Clear skies as we started
We parked at Church Fork, out along the canyon road since the picnic area/trail head gates are closed for the season, and, along with oodles of dogs and their people, walked up to the trail head. We walked up-canyon along the Pipeline Trail to the Burch Hollow trail head, sharing the broad, gradually climbing trail with many other hikers, trailrunners, MTBers and dogs. Lots of dogs - we were nearly the only people out there without a dog.
Foliage is definitely past peak now
At the Burch Hollow access point we came off the Pipeline Trail and walked up the road a little bit to the road into the Terraces picnic area (also gated for the season). We walked up the steep paved driveway and then hopped on the trail that would climb up to the ridge and then descend to Elbow Fork. The trail here was soft underfoot - packed dirt and pine needles - but was much steeper than we remembered. We were working pretty hard as we climbed and climbed and climbed to the top of the ridge. The weather was just starting to turn at this point - clouds building up and swirling overhead as the winds increased - so we didn't linger much.
Here comes the weather
The trail descended pretty sharply to Elbow Fork, where we crossed the canyon road and got back on the Pipeline Trail for the descent. The wind was definitely stronger, the sun peeking in and out as the clouds raced by. The walk down canyon went quickly since the Pipeline Trail is such an easy grade - except for the sharp switchbacks going down to the Burch Hollow access point. (Point of interest: this time we actually found the missing Burch Hollow Trail - much further out than our book had led us to believe. Now that we know it's really there, we'll have to go back and do it in the spring.)
Protected side-hill walking
By the time we got back to the car, the sun was definitely gone, so we'd timed it just right. We had one quick beer (earning us an "All right!" from a solo woman hiker headed back to her own car) and then headed home as the first raindrops hit the windshield. Shoulder season is always tough for us - we love to be outdoors but are not keen on tromping around in the rain - so it was nice to have been able to get out before the weather moved in. Plus, a rainy, post-hike afternoon is the perfect excuse to make chocolate chip cookies - which we did.
Little waterfall in Church Fork
Hike stats: (These are slightly different from the first time we did this hike. Not sure why.) 9.95 miles; 3 hours 16 minutes moving (only eight minutes of stoppage); moving average speed 3.0 m.p.h.; 2,075 feet elevation .