Nothing is better than driving to clear the mind. Coupled with the need for adventure and a free Sabbath rest day, I headed out with the kids to Bald River Falls in the Cherokee National Forest.
On a map, the forest is huge but kept well. You can literally type “Bald River Falls” into your GPS and get there. It’s about two hours from Chattanooga and the last city you’re in is Tellico. I say that to remember to stop in Tellico for bathroom and gas. We stopped at the worst one when I heard an “Emergency!” from the third row of my Sequoia and u-turned into the nearest stop. The sweet attendants handed the girls suckers, but after getting into the car, my sweet Lillie-Mae said “Yeah, I won’t be eating this after seeing their bathroom.” Bless it.
The only bad part about an adventure is getting lost. You will completely lose phone service in the forest. So either have a good memory or screenshot your directions before heading home!
Can you tell I’m totally qualified to give you exact directions on how to adventure?? NOT! But, friend, I hope to inspire you to just GO! Pick a spot on the map, ask some friends for inspiration, remember a childhood spot and take your own kiddos there.
Make sure to pack food! I took along a quick instant pot recipe of chicken noodle soup. Packed into a thermos for everyone, some crackers in bags, plenty of water bottles filled up, apples and oranges, plus some granola in packets and Chewy bars in case the kids were truly up for a long hike (they weren’t, haha). Basically, empty the pantry!
With all the rain we had, I knew I wanted to take the kids to a waterfall.
Usually that would be Glen Falls Trail halfway up Lookout Mountain. However, Chattanooga hiking is very crowded on the weekends. My friend Katie (aka river runner!) told us about Bald River Falls. With a quick warning that it might be slippery to take the kids to the top of the falls, we headed out!
Passing the falls, it was super crowded. Honestly, I got a little anxious seeing all the cars and motorcycles parked willy-nilly everywhere. We passed by and ended up a few miles down some dirt roads to a picnic area (remembering the way we got there so we could get back to the falls — something like left, left, half u-turn, right). This ended up being a great spot to see kayaks sport down the river. The kids enjoyed cheering them on while they ate soup. It was one of those magic moments that just cannot be planned. My girls got to see some awesome women in their gear and were inspired to someday be in their own kayak vs. the blow up fun-yaks we took down the Hiwassee River this past summer.
With my nerves not quite ready to go back to the falls and hike up, I decided to see what the all-wheel drive could do in some ruts. Truly a pretend game, the kids thought we were roughing it. Following the River down for a few miles, we saw a trout hatchery sign! I didn’t know what a trout hatchery was, but we parked and sat by the River and saw tons of fish jumping! It just felt good in the perfect temperature, a little mist on our faces, breathing in clear air, holding hands (my kids are weirdos with their affection!) and counting nature.
Getting back into the car to warm up a little, we headed to the falls. With just a couple of hours before the sun set (always know when the sun will set when going out!), I packed one big water bottle, had some essential oils and band-aids, plus a few snacks and our favorite Ningxia energy drinks. Going up (facing the falls on the bridge, there is parking on the left then the trail head to the left further), it was very slippery. Just rocks underfoot, I let my youngest lead in case she slipped. Dallas pulled up the rear and Lillie-Mae bounced around.
At the top, was a clear off with some camping spots. The kids knew that was the Cherokee original stomping ground and took to playing. I had them away from the River while I sat by it and just reflected. The water of a river is so calm just before a waterfall. If you were deaf, you would have no idea it was coming up, because only the powerful roar of a 100-foot drop gave it away.
Isn’t that just like life?
Going along smoothly with not a slimmer of a ripple, then BAM!, you’re dropped down to what feels like your death and taken under water to drown before feeling the river’s smoothness again. The river is life-giving for me and has always been an analogy of life. Maybe that’s why my heart needed a drive and a waterfall?