Thursday, June 21, 2012

Trail Report - Slave Falls/Needle Arch Revisited (A Father's Day Hike)

I really couldn't ask for a better family. Constantly and always on my mind, are the Great Outdoors. Having four walls around me on a daily basis is actually quite confining, suffocating, and if it weren't for the light switch, the fluorescents would be deadly. So when asked what I wanted to do for Father's Day, naturally I wanted to get in the woods for a hike with my girls, and that is exactly what we did.

I had two hikes in mind, one being at Frozen Head, the other in The Big South Fork. Considering that Robin and I had just run a 5k the day before and Robin's back has been and still is in a "shape," I figured hiking to the fire tower at Frozen Head wouldn't be such a good idea. So I opted for the Slave Falls Loop trail. Robin and I hiked to the falls and to Needle Arch last year while she was pregnant with Bug so I figured we could revisit them now that Bug is here.

We arrived at the trail head around 3ish in the afternoon. We geared up and after a brief photo with my girls at the trailhead sign, we started off down the trail: Ashby and Clover in the lead, then Robin, then myself with Bug in tote. Happily along we hiked, taking in the beauty of the surrounding forest, and Bug making noises while riding on my belly. It wasn't long into the trail that the sweat was pouring from all of us and we were annoyed by gnats and biting flies for most of the trip.

From the looks of it, we missed out on the blooming of the Mountain Laurel but were fortunate enough to see some Rhododendron blooms. After a mile in, we reached the junction where the loop goes to the right, but we kept straight ahead with aims of visiting the arch and the falls. Onward we continued after a brief stop. With "Baby On The Go" in tote, one must be careful not to loiter in any one spot for too long, otherwise Bug will let you know about it. We reached the junction in the trail where you can continue straight for the arch or go left to the falls. We opted to hit the arch first. After .2 miles we were there in no time.

At the arch we took the opportunity to release Bug from the torture device (the Infantino Breathe). Robin was content with sitting on  a stump with Bug, who was ready for a "bobble" - aka a bottle. I happily snapped several photos of them, Kiddo, and the surrounding area. Clover got to go wireless from this point on as there was only one other couple we saw on the trail and they went on the loop. As a matter of fact, I think they might have been completely oblivious to the fact we were even on the trail.

Content with a full belly, Bug was ready to play and explore. So Robin strapped her sandals on, and a-bouncing around we went. I bounced her for several minutes while Robin got to play with her camera, snapping shots of us, Sis, and Clover. After a bit, it was time to get moving again and head to the falls. We had the intention of letting bug play around in the water. So Robin helped me strap bug back in the torture device and we set off in search of the falls.

Back the way we came until we arrived at the junction with the trail to Slave Falls. This part of the trail is the hardest as it drops roughly 60 feet or more in a very short distance, of course on the way back it was even tougher with Bug in tote. Let's just say, I got a workout in for sure. I also realized what it must have felt like for Robin in the later stages of her pregnancy, walking on a trail and not being able to see where her feet were landing. She is one hell of a lady that's for sure and I admire her even more.

After walking next to the gorge bluff for a good tenth of a mile through mud and sand, we finally reached the viewing area for the waterfall. There was a decent flow, too. Bug got to hear what an echo was. She got to see the waterfall, and hopefully, she even got to see the orange salamander we spotted on the other side of the viewing barrier. As we stood gazing at the waterfall and surrounding area, we decided that it would be too treacherous to go down to the fall's pool to let Bug play. Let me tell you, it's not an easy task even without a baby in tote, but with baby in tote, well maybe some other time she will get to play in that water.

After a while we decided it was time to head back. We were hot, sweaty, and almost deliriously mad due to the biting flies swarming constantly that we decided it was time to hike back out and opted to leave the rest of the loop for another time. It didn't take us long to reach the trail head. Once we were out of the gorge though, Bug was getting fussy so in went the "bobble" until we made it out. As Robin stated, there's no better feeling than knowing your baby is feeling comfortable and secure enough to fall asleep in unfamiliar surroundings. She was all but out on my belly by the time we got back to the trail head.

Total Distance Hiked: 3 miles.
Trail Rating: Easy to Moderate
Total Elevation Gain/Loss: 245ft/277ft

Enjoy the rest of the photos and this time we have a trail track for you.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin