You know, I’ve suspected this before, but never had hard evidence to back it up. Now I know for sure. Trail ratings in the Smokies are not the same as trail ratings in Indiana.
In Indiana, our kids handle 5-mile strenuous hikes like pros. There might be some complaining, but they can do it and they know it. So I wasn’t THAT far out of line when I suggested that our group of 14 (including 3 kids, a toddler and two babies) hike down to Baskins Creek Falls on a warm, sunny day last week.
Baskins Creek Falls looked like a great hike. It was 3 miles round trip. And its difficulty rating is 4.91, on the very high side of an “easy” rating. Having learned from previous experiences, we were prepared this time. We took lots of water and granola bars. We were off.
Why we were excited about this hike: there are two places where hikers have to cross a river without a bridge and there’s a 25-foot waterfall at the end. Sounds like fun, huh?
And it was a great hike! It was easily my favorite I’ve done in the Smokies so far. The trail meanders along a rushing creek (at least in spring…) and there’s so much to look at and rocks to climb. Crossing the rivers was fun, but a few of us ended up with wet feet. The waterfall at the end was SPECTACULAR! It was like a hidden gem that you can’t see until you round the corner and then — BAM! Wow, it’s amazing, with water falling hard enough to make a nice mist. If you’ve got water shoes, don’t mind bare feet or aren’t particular about dry shoes, it’s fun to cross the river and see the view from the other side of the fall. You can climb right up in it.
The best thing about Baskins Creek Falls? It’s really secluded. Our group was at the falls with two other people the whole hour we were there. We passed another 2-4 on the trail. I really liked that — it felt like you were out in the middle of nowhere.
All this to say that I’m really glad we hiked this trail. And I’d do it again. But maybe not with 6 kids.
As my father-in-law so aptly said it, “Easy, my foot!”
The unusual thing about Baskins Creek Falls is that you hike down to the waterfall. The first half of the hike is very easy, if a bit hard on our 30-something knees. The kids were skipping and laughing. The two boys (ages 4 and 5) were SURE we were going to find a bear, and we all enjoyed listening to them pretend as the bears left messages for them in rocks (“We love you, but you can kill us”) and as they found “paw prints.”
We got to the falls, played for an hour, nibbled on granola bars, then started the hike back. Up. Very, very up.
Now, it’s not that we were ignorant that we were going to have to go back up. It’s just that it’s hard to picture exactly how hard that will be when you’re having a wonderful hike by a rushing river, going downhill. Yes, getting back to your car is the hard thing about this hike. That’s when there’s no out — you can’t decide that it’s stupid to take all those kids on the trail and head back early. No, no, on this trail, you’re in it for the long haul. And a long haul it was.
But we made it. I’m proud to say that the three oldest kids hiked all but maybe 25 steps themselves. But there was some complaining. And LOTS of breaks. And we were all very, very hungry by the time we got back to the car.
Bottom line on this hike: realize that the first half is very, very easy compared to the second half. But also realize that the falls are well worth it.