Sunday, August 10, 2014

Look Rock Tower and Spruce Flats Falls --Two Hikes in One Day With Michael!

Michael with the Ninja Turtle Lunch Box

Look Rock Tower and Spruce Flats Falls --Two Hikes in One Day With Michael! 

"Nanny Cookie" aka Dana Koogler
and Grandson Michael Lindsey age 5

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Total hike distance 3 miles round trip

Pictures are here 

     I am now the grandparent of a kindergartener!  Michael started school this past Tuesday. 
They do things differently now and they go 1/2 day for two days the first week, 1/2 day every other day the second week, then the third week they go the normal schedule from 7:45 am to 2:45 pm.  
He is liking school a lot.  The days  he is off he is here with me.   We decided to get to the woods and enjoy 
Summer on Wednesday.  He is getting to be such a big boy now and can hike further. It has opened up lots
of possibilities as to what he can do and where we can go!  

      I asked him if he wanted to climb a tall tower and look off on Wednesday and then go to a pretty waterfall? He exclaimed YES!, but  ONLY if we can get in the river!  So it was agreed upon. 
We packed a picnic and some toys.  We took Dissy blanket.. yes. Dissy doesn't go to school, but it is
still important to take our security blanket on hikes. 

    We left the house about 9:30 am and drove up Foothills Parkway to Look Rock parking area.
I had a thought about getting him interested in the hike and drove a short distance past the parking area.
I turned around and headed the jeep back in the right direction and started slowly driving back. I found
a spot to pull over on the shoulder. I told Michael to get out of his car seat which he did.  He came up to the front of the jeep with me and I was able to point out the tower in the distance.  I asked what he saw?
His answer was a wide-eyed "Can we go there?!" We made it to the parking area and got ready to hike.
We gathered the camera and a small lunch box of stuff and hiked the 1/2 mile up to the tower. Nanny had to
stop and take photos of every thing because it was all fascinating to Michael. Mushrooms, leaves, bugs, rocks!   He had to climb on the rocks and eat a cookie.   He noticed the shortcut trail.. the unofficial trail up
to the tower. Who does that remind you of?   He did not find the hike up to be hard at all.  I had taken him
up there once before, but he was still a papoose then.  He has not been when he was old enough to recall
the trip until today.   He was astonished when he got the first glimpse of the tower from the trail.

       He ran up the ramps and was checking out the rocks and the surroundings. He was disgusted when he
realized we were not allowed to climb the spiral staircase or go up into the cab.   I know that feeling well.
He still enjoyed the view and told me he was just sure he could see my house down there!

Top: Look Rock Tower
Bottom: Michael enjoying climbing around on rocks

Checking out the view from Look Rock Tower out across Blount County, TN

     It was a new experience for Michael coming to the tower, but he did not find it that interesting.
He was ready to go see waterfalls and play in the creek.  He was unhappy that we had to drive in the jeep
to get to the next place.  I told him it was not far and to hang in there.  I bribed him with promises of a
visit to the visitor center store at Tremont.  I had not bought him anything in awhile and I can usually find him
something there that is a little educational as well as fun.   We made it there without too much complaining.
He enjoyed the visitor center and the staff there was so nice to him.   A lady was there and had brought her
little dog in the store for a short visit. He got to pet the dog and liked his name which was "Banjo".
He picked out a stuffed bear to cuddle and named him Scout.   We learned about bird banding. We learned about bears and what they do.   We had us a nice picnic lunch at the Tremont Institute on the grass.
Scout got up in a tree like bears do and did not get our picnic basket.   It was a chance for me to start educating him about NOT feeding bears or wildlife, chasing them, or otherwise harassing them.  I certainly
don't want him to fear wildlife, but respect it and enjoy it.  We had sweet tea, homemade lemonade,
turkey sandwiches, and homemade brownies for dessert.

         We did a quick Presto Chango into swim trunks. Grabbed our toys and walking sticks and backpacks and all our stuff and away we went down the trail. I had taken time back at the jeep once the Look Rock trail was done to ask Michael "Do you know how far you just walked? ONE MILE!" He was tickled at that and remarked "That was NOTHING!" And for him it really wasn't.  I then told him the hike to the waterfall would be one mile. He again said "That's nothing!" and true to form ... it wasn't for him.
He is a big, long legged boy for age five. He is in the 95 percentile for his age on height and weight.
He has an uncle who is about seven feet tall and Pawpaw is 6'4". He's a hoss.

