Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Alum Cave & Bluff, TN - 6/14/2017
This was the first hike we were able to do with my mom. I was really excited to have three generations of women (baby jolene included) climbing a mountain together. It's something I will never forget in my life. This is a very popular hike in the area, and parking is limited. So we made sure we got up extra early to get there in time. However, we were delayed about 20 minutes because that morning at our chalet a momma and baby bear decided to steal our packed lunches right out of the truck! Yes, they watched my husband put the food in the back seat, and as he walked back to the front door to get some of the last gear the momma bear used her mouth to open the handle on our truck door and grab the bag of food. My husband thought that if he chased her with a pool stick she'd drop it, but alas she didn't. I had to remind him that it's not a good idea to chase any bear, but especially a momma bear with her cub that's holding our food. Needless to say, lesson learned, lock your truck doors. Even if you are just 20 feet away!
After about a 20-30 minutes drive up the Great Smokey Mountains we found our parking for the trail. Luckily this trail had a bathroom, a compostable bathroom (kinda like a port a potty), but hey it works! After using the bathrooms we got the gear on, put Jolene in the carrier and headed off to the trail head. I carried Jolene in the carrier for about 1 mile before I quickly realized that I was in no shape to be carrying her. So I let Jeff switch with me, he carried the abby carrier with jolene and I carried the camel pack. At home in FL I can carry Jolene in the carrier for 4+ miles with no problem, but with the stepping up onto rocks and basically constant slight hill climbing my legs were shot. Note to self, practice walking on a stepper before the next trip!
The views at the bottom of the trail were still just a beautiful as the top. People were fly fishing in the rushing water below the trail, the bridges were covered by beautiful trees, and the entire scenery looked like something out of a storybook. There were a few spots near the water where the trees opened up and the morning mist was still over the water. As my husband described it, "It looks like we are in Twilight". Only my husband would think everything looks like sense form the movie Twilight in the Smokies.
One funny moment on the trail was hearing the stories my mom told of her hiking adventures from her 20's. She told a story how her and her boyfriend at the time were hiking and a chicken (she thinks it was a wild chicken or a large bird) tried to steal her pack and run off with it. Apparently she was carrying all the food for the trip in her pack and so her boyfriend and her chased the bird down and retrieved her pack.
Up ahead on the trail we crossed our very first single person bridge (not sure what the heck they're actually called). It's basically a tree, cut down the middle of the entire length with one side rail to hang onto. Looking at it, I thought I'd be freaked out but it was actually really fun to cross the bridge and see the rushing mountain water right below your feet. Shortly after the first bridge we came up to a second bridge, of the same kind, and right past it was the infamous Arch Rock. This rock has a hole that's carved out of the center and there are stairs to walk thru it. It's a famous spot and there are lots of people who only hike up to this point and return back to the parking lot. But this was only the halfway point for us.
From this point on the hike became extremely difficult. It was basically one set of stair after another most of the way up. My legs were getting a workout of the century. But after about 5-10 minutes of feeling like I was going pass out and die, we came upon an opening in the brush next to us. The view was magical. You could see dozens of mountain ranges glistening in the sunlight. Just peak after peak after peak that seemed to just keep going forever. We took a mini break here to let our legs get a rest and to take lots of pictures before heading on up.
No sooner did we leave our wonderful mini break spot did we immediately being climbing what I now like to call "mountain stairs from hell". Basically it was stairs made of small logs and packed with rock and dirt all the way up the rest of the trail which was about 1/2 miles. That may not sound like much, but you go hiking up stairs with 15-20lbs of gear on your back for a half mile and tell me how you legs feel?! Ok, enough complaining, when we turned the last corner and I saw the last set of stairs it was a huge relief. I really thought I was going to black out at this point, was dripping in sweat, and then next thing you know a very pregnant woman passed me and hiked right up to the bluff. This put me in overdrive, I have no excuses. Here's a pregnant woman taking to this trail like it a cake walk, so I put my big girl pants on and hiked the rest of the way to the bluff.
The bluff was unbelievably beautiful. It was like someone took a huge chunk the a mountain away and all you're left with is a huge wall with a sandy section to sit at. The views were vast, and at this point you got a very good glimpse at how high you actually were.
We found a good spot, got off the gear and let Jolene out of her carrier to have some lunch. I walked around taking pictures and video, while enjoying the cool mountain air. I will say my sandwich and bag of trail mix was the best tasting lunch I think I ever had at that point, lol. I was so hungry and tired, but it was worth all the heart ache to see this amazing view that many will never experience. I was so happy to share it with my husband and daughter, and to have my mom who is 59 make it all the way up the mountain to join us in this experience.
Please enjoy the photos below of our journey, and go to the end of this blog for a link to watch the video of this hike:
Watch our video from this hike on YouTube at:
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