Saturday, January 2, 2016

Laurel-Snow Falls and Friends

Went on a little hike today with some of our favorite folks. The Zelem family is in the same season-of-life that we are, and with all the kids still home for the holidays, we finally got to get together to go do something fun.
This is EZ (my affectionate nickname for Evan Zelem) making rock climbing
look easy (pun intended) as he does most everything it seems.
We met to eat at a restaurant in Dayton, TN, and drove the short trip to Laurel-Snow Falls Pocket Wilderness.

Darla and I have done this hike before. It was a couple of summers ago. It began nice; families swimming in the creek, the path was wide, the sky was blue. We started in shorts and Chacos. Then the wind blew and the sky quickly grew black with clouds. Thunder. Pouring rain. Darla was all about trudging through, so we did. And what a reward! The falls are just awesome. We returned covered in mud and soaked to the bone.

Today's hike was different. Beautiful weather, albeit a little on the nippy side. We followed the trail to Laurel Falls which is rocky and muddy in places. It's an interesting hike with big rock formations, caves, and the remains of a coal mine and coke production from over a century ago. This has left "coked" coal cinders and pig iron remains lying around. There are also some great old stone walls and pylons. It seems there was a old water reservoir here and the old pipe remains prove it. There's even an old coke oven or mine entrance that you can walk in and see for yourself. All this historical stuff is great. Combined with the larger-than-your-house-sized boulders that are ubiquitous on this trail makes you feel at times you feel like you're in a scene in a Lord of the Rings movie. There's lots to see and do, and the first mile or so of the hike is very easy.

On down you must either cross a ravine with the creek (difficult on this day because of the amount of water) or take the mangled foot bridge that has been hit by a falling tree (probably not safe to cross, but we did anyway!).

After the bridge, the trail gets a little hard to follow. You can wind around all kinds of obstacles and there really aren't good trail markings. But with our faithful Beagle and trusty Labrador (actually, they were useless. It was Darla who kept us going in the right direction!) we were able to navigate through holes, up hills, and over boulders to stay on the trail.

Truly, this is a hike you should give yourself more time to enjoy. Our kids were constantly tempted to explore caves, streams, rocks, and spur trails. Everywhere you look there are opportunities for discovery. I only wish we would have had more daylight for exploring more–especially the higher overviews that we didn't have time for.

You know, every trail has this effect on me, but this one especially does: I can't help but ponder God's creative genius. From the many different types of features and formations to the plant variety to the way human activity (destruction? progress?) once abandoned is so quickly absorbed and even turned into something more beautiful! It's pretty amazing, really.

Then...the reward! And picture time!

 This waterfall is pretty impressive. Of course pictures never do things justice, but you can see Drew in the red on the left at the base of the cliff (little red speck about 1/3 up from the bottom of the picture) to get a feel for how huge it really is. What's not visible is the cascade that continues on down the stream bed. I bet it is pretty awesome after a week of sub-freezing weather. Note to self: come back later this winter.

Here's the compulsory family picture! I've got to say, I love these folks! Of course my family, but I'm speaking of the Zelems. This is a family that is humbly committed to Christ. For me they are the kind of people that remind me that there really are those who will do the right thing no matter what trials or setbacks come. I can't say enough good about them. I only wish we could spend more time together.

After the hike we were hungry again! The little place we went for lunch was good, but it wasn't filling. It's time for Cracker Barrel! That's a regular post-adventure place for the Sparks clan to eat, and all seemed to like the idea (after some discussion about going to Waffle House waned). Yes, Cracker Barrel had the huge fireplace blazing, and we got the big table right in front of it! Perfect!

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