It doesn’t take much to talk me into an adventure, so when Teri (Sommer Days Photography) mentioned that she was interested in taking a photographic excursion on Labor Day, I was immediately interested. It needed to be beautiful, but nothing too strenuous for her two teenage boys and husband to enjoy. We scoured the All Trails website until we settled on Angel Falls Trail.
The hike is listed as moderate, and weighs in at less than two miles round trip – score!
Still frustrated from our terrible lighting during our Cloudland Canyon trek, we all agreed to get up early so we could be on the trail before 9. This meant meeting sometime between 6 and 6:30 – not easy to do with two teenage boys! None-the-less, the boys were agreeable and I picked the whole family up in their driveway.
The drive was beautiful as the morning fog was revealed by early morning sun. We made it to the trailhead, conveniently located and labeled, and parked – first vehicle of the day!
This hike actually includes three falls – the first, which ended up being my favorite – is short but long, and included a plethora of cairns to photograph – I counted at least eleven! I love these piles of stacked stones, and I love photographing them.
After what was probably 30 minutes of photographing JUST this one set of falls, we finally continued on the trail. It was mostly flat, winding through the dappled shade of the trees alongside the small stream.
I’m sure you’re not surprised that we found fungi – but LOOK AT THAT PILE OF MUSHROOMS!? I’ve never seen such a giant mass of mushrooms, and man, what a smell. As we poked around the fungi fortress, we were visited by a huge bald faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata), who must’ve been hunting flies that were gathered around our humungous fungus.
I also noticed two small orb weavers, illuminated in the rainbow silk of their webs. I will NEVER tire of photographing spiders – as you know if you follow my facebook and have seen photos of my pet jumping spider, Aasira.
Only delayed by our own need to photograph every nook and cranny of the forest, we did eventually make it to the first of the named falls – Panther Falls. It is a beautiful, tall, stacked rock type of formation, with a healthy plunge of water over its stepped ledges. It’s easy to get around, easy to photograph, and even has some nearby steps that make a great place to take a break and watch the falls.
After the falls, the trail turns sharply uphill, climbing in elevation so quickly that metal guard wires are installed on the edges of the trail to prevent injury or accident. We took several opportunities to rest when they presented themselves, be it MORE MUSHROOMS, fertile foliage or tiny toads. We could hear the boisterous laughter of some hikers on the trail ahead of us, and could tell by their joyous exclamations that they had reached Angel Falls, and we were not far.
Another fall, another cairn! Angel Falls is gorgeous, but due to the thick underbrush and foliage, its impossible to photograph in its full splendor, and even pretty difficult to entirely appreciate. You can tell from the sound of the falling water and through glimpses through the leaves that it SOARS overhead, much deeper into the brush than where the observation deck can see, but you can never glimpse it in its entirety.
We snacked on some trail food – as usual, the Sommer’s eating a little healthier than my choice of cookie – and then departed back down the trail. We did make better time as we had photographed most of the features on our way in, and the lighting was getting more harsh as the afternoon approached.
We found two interesting inhabitants on our way out – a water snake, recently shed (so recently, in fact, her shed skin was less than a foot away) and a Scaphinotus beetle, which caught Teri’s eye with its bright purple iridescence.
You can see so many beautiful things on the forest floor when you take a moment to examine them all – and I could see the very first signs of fall.
Hiking up a hefty appetite (and with two teenage boys in tow, who are ALWAYS HUNGRY) we headed for our next destination – Goats on the Roof! It was less than 15 minutes from the falls, and I’ve heard for years from various acquaintances that I just *have* to go. Great ice cream, great burgers, literal goats on the roof?! That is right up my alley! I ordered a foot long corn dog (because, man, why not!?) and shared a delicious espresso flavored ice cream concoction that did not let us down. The goats were hot and lazy, and didn’t come out to visit, so no photos of that portion of the experience, but even without goats, totally worth it.