Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Walk in the Woods (A Trip to the Smokies, Part 4)

Hen Wallow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - the goal of our first real hike

On the third day of our trip to the Smokies, we finally got around to doing the thing that Jennifer and I wanted to do most - hike! On our drives through the park on the first two days, we had noticed huge crowds at the trailheads of hiking trails that lead to some of the most popular falls. We don't like crowds.

So, Jennifer studied the map and found an out-of-the way trail leading to a lesser-known fall called Hen Wallow Falls. The total length of the trail is 2.6 miles (1.3 miles to the falls and 1.3 back), which we thought was not too wimpy, yet not too long for the kids. Here we are before we left, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We can't wait to get going!

When you visit the GSMNP, as I mentioned before, you spend a LOT of time driving. This photo is typical of what you see most of the time:

We reached the trailhead in about 30 minutes and were glad to see only a handful of cars. After a few hundred yards, we found a sign that was supposed to show us which way to go to get to the falls. Unfortunately, the sign wasn't much help, since it was lying on the ground. I picked it up and tried to figure out which way to go. We had to take a guess.

Thankfully, we guessed right. The trail was much less steep than the one leading to the top of "Old Smoky," but it was not paved and was often pretty rough going. It was loaded with all types of challenges, such as rock-hard roots that stuck high out of the ground and tried their best to trip you up, as this typical view shows (as always, click on the photo to enlarge it):

Other obstacles included VERY narrow and slick bridges over raging rapids (okay, I'm exaggerating just a little):

Plus slippery rock paths:

But the trip also contained many fascinating sights, including yellow spaghetti that grows straight out of the ground:

And bright red mushrooms (there were plenty of other interesting flora, but you don't want to look at fifty pictures, do you?):

The kids had a great time, at least on the way up:

They especially loved the bugs!

Finally, after hiking for about 2 hours, we made it to the falls, where the trail ended. There we had a mini-picnic.

On the way back, despite our having rested for nearly half an hour at the falls, we were plumb tuckered out. But no one was more tired than Christine. Along the way, she often intitated a "sit-down strike."

"Come on, Christine, get up! We have to get back to the car!"

"All right, all right, I'll carry you for a while!" (I actually ended up carrying her MOST of the way down! Well, at least it was mostly downhill!)

I didn't mind a bit. I cherish such moments, for they will not last forever. Before I know it, she'll be a teenager!


elizabeth said...

That's really beautiful. I love nature and seeing pictures alone does the heart good!

And your littlest daughter is super cute. For sure, cherish these times.

Isabel said...

Good guess on the signpost. Was there moss on the north side? What a beautiful place to spend a day...and a nice cabin to rest at night.