What I love about the wetlands trail at Ruffner Mountain is that you never know what you’re going to get. If you go frequently (anywhere from once a week to once every few weeks) you’ll begin to notice subtle changes that would elude the “I’ve hiked there a few times” hiker.
For instance, you’ll notice flowers and blooms that are short lived and those that stay long and drift down on you as you hike. You’d notice that certain nuts and fruits fall along the trail and numerous side trails at different times of the year. You’d notice the ebb and flow of the water ways under and around the trail. You’d notice the fluctuation of butterflies and dragonflies throughout the year.
Each time we go we find a new fruit. Last time it was muscadines and this time it was crab apples, specifically a Southern Crab Apple tree (or Malus angustifolia), that by the way- I never would have noticed on an obscured side trail by an abandoned building without Whiskey’s nose.
A lot of the water spots were drier but it didn’t stop Whiskey from insisting on going down his favorite side trail- a short trek to an exposed and busted water pipe that looks very ancient, and creates a beautiful crystal clear dog sized wading pool of what I think is spring water. (I’d love someone else’s opinion but the best I could come up with was that it’s a capped spring that’s sprung a leak.) Whiskey planted himself firmly at the head of the trail and refused to budge until I allowed him to walk down it to romp in the water. Which he did. Happily.
I prefer this “back” entrance to the wetlands trail because it’s flat and is comfortable to us, like a well worn pair of jeans you can slip in and lounge about in. It doesn’t ask too much of you like other trails, but still gives you lots of joy and beauty.
Directions: It’s not the same as going to the main Ruffner entrance. Take 20/59N to 20E. Exit on 132B. At the bottom of ramp go L onto Montevallo Rd. You will go through a neighborhood and through a few stop signs. Stay strait. Turn L at the dead end (a nice walking track will be to your right) onto 16th St. S. Get into the right lane immediately and stay there. There is a wonky intersection that will get you real lost if you don’t do this. Stay strait in the R lane until it goes to it’s own stop sign at a weird intersection (the rest of the road veers left but you won’t). At the stop sign go strait across.
Warning the traffic to your right and left do NOT have stop signs. Don’t assume they do. People who don’t live here always pull out in front of the flow of traffic and we hate you for it. Seriously. Don’t be lame like all the other losers that day who will pull out in front of our neighborhood people and try to kill us. 🙂
Anyway, back to it. So you go strait. This will put the Ruffner Softball Park on your right and when this short block dead ends turn R onto Ruffner Rd. Follow this for approximately 1.8 miles until you see a gravel pull off on the left. The gate is clearly marked as Ruffner property and you’ll see the big trailhead sign in my picture. Also, you’ll find overflow parking easily at the Palmer Brother’s Auto Parts place which has fencing for like a quarter mile across from the park! Enjoy!
Details: The trail will take you about 1 hour and 45 minutes at a slow Gina and Whiskey type paced, filled with lots of paused pondering and sniffing (from both parties sometimes, as I’m not opposed to trying to “see” what it is that my dog is smelling!).
Terrain: An easy flat hike. Well, unless your dog wants you to go through an old ditch/tunnel under an abandoned mining road in the woods. Heck to the no. At least, not today. Maybe when I’m feeling a little crazier.
Distance: Unsure. But I think it’s around 2 miles round trip. Please correct me if you know!
Rating: 10 happy tail wags out of 10.