Experience the Devil’s Bathtub
in Scott County, Va. —
great for hiking, swimming,
The Devil’s Fork Loop Trail takes you on a seven-plus mile hike across stream beds, past Cascade Falls and into the Devil’s Bathtub, said to be filled with waters cold enough to squelch the fires of hell.
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By: Pam Cox, director of tourism, Scott County, Virginia
About two hours into the trip and close to the Tub, we reached the most challenging part of the hike. To reach the lower swimming pools of the Tub, you have to cross a narrow ledge with a good drop down into the creek. Fortunately, someone has placed a hand-rope along the ledge to steady your balance.
Next we trudged through the swimming hole and climbed up a steep bank to the diving area into the swimming hole. I have seen videos of folks diving from that tree-lined ledge down into the swimming spot. Let me make certain this is understood—you have to clear about a three-foot rock ledge before hitting the water. Please don’t do this because I don’t want to read about you in the “Darwin Awards,” a book that chronicles the many unlikely ways people eliminate themselves from this world.
Finally, we arrived at the Devil’s Bathtub. I was drenched in sweat with aching knees and blistered feet. But, I had made it and in mostly one piece. I gingerly stepped out onto the slick, moss-covered rocks of the tub and made my way to what is considered by many as a great “sight to behold.”
No one questions the beauty of the Devil’s Bathtub. It is a crystal-clear, aquamarine color that is created by the algae on the bottom. Since I was already wet, I decided to scoot on my bottom to the edge of the Tub.
We spent close to an hour at the Tub, allowing us to take plenty of photos and videos. I captured some great video of the flowing cascade into the Tub and down into the pools below.
Eventually, it was time to leave. I scrambled back up to the ledge, reflecting on the journey to the tub, and muttered “Well, at least, I’ll never have to do that again.” My co-hikers doubled over with laughter.
I was worn out and pretty much stumbled my way back down the stream, perhaps now slightly over-confident having made it to the Tub successfully.
We were forging one of the last creek crossings when I felt my foot begin to slip. Tottering, then teetering, I lost my footing and butt first into the creek, soaking myself and almost dousing my camera bag. I was cold. I was wet. But I had made it to the Tub, and it couldn’t get any worse than falling into the creek.
That’s when I saw it—SNAKE. My hiking partners were way ahead of me, and all I could do was holler, “SNAKE. SNAKE. SNAKE. SNAKE. SNAKE.” Frightened and clumsy, literally stumbling over my own feet as I tried to flee, I felt my footing slip again and fell—smack dab on top of that snake.
Arms flailing, legs akimbo, hooting and hollering like a gentleman lefting at a hoe down, I squirmed and kicked until I managed to upright myself on a rock, crying, SNAKE, SNAKE the entire time.
Grand-daddy Longlegs and our co-hiker just stood on the other side of the creek and laughed. Finally, Longlegs came back across the creek with his walking pole to examine the snake. “It’s only a little garter snake,” he laughed. Given my time spent wallering around on said snake, had it been venomous, I would not be writing this story.
We made good time coming back. I was relieved to push myself into the backseat of the county’s Tahoe. Wet and tired, I pulled off my shoes and examined my feet. Major blisters, but miraculously that seemed to be the extent of my injuries. I pulled on my socks, never bothering to put my tennis shoes back on.
I hobbled back into the office, telling everyone about my arduous trip to the Devil’s Bathtub, with all the young folks saying, “Why that’s an easy trip.” Easy. Perhaps, when you are 33. I was so tired, I didn’t even bother to put my shoes on for the drive home. I put a blanket in the seat, cranked up the heat and headed home.
When I arrived home, my husband was already there. He took one look at me and said, “What in the world happened to you? Were you in a wreck or a fight?” “No,” I replied. “Hiked to the Devil’s Bathtub today.”
“Cool,” he said. “Want to go back this weekend?” I looked up at him and just rolled my eyes. “Unless you’ve found the elixir of youth, I am not heading back there anytime soon.”
But, I think I will return again, some day. This time, however, I will take the right-turn to the longer, less-traveled trail, because quick doesn’t always mean easy and we all need to take the trail that suits us best.