October 17th was sunny with blue skies, and with the perfect amount of Fall chill in the air – great weather for a Fall Sunday Hike day! We met on the gravel road in front of the Staff House at 10:00am to discuss and choose hikes. The boldest of the group chose the December Ridge hike lead by former counselors Calder Telep McLellan, Lori Nelson Chamberlin, and me, Louise Bowling Manilla. These fearless leaders hadn’t actually been on this particular hike for a few years, so the hike was sure to be an adventure. 20 some hikers, plus 3 dogs, set off up the trail to Table Rock at 11:00am, after a ceremonial name-game and warm-up stretch session on the Rec Field. We turned right off the path just before the creek crossing to begin our bushwhack up the ridge. The mountain laurel and rhododendron trees were thick and we criss-crossed deer trails as we forged our way up the ridge. The Fall foliage was just beginning to show and there were a few beautiful glimpses of the McClung summit far off in the distance through breaks in the trees. We stopped for lunch around 12:30 at a nice flat spot, perfect for squishy eating, leg resting, and short cat naps in the carpet of leaves.
The uphill trek continued after the break, and even though the leaders knew exactly where to go, they pretended to be unsure of the path to Whetstone Ridge. Luckily, we reached the ridge at the correct intersection where Sunday hikes normally stop for lunch. There was an impressive stick fort leftover from past summers, a good place to spend the night if the hike went horribly wrong. We turned right and followed the ridge trail with the dogs leading the way quickly down the path. Just before 2:00pm we reached the last steep rocky scramble up to the summit of McClung. Success!! Many pictures were taken and we had a long break on the mossy summit after searching for a coke machine that was never found. After a good rest, we headed down the ridge that descends steeply towards Hemlock Forest. The trail slowly disappeared and the mountain laurel and blueberry bushwhacking began. Once again, the hike leaders knew exactly where to go, but decided to err on the side of caution and led the group to the right and ended up coming out on the Nature Trail above the path to buttermilk springs. We made the easy walk back to camp, where we were rewarded with a delicious Sunday dinner feast prepared by the excellent cooks Paul Cabe and Leigh Ann Beavers.