Upper Buffalo Wilderness:
Dug Hollow to the Low Hole
October 27, 2010
The last day of my trip began with me hanging around just downstream from the mouth of Dug Hollow, waiting for the sun to rise high enough to shine on the colorful trees on the western bank. I chose the location because I knew the pools I waded in would be shaded, which make for nice reflections of brilliant fall colors. While researching the trip, I noticed the satellite photos showed the river was littered with big rocks and boulders, so I was curious to see it for myself. The boulders and rocks were much smaller than I imagined. The water around the boulders was knee deep in places, but my ultralight down jacket kept me warm.
Clouds moved in to cover the sun by the time I reached the mouth of big Pine Hollow. The river there paused in a small rocky pool of clear water. Small lichen-covered boulders guarded the mouth of the hollow on the right. Past there I waded down a long, narrow pool with medium-sized boulders here and there. The water depth varied from ankle to knee deep. I noticed the remains of a rock fence up in the woods on the left; the USGS topo map shows a white area there, so I'm guessing pioneers cleared a field and farmed the area long ago.
Just past there, around mile 17.3, the water disappeared to leave a dry river of large rocks and small boulders. The walk downstream was easy, especially since in many areas the river bed was filled with compacted gravel.
I paused around mile 17.5 to explore the area where in April 2001 a six year old girl, Haley Zega, was rescued after becoming lost and spending two nights alone in the wilderness area. I took a photo looking back upstream; right behind me a car-sized boulder sat in the middle of the dry river bed.
One hundred yards downstream, where the river makes a left turn to run northwest, I came upon an incredible sight. The river bed dropped down into what seemed to be a sink hole at the base of limestone bluffs, 15 to 20 feet tall, on the right. The lower half of the bluffs were covered in dried mud. The bottom of the dry hole, covered with rocks and boulders of all sizes, was so much lower than the surrounding river bed. I shot photos from both ends of the hole.
The next one-third mile was an unremarkable run of dry stream bed. At the middle of a right curve around mile 17.9, a jumble of big boulders in the stream bed reminded me that I was on the lookout for a spot the kayakers call Deliverance Falls, where a slot between two big rocks is followed by a drop into a third rock. I could only imagine how the water would flow over these boulders. Seventy-five yards farther, I just had to get the camera out to capture the scene looking downstream at an even longer run of sandstone boulders. Many of them had been sculpted smooth by the water. I wondered if this was the spot they call the Boulder Cemetery.
At mile 18, stagnant water languished in a 100-foot-long, kidney-shaped pool about six feet deep. A dozen big boulders lined the right size, some partly in the water, and one in the middle of the pool. I reached the mile marker around noon, which meant I was nearly two hours behind schedule. I didn't worry though, I knew there were many dry stretches above Boxley where I could make up a lot of time later in the day.
Downstream, the dry river made a sharp left turn to the northwest and I had a nice view of Cave Mountain towering above the landscape. Fifty feet past there, a tiny 5-foot long, oval pool of shallow water hid among a huddle of boulders.