Monday, September 26, 2011

Slickrock Creek to Lower Falls Kayak & Hike Trip

Looking over the front of my kayak on Calderwood Lake


Lower Falls on Slickrock Creek-Kayak & Hike Trip

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sept. 25, 2011
Paddle distance 2 miles approx.
Hike Distance 2 miles approx. 

**Repaired Blog with missing photos**
Slickrock Pix


     Kenny and I loaded up a picnic lunch and the kayaks and headed across the mountains to  Deals Gap, North Carolina.  We fixed us a tailgate lunch since it was already noon.  We put the kayaks in the water at Calderwood Lake Access.  We had spotted loads of cars at the trail head for Slickrock Creek before we headed to the dock.  Lots of people were boating and camping today.  It was hard to find a spot to park.  The day was about 70 degrees. Crystal clear blue skies with just a few pretty puffy white clouds.  The lake looked like silver.

         We paddled from the dock about a mile.  Our goal was the mouth of Slickrock Creek and a hike to Lower Falls.  We spotted a bald eagle while we paddled.  We also saw a king fisher bird.  Everyone we met on the lake was in excellent spirits and very friendly. The water smelled fresh and clean.  Paddling my kayak or a canoe is to me the most Zen experience.
I always sleep like a baby after a day out on the water. It is a dose of Mother Natures Nerve Medicine. Good old fashioned exercise. Sunshine. Fresh air. Cool water. Beautiful scenery.  And no weird side effects!

      We soon made our way round the bend and paddled the rest of the way up Slickrock Creek.   We could hear the creeks cascades crashing down ahead of us.  Two men and two backpacking tents were camped by the stream.  They were smiling and admiring the kayaks.
The creek here is quite shallow just a few feet in from the lake.  Calderwood Lake used to be part of the Little Tennessee River until it was dammed.  The water in the creek was even clearer and colder.  We beached the kayaks and climbed up to reach the trail that heads upstream. 

      I had hiked this trail twice before. I hiked it in Spring several years ago from Cheoah Dam to Lower Falls. It is an excellent Spring wildflower hike.  We did a shuttle hike one Summer on this trail. We put a vehicle at Cheoah Dam and drove round to Big Fat Gap.  We hiked from the gap all the way through to Wildcat Falls, past it and continued through to Lower Falls and back round to Cheoah.  That day we got to take some good swims in the river and saw a rattlesnake.   Now I was seeing what this area looked like in Fall.

      A wilderness hiking trail is not much like the well traveled, groomed, maintained trails of a National Park or State Park.  The further you go from a popular trail head the harder it can be to follow.  We passed one group of about six or seven adults who were dismayed at the mats of washed down sticks and debris and rocky conditions. They turned around and left.
I always like the challenge of route finding and surmounting different obstacles. Creek fords can be hilarious unless it is so rapid and deep that its unsafe.   Today was warm. The water levels were low and fording was just a nice time to play in the water.

Hell yes, that is too a path! It's a wilderness. Ain't goan be no normal, maintained path!
  
 It was no time until we arrived at Lower Falls. It is not the most spectacular waterfall for size, but the whole scene is pretty. Great swimming hole too! I can say that from first hand experience.  There are lots of calm, deep pools of water with leaves falling into them. They gleam black in the light.  We passed lots of pretty cascades on the way.  There is a mossy cliff covered top to bottom in mosses, lichens, and cliff clinging vegetation like galax and grass of parnassus.  It drips water even in the driest times.

       We spent some time relaxing at the falls then turned for the trip back.
It was a nice easy hike and paddle trip.  By the time we returned it was about 4 pm and there was not a soul around.  Everyone had left. Once we passed those few people nearer the trails start we never saw another person. 

      The woods smelled of the coming of Autumn.  I look forward to many more hikes in crunchy leaves to beautiful spots this year.

 

Bald Eagle in the trees over the lake.



Golden light on Slickrock Creek and fallen leaves



Lower Falls on Slickrock Creek

2 comments:

  1. Nice pictures. Love the shot you got of the eagle. I've never seen one in the wild. It's always so neat to catch some pictures of animals that are rare to get a chance to photograph. I got some pics of a momma bobcat and her two kittens in the parking lot at work and it just seems so special to get a glimpse of them in their habitat. (Not that seeing them in the middle of a busy shopping/business park is exactly "their habitat"!) Looks like a great place to kayak and hike, will have to check it out sometime!

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    1. Thanks Maeflower. I am just now seeing this comment for whatever reason! So sorry for the long delay.
      Very cool on seeing a bobcat and kittens! what an experience that had to be! I have seen a bobcat a couple times and gotten some so so photos, but nothing like that! :-)

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