Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Flat Laurel Creek Hike



Yellow fringed orchid along the BRPW


Flat Laurel Creek Hike
 Dana Koogler & Catherine Howell
Sat. Aug 23, 2014
  5 miles round trip approx. 

Pictures here: Flat Laurel Creek Pix


      I had planned with my friend Cathy to come over to hike for the weekend. 
I wanted to spend some time with her. Just the two of us.   I told her I did not have any certain
place I had to go.  I said that the only place I was interested in and would suggest was that sometime during the month of September I'd like to go see Flat Laurel Creek and the falls.
I wanted to do the loop hike suggested in Kevin Adam's Best Wildflower Hikes guidebook.
The month of September is when he says its prettiest and the photos sure make it appear so.
I wanted to hike around the loop. I wanted to go up to the Sam Knob summit. I wanted to hike
down the slopes off the the Flat Laurel Creek trail to see the main waterfalls there.

    Cathy had hiked the Flat Laurel Creek area a number of times.  I more or less left it to her
to plan it out owing to her considerable experience.  She did ask me what I wanted to do and what I'd prefer and we decided this: We'd park at a point along the road near a bridge over Flat Laurel Creek.  We'd hike the manway along it and get in the creek and climb up the creek.  We would then get out onto the Flat Laurel Creek Trail and hike it back to the road and walk back down
to the vehicle.  Not sure of the mileage on that one, but it involved 2 miles of a road walk. 
No worries on that one.  I am guessing the mileage would be in the six or seven mile range. 

    We started out as planned.  It was beautiful. I was enjoying it.   The day was perfect weather.
Clear blue skies with a few puffy clouds.   The temperatures were in the mid eighties.
Hot enough for a dip in the water.   The stream had plenty of flow on it.  It was just perfect.
It was another one of those hikes where I was forced to face the facts about myself.   I am 
still dealing with a damaged brain bucket.   Going UP the creek was daunting for me.  I struggled
to continue past the extreme anxiety that it caused.  I finally got up the creek to the point just past where the Y falls is.   I was shaken and going out of my mind with anxiety about slipping or falling.
I was making extremely slow progress because of the way my balance and depth perception is.
I finally just said "I don't want to do this anymore." to which Cathy replied. "Its ok. We don't have to.  We'll turn around."  We did just that, but going back down was even worse for me.   
She was very supportive and helped me safely climb back down the creek.   I am fortunate to have
such an understanding friend who has never given up on me.  We made it back to the car 
and decided we'd try another approach.  


      We went up the road and parked at the trailhead for Flat Laurel Creek trail.
We got our packs and hiked out the trail far as Wildcat Falls. We had our lunch on the cement bridge parapet there by the waterfall.   It was beautiful.  The trail was easy and a blessed relief to 
me after the unsettling start to the day.   It was sunny, but the trail was deeply in shade most of the time.   We passed rows of paper birch trees that looked like  they were planted that way they were
so perfect.  
Beautiful blue skies and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance up the gorge.

         


Cathy standing along the edge of a chute we crept up.  This is one of the easy spots on Flat Laurel Creek.




  Wildcat Falls where we had lunch.  




Top Flat Laurel Creek Trail winding on through the balsams
Middle-- View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Flat Laurel Creek Trail
Bottom-- Rocky outcrop visible from Flat Laurel Creek Trail

      We hiked out the trail all the way to where the creek lives up to its name. It actually does 
flatten out!  Below that are lots of falls.   We were met originally at stream level by a few families.
Moments later things changed to about thirty college kids climbing up from the waterfalls below.
They were raucous and some complaining bitterly.   The spot was pretty, but over run with people.
We had thought we'd climb down to the falls.   On the trail we could see there were even MORE college kids and adults down there at the falls hollering and carrying on.   Cathy looked at me and asked "Do you really want to go down there?"  I replied "No.".

    Who wants to climb down a steep bank and try to get waterfall photos with that mess going on?
This hike was beautiful, but I need a do-over on it.   I will go back and hike it this way.
Sam Knob trail around and up to the summit.  Side trip down to the main falls in September when I
can enjoy seeing all the goldenrod.  I'd rather go through the week when there should be fewer people.   I don't mind climbing down the bank to photograph the falls, but I don't want to 
crawl the whole creek.   It is beyond my ability level at this point.  I don't know if I will ever be
straight again and able to do that. I hope I will, but I have no idea.

       I realized several things about myself.  
1. I need to recognize my limits and think things through honestly.
2. I need to communicate those limits honestly.  
3. I need to quit worrying about being rejected because of my limits.
4. I need to remember who I am dealing with.. Cathy and my true friends are not
going to be upset with me for my limits and for my change in abilities.

It is hard to face differences in myself sometimes.  I need to be nicer to myself and quit
acting like a stubborn ass.  :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment