Picture
Alarka Falls
Some days it's very easy to pick the trail or trip we want to pursue - other days, it's really tough to decide.  My DH prefers waterfalls, but will willingly hike anywhere I request as well.  I prefer long range views, but will go anywhere there's fresh, cool air, the scent of fresh pine or wildflowers or the sound of rushing water (including waterfalls of course).  We flipped a coin and both won on this trip - a waterfall for him and a fire tower with views for me.  Compromise sounds like someone is giving in, but it doesn't always work that way - in this compromise, we both won!  So, on to Alarka Falls first and then to the Fire Tower.

After driving FOREVER on a dirt road clearly designed to destroy anything with four wheels, we finally reached the trail head.  Alarka Preserve is such a unique place.  It's a high elevation valley with red spruce (the southern most occurring growth for this species) and wonderful natural bogs; which means you'll find many unusual plants, birds and insects not normally found within the higher elevations of this area. While near one of the bogs we did hear a bird we think was the same or very similar to one we've heard in the swampy areas of Georgia and Florida, but couldn't see it to identify it.  We took the Forest Road (FR86E) for about 1.5 miles where it dead ended.  To the left of the trail was an obvious path heading down towards the sound of the falls.  From here the trail is STEEP!  Definately not a place for small children or during a rain storm.  To get to the falls, we had to make our way down a nearly vertical climb, holding onto roots and rocks.  But the view was certainly well worth it.  And what a unique and peaceful place. 

Next stop was the Cowee Fire Tower.  This was a straight walk down a gated forest road where it dead-ended at the fire tower.  While the views were somewhat blocked by power lines, it was still a great little hike and the fire tower seemed to be in fairly good condition.  Unfortunately, it was padlocked so we couldn't explore inside the tower, but we did manage to hop out onto the first ledge and grab some shots from there.

All in all, a good "compromise" trip!

 


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