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178 Gilbert Gaul Trail 2010-01-18

Beaver Lodge along the lake

Friday night we stayed in Fall Creek Fall State Park with our friend Ray to celebrate his birthday. The next morning, we got up to hit a few of the park trails. The Gilbert Gaul Trail and paved bike paths were our top two priorities.

After a vehicle shuttle to the Inn, we started on the Gilbert Gaul Trail. We used the Inn access area at the Fisherman Cabins as our trailhead. Walking the loop counter clock-wise, we followed the shore for a few hundred feet before the path turned away from the lake and brought us up to a hollow. Shortly after that, the trail joined an old road at the top of the ridge.

The dirt road led us to a trailhead at the gate to Group Camp ll where parking is available.

Bypassing this trailhead, we continued left onto another old, dirt road that led toward the head of the lake. After passing through a picturesque, open field near the old Gilbert Gaul Homestead, we gained the lake shore.

From the head of the lake we gazed out onto the frozen lake. The weather had warmed but the ice had lingered. Although the lake’s frozen surface made for magnificent photographs, it probably was not strong enough to slide across - we didn’t test our hypothesis.

We walked along the icy shore as the trail wove from points to marshy coves. We passed near an island that seemed close enough to simply slide over to it’s shores.

Just after the rain shelter (the only one on the trail), we began seeing trees felled by beavers. We knew there were beavers living on the lake and did not know the location but we thought we were close. Following the weaving shoreline we continued to see more and more stumps - leftovers of the beavers’ handiwork.

Finally we saw their den. Wow, what a structure. It was partly on the bank built with access to the water. The ice near the structure had been broken and fallen trees had been collected along the bank. This was the highlight of the hike.

Leaving the beavers in peace, we finished the loop. Back at the cabins we walked the road until we could take the sidewalk to the Inn. Crossing the parking lot we joined the Lake Trail - a paved multi-use path. It was an easy 1.35 miles to the dam.

At the dam we crossed the road and continued on to the Fall Creek Falls parking area . It was a short hike to the Falls.

After completing the paved path we went to the Falls overlook. The unique opportunity to see the ice formations made us change our plans and walk the trail down. In the waterfall basin, ice was everywhere! We went out a ways, but without crampons, we had no traction. However, our cameras still worked and we were not disappointed.

It was a good day of hiking.

A few trail notes...

  • The Gilbert Gaul Trail was built as an Americorp project back in the late ‘90s.
  • The Gilbert Gaul Trail had lots of signs, but at two points, we thought a hiker could be confused for a while at least.
  • The Gilbert Gaul Trail did not have any blazes.
  • The ticks were not bad in the winter, but in the summer the Park should post a "beware of ticks" sign, as the one posted in Long Hunter State Park.
  • There was however, a "beware of hikers" sign on the paved multi-use path.
  • The Gilbert Gaul Trail was in poor condition, but nothing a Boy Scout troop with a few rakes could not remedy. It is winter and the trails do not see as much use.
  • The rest of the trails were in good shape.
  • The mileage for the Gilbert Gaul Trail is inaccurate. One sign stated it as 3.6 miles and the other as 3.7 miles, the actual mileage is 4.4 miles.
  • Also of note, from the head of the lake to the dam (which included walking from the trail access to the Lake Trail) was 4.4 miles. When measured with a straight line it was less than two miles in distance.

We were lucky to be able to walk the trails while the lake and creek were frozen. It was a great experience.

Happy trails.


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