Last weekend I got to go on my very first overnight backpacking trip. I have hiked many, many trails, but never have had the chance to go overnight hiking. When one of the high school teachers at my school asked me to chaperone the 11th grade hiking trip, I jumped at the chance! And I am so glad I did. We had such an awesome trip. These 5 kids that went are the best kind- so respectful, polite, funny, sweet, hardworking, and just GOOD. They were a blast to hang out with- definitely a change from the normal fourth graders I am generally hanging with. (And, just for clarity, YES, I did take a lot of pictures of them from the front…but I’m only sharing the ones of them from the back for privacy purposes.)
We went to Virgin Falls in Sparta, TN. We left after school on Friday, got to the parking lot, and set up camp right near the parking lot for the night. We made a fire and cooked some dinner, and then it was about time for bed. That night we all FROZE. It got down to 30, and not a one of us was totally prepared for it (even though we thought we were). We made it through the night, though, and were definitely ready to get moving the next morning!
It was a BEAUTIFUL day to be hiking, and soon we were all shedding layers. We made a detour off the trail to go to a scenic overlook, and it did not disappoint!
We ate lunch at the first waterfall, “Laurel Falls.” It was so peaceful and pretty. A perfect place to sit outside and eat!
After lunch, we hiked on to our destination for the night, a hike in only campground on the Caney Fork. We hiked about 9 total miles. We set up camp, and then walked the short distance over to our main destination- Virgin Falls. It was an amazing waterfall! Even more amazing is that at the bottom of the falls, the water goes underground! No stream or river at the bottom!
And at the top, the river comes out of a CAVE. So very cool. We explored around the falls for awhile, then headed back to camp to eat and light a fire. NONE of us were anxious for the cold again.
After staying by the fire until it died, we all crawled in our tents. However, we all got smarter for the second night and slept in more clothes, added blankets, etc. I slept in all my clothes- leggings, socks, pants, t-shirt, flannel shirt, jacket, and stocking cap. Plus I put hot hands in the bottom of my sleeping bag. It was still chilly, but more bearable for sure. We woke up the next morning with frost on our sleeping bags…..IN our tents!
Sunday morning it warmed up faster, luckily. We ate breakfast and had a devotional, then packed up camp. We headed back over to Virgin Falls for a bit before heading on.
It was another GORGEOUS day, and even warmer than Saturday.
After seeing Virgin Falls one more time, we hit the trail back, going a slightly different route so we could hit up our last attraction- Sheep Cave. It did not disappoint! Another beautiful waterfall, and this time a cave we could explore in! I took two of the students in with me, and we explored as far back in the cave as we dared! It was a blast. 🙂
We took our time going back, letting the kids stop and just play and enjoy themselves. The trek back was pretty strenuous- about 7 miles of uphill, pretty much the whole way. By the time we made it back to the cars, we were all sweaty, stinky, and hungry messes. We stopped at Steak and Shake on the way home, and got back to school around 9. I don’t know that I have ever had a shower that felt as good as the one I had when I got home-hah!
It was a good trip. We all had a blast, and are already planning next years trip!