Friday, January 4, 2013

If I could find a job that would pay me what I make now and sell my house, I would move to North Carolina tomorrow. My wife doesn't quite share my enthusiasm but I'm sure she would get on board once my bags were packed. Many people don't know this, but Transylvania County is known as the land of waterfalls. There is nowhere in the WORLD, there are more waterfalls! Over 200 waterfalls are in Transylvania County alone, and one day I will knock them all out. Until then I will do my usual dance of reading, drawing out my route and picking off waterfalls at a rate of 10 per day trip.
Cathey's Creek Falls

I had a good plan laid out and the weather looked fantastic, the cloud cover was perfect and my camera had been charged the night before. My first stop was the Cathey's Creek area just below Brevard, NC. I had traveled by here numerous time unaware there was a waterfall until recently reading a book describing an 80 foot waterfall on Cathey's Creek. The road is paved for a short distance but turns to dirt after entering the national forest from there the road follows the creek but eventually swings away from it and switch backs up the mountain at a steep pace. On the right far below road level Cathey's Creek Falls is visible. My first thoughts were that it had to be higher than 80 feet! A trail follows the bank down to creek level but it's got some fallen trees around suggesting not many people are aware of this beauty either. A large dead hemlock rests near the base and is a good prop for photography since I didn't bring a tripod. Some good photo ops looked just out of reach on the opposite side of the creek but I had a long day and wasn't going to start it with wet feet in 40 degree weather.
Easatoe Falls (private property)
people kept getting lost looking for the waterfall

From Cathey's Creek I headed west on 64 and eventually turned on 178 near Rosman and followed 178 toward the South Carolina border. Easatoe Falls is just off of 178 on the North Carolina side, unfortunately it is on private property behind the owners house! I had read countless blog entries looking to see if access was still allowed from the owner but found nothing. I decided to stop since all he could do was ask me to leave. As I pulled up to the house I could see the falls behind it and my nervousness faded. After I got out of my truck I could hear a chainsaw running and found an older gentleman cutting a fallen tree near the falls. I introduced myself and asked if he minded for me to take some photos. He was really nice, and I thanked him for his generosity allowing people to still visit such a wonderful waterfall. He told me that they enjoy the visitors and everyone had been respectful, and I tell you now, there is no finer waterfall in North Carolina. I loved it, I have to say it's my favorite (subject to change) and it's beauty translates well onto film too. The falls is at least 85 feet high and free falls and cascades in a unique setting. Although it's directly behind someones house, the area around the falls is relatively undisturbed giving you the feeling of being on a remote hike deep in the mountains. I spent over thirty minutes climbing around soaking this beauty in.
Twin Falls

My spirits were high after visiting Easatoe Falls and I was in a great mood as I wound on down the extremely curvy 178 to the South Carolina border. The continental divide is just before the border and the mountains really begin to drop off at a rapid rate. With all the loss in elevation I knew I was in for a treat at Twin Falls. All the guidebooks described it as being spectacular or excellent. I guess in my excitement I had misread the directions and blew by the turn for the falls. Instead I found myself lost in the South Carolina mountains with no cell service. Eventually I came to an intersection and a run down gas station. I went in for a drink and came out with a waterfall guidebook of South Carolina, I knew there was a reason I got lost! I made my way back to the turn for Twin Falls and quickly arrived at the nature preserve parking area. I don't think I've been on an easier trail, well besides that guys backyard from earlier. The trail is flat and is less than a quarter mile before arriving at a wooden ramp that ascends into a observation shelter complete with benches. This is an outstanding waterfall! Twin Falls literally has it all, free falls, cascades, shoals, all rolled into one. To the left a drop of 80ft free falls and then cascades another 30 feet down the gorge. The right side of the falls cascades wildly over multiple drops stretching an even greater distance of about 120ft before rejoining the main part of the creek and emptying into a clear swimming hole. I couldn't just stand on the deck, I had to get down and explore, I jumped the rail and scrambled down the bank to climb up the creek toward the main falls. It's rare that I feel so small but I was dwarfed on all sides by this massive waterfall. I thought of my dad and how much he would enjoy being here even though he would probably be content on the benches in the shelter, it would still be nice to have him with me. I took my pictures and headed out 178 rejoining highway 64 at Rosman. I still had plenty of time so I took the twenty minute drive down to Cashiers and highway 281.
Whitewater Falls
I took this picture UNDER the observation deck.

Highway 281 has an extremely high concentration of waterfalls, and these are no puddle jumpers either, they are massive and even deadly. Along this stretch of road is Gorges State Park with Rainbow (136ft) Turtleback (30ft) Drift (80ft) Stairway (100ft) and Windy Falls (over 700ft!) Windy is accessible only if you are insane, wish, to die and no one ever be able to recover your body, but Kip and I will hike there later this year. Also along this stretch of road is the less visited Thompson River area, there are no signs only books written by locals to find your way here. The Thompson River area houses High Falls (125ft) three other waterfalls that are unnamed at 70ft or greater and the mighty Big Falls (200ft) I almost became part of the North Carolina food chain last time I hiked there. Most people visiting waterfalls here are lured to Whitewater Falls, the reportedly highest waterfall east of the Mississippi at 411ft high. (Buckeye and Windy Falls both are near 700ft) Whitewater gets it's fame because of the ease of access and the massive amount of water the Whitewater river dumps over the falls. It's hard not to be in awe of such a sight. Just as I was getting to Whitewater falls a fog bank rolled over the mountain and made it impossible to see the falls in it's entirety. I was slightly bummed but visited with a family from Indiana and took some photos of them on the observation deck at the cliff edge. I waited around hoping the fog would lift but it would clear only long enough for a view of the top or the bottom but never the entire falls. I had read about some smaller falls along 281 that were off trail and decided to try my luck at them.
White Owl Falls
John's Jump Falls

White Owl Falls is only 20ft high but proof that a waterfall doesn't have to be huge to be beautiful. The water drops over a large boulder shelf and is framed by mountain laurel. There isn't a trail but a scramble down the road bank and the sound of water led me there. The same can be said for John's Jump Falls, again I scrambled down the road bank to the top of the falls. I was excited to see another waterfall and leaned on a tree that was rotten and it dropped me over a ledge turning my ankle and smashing my head on the ground. I wasn't hurt but I was definitely dirty. I wiped off and made it to the base. It was worth my efforts it is a really nice 30ft waterfall with the same cascade effect as White Owl. I really liked it and thought about how many people pass it up as I could hear the cars whizzing by up the bank.
Looking Glass Falls

When I got back to the truck my ankle was hurting so I decided to head home. As I went through Brevard though I couldn't resist riding up to Looking Glass Falls for a few photos before calling it a day. Today my ankle is purple and swollen but it will get better and eventually I will get back to North Carolina. Until then...happy trails.

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