Wednesday, January 20, 2010

See Spot. See Spot Lead.

Spot Leads the Way

Falls below the breached dam along the Catawba Falls Trail.

When Jack and I started our hike I saw a solid black blur of motion coming at us. It was a huge, playful, black Lab. She was soon leaping and jumping beside us, apparently eager to go hiking.

Jack told me that he'd read about this dog and that it was reported to join along in the hike. Sure enough, she did join us. Or, rather, we joined her. According to the big red collar on her neck, her name was "Spot". She was extremely friendly and seemed eager to show us the way to the waterfalls.

All along the way she would rush ahead and then wait for us at places where, I reckon, she assumed we might take a wrong turn or get lost. At the first creek crossing she led us to the water and looked back at us to make sure we were coming. However, Jack figured there would be an easier (drier) place to cross upstream and so we went that way. I'm sure Spot thought we were a couple of sissies, but she went with us to where we found a dead hemlock across the creek and went over there.

Sometimes she would disappear for a few minutes while Jack and I stopped to take photographs. But she would always come back to see what was keeping us, or to poke around to see what the heck there was that we found so interesting about hanging out in one place.

Soon enough, though, we were at the Catawba Falls. It's a really nice waterfall and the water volume was high due to all of the rain, ice, and snow we've been getting in western North Carolina. The noise of tumbling water was great and the views were tremendous. But Spot wanted to keep going and pretty soon she was leading us along the steep and treacherous semi-trail to the Upper Catawba Falls.

It must be easier to climb and scramble on four legs rather than two. Because Spot raced ahead of us in places where we had to pick our ways very carefully and tentatively on rock faces, along ledges, and over slick patches of ice. Spot just dug in and hauled ass and was waiting for us as we topped out. When I got to the upper viewing spot she was sitting there looking at the waterfall. "See? Ain't it beautiful?" she seemed to be saying. Indeed, Spot, it is a great place.

Spot stayed with us while we took dozens of photographs and lauded the handiwork of Mother Nature. And then we began to carefully pick our way down the rough trail to the lower falls. Spot was right there with us, trying to show us how it was done. And later, she followed us all the way back down to the trail head. By then, other hikers had arrived and were beginning to trek up to the falls. But Spot seemed to have had enough for one day and merely watched the others for a bit, then walked across the road to where she lived.

Good job, Spot!

The Upper Catawba Falls. One heck of a tough scramble to get to them, but well worth the effort. One of the most spectacular waterfalls I've ever seen.

Catawba Falls. The lower of the two. Very nice in its own right.

Jack coming down from the steepest part of the scramble to the Upper Falls.

Anchor and bolt for the rope. Don't use it to support your full weight. Not advised.

The Southern Appalachians have to be one of the greenest places on Earth. Even in winter.

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