Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In early February I took a trip deep into the woods of Erwin, TN to the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area and the highly elusive Buckeye Falls. You would think it would be difficult to hide a 700ft waterfall, that's right 700ft, but the lack of trail and many twists and turns along the way leave more hikers empty handed than you would think. There was very limited information on the area and even fewer pictures. I think this drove my determination to go even more, so I enlisted my friend, Kip and we were off to the wilderness.
deep pool around 7ft along the creek
trail narrows or maybe I widen?
no trail
still no trail

The trail starts at the end of Clark's Creek Road and horseback riders have worn the trail which stays level for over two miles and with just a few creek crossings. I was surprised how easy it was and made the mistake of making fun of people who claimed it to be so difficult. The first two miles are indeed easy, the last two miles make you really doubt yourself very quickly. The trail narrows and large trees have fell over the trail and it follows steep ledges high above the creek and drops drastically to creek level and then rises sharply on the opposite side. The up and down can tire your legs quickly and navigating the brush becomes awful. Eventually the trail fades and your left with fighting your way up stream staying with the creek as best you can. At a little over 3.5m in a small creek enters from the left on the creek your hiking on. I noticed a worn piece of flagging tape here but no sign of trail so continued on and eventually arrived at a nice 10ft waterfall. Luckily I remembered reading if you reached this falls you had come to far. We turned and went back to the creek we had seen on the left which was now on the right. Unsure if we were heading the right direction we started up the steep stream just wading through it because of all the underbrush along the banks. Half way up the creek I could see a huge rock cliff face at the top of the hollow. Several downed trees had to be negotiated and after clearing them the stream turns to the right around a bend and Buckeye Falls becomes visible. I was so excited to see it although it doesn't have a huge watershed it towers above the valley but I still had at least half a mile of climbing to reach it's base.
incredible rock formations
10ft waterfall

Once we arrived at it's base I couldn't believe how steep the terrain was, I couldn't put my feet on the ground I had to stand on my toes! I would one day love to climb half way up the falls to a huge boulder but that's over 300ft of near vertical climbing! Kip and I marveled at the area and rested from the difficult hike. We vowed to return during a time of flooding to see a large amount of water coming off the falls, during dry weather the falls dry completely up. I wouldn't recommend trying this hike alone or unprepared. It's eight miles round trip and during the summer I'm sure chock full of snakes, spiders, and even bears. The area is known to have the second highest black bear population in all of Tennessee. If you do hit the trail, stay safe, have fun, and until next time...happy trails!
more trail troubles
that tiny dot is Kip climbing up the gorge
it's a tough climb
behold! Buckeye Falls!
heading out.

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