Posted by Bear Quills / TCS on 4/30/2020 to
Hiking is my favorite passion, and if I had the time, I would hike every day. During the summer, my husband and my 2 boys travel to North Carolina where we rent a cabin in Transylvania County, which is called the land of waterfalls. Each day of our vacation we start the day by hiking, with our end destination a waterfall and usually lunch. Every year during one of our hikes, we always mention a certain hike that left an impression on us for years.
This hike was like no other. I wish I could say it was the best hike ever and that’s why we talk about it, but it was just the opposite. It was the worst hike we have ever experienced. It started early in the morning with my alarm set for 7:00 am. I dragged my husband and kids from their cozy beds, told them to eat breakfast, and brush their teeth while I loaded our hiking backpacks with sandwiches and water bottles. Hiking is my passion and while I think they would rather stay in bed and relax, they still go and enjoy the day.
We drove for about an hour, which included a 7-mile drive back a dirt road until we reached the trailhead where we parked our car, grabbed our backpacks, my GPS watch, and set off on the hike. According to a hiking book I had, the waterfall was only 2 miles from the trailhead. The hike was marked ‘moderate’. Moderate to us was nothing. My boys, who were ages 8 and 11, had hiked lots of times, even on trails marked as strenuous. Among the 4 of us, we had 2 backpacks, each carrying part of our packed lunch that we were planning to enjoy at the waterfall. My GPS watch beeped each time we passed a mile. At this point, we would trade off on carrying the backpacks, which works out nicely for us as it gives everyone a break every other mile.
The first mile of the trail was easy. It followed a creek the entire way and came to a bridge. At this point, the book told us not to go over the bridge, but to take the side trail to the left. Shortly after taking the side trail, we had to cross a tributary. It was a bit tricky to cross, but we managed it. Then the trail started to go along a “goat trail” on the side of the steep mountain. The trail was pretty high above the creek below. This would not have been a problem except the trail was barely etched out in the side of the mountain. One misstep and down you would go. At this point, we were in a single-file line with my husband in the lead and I in the back.
As we kept hiking, I kept thinking that this trail was getting too steep. But as we only had less than a mile until the destination, we kept going...thinking it would get better. It didn’t. In fact, things went from bad to worse. After the trail left the side of the cliff, the trail went through a section that was almost a bushwack. Trying to get through the brush wasn’t too difficult, but it was hardest for my youngest son who was shorter. The brush was at the height of his face. I kept telling him that we didn’t have that far to go. We knew from the book that shortly before reaching the waterfall we would have to cross the creek.
Once we reached the creek we noticed that the sky looked a bit dark. We did not see any rain in the forecast, so we didn’t worry about it too much. The creek was flowing pretty fast and as my husband and I deliberated on how to get across, the sky was getting even darker. We removed our hiking boots to test out the creek bed. However, the rocks on the creek bed were very slippery and since the creek was flowing pretty fast, I became hesitant about whether we should cross at all. In addition, the creek floor was a solid rock that was very smooth, covered in slippy moss, and slanted downstream. We knew we were only a tenth of a mile away from the waterfall, so we tried to come up with ideas on how to get across safely.
At this point, my husband decided he would just swim across by himself with the camera to at least get some pictures. Again, this made me nervous because the water flow was so fast and the waterfall was just around the corner. However, just then we heard a tremendous loud crack of thunder above us. This had to be a sign that we shouldn’t go any further. We may have listened a little too late……………….