Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cherohala Skyway: Huckleberry Knob and Bald River Falls

Back in 2007, what feels like a lifetime ago, Daniel and I took a trip to western North Carolina where Daniel convinced me to bike part of the Cherohala Skyway

On that trip, we started on the North Carolina side at Hooper Cove, elevation 3,096 ft., and biked 9 miles straight up to Santeetlah, elevation 5,377 ft., before heading back down to our car. Did I mention it was my first experience road biking? Or that most of this bike ride was on a 9% grade?

Anyways, nine years later we decided to take our kids to hike a trail that is located on this same section of the Cherohala Skyway

As we drove up the hills and through the many turns, I was a bit shocked that we had actually biked up this road. We told Jack about our feat, but I'm not sure that he believed us... I'm not sure that I believe us! Thank goodness for pictures to prove we did it.

For this adventure, we decided to do a hike to the top of Huckleberry Knob. The bald can be accessed from the Huckleberry pull off, with a starting elevation of 5,300 ft. At 5,560 ft., Huckleberry Knob is the highest point in the Cheoah Ranger District.

From the parking lot, we walked over Oak Knob before ascending Huckleberry Knob. At 2.5 miles round trip, this was a very easy hike for our family.

As always, it took a little while to get Jack in the mood for hiking. I think he is like his mama in that hiking in the woods is ok, but running across wide open spaces with endless views provides a thrill that fuels his desire to hike.

Once we reached our destination, we enjoyed the beautiful 360º views. We pointed out Oak Knob that we had walked across and even found a section of the Cherohala Skyway in the distance. Jack was amazed.

On top of Huckleberry Knob is a small cross with a plaque that tells the history of a group of men that died on the mountain and were buried in the 1800s because they were unprepared for the weather – the temperatures can drop up to 20º on the Skyway. When we left Tellico Plains, TN it was 80º, when we reached our trail head it was 65º.

After we explained the meaning of the cross, Jack told us, "I'm always going to be prepared. I don't want to die up here." Good plan, Jack!

We had a snack break before heading back down to our car. Since we had a little time before dinner, we decided to check out the Bald River Falls, located about 6 miles off of the Tennessee end of the Cherohala Skyway.

We were surprised to find so many cars at this destination, but the falls were worth the visit. They are located right off of the road, so many people just took a photo from the bridge in front of the falls. We opted to climb down to the river to get our feet wet.

While splashing around, Jack informed us that it was the most awesome-est day ever. As parents, there is no better compliment.

I felt a little bad dragging Jack away from the water, but we did let him do a little free climbing, with Daniel's help of course. 

It really was an awesome day. The weather was perfect, we were outside spending time with the people we love most in the world. Not too bad for a little impromptu trip.

And who knows, maybe we will come back and bike the entire 36 miles of the skyway one day!

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