Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Fall Creek Falls

I've said before that Julie and I have a way of finding trouble, and finding a way out of it. Care for another?

Way back when we were still dating, one of our favorite things to do was to travel off to some state park we'd never been to before, hike around, and just see the sites. The car rides were fun, and we would always come back with some sort of tale or another. One particular weekend, we decided to head off to Fall Creek Falls.

This is one of the biggest parks in Tennessee. The falls are huge. To call the place beautiful just doesn't do it justice. Julie and her family used to hike and camp there when she was growing up, and I had never seen it, so she was stoked about showing me around. There are two falls, and trails all around to hike between them. The trais are well marked and mostly level. You know... Boring.

After looking at the big falls for a while we decided... hey... let's go down for a closer look! And off we went. By our standards the hike down was nothing. We got down to the river, and Julie pointed out that we could follow the river down stream to the other falls. This is a geographical oddity, and I was a little skeptical esspecially since the other falls are up another river, but hey.. Why not?

So.. while all the other sane people around are walking back up to the decent trails, my girl and I start off boulder hoping down the river. After about a quarter-mile we come to the part where the two rivers intersect, and we need to cross. Now on our right was one river, with a huge oak that had been laid across it, and in front was another river. Right. We walked across the oak. Did I mention the white water below? Yeah that was fun. Anyway we made it across, and by this time we've noticed that a group of hikers is in front of us, and honestly not looking nearly as enthusiastic.

We caught up, said hi, and made our way past. Actually, I am a little partial to.. "Left them in our dust".

We continued boulder hopping for another mile or so when we realized... the waters up... and the water... is in between us, and our eventual destination... our car. Ahhh.. we'll worry about that later!

We're jumping from huge rock to huge rock, generally having the time of our lives. What a great day. Then we came to a rough bit. see... there was no more shoreline. No more boulders. There was just water, and a sheer rock wall. Well shit...

F**k it. We're cimbing it. And we did. Julie didn't even hesitate, she just grabbed an exposed tree root and started going up. She had scouted out a good path to climb with lots of holds. Before i knew it, we were both up.. and pretty impressed with our selves. We were walking around feeling like badasses... We even managed to find a way to climb down... well.. slide mostly.. but again, it was fun, and we were too young and stupid to realize we were risking our lives. Or.. no... we knew it.. we just figured we could handle it.

Anyway... more merry boulder hopping... probly another mile or so... and then we find ourselves.. well... screwed.

So now... we find ourselves assessing our situation. We're in basically a very very large bowl. There is a roundish pond of water... about 200 yards across and God knows how deep, between us and the other side of the bowl, which we have to get to if we want to get to our car. There is no way around, because of another sheer wall, that there just wasn't no climbin' around. Fine. We'll swim dammit.

Shoes off, socks off... Julie walks into the water.. After being in for less than 15 seconds, she comes running out. The water's so cold her feet are already turning blue, and she has a headache from hyperventilating. ummm... shit.

Ok.. plan B. What was plan B? Wait... we saw some boulders in the river a ways back... I'll bet we can climb them and get across that way! Yeah I know... as far as plans go, it sucked. I remembered these boulders and they were freaking HUGE. We weren't swimming though, and I wasnt gonna walk across that fallen tree in the dark. The sun was going down by now. It was time to rock and roll.

On the way back to the boulders we weren't screwing around. We were sprinting over the rocks. We're talking about huge rocks piled up all along a white water river, and we were just flying across them. Neither of us fell... Don't know how though. Either way, we made it back over the previously impressive obsitcals like they were nothing, and soon found ourselves face to face with the slackers. They hadn't even made it to the first big climb we made yet.

Anyway, we explained that the water was up, and that there was no way across up stream, and told them about our plan. The group of slackers consisted of two girls and a guy, and to be honest, the chicks were totally not looking happy. After talking to these three it was readily apparent that Julie and I were gonna be helping them get out, or they wouldn't be getting out at all.

As a group, we backtracked until we found the big rock group that we had hoped we could cross on. wow. These things were as big as I remembered. The first thing we had to do to cross, was jump to the boulder closest to the shore. About a 3 foot jump. Not a big deal... unless you missed, because those are rapids below, and damned cold water.

Everyone made it. Step two wasnt as scary. From here we just scaled over to the biggest of the rocks. She was a monster. 20 feet high at the tip. stretched way out into the river. But now... things are about to get tricky.

Down from the big rock we found a large flat platform rock. The shore was a steep hillside, but a tree had fallen down and was partially in the water. Beneathe the tree was another rock. Basically what ya had was a funnel, jamming water between two rocks. One right on the shore, and one closer to the big rock. These rocks were about 4 feet apart. From the platform, we'd have to jump to the other rock, and catch the tree to make sure we didn't fall back into the rushing water.

3 of us knew we could do this. 1 of us was scared, but she was ok to try it. And well... Number 5 was not happy.

The guy was going to go first, so Julie and I could stay behind and help the girls. I remember before he climbed off the big rock... he nodded towards number 5 and said something I'll never forget:

"That's my wife. She's very clumsy... and I love her very, very much."


So the guy makes it to shore ok. Now Julie gets onto the platform, so she and the guy can help the other two girls across. I was left to get them to the platform, and to clean up any messes. Oh fun.

Well... Girl number 1 makes it across without incident. Only nubmer 5,the clumsy wife, is left now.

After some coaxing and a lot of help, I got her to the platform and Julie started reassuring her immediately. Before I know it, the woman tries to make the jump.

I'm not sure this woman jumped 4 inches. It looked more like she fell on purpose. The water took her. The only thing that was preventing the woman from being washed down stream, was the fact that my wife is a badass. Julie had the woman's right arm with both hands and by God she was not letting go. The woman was flailing in the water. I could see her feet behind her, and her head, and that's it. Julie was trying to hold on, but she was losing it. The current was so strong the woman could basically do nothing.

I jumped down to the platform to try to do... something... Julie half jumped in the water now. Julie had both legs in the water. Facing the shore, she was straddling another rock that had previously been considered nothing but a nuisance. It was saving our asses now though. She was pulling like hell to get the woman, who was not even struggling at this point, up and out. All I could do now was grab a hold of Julie and make sure she wasnt going any where. Her husband was able to reach in and grab his wife's left arm, and we were eventually all able to pull her to the tree.

Julie and I climbed on out. The woman was freaked, and freezing, but she was ok.

So three of us had some frazzled nerves, but well... Julie and I just sorta rolled with it. Shit happens right? Julie even gave the poor woman her dry flannel shirt to keep her warm.

Now only one obstical remained. The only way up the cliff to the trail that led to the parking lot was a cable climb. Bah.. childs play. The five of us were hiking back towards the 2nd falls now, except this time we were on the right side of the water. Above us we could hear the road and traffic... traffic...

You know.. We were getting pretty sick of hiking, and it was gettin' dark. Julie and I stopped, and looked up the wall of dirt above us. When in doubt hit it with a sledgehammer. We hollered out to the slackers, "We'll see ya at the top!" and up we went. I still remember the look on that guys' face when he saw us start climbing... "ohhh shit"

By this time we just didn't care. We just did it. Before we knew it we're at the top, brushin' ourselves off and grinnin' like idiots.

We met up with the slackers in the parking lot. They stopped by to give us julie's shirt back, and thank us again. hehe.. by then... the only thing on our mind... was supper.

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