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Natural Falls

Posted Mar 31 2013 12:11am
Saturday, it was raining when I woke up at 6:00, and I snuggled deep under the covers and enjoyed sleeping in!! Dana had to work the weekend, so at the crack of 9:30, I staggered into the kitchen, fired up the coffee, fixed BACON and eggs, toast and jelly, and got caught up on things. I sent out 10 TATUR emails to new TATURs, sent out shirts, and glared at the weather forecast. Finally, I decided that a long run wasn't gonna happen, but a road trip might work.

If someone read TZ Trail Guide, you'd see that I did an article without having ran these trailz. It was time to right that ship.

The park is still known to locals as Dripping Springs, but the state renamed the park Natural Falls do differentiate it from Dripping Springs State Park west of Okmulgee.

This area was once made famous in 1974, when the Movie "Where the Red Fern Grows" was filmed in the park.

In the book and movie, a young boy name Billie Coleman had two coon dogs Old Dan and Little Ann, who he raised form pups and they hunted coons, won tournaments, and in the end made you cry more than Old Yellar did. My bloggy/trail running buddy Yogi just reviewed the book (quite the coincidence!) and you can read his book review here. One of the adventures in the book was the mystery of the Ghost Coon, a wily old raccoon which always climbs the same tree, but then vanishes. But Little Ann sniffs it out--that rascally coon had a tricky hiding place. I won't spoil it for you. Hey--it's an old book and all dogs have to die sometime.

So instead of Old Dan, it was Old Jake running up and down the hills, it was Jake. He probably wouldn't know what to do with a raccoon if he saw one, but he is pretty good chasing squirrels.

We descended a steep hill on a trail so groomed it could have been a road, and ran alongside this creek, which is below the falls.

Jake had a good soaking. The water was actually pretty clean, and he passed the smell test and did not have to have a bath when we got home.

He's just chillaxin. I was busy taking pictures. This is such a beautiful place, and I'll be back again. Maybe to camp.

I suspect this water is deep enough for a good swim, but today is was super cold! Since we've had recent rain, the water was flowing well. This might be a stagnant pool during the drought months.

We ran a trail alongside the banks of the stream, and crossed a rickety bridge to the other side where the trail picked back up. I noticed a grassy trail heading southward, and I was looking for a spur that went straight up--the Bear Trail. I saw an older couple with a nice camera and huge zoom lens taking pictures of something in the grass.

This. It was about five feet long, and as bigger around than my wrist. It was 75°, but he was still cold enough  to be lethargic, and did not seem to mind that we take his pictures.

I thought at first it was a water moccasin  but after looking on Google, I believe it was a rat snake. Non venomous, but when the weather is warm, they are aggressive. This guy had lived a good life and was well fed.

We found the Bear Trail--a .10 track straight up--with switchbacks.

We caught and ran past a few walkers on this .10 stretch. Me and Jake--we're bad like that.

We then found the Fox Den Trail, a route that the gal at the gate said we might not wanna go on because it was so hard. We loved it. It descended very sharply--buttslide steep--and ended up in a rocky dry reek bottom that went under some overhanging bluffs.

This might have been what they called the foxes den, but I didn't see them. I am sure there is rarely water here, but after a hard rain, this could be an amazing place!

Jake chased a lizard across the creek bottom. Not much of a contest.

I'm glad I had my Hardrocks on. There were lots of pointy-side up rocks through here, and with my 2007 Montrails, I never felt them. Jake has tough feet.

I bet THIS is the fox den. I didn't check it out--because my partner was running ahead to smoother trailz.

This nice single track turned straight up the end of a big hill, and then came right back down the other side. We could have easily just went around the base of the hill if the trail makers had willed it.

Finally, we were headed toward the falls. I had saved this for last because it seemed that 90% of the people in the park were going there. It was close to the parking area, and once we'd seen it and taken pix, we were close to the car.

As much as Jake wanted to swim, I kept him leashed. On the platform on the right, there was a wedding party taking pictures--complete with rented suits and wedding and bridesmade dresses.

Everything was so green around the falls.

We climbed 100 feet or so to an observation platform and looked back down to where we were.

This is supposed to be a 77' waterfall, and we were a bit above where the flow was.

Taken from the same spot upward. This used to be a swinging bridge. It's still a cool walkway, but the swinging bridge would have been a thrill.

And a final zoom-in shot of the main waterfall. I bet it's awesome during a real rainy season.

We ran every trail there, except the paved trail that went from the office to the campgrounds. I had no desire to run that. We totaled 4.4 miles, and that was doubling back a couple of times connecting things. Some of the trail was more like a tractor trail, some was soft single track, and some was rocky and technical. If there were more mileage, this would be an awesome place for another trail running outing. As is is, I was glad to have checked it off my list. Might come again to camp for a weekend, but if I come this far, why not go on to Arkansas?
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