return trip to the Devil's Bathtub in Scott County, Va. This time we made it, barely ... I've been around creeks my entire life and - with God as my witness - I've never stepped on rocks that were as slick as those in that creek. I'm not sure what happened to them but it was dang near impossible to step on any of them and not slip. I can understand the rocks in the water and even the ones that were wet with dew being slick, but even the dry rocks had a slime on them.

We stumbled and bumbled and waded through the 13 creek crossings along the near 2 mile hike to get to the Bathtub. Once you get there you know it was worth the effort, there's no other place around here that I know of that looks like this series of pools and cascades. The water is as perfectly clear as you'll ever find; the rocks on the bottom of the pools are a blue-gray color, and there's impossibly green algae that gives the pools a teal color that, when you first see it, you'll be sure that it's fake.

There was a lot more water flowing this time than at any other time I've been here, so the pools were deep and the cascades into the pools were rolling. We're guessing the pool is more than 10 feet deep.

pool below the Bathtub
The trail at this point climbs a steep bank covered in - you guessed it - slime covered rocks. I climbed the bank, followed the creek to a point above the bathtub, and when I looked down and saw the whole creek bottom covered in green algae I just knew it would be too slick to walk down the creek to the get to where we could take some good pictures. But when I got in the creek I found that I could walk on the algae and get a reasonable amount of traction. We guess this pool is more than 10 feet deep.

the Bathtub

Directions: Take US Hwy. 23/US Hwy. 58/US Hwy. 421 toward Gate City. In Gate City, continue going straight as the road becomes East Jackson Street and, ultimately, VA Route 71. Head east on Route 71 for a little over a mile. From here, take VA Route 72 to the left toward Fort Blackmore. Shortly after VA Route 65 and VA Route 72 merge, turn left onto VA Route 619 (Old Stoney Creek Road).

Once on Route 619/653 for about 3 1/2 miles, the road splits, follow 619 to the right, travel about 1 mile more and look for the Devils Fork sign. Route 619 takes a sharp left and becomes Forest Road 619 (there is no street sign). Travel over the one-lane bridge and turn left just before the abandoned white house with a chain link fence. Follow this unmarked dirt road to the end, where you will find parking for the trail. The road to the parking lot is very rutted and may not be accessible by all vehicles, high clearance and 4wd is recommended. You cannot park along the road and walk because the property on both sides of the road is posted, you must get to the parking area at the end of the road.

The trail starts at the top of the wooden stairs (yep, stairs) at the parking area. It proceeds downhill about 1/4 mile to the first of 13 creek crossings. A hundred or so feet past the first creek crossing, the trail splits - there are several trees with yellow blazes here - you want to take the trail going left. After 50 ft the trail will split - start looking to the right for the yellow blazes to pick up the trail  From here the trail generally follows the creek, crisscrossing it 12 more times over the the next 1 1/2 miles.

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