Monday, July 16, 2012

Last Friday, Dad and I visited Giles County, Va for a hike up to the Cascades. The Cascades are by far Virginia's most popular waterfall, receiving 150,000 visitors a year and by paying a small $3 fee you can see them too (I'd pay $30). Located on Little Stoney Creek, the falls are at the head of a two mile gorge.
The Cascades

Recently, Dad had a stay in the hospital and this was his first trip hiking since, I was a little concerned that he wouldn't be able to make the four mile trip. When we arrived at the park we looked over the information board and noticed two trails followed the creek one being labeled upper and the other lower. Dad had asked a lady at the gas station about which trail to take and we headed out on the gravel path labeled upper. The trail briefly follows the creek bed before turning  away and steadily increasing in elevation. Several benches are along the trail for rest stops but dad and I plugged along without stopping. He talked about his years with the phone company and climbing steep hills with a tool belt and a ladder during hot summer days, he also could identify every tree along the journey, and had tips to help me remember them in the future. Eventually we passed a family coming out and they told us we were within half a mile! I was excited for dad because he had persevered and now was going to make it to the falls. We had one more steep climb that took us past some impressive rock formations before the trail leveled at a camp site and split off to either the base or side observation platform. Dad and I hiked down toward the base across natural rock steps and my excitement in hearing the falls caused me to leave dad behind momentarily. Eventually we both made it to the base and surprisingly were the only ones there. The weather had been really kind to us, it had rained all day until we got there and we were dry all the way to the falls with the exception of our sweat.
Long wooden bridge across Little Stoney
Dad below a huge rock formation
Roaring cascades on Stoney..
..and more

I took a lot of photos here because there are so many angles and options from a photography standpoint. The overcast cloudy day made conditions perfect for taking pictures of water. The observation decks are nice and well constructed and the drain pool looks deep and refreshing, a major rock slide just downstream from the falls, reminds you of the danger and remote setting. We took our photo's and set out on the hike back, at the trail intersection I sent dad back the way we had came in and I took the lower trail that followed the creek and was far more challenging. I was glad I had saved hiking this section until after I had seen the falls, it was downright awful in places. However, the beauty of Stoney Creek was on full display, there are many cascades downstream that could qualify as named waterfalls, and scars from a massive flood in '96 are visible in the form of rotten tree's washed along the banks.
Dad at the falls
Rock slide blocking Stoney Creek
Real Stairway to Heaven

I have seen far more impressive waterfalls than the Cascades but if you include the lower trail hike up Little Stoney Creek, this one ranks pretty high. I can think of no better way to spend three dollars than to take a hike up to the Cascades. It was a great day and even better having dad along and talking and laughing the whole way. Our ride home down the parkway was somewhat of a bust with the rain returning but with the recent drought we couldn't complain. I'm sorry I've been so behind with updates but between training at work and training for a race that hasn't left me with much free time, but I have been getting back on the trail and off the track, so see you soon...happy trails.

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