Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Smokies Day 3: Hen Wallow Falls

When we planned our trip, we knew that we wanted to hike more than we had the last time we visited the Smoky Mountains. I also wanted to hike trails that were not super well-developed (I hated the broken asphalt on the Laurel Falls trail which we'd hiked previously!) and had a good pay-off at the end. We finally settled on three different hikes that would give us a good variety of terrain and that were at the challenging-but-doable limit of what we thought the kids would enjoy. 

On our first day of hiking, we set out for Hen Wallow Falls. This trailhead took off right from the Cosby campground, where we were staying, so it was really nice to not have to drive for an hour to get somewhere! It was 4.4 miles roundtrip and took us just under 5 hours with a break at the falls for lunch, so we were moving at a pretty good clip for young kids. 

The terrain was beautiful but quite steep and the trail was full of rocks and roots. If you look closely at this photo, you'll see that Abigail's ankles are flexed so that her feet are at about a 45-degree angle to the hill! It was intense. (Originally Neil and I had been planning to run this trail a couple of times; after only 10 minutes of hiking we realized that running it would probably resulted in a broken leg.) We crossed three or four log bridges and forded a lot of streams!

A nice couple from Florida offered to take this photo of our family near a beautiful rock overhang surrounded by orchids. I love how it turned out! We look sweaty but happy--just as we should when hiking!

Just when we thought we couldn't possibly hike any farther, we saw the turnoff for the trail spur down to the falls! Yippee!!

 And boy were they gorgeous...

We ate lunch at the falls and talked with lots of other hikers; this was by far the most popular hike that we did in terms of people lingering at the end spot (well, not really the end spot, since the trail went on and on, but you get what I mean...).

I got a great photo of Isaac falling in the stream. Wet feet were a HUGE problem on this trip! We had lots of pairs of little shoes steaming by the fire every night.

Speaking of wet feet, check out our shower! There are no showers anywhere in the park, so we rigged up our own with a solar shower and a tarp. The perspective from which this picture was taken shows you that the tarp only covered 2 of the 3 sides of a triangle...the third side was open. Neil set it up under the assumption that nobody would be walking behind our campsite, but guess what, it was actually quite a popular little hike even though that side of the campground was closed. This means that we took our freezing-cold showers (since there wasn't enough sunlight filtering through the trees to warm up the solar shower water) at 10:30 pm by the light of a glowstick draped in a towel, rather than using a flashlight. It was definitely a unique experience and I said some really choice words the first time that ice water hit my shivering skin while I was watching nervously for coyote eyes in the undergrowth because I could totally hear them howling nearby. (Yes, we could have rerouted the tarp, but it was an improvement on the first night where we didn't use a tarp and just tried to hose off while still half-dressed.)

Ah, relaxing life in the woods...


A view of our campsite from our little shower...

After we got back from hiking the falls, we started a fire so we could roast hot dogs, which was pretty much the #1 thing the kids wanted to do, since we never eat hot dogs otherwise! They were all super excited and then the deluge of all deluges started pouring out of the heavens. It rained for a solid hour and left an inch of water. I was SO glad that we had bought this canopy at the last minute, since we huddled under it the whole time (and this was not the last rain of the trip!). So we cooked hot dogs on the stove and then managed to roast some marshmallows when the rain finally stopped and we could rebuild the fire.

And then I started taking pictures of increasingly dirty children...

As it was getting dark, I threw a couple of packets of this cool color-changing stuff onto the flames. It made the fire go all green and blue and awesome and the kids were just going nuts!!! Super fun and I definitely recommend it. And then as the fire died down it was off to bed.

1 comment:

Kayli said...

Looks like so much fun! Except, then, thinking as a parent, it looks like so much work! ;) Camping with kids, I tell you.

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