The above picture was taking by Pam, one of the wonderful people in the hiking group. Heffner was being a total turd and that's why we're off to the side. And yes, there were four great danes on this hike.:)
The first real scenic stop along the hike was Punchbowl Falls. Even though the dogs were on leash, I was still leary about taking them too close to any edges. They just made me way too nervous. But here are the shots I got of Punchbowl Falls.
As we progressed, the trail continued to narrow and get rockier. I wasn't too horribly worried because the dogs have pretty well conditioned feet. I may have had to take it easy while my foot was healing up this summer, but I found numerous ways to keep them in pretty good shape. As weird as it may seem, it's really important to keep their feet in good shape. If their feet give out you have a very unhappy and potentially lame dog. And I can't have that! And I digress! Back to the trail. Like I said, the trail was getting rockier as we went along. Amy had warned everyone in an email that they should wear hiking boots with good ankle support for this trail and she was definitely right! I packed boots for the dogs just in case, but I wasn't terribly worried about their feet at this point. They were going PLENTY strong and not showing signs of being the slightest bit bothered by the rocks on the trail. And then we came to this narrow part of the trail that sort skirted around the hillside with a lovely drop off on the right. That's when my heart rate really went up!
Thankfully the trail widened out again for a while and the drop off wasn't RIGHT next to me! There were some hairy moments when other hikers were coming from the other direction and wanting to pass us as we were going along that little rocky bit I posted above. I had the dogs going single file with me. Heffner was in the front and Bess was behind me. But even with that, passing was kind of a scary thing on some of those spots!
Just when I started to relax more, we came upon another section of the trail (there really were many!) that had the rocky hillside directly on your left and an unnerving (at least for me!) drop off immediately on your right.
All of that was within the first two miles. It had me seriously rethinking whether or not I could finish this hike with the dogs. But the dogs weren't feeling any strain. If anything, they were raring to go and tired of being stuck on the leash. But there was NO WAY I was letting them off!! There are also numerous bridges across the creek and the dogs had a wonderful time crossing those. One of these bridges passed really low to the creek and our group took a little break to refill any water bottles, eat some snacks, and just chat.:)
After this lovely little break, it was back to the trail! And oy! More tricky trail spots and drop offs!
By the time that we reached Tunnel Falls, my nerves were shot! We made it to the falls, then I saw the trail that went under the falls and around and along the other side of the rock and I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to handle it with how rattled I already was. The rest of the group continued onwards and we turned around. Here are some pictures I snapped of the falls, the trail on the opposite side, and some of the group members on that trail!
The way back wasn't too bad. Since the day was wearing on, there were more people heading out the falls as we were coming in. As much as possible, I would squeeze the dogs to the side of the trail and let them pass. Thankfully initially there were large gaps between groups of people and the dogs could really walk out more into their natural stride. Unfortunately, things were starting to heat. Sections of the trail that had been shaded before were now fully in the sun and had been for a little while. This meant that a lot of the rocky sections were quite warm to the touch and were radiating a fair amount of heat. It wasn't too bad initially, but as we were getting into the last two miles of the hike, Heffner was definitely feeling the heat and it totally zapped him. I was wanting to booty the dogs up, but didn't have any where to get enough off the trail to have the time to do it between groups of hikers. So we just pushed onward!
Along the way we met back up with Michelle, who had Brooke, the mantle dane. Brooke wasn't really liking the bridges so much and at one point flat out refused to go across one of them. Michelle was going to hang back and try to work her through it, but she just wouldn't budge. She came back to the parking lot with us as we were heading back. Made the last few miles much more enjoyable!