Monday, August 19, 2013

I spend a lot of time in the woods and have gained new experiences on each trip that ultimately make me a better hiker, and in a lot of ways, a better person. Each time I complete a difficult hike I look back on it with accomplishment and the confidence gained from it can't be expressed with words.

Recently I took a short, easy, almost a cheat of a hike to Elrod Falls in Sneedville, Tennessee. It was third trip to the waterfall and second time in a period of two weeks. Steve and I were there prior to me getting my upgraded camera and the flow was fantastic and even with a point and shoot I got some good pictures. When I got my new camera and it had rained for a few days, I knew exactly where I wanted to go to try it out, Elrod Falls. There are three falls on the creek and they all happen in succession. The first falls is a sliding cascade with the second and third falls being more of a free fall. The first two falls are each 100ft high with the third only coming in at about 30ft. The trip to the falls takes about an hour from the house and I waited until late in the day trying to arrive just an hour before sunset to avoid the crowds and the lighting at the time is good for taking photos. It was overcast that evening and as I neared Sneedville I passed through a fairly heavy rainstorm.
The trail arrives at the sloped rock.

As I neared the parking lot, the rain had quit and I could see the first waterfall from where I parked. There was one other vehicle there but I could see the people hiking back out so I was excited I didn't have to try to be too creative in shooting the falls to avoid having someone in the picture. The trail is flat and leads to a tricky rock slope just before the base. I had on my water shoes so I just went into the water to avoid sliding on the rock and meeting the same fate as my friend Brandon did on my first visit there. (it was hilarious) I got some quick pictures from the base and crossed the creek to climb the steep trail to the top of the falls and on to the second falls.
Lower falls 100ft

The trail was really muddy from the rain and it stuck in the tread of my shoes rendering them useless for traction. There is a rope from tree to tree to assist in the climb and if not for it I wouldn't have been able to get up the bank. Near the top I noticed the trail widened more than I had ever seen with foot prints dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. I stayed close to the far side and was using a tree to assist me on up the cliff when I felt something brush my hand. I looked up to see my hand was inches away from a hole in the tree branch that had yellow jackets flying in and out! I quickly pulled my hand away and spun in a reverse pivot to further myself from the danger. Before I had time to react or balance myself both feet flew out from under me and I slid feet first over the cliff. As I was sliding up to my hips out over the open air I flipped over and found a grip on a tree root and swung into the side of the rocky bank gut first. There was a few places my feet would fit on the side and I was able to pull myself back up to safety. At the time it didn't rattle me, but after I examined where I had just been hanging it was obvious I could have been killed. I went on to the top of the falls and sat down gathering my thoughts and steadying my nerves. I turned to see the second falls through the trees, it's one of my favorite ones in east Tennessee. It has a unique look and it too towers at around 100ft. I took some pictures and waded around the creek, there is another falls further upstream but requires another vertical climb and I wasn't pushing my luck any further.
Near where I fell from the rocks (Amber on a previous trip)

This is just over halfway up along the cliff. You can see why a fall would be trouble. (previous trip)
Second Falls on the creek and my favorite.
Second Falls near the base.

With all my experience, not paying attention for just a moment almost cost me my life. I almost didn't tell anyone because of the grief I would receive for hiking alone and being careless, but I eventually told Amber and my parents, who indeed, scolded me. I have since been on several more hikes, but I have stayed vigilant to the danger involved in the trips and just how precious life is. Until next time, happy trails.

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