Monday, August 6, 2012

High Shoals Falls

After the work party AND race yesterday, I slept in 'till 11:30 today. Getting out of bed was easier than I expected, but I dragged around the house like a zombie for hours. I needed some recovery and some family time. Maybe a little lazy time in the mountains would cover both bases.

To High Shoals Falls!

The girls and I packed our swimsuits and headed north. This time I remembered to call Clark but I didn't get a hold of him so hopefully he was off on an adventure of his own, or maybe getting some family time in himself. Maybe both.

It's been too long since me and the girls went galavanting around up north and just driving up 400 with them brought back good memories. We played awesome music on the radio. We sang songs. As we drove up to Unicoi Gap, they laughed and screamed. Hwy 75 north of Helen feels like a roller coaster, even at the speed limit.

Eventually we drew near to our destination.

 Swallow Creek WMA

We forded the creek.


We parked and hiked in.

 Hiking In

We reached the upper cascade.

 High Shoals Falls - Upper Cascade

I've long wanted to swim in that deep, beautiful pool below the falls, and today was the day. The water was probably 60 degrees, but it was in the 90's outside and it felt delicious.

When we arrived though, the viewing platform was packed with teenagers and there were a few more down in the water yelling things like: "Come on!" "Go in!" "Go for it!" At first I thought they were talking about getting in the cold water, but after a minute, I realized there were two guys at the top of the falls debating whether to jump into the pool or not. One of the guys at the bottom had already done it earlier. Hmmm.

I walked up back the trail, found the little side trail to the top of the falls and looked around. One of the guys at the top had already checked the depth and checked for rocks, they were just scared to make the leap. I was 100% confident that I could make it safely. I've jumped from that height before and the falls were nearly vertical. I looked very carefully before leaping, but still, I took the leap.

The water was plenty deep. No rocks. It was exhilerating. The kids missed it entirely though. They'd been preoccupied and just looked up when they'd heard the splash. Ha. Ha.

I'd gotten in immediately but the kids wanted to get acclimating inch by inch and it took them 20 minutes to get in up to their midriffs. I kept telling them it was better to just jump in, but they weren't having it. Oh well, we still had a great time.

 High Shoals Falls - The Girls at the Upper Cascade

On the way out, Iz walked out to the end of the viewing platform and was all: "Uh oh!"

Hmmm. There was a sign there basically saying that it was a federal offense to walk around off-trail in the area of the falls. Yaaah! I thought pretty hard about that. I know most of the USFS regs reasonably well, at least as they pertain to hiking and biking, and as far as I know, it's legal to set foot anywhere in the forest, as long as you don't create a new trail or trample a protected species. I guess though, people attempting to explore the area around the falls over and over could result in new trails, certainly there's an unauthorized trail leading to the top of the falls, and lots of unusual species tend to thrive in the microclimates created by waterfalls... Unless there's some law that I don't know about, maybe that's all they were getting at.

Still... If there's no sign saying don't, I might, but if there's a sign saying don't, I generally don't. Whether it's technically legal or not, clearly it's discouraged. Dangit. Well, I guess I won't be jumping off of that particular falls again. Maybe I'll have to go back to that one in Alabama or maybe I'll just go slide down that one in North Carolina instead.

Next, we made our way down to the lower cascade.

 High Shoals Falls - Lower Cascade

We'd had enough fun for one day and down there we just sat around on the rocks and enjoyed the spectacle.

It was just right. I think we actually sat around there relaxing for longer than we'd swum up above.

The hike out is almost entirely uphill. I'd remembered this but the girls had forgotten until we got into it. Heh, heh.

On the way, we passed this giant worm trying furiously to dig down into the trail.


I thought it was a snake at first, then maybe a worm snake, but then only after eliminating those possibilites, finally realized it was just a gigantic worm. I had no idea giant earthworms occurred naturally in the North Georgia mountains. Wild! I moved it off the trail.

Adventure concluded, the girls and I made our way back to Helen and sat down for some dinner on the porch at the Troll Tavern. It reminded me of all those trips we made up that way discovering the TNGA route, so long ago. The nostalgia was nearly tangible. It felt like curling up in a comfy blanket on the couch in the winter. It was just like old times.

Just like old times.

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