Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sometimes it hard to tell which is better, the journey or the destination. Today was one of those instances as Steve and I set out to find the elusive Dick Creek Falls. The information I could gather online was limited and varied on routes to get to the falls so we both were a little skeptical we would even find it. The only route that didn't involve crossing private property began at Rock Creek Park in Erwin, TN.
Rattlesnake Ridge
First sight of Dick Creek

I have visited Rock Creek numerous times and hiked to the falls on there, which is not an easy hike in it's own right. We arrived at the parking area around 10am and began the hike by waking to the far end of the camping area (the road is closed in winter) At the end of the camping area near camping loop C, the trail head for Rock Creek Falls begins, a short distance further a trail breaks to the left labeled Rattlesnake Ridge and crosses Rock Creek on a wooden bridge. The first part of this trail is pleasant and crosses back and forth across a small stream, when the trail leaves the stream it enters a part of the park that has had a prescribed burn and the forest is decimated. The trail climbs sharply up Rattlesnake ridge and I could feel the burn in my legs and the burn in my lungs as I gasped for air. The trail stays steep for the next mile and gains almost 900 feet of elevation! Eventually the elevation levels off at the top of the ridge and you enter a large clearing with several intersecting paths and roads. To the left and going uphill is a forest road labeled Dark Hollow, to the right is the continuation of Rattlesnake Ridge trail and straight across the clearing is a forest road going downhill which is the road to take to continue to Dick Creek Falls.
Dick Creek Falls
Further downstream
nature's high dive.
Steve really was tempted to get in.

 It was a welcome change hiking downhill after that brutal climb and within a few minutes we passed another forest road that turned sharply to the right DO NOT take this but stay on main road. The road continues downhill for about a mile and arrives at Dick Creek at a small cascade created by an old log wedged in the creek. Rock hop the creek and stay on the road until you come to a forest road on your right within 50 yards or so. The road looks like it has seen some vehicle traffic and it's flat and easy to follow. You will be heading upstream on Dick's Creek at this point. It's about half a mile up this road until you will look for an opening on the right leading to a campsite, it was fairly obvious to us and someone had even tied hot pink flagging tape in a tree indicating we were in the right spot. After a stroll through a large campsite, the roar of Dick Creek Falls drowns out the conversation. I rushed over to the edge of the creek and looked over the cliff to see the deepest green pool I have seen next to Devil's Bathtub, or Midnight Hole. The falls is located in a grotto setting, and drops about 25 feet into the deep pool. Even though the falls isn't big it may be the most beautiful I've visited in East Tennessee. The rock cliffs are colorful and there really isn't a bad place to take a photo. We got our snacks out and set by the pool and tried to guess at it's depth. My guess was anywhere from 25-30 feet deep at it's center, and we both agreed we would back in the summer to find out for sure. After exploring the area above the falls we made our way out to the main logging road again.
Logging road next to Dick Creek...easy hiking.
Trees like this are trail markers for old school hikers.
Climbing down to get to the main part of Upper Dick Creek Falls

Upper Dick Creek Falls
Of all the waterfalls I've researched hiking to, Upper Dick Creek Falls seems to be the most difficult for people to find. Once you get back on the main logging road at the lower falls, continue on the logging road still heading upstream. The road will go through a clearing but just walk straight across to the far side and the road continues on upstream. A short distance further, the road comes to another crossing of Dick's Creek. We were able to cross without getting our feet wet and once across we were in a campsite with a large fire circle. An obvious trail is straight across the fire circle and enters the forest away from the creek. DO NOT TAKE IT, instead look for a faint trail to the left next to the creek. We just waded into the laurel and within a few paces could see a makeshift path still heading upstream. The forest opens up and the hiking is easy we stayed within earshot of the creek but were at varying distances away from it. The creek has several loud cascades that we couldn't see through the laurels but we continued walking in the open forest and the trail will eventually begin climbing away from the creek and cross an old logging road, once again this was pretty obvious even though lots of laurel was growing in the road. Turn left on the logging road (still upstream) and a short distance later you will see the falls.
Upper Dick Creek Falls
just across the creek on the right side of the falls.
some of the rocks that collapsed along the falls.
corkscrew at the top of the falls.
this would be a fun ride, until you hit the bottom.

This is a very unique waterfall as it's like getting four waterfalls in one. Each drop can be photoed individually or as a group. The height is impressive too, the pictures I had seen make it seem much smaller but I would say it's at least a 35ft drop. The area has seen some major changes and it seem to have happened within the last 100 years. A large rock shelf in front of the falls collapsed and created the four drops you see now, the large boulders are tough to negotiate and the falls sit down in a semicircle sinkhole. We climbed down from the left side of the falls and crossed the creek and found a cranny in the boulders to climb to the top of the falls. The main drop of the falls has an awesome corkscrew as it shoots through the crack in the rock. There is also a nice little pool at the top of the falls but a laurel has been uprooted and lays in the majority of it. The next time I visit, I will be sure to bring the trusty Sears & Roebuck handsaw to clean up the shots a little. So if your in the woods and pass a giant wearing Hawaiian swimming trunks and carrying a handsaw, you will know it's me on my way to Dick Creek. Until next time...happy trails!
tell 'em I can hear 'em!
heading down Rattlesnake Ridge into Rock Creek Park.

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