Monday, June 19, 2017

Hooper Bald Azalea Hike with the Family

Bright orange flame azalea bloom on Hooper Bald 

Hooper Bald Azalea Hike with the Family 

Thursday June 15, 2017

Hike distance 1.25 miles RT --easy

Dana Koogler
Crystal, Michael and Tessa Lindsey

Pictures are here starting with frame 643

Hooper Bald Azalea Hike 2017

   I have talked with my daughter Crystal numerous times about making a short hike up to Hooper Bald with the kids to see the native azaleas in June.  We finally jumped on the chance and went down to the Cherohala Skyway to do just that.  We packed a picnic and brought along
extra clothes towels and water toys to make a day of it.  We'd hike up and see the azaleas. We'd have a picnic. We'd stop by Tellico Grains Bakery on the way back. We'd go let the kids play in the creek down toward Conasauga Falls. We'd hike to the falls and wrap up our day if time permitted.   I felt we had a pretty good plan and probably plenty of time for it all.

    We stopped on the way down at Ingles in Madisonville. We lacked a few things for our picnic, but the drive was a long one. It would do us all good especially the kids to get out and stretch our legs.   We had promised them a treat if they behaved.  They were really good all day.
We did not tarry at the store.  Everyone used the bathroom at Ingles for the rest of the drive.
The day was a pretty one. It was sunny and warming up.  It was actually a little on the cool side once we arrived at the parking area for Hooper Bald.    It is worth mentioning that the vault toilets at Hooper are out of order. They have a ruptured vault that will need replacing. 
They have placed porta potties at Stratton Ridge picnic area about two miles back toward Beech Gap.    
My granddaughter Tessa age 3. Grandson and big brother Michael age 8.  
Michael has brought his binoculars! 
  We gathered our gear up and hit the trail.  Everything went well to start off.  The trail is a maintained path and a very easy one.  It has little or no elevation change unless you count the few steps up to the bald.   I knew Michael would not find this the least bit challenging. I also knew that even little Tessa would not be bothered by the trail.  She did fine on the trail too.
We got up to the grassy open bald and began seeing native azaleas.  It was beautiful. The trouble began with Tessa deciding she didn't care for the unmanicured tall grass at the summit touching her legs.  It made her uneasy.   She wanted to be carried not because she was tired, but because she was leery of the weeds.    We got through the experience ok, but not without some encouraging and cajoling by Nanny.   I kept pretending to be scared or need saving. I kept trying to get her to enjoy the mystery and intrigue of wandering around the various "rooms" up on the end of the bald formed by trees and shrubs.   It helped a little, but this part of the trip ended with her stating " I hate this place and I'm never coming back here."   She asked me "Nanny, do you like this place?" I told her I did and that I had always liked this sort of thing.
She was in disbelief that I could have liked this stuff as a child.  Life certainly is different for different people.  
 Hiking out the trail. Easy so far.
 Arriving atop the bald.
No more view at the pulpit now.  
    The view at the rock pulpit on Hooper Bald is obliterated by growth of briers and shrubs.
It needs clipping out again.  I hope that can happen.   We enjoyed all the beautiful colors of the azaleas.  Reds. Oranges, golds, copper and peach.    Not as many colors as up on Gregory Bald, but certainly plenty to see and much easier.   I was thrilled to find that the balloon flies were mating up here today.  I have seen them up there once before and figured it was a once in a lifetime thing. Nope! They were up there today!  We all got to see them toting their little silk bundles around.  The males carry silk presents for their potential mates.   Below is a short video I made in 2014 of the balloon flies.  It shows them better than any photos I took of them today.

   Balloon fly video above.

        The near end of the bald is the best for azaleas so once we'd checked out the far end we went back in the direction of all the good stuff.  I always like the contrast of the dark fir trees against the bold colors of the azaleas.  It is just richer and more appealing to me. I like this spot and Andrews Bald for this reason.  Gregory Bald has its charms, but no fir trees.

 red azalea bloom
 Michael and Crystal amidst the red azalea blooms.
 my favorite spot on the bald.  what a sight to see. We all loved this!  Michael said everything up there reminded him of a life sized Fairy Garden!
 Tessa looks cute next to the pink mountain laurel.
 Michael in a clearing under the trees.  The photo doesn't show how dark it was!
 Closer view of azaleas.  You can see some blooms turning loose.

 A little bit of blue sky visible behind those peachy colored blooms.

A cloud has dropped down to cover the bald.  It was kinda neat to see the conditions change from one minute to the next!

I stopped to photograph this grave marker on the hike out.  I'd love to know the history of this fellow and how this came to be here.

  Next time I want to walk down the King Meadows Trail and see the cabin ruins.

          Back at the parking area we stowed our gear and set up our picnic lunch. We had croissants with turkey or ham and cheese and sub dressing.   We had blue berries and water melon.  We had sweet tea, lemonade, water and sodas to pick from to drink.  I foolishly left the chips and cookies at home, but we did not miss them.   We stopped to let Tessa have a mercy call at Stratton Ridge. She was not having the peeing in the bushes thing either.   We drove back toward Tellico Plains. On the way I spotted a mountain camellia blooming. Crystal kindly turned round for me to go back and photograph them.   I had never seen camellias in this area before!  So pretty and perfect.
The ones here were pure white with gold centers. The ones in the Smokies I have seen are white with gold and purple centers.

Mountain camellia. Its fancy binomial is Stewartia ovata

    We finally made it back to Tellico Plains and figured out where the Tellico Grains Bakery was.
We went in to see it for ourselves.   It smelled so good. It looks really quaint too. I had heard only great reviews of it.   I was having my mid afternoon schlump.  I was thrilled to get a cup of strong vienna coffee.   Michael and I split a piece of what we called Death By Chocolate cake.  Yum!
It is the best chocolate cake EVER! I am going to ask for that for my birthday this year.  You better believe it.    Even with all four of us working on it...... we could not quite finish it.  It was too rich and sweet.    But what a way to go!  :-)   Tessa got some kind of pastry, but I don't remember exactly what it was.  The kids got white milk.   Crystal had some water and dessert.   While we were in there the rain cut loose and began to pour down in buckets. Thunder and lightning were booming and cracking round.  We tried checking the weather radar to see if it would soon clear out or if it was a settled in rain.    No luck.  We got a poor phone signal down here.   We decided we'd best head home and try the creek thing another day.   It was already 3 pm.    We were tired and had a good bit of a drive home.  It was all in all a good day.  I had fun! I can't wait to go with them again.

 I appreciated spending time with my daughter and my grandkids.   They are very sweet and fun and I am proud of them all.

 Tellico Grains Bakery is very quaint in the historic downtown of Tellico Plains.
 Tessa with her serious face.
I was baiting Michael to do a chocolate cake mouth picture for me.  He was happy to help me out!  

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