It was cold in the morning when I pulled up to the trailhead, my breath spilled out as smoke in the crisp air. I climb the falls as a Thanksgiving tradition every year that I visit the area. This year would be the first time I approached the trail as a somewhat seasoned hiker. The trek was a 2 mile one way, and I couldn’t wait to get my feet on the trail and see the falls cascading down the mountain the entire hike.
Gloves on and hoody up, I started walking. At the trailhead there was no snow on the ground, but as I climbed the 1500 foot mountain side it wasn’t long before I encountered a nice thick layer of packed snow blanketing everything. The falls had ice lining the edges of the rocks and the trees surrounding the frigid waters. There were not that many people on the trail that morning, and I ground down the first portion of the hike quickly, pausing only briefly to snap pictures of the breathtaking scenery along the way.
I finally reached the upper falls and was smacked in the face with a wide view of the surrounding snow dusted mountain ridges. Most people turn at the upper falls and head back down, so I was happy to see the trail that went further up paralleling the Crabtree Fall creek had an unbroken layer of snow on it. I trekked on enjoying the peaceful stillness of the snow saturated woods around me. I was only ¼ from the end of my trek before I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.
I came across footprints that came off the hillside and lead to the creek. At closer inspection I found that they were unmistakably bear tracks! The tracks were about the size of my foot with some nice claws impressions protruding from the pad. I instantly looked up and scanned my surrounding looking for the creature that made these tracks. The beast was nowhere to be found (to my relief!). I snapped some quick pictures of the tracks and did a U-turn heading back towards the trailhead. The entire time I trekked back along the creek I scanned the creek edge, behind my back, and in front of me always expecting to see a large black figure in full stride heading for me. Fortunately I made it back to the trailhead without one of these chance encounters. Another great, unforgettable outdoor experience!