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Cedar Limb Hollow
April 26, May 3, & May 9, 2009
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The first time I saw the huge house-sized boulder sitting in the stream bed at the mouth of Cedar Limb Hollow, I knew I had to someday explore upstream to see what other wonders were waiting to be discovered. That first brief visit was in the Fall of 2007, when my goal was to see the Hurricane Creek Natural Bridge, and I had neither the time nor energy to explore further.
The headwaters of Cedar Limb Hollow are high up on Parker Ridge. It runs east 1.25 miles to Hurricane Creek. When we backpacked in to the area last month, I finally got to explore a little upstream. I returned two more times in May, entering from the upstream end, before I completed my exploration of the hollow. I'm presenting all the photos I shot in a downstream-to-upstream order, rather than the jumbled order in which I took them.
I found most of the really scenic features to be in the lower half mile. On the morning of April 26, I started near the mouth and headed upstream. I climbed up the hillside around that first massive chunk of rock, only to encounter another one upstream. So I went up and around it only to encounter a third huge chunk of rock. Going up and around that, then back to the stream, I found a beautiful shallow pool of blue-green water, with a small waterfall cascading over a pile of mossy boulders. At the bottom of the opposite hillside sat an impressive 30-foot wide boulder with a flat top covered in green moss.. That's as far as I explored that morning.
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I returned the following weekend (May 3), starting high upstream. The area had received a huge amount of rain over the last couple of days; the radar maps were reporting 6 to 8 inches!  The woods were saturated and the sides of the hollow were steep, which made the going slow. I had to quit for the day with four tenths of a mile to go... just when it seemed things were getting interesting. Up until then it was relatively unremarkable.
I didn't give up though. The next Saturday, May 9, I returned to explore the lower half mile of Cedar Limb Hollow and was rewarded with one amazing scene after another. I was surprised though, that I didn't encounter any more really big, house-sized boulders like the three down by Hurricane Creek.
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For the return hike upstream that day, I climbed up the hillside on the southern side of the stream until I came to the bottom of a bluff line (the natural bridge is on this same tall bluff). Walking along the bluff line was much faster than scrambling over boulder after boulder along the stream. At one point I came to a beautiful waterfall raining over the bluff.
For a distance of about four tenths of a mile, the tall bluff formed a barrier making it impossible to go uphill. At the upstream end of this, the stream had undercut the bluff to form a low overhang. Once past the overhang I was able to climb up the steep hillside away from the stream (GPS coordinates for this spot are  35.72428, -93.22564).
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I climbed uphill, half a mile with a 600 foot increase in elevation, until I reached the spine of a ridge running parallel to the stream. Along the way I disturbed a turkey hen that must have been sitting on a nest. She made the worst racket I've ever head out in the woods, flying up to a nearby branch then hopping from one limb to another, squawking the whole time. She was obviously trying to draw my attention away from her eggs. I walked north along the spine to my parking spot on Parker Ridge Road.
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The uppermost three-fourths mile of Cedar Limb Hollow was short on outstanding scenery, though it was still pretty nice. It's in the federally protected Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area after all, and I could tell I was in woods undisturbed by the hand of man for quite a long time. In a couple of spots the terrain flattened out and the stream flowed more gently through small boulders covered with lichen and moss. The majority of the time the stream ran more steeply down the mountainside, and in a couple of spots spilled over small waterfalls.
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