Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cold Mountain in the distance
It's difficult to describe today, not because of writer's block or anything like that, but because I don't want to cheat any of the wonderful places visited along the way. I have longed for a while to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) and take in some of the hundreds of sights, sounds, and even better photo ops. I have recently upgraded my camera to a Canon T3I DSLR and although I am still learning, I wanted to break it in right in one of the most photographed places in North Carolina. I purchased a waterfall map recently also, and I mapped a trip that I felt would give me the most bang for my buck. (thanks $4 gas)

Amber, Kip, and I left early for Brevard, NC and a journey through Pisgah National Forest. Pisgah is one of my favorite places and it's a good park for families because many of the sights here are roadside and easy even for the elderly to access. Our first stop was Looking Glass Falls, this 60ft beauty is directly beside the road, you can't miss it! We arrived early enough in the day that the crowds hadn't gathered and I was able to get a decent picture.
Looking Glass Falls

From Looking Glass Falls, it's a short distance past Sliding Rock to the Moore Cove Falls parking area and after a short stroll from the trail head you arrive at the 50ft falls. MCF doesn't have much watershed, but I really liked it, I thought it was very similar to the waterfall near the Sand Cave in Ewing. Here's a few photos from the Moore Cove visit.
Moore Cove Falls
behind Moore Cove Falls
Satisfied with Moore Cove, we traveled on up the mountain. The BRP intersects at the top and a left turn and we were on our way to the Looking Glass Rock overlook. Looking Glass Rock can not be accurately described or photographed, you have to see it in person to appreciate it's size. With that being said, I got some beautiful photo's from the parking area!
Looking Glass Rock
It's almost as if you can drive into the clouds on the parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway was an absolute delight for me, from Looking Glass Overlook we crossed the BRP and took a short spur trail to the unmarked and unadvertised Skinny Dip Falls. Why this falls has no markings or attention for that matter is beyond me, it's located in a deep canyon and drops three separate times pooling with bright green water at each drop. I definitely will make a return visit to this one in warmer weather!
Skinny Dip Falls
Graveyard Fields and BRP in distance
The Graveyard Fields Overlook is one of the most popular places on the parkway, I suspect this because you can clearly see Second Falls from the parkway as you approach. The hike to Second Falls is short and rewarding with a bright green pool, I took the opportunity to cool my feet at it's base as I took some photos.
The Upper Falls here is a hike that isn't for beginner's. Although the trail is flat, it travels through bogs, and underbrush for almost two miles before rising steeply to the base of the falls. As if the hike wasn't difficult enough, I had to contend with a group of teens that thought the only place was to sit was on top of the falls making it impossible to get a good picture. I was able to convince them (somewhat calmly) to move and grabbed a shot and hit the road.
Upper Falls (look closely at top left at kid behind bush)
Leaving Graveyard Fields, I could tell my fellow hikers were feeling the heat and the tired legs already. I made some adjustments to our schedule and skipped a few falls to raise their spirits. The parkway leaves Graveyard fields and gains elevation as it approaches the rocky outcrop known as the Devil's Courthouse. I was surprised as we neared it's location on the map to discover we actually drive through it! A tunnel passes through the mountain below the Courthouse and emerges at the overlook on the opposite side. I was fond of the Devil's Courthouse because of it's name but also it's beauty. It's a 20 minute hike to it's peak and my hikers were still winded from Graveyard Fields so I settled for a few pictures from the parking lot.
Shortly past the Devil's Courthouse the parkway intersects NC 215. This road is a pot of gold if your a waterfall lover, north it travels towards Waynesville through a deep gorge where waterfalls are literally at every turn. The first falls we visited here were the Bubbling Branch Cascades that can be seen from 215 but are worth the steep roadside decent to get a closer look. Kip even discovered a rope swing over the clearest and deepest pool I have seen!
Bubbling Branch Cascade, lower and middle section
I was secretly praying for the rope to snap
Bubbling Branch Cascade, top section
Next up was another roadside beauty known as Sunburst Falls. The road crosses a high arch bridge just below the falls, and the water is loud here! The gorge narrows significantly and the spray from the falls was hitting me twenty plus yards away. I enjoyed this falls even though it has a bridge below it, you can sit and take in the beauty and feel like the only person for miles.
Sunburst Falls
We turned around after Sunburst and traveled back to the top of the mountain and across the parkway down the south side of 215 towards Rosman and our intersection with 64 and our journey back toward Brevard, and eventually home. However, I had a few stops along the route down the mountain. Our first dirt road of the day was to take us to Dill Falls, but we encountered a forest gate stating it was seasonally closed. The reopen date....tomorrow! I was disappointed but my company got a hearty laugh out of my misfortune. Not to be deterred we traveled further down the mountain and took yet another dirt road to Courthouse Falls. Courthouse Falls is wonderful, it's a short hike, it's a scenic hike and it is nestled in a perfect canyon with a large deep pool at it's base. If you were to see one falls in North Carolina, I would move this to the top of your list. As it seems on most of my hikes now, when I got there, a group was stacking rocks at it's base. I get so annoyed with this and usually kick the stones back into the water leaving NO TRACE. The sun wasn't cooperating either, it was hitting directly on the falls but I didn't have time to wait around, so here is the best I could do.
Courthouse Falls
Our final stop of the day was on private property. Living Waters Ministry is built roadside and behind their property is two beautiful falls. The ministry is also kind enough to let people walk down and take photos as long as you "enter at your own risk" The sun again, was my enemy. Cathedral Falls is the bigger of the two and I'm convinced the sun stays directly above it at all times. Bird Rock isn't a large falls but it's unique because a house is built literally right against it!
Cathedral Falls

Bird Rock Falls
The journey today was almost as exhausting as the blog entry tonight, two hours later and I'm finished! It's been a great day, I even got my first sunburn of the year and it's only March. I anxiously await April's arrival and the opening of all trails and roads, it's been a mild winter and I was hoping they may have opened them early. I missed Dill Falls by one day but it gives me a great excuse to go back. I've been on two separate hikes in North Carolina and was able to visit 10 different falls each day with no repeats and today was even better, 12 waterfalls! Sadly, I haven't visited a third of them! Summer is around the corner and my vacations will be coming due, it's time to doctor the sunburn and dream of the next hike, until next time, happy trails!

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