Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lower Falls on Slickrock Creek-- Canoe and Hike

Greenheaded Cone Flowers blooming into September along the banks of the stream.

Lower Falls on Slickrock Creek-- Canoe and Hike

Kenny & Dana Koogler
Sunday September 11, 2016

1 mile RT paddle/float 
2.8 mile RT hike

Pictures are here starting with frame 68

Lower Falls 2016 Photos

   We had been kayakers for a number of years.  Kenny had several bad experiences with the kayaks.
He flipped his a couple times.  Three years ago we nearly drowned in Little River during one of those episodes.  After the last flip of the kayak on a Summer fishing trip he cursed and said we were selling them.   We did sell them easily and finally bought a  canoe from our friend Mike.   It was a very good deal and a sweet set up.   We bought it back in June or July, but only now did we get the chance to take it out.

       We planned to do a short canoe trip to see how we got along with it and couple it up with a hike.
We thought maybe some picnicking, eagle watching, swimming on Calderwood Lake would be fun.
We headed down to Calderwood Lake on a Sunday morning.   We did not see any eagles today. I wondered if we missed them nesting and they had flown on?

        We put in at the dock on Calderwood and our first part of the float was short and sweet.
Half mile back to the mouth of Slickrock Creek. The sky was blue and the sun was shining.  The temperature was 83°. Perfect.   We had some weeble wobble feelings at first on setting out.  I think Kenny was convinced he could not be in a water craft without it tipping over.  We settled into the trip and had no incidents.   The water on the lake was a beautiful blue green and very cold.  A slight mist crept across the waters as always.   Once we entered the mouth of Slickrock Creek the water changed and became shallower and clearer.  We could hear the cascade where the stream empties into the broader mouth.    We beached the canoe and changed into our hiking boots.  We saw a king fisher bird and a hummingbird.  Lots of green headed cone flowers, pink Joe Pye weed, orange jewelweed, white turtleheads, white asters, red hearts a bustin' and bright red cardinal flower dotted the stream banks.

          We started our hike which was short and sweet.   It is not a hard hike, but it is a wilderness trail.  Better than bushwhacking, but not up to the standards in State Parks and the Smoky Mountains National Park trail system.   We could not remember if we needed to go up to the trail or if we could simply stay along the stream?  I recalled going up last time we did this so that is what we did again.
Once we had gone a short distance it was apparent either way would work.  We took note of this so we could simply stay along the stream on the return trip.

Kenny mans the trolling motor.

The mouth of Slickrock Creek.
 Beautiful view on Calderwood LakeCardina
Cardinal Flower by the stream 
More lovely flowers on the shores.... a look back toward the canoe.
There are some campsites immediately on the bank here. 

     Although I had done this hike several times and so had Kenny... we still forget that  the trail is very narrow and in places hard to stay on it!   Rocky and narrow and sloped in the wrong directions sometimes.   We only had one creek crossing to deal with though and today I knew that the wet foot wade was going to be very easy.   Today I was thrilled to find that even being on narrow, rocky spots above the creek I was cool as a cucumber.  I had no fear of heights, balance problems, depth perception problems or anxiety!  All that is gone thankfully.  I suddenly developed fear of heights and all this anxiety back over the Summer. Kenny was asking "Who ARE you and where did YOU come from?"  Cause my wife is NOT like that!  I believed it was coming from a hormone problem. Turns out I was right.  I had to switch from estrogen tablets to patches.  I am taking half the medication and getting great results. No more nervousness!  All those bad symptoms are gone along with the hot flashes!  What a relief. 

        We came to one particularly bad spot with lots of erosion and a long drop off below it.  
I handled it like a champ.   Finally at the base of the long cliff we passed the rocky part I like. It is a mossy rock face with lots of galax and ferns growing on it. The mountain here is far above you and stretches on a good distance.  
 The trail by the base of the bluff.

Sunlight filters down through trees and ferns past the bluff. 

  We passed a real pretty spot in the stream where there is a wide pool of water and lots more pink and red flowers.   I like this hike in any season,but late Summer has some pretty flowers.  Spring is the best season for this hike.   Tons of great Spring wildflowers from start to finish.

A good hole of water along the trip with pretty red cardinal flowers.
Kenny spent some time trying to decide if we needed to ford here despite my having told him 
the trail stuck to the LEFT side of the stream until near the very end.  It is easy to see why the confusion as the trail is hard to spot among the weeds. 

Kenny is standing in the trail, but you cannot see it from here. He couldn't see it until he was ON it.  

    We went along through a flat stretch of ground where the stream was narrower.  
The vegetation to my right began to rustle heavily and up jumped a black wild hog and took off running!   We hung back a little while to let it put some more distance between us and it.  I was very glad it was a hog and not a bear cub.    It wasn't too much further til we came to the first and only ford of this hike.   It was not going to be a completely dry rock hop today, but the next thing to it.  Most seasons this is an over the top of the boots wade. 
 Creek ford just before the falls. They are 0.3 miles further past this point.
Signage in the wilderness is not the clearest.  

 Lower Falls on Slickrock Creek.  We arrived there in another less than 1/2 mile from the ford.  I got in the water and took a short swim and cooled off.  The water was cold, but felt good.  Kenny as usual would not get in, but did throw rocks.  We ate a snack and I dried off a little and got the hiking book out  and tried to determine how the distances on this trip worked out.  I had made this hike a LOT shorter in my mind as usual.  I had thought it might be 1/2 mile from the lake shore to here.  Wrong!  Try 1.4 miles.   My brain edits things and makes them seem so much easier and shorter.

On the way back from the falls I stopped to enjoy the scenery here.  Looking back up the stream.

Joe Pye weed and cardinal flowers casting their reflections in the green waters of Slickrock Creek.

The clear, deep hole of water at the mouth of Slickrock Creek.  A small cascade empties into the broader, wider mouth of the creek.   So pretty!

    We made it back in half the time it took to hike in.   We were hungry and ready for some lunch waiting on us in the cooler back at the canoe.  We stuck to the lower trail which was much simpler wrapping up our hike.   We saw two couples had just climbed out of kayaks and were standing there talking as we came out.   We greeted them briefly and pushed on.  We changed into water shoes and sat down to eat a peanut butter sammidge with fresh strawberry jelly made by my brother in law, Brian.  It was wonderful!  So tart and packed with lots of flavor.  Brian is a Marine. He can kill you a terrorist or make you a batch of homemade jelly.  He is a man of many talents.  

         We climbed into the canoe and headed back.  I had thought we might have time for another adventure after this short hike, but it was not in the cards.   We were tired by the time we got back and loaded up the canoe it was already 4 pm.   We headed home on the Dragon.  Traffic was not too bad which was a relief.    It was about a perfect day.  I was glad it went to plan.  No negatives.  
It felt great to be back in the woods. All through my mind rolled the plans of things to come.  Thinking like this and dwelling on these ideas has been sadly lacking in me this Summer.  
The return of these patterns of thought and action are like the return of and old friend.  Feels like coming home. 

Below is a short video of the highlights of our adventure.  Very pleasant.

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