Monday, May 7, 2012

Fall Branch Falls Hike

Bluets growing thickly along the Hooper Bald Trail

Fall Branch Falls Hike

Dana & Kenny Koogler & Obey the Pup
Saturday May 5, 2012
 Hike distance for the day 2.5 miles RT

     Saturday we decided we just couldn't hike the Smokies and leave the dog penned up. We opted instead to take our 4 month old pup to hike with us in the Cherokee National Forest where he'd be welcome.  We picked some hikes we felt sure he'd be able to handle for difficulty and distance.
We took him to see Fall Branch Falls first.    Obey enjoys rides in a vehicle too especially if he can let his head hang out the window so his ears can fly! 

     We stopped at the Subway in Tellico Plains, and got some lunch then took it over to the visitor center to eat outdoors.  He was very well behaved, but we kept him leashed since he is so nosey and has to go speak to everyone.  We finished up our drive to the trailhead and we were all very glad to get out of the vehicle.  It was a gorgeous clear day. It had started off rainy, gray and overcast.  We weren't sure it was even going to be a fit day to hike at all.  Thankfully it cleared off.

      Once on the trail and away from the road we let the dog off the leash. He ran around like a crazy, wild animal.  The trail is a wilderness trail and is unmarked, but well traveled. It is not super well maintained and Obey had to negotiate several huge blown down trees to get over.  I first thought I'd have to lift him over, but he just wanted me to get out of his landing zone and he hopped over like he'd been doing it forever. He was very proud of himself. We could see his confidence really increase!  He ran ahead, but would come back to check on us especially me. He wanted to make sure his ole Mama could handle the hike.  He herded us some getting behind us to make us move on up the trail.  

      We could heard the roar of the waterfall as we neared the bottom of the trail.  The forest smelled heavenly fresh and green.  The air was cool.  It was only 67 degrees up here in the mountains.   Perfect hiking weather.   I was also concerned about the dog crossing the creek, but
the water level was not bad.  He skipped across like he'd been here many times before.  He again kept checking on me and Kenny to see if we were going to be able to make it. He was a champ!

       The falls is about eighty feet high and a sheer drop. It shone through the trees like a big white ribbon.  The sun filtered down through the spray.  Basswood seeds fell like tiny white propellers through the mist and sun almost constantly. It was a beautiful scene. Sunshowers!
Taking pictures here was tricky because of the spray off the falls.   The big troll tree down at the falls has fallen over. The one I always liked to get in and pose for pictures.  It toppled over sometime within the last year or so.  Bummer.   The sunny and misty conditions forced us to climb much closer to the falls than we usually do to try to find a vantage point that would permit decent photos and video clips.   The dog was already up there prowling around so we couldn't be outdone by a pup!    

        Standing to the far left of the falls up close provided a fine vantage point without spray and better lighting.  It was fun to see this falls from a different and very pretty angle.  One of those times we wondered why we hadn't done this sooner?  There is actually a small plunge pool for this falls that can be seen from this point.    Everything was lush and deep green. Obey was having the time of his life. He played fetch. He ran under my legs and the tripod. He found crawdads and ate them.
He flopped down and enjoyed the cool. He is a very hot natured dog and appreciated the misty breeze and cool rocks.   Umbrella leaf, dog hobble, and violets were the main flowers in bloom down here today. 

         We had such a good time we hated to leave. We finally did turn around and begin our hike back.  It was all uphill on the way back out.  We were made to look lazy and slow by the pup who had gotten his second wind and kept looking at me like "Mom, are you going to make it?".
We put him back on his leash as we neared the road. We knew that was going to be a real chore as he was NOT going to want to be leashed again.  Kenny called to him and he just stood and looked at him. "nope. You're not fooling me." I had a flash of inspiration and I exploited my furry child's weakness: Worry over Mom!    I went to hollering "Obey! Help! Come help Mom! I'm in trouble!"  He came dashing to me. I hugged his neck and thanked him. I clipped the leash on and let him think he was pulling me back up the trail the last bit.  I thanked him again for the help.
It was wicked, but I was sure proud of how well it worked!   He can be very stubborn when he doesn't want to do a thing. 

      We decided rather than put ourselves through anymore time cooped up on the car than necessary we'd hike out to the big open meadow at Hooper Bald.  We could all run around off our leashes and play some more.  It was lots closer than Coker Creek.   We will save that waterfall trip for another day.   Hooper Bald was nice. Obey got some more run around time off his leash. We lounged in the soft grass near the pulpit.. the main view from Hooper Bald.  We visited with some other people and enjoyed the sunshine and the breeze.  It was marvelous!  I'd never been to Hooper Bald this early in the season. Its the doldrums for flower blooms there.  All the early stuff done. The later stuff like laurel and azaleas not even started.  Still pretty.  The trees just beginning to leaf out good up this high.   

        We hiked back to the jeep putting Obey on his leash as we neared the parking lot.
Good thing since there were lots of people and other dogs there!  He had to visit everyone. He's the "Glad Paw" dog and has to greet every single person and dog.   He was adored by all except one spooked little girl.  She wasn't too sure about him. We loaded back up and headed home.
It was no time til he was sprawled and snoring in the back seat of the jeep.
All the windows down feeling the breeze!

          What a wonderful family hike.  We were very proud of how our rescue dog is turning out to be an able hiker!  Soon he'll be able to keep up with longer hikes.  Today we hiked about 2 1/2 miles and he was fine.  He was cooperative in all the ways that mattered.

Below is a video of Fall Branch Falls

Obey at the falls 

Fall Branch Falls profile view

View from Brushy Ridge Overlook

View from Hooper Bald Pulpit

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