       We hiked the trail out to Spruce Flats Falls and he was thrilled at seeing the water tower.
He really was intrigued by that.  He liked the log steps too.  He liked the narrow trail and the views.
He saw salamanders in the springs coming down over the trail. He loved the woods.  He held my hand and made sure Nanny did not fall or do anything unsafe.  He kept pointing out roots to me and rocky places and telling me to be careful.  A few times he got uneasy and wanted me to lift him down over a bad place which I did.  He is a leader already, but he is not embarrassed to ask for help when he needs it. He told me one time on the hike "I need your help. I'm just a little boy!"  We encountered another family on the trail who had
a little boy with them.  His name was Ian and he was also five!  It was his first trip to the waterfall and
he and Michael hit it off right away.    Michael is competitive and was determined he was going to get there
first. He got me by the hand and whispered "We can't let them beat us!"  He was pleased that we got there ahead of them.

    He was pleased at the first sight of the falls and was hollering WHOA!  but he also let me know right then that we needed to go right up to the falls!   First we need to play! So play we did.  We got in the creek and
visited with Ian and his family. He shared his toys with him and other kids.  It was very sweet. He threw rocks in the water, but was sure to be careful and only throw them in the water and not at people or anywhere near people.   The boys dammed the creek. The checked out crawdads, salamanders,and minnows.  Lots of time for building rock stacks and digging sand and rocks. 
Spruce Flats Falls
Michael & Ian playing together. It's great to be five!
Michael has found a stick that looks like a Pow Pow!   Woo Hoo was the mood of the day!

Sharing toys and digging sand and rocks. Putting them in the lunch box!

           The rest of the trip was not photographed.  Why?  Because we were too busy playing in the water.
Lots of families were here today with us.  All nice people. We were the only ones who were "locals".   Everyone else was on vacation. Everyone was in a great mood.   We visited with children and grown ups
of every stripe and description. They were all lovely.   The older kids were sweet as could be and had nets.
They were gently catching critters in the stream and bringing them over for the smaller children to see.
Michael got to touch a crawdad for the first time.   He could not believe that Nanny would pick it up!
The presence of the other families there really made it fun.

    Today's visit to Spruce Flats Falls was the most fun hike I've ever taken there. Hands down.
I have visited there too many times to count.  I had never climbed up into the waterfall until today.
I had never been swimming there before until today.  Today was a breath of fresh air with a little boy who
knows how to have a good time and takes the party with him where he goes.   We were sliding down a small cascade into the plunge pool. We got IN the waterfall and let it splash us and pelt us with cold drops of water.  We swam in the plunge pool.  Michael swam across on my back. I was like a momma bear.
It was great fun.   I will never forget it.   I could hear other kids and parents remarking about us.
I could not hear all of what was said.   Later a mother of two older daughters told me what she thought.
I figured she was going to correct me for teaching my grandson to be reckless.  She said she thought
it was great that we were having a good time, but being careful while doing so.  That is always a good policy.
Enjoy yourself. Have fun, but use some common sense.   It is not necessarily so common, eh?

    We spent 2 1/2 hours at the falls swimming and playing.   Finally we had to leave. We put on our dry shoes for the hike back.  We told our new friends good bye.  Michael had two brownies while I put my boots on.  He hopped, skipped, jumped, ran, and pretended to fly like an eagle along the trail on the hike back.   Thanks so much to the family who was behind us and played along with him being the hike leader!
He had that chest stuck out and was showing us how to get back to the parking lot.

        We put our things away. He told the other family good bye. We changed into dry clothes.
He hugged Scout and his blanket and we had only gotten as far as Townsend IGA when he konked out.
He slept all the way home. We played hard!  Five and one half hours outside and three miles of  hiking, swimming, sliding and rock throwing will do that to you.

          I look forward to more adventures and opportunties to teach my grandson to love outside!

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