Cole, Alex, & Anna Grace

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Little More Than We Bargained For

We decided to take one last camping trip of the summer for our Labor Day weekend. Right after school let out on Friday, we headed out to Tallulah Gorge State Park.

 The gorge is 750 feet feet deep and has beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous scenery. One of the most exciting things to do once you hike into the inside of the gorge is to brave the very long and slippery sliding rock at the end of the trail.

We decided to attempt this hike Saturday morning. They only issue 100 passes per day, so early in morning we showed up at the ranger's office at the beginning of the trail to get our permits. The rangers inspected our shoes to be sure we had proper hiking apparel and warned us to bring plenty of water. They also said that they did not recommend taking a 4 year old into the gorge, but we could turn around and head back if it became too difficult.

  The beginning of the hike was quite deceiving. We started inside the air conditioned Interpretive Center where we wound our way down long ramps toward the bottom of the building. From there, we headed outside where we walked on a cushioned trail made of recycled tire material. We were feeling really good at this point! The views from the overlooks were gorgeous and the air felt cool as we looked down at the rushing water.

From there, we found the stairs- 1062 of them to be exact!
But, we were going down and it was not too bad. Anna Grace was a little slow, but we had all day to tackle this hike. The boys waited patiently every time they got too far ahead and Anna Grace did not complain.
The kids loved this suspension bridge that we had to cross. It was very bouncy and was stretched high up in the air above the rushing water.
Finally, after a series of more steps, we crossed through a gate and the really hard part began! We started by crossing over huge boulders at the base of the river and then we had to climb over more boulders to cross over the river. We crossed very slowly and carefully holding onto Anna Grace and sometimes we even had to carry her from rock to rock.
We stopped half way across for a little rest and a drink of water.
This is a picture of what we had to cross. Now that we had made it to the river and crossed to the other side, we had to pick our way along the bank. The path was really rough and was covered in huge rocks.

  At one point we had to crab crawl our way across this huge rock!
The rock was way too slick and steep to try to walk across, so Mike and I kept Anna Grace close and held onto her tightly and she bravely crab crawled along with us. The boys loved every minute!
Finally, after we had conquered the huge slanted rock, we thought that we had surely made it past the really rough parts. After all, how much harder could it get? We continued to pick our way along the edge of the river only to find that there really was no trail at all, but just large boulders that we had to crawl over and around.
Just when we were thinking that we needed to turn around and head back the way we came, we rounded a bend to see the huge sliding rock that we had been searching for. The slick rock had a shallow pool at the top and another huge, deep pool at the bottom. There was a long nylon rope in the water at the bottom of the rock that people were using to climb back up towards the top. Alex wasted no time in changing to his water shoes and running off to slide.
Cole took a while to get comfortable with the water, but he eventually started to slide too.
Anna Grace was not too happy that I would not let her slide, so she and I headed to the top so that she could wade around in the shallow pool. However, what I did not realize was that there was a very slippery slime in the bottom of the top pool so when I went into the water to help her, I quickly fell on my rear! Unlike the kids, I was not wearing a swimsuit, so my clothes were soaked!

  The kids had a blast sliding down the rocks and playing in the water. We had a picnic lunch from our backpack and then it was time to head back the way that we came. However, one of the other hikers told us about another trail that was on the other side of the river that was easier than the one that we had just traveled. The only tricky part would be getting to the other side of the river. I was already wet from my fall, so I figured I could just carry Anna on my hip through the deep parts and carefully pick my way across avoiding the slick parts of the rocks. Mike put my camera and his phone into one of the leftover sandwich bags from our lunch and tied all of our shoes onto the backpack. He lifted the backpack up over his head and waded across. Of course, the boys beat us across so they played while they waited for the rest of us to catch up.

We changed back into our shoes and started up the "easier" trail. However, we very quickly realized that this trail was shorter because it went straight up the gorge and was made up of nothing but fallen rocks! Anna Grace was physically unable to stretch and climb up most of it!  Whoever told us about this "easier" route was clearly playing some kind of joke!
And to make matters worse, we had told others hikers about our new route and many others had decided to follow us out!
Mike and I took turns carrying Anna Grace (mostly Mike). We reminded ourselves that we had the whole rest of the day and we could rest every few minutes. Thankfully, we still had plenty of water, so we just took our time. After what seemed like an eternity, we made it to the top of the gorge! We still had a long walk back to our campground, but at least we were finally on even ground!

By the time we made it back to our camper, we were exhausted and our muscles were aching! I think we will always remember our hike down into the Tallulah Gorge. We had a great time on our adventure, but had we known it was going to be such a difficult journey we would have waited until Anna Grace was older.

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