Monday, June 24, 2013

Another day another trip into the North Carolina mountains to seek out more waterfalls. Steve and I had just wrapped up our annual hiking trip to middle Tennessee and were anxious to hit the high country and even more so to see some great waterfalls. The first stop on our hiking itinerary that day was on the Thompson River. I personally love the place and rarely do you ever see another soul on your hikes there. It's sandwiched between Gorge's State Park and Whitewater Falls so being overlooked and underrated is kind of understandable. The parking is only a roadside pull off at the intersection of Brewer Road and NC 281, and there are no trail signs but the old logging road just up the hill is easy to follow and the paths are worn enough to know where to go. There are five waterfalls on the river and all would be the highlight of most hikes but we had plans only to see the High Falls on the river that day. A small trail branches off to the right as you near the first crossing of the river and travels along a steep grade above the river. The trail is a little overgrown so my face was constantly getting scratched by the tree limbs as I passed by. A short while later the waterfall could be heard downhill on our left, it's a steep scramble down the bank that arrives just downstream from the falls behind some boulders. We had to cross the river and some downed timber before we could see the falls from a small island in the river. The waterfall is almost 110ft high and slides into a deep pool at the base. It's kind of in a recessed cove almost hiding it until you are directly in front of it, the flow was good as well being much more powerful than my previous trip.
High Falls of the Thompson River
Vines along the Thompson River trail.
We spent some time at the falls before making the steep climb back to the main trail. It was early in the day so I suggested we visit the second falls on the river which as far as I know is unnamed. (there are three unnamed falls, the other two are High and Big Falls) The trail continues downhill and crosses the river above a ten foot waterfall that is unusually loud. Almost another mile in is the side path for the waterfall we were looking for and the path again is steep down the bank meeting the river below the falls. The unnamed falls was a nice one but not very high, the sun was shining brightly forcing me to use different camera settings than usual. A large rotten tree had fell from the opposite side of the river and it's rotten trunk had exploded all over the rock on the side of the river we were on. Steve immediately began shuffling through the pile of rotten bark looking for snakes. Almost instantly he found two and both were different kinds! The smaller of the two was a real fighter and it took him a few minutes to wrangle him for photos.
The first unnamed falls.
This guy was small but a real fighter!
Ring neck snake.
After we took turns handling the snakes, we hiked out of the Thompson River Gorge and on to the next waterfall on our list, White Owl Falls. White Owl is a small waterfall of only sixteen feet but it makes up for it with it's beauty. Many people are unaware of it's existence being hidden just below the busy highway 281, so I was surprised when I saw a pickup truck parked in the narrow pull off for the falls trail. I squeezed in beside it and it's owner was fiddling with some stuff in the bed of the truck and asked if we were going to White Owl. We introduced ourselves and found that he was Mark Morrison, an author from Georgia and was getting his measurements for a guidebook. I was thrilled to meet a real author and quickly offered to buy a book. Mark sold me his guidebook for Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee and we became lost in conversation along the busy road telling of our many waterfall conquests. I asked him about Slippery Witch Falls located just down the road but he suggested we skip it due to the concern that it could be on private property. He instead offered a replacement falls, known as Silver Run Falls about twenty minutes away so we added it to our list for the day. We exchanged goodbyes, and Steve and I were on our way to White Owl. I was afraid Steve would be negative about the size of the falls but he was also impressed with it's photogenic nature.
White Owl Falls.
Back to the truck and another short drive to the pull off along 281 to another smaller but equally beautiful waterfall known as John's Jump Falls. It's literally just under the road bank and drops about 30ft over a big slab of rock. The last time I was here, I fell and my leg bowed awkwardly under me. I thought of how ironic would it be to get hurt badly so close to the road and possibly not be able to get help. The state had dumped a bunch of tree limbs right on the trail head so we swung around through the woods but were cut off from the main trail by briar thickets. We pushed through but both were bloodied pretty good by their thorns. All the pain was worth it when we stepped out into the creek to see the falls, they were magnificent. While wading around I found one of the largest chunks of Mica I had ever seen in the waters near the base.
John's Jump Falls.
John's Jump, a closer view.
When we got back to the truck Steve was really adamant about at least just checking the area at Slippery Witch out and see if it was posted. I didn't have directions but had read enough about the area to get us to the bridge just above the drop of the falls on the dirt road off of 281. We drove past the falls for half a mile without seeing any property signs and passed over the bridge and went another half mile or so still seeing nothing as far as property ownership goes. We went back to the bridge and parked at a narrow pull off. A clear trail was found under a power pole heading downstream. I was really skeptical but Steve said we would run down take our pictures and leave. We ran down the trail and I popped off a couple of pictures and we were on the run out within five minutes I had what I wanted, a picture. Unfortunately in my haste, I didn't check my lens and a few drops of water marred the outside edge of the photo, guess that's what I get, right, Mark?
Slippery Witch a beautiful 100ft drop.
Another shot of Slippery Witch.
The run out was tough and Steve was laughing at my gasps for air, he still was impressed that I was able to run up that grade without resting. We settled in for the drive into South Carolina and back up 107 to Silver Run Falls. When we arrived at the parking lot I was discouraged to see it crowded with cars and also that it was really narrow and in a blind curve. We had to drive up the road and turn and come back to try to get a spot. A very small spot was available and I slid in to it "a little hot" almost running over another hiker standing by his car. Steve laughed hysterically at him running out of the way as the dust cloud billowed on our arrival. Silver Run Falls is a nice waterfall and an easy hike, I'm not sure how high it was but I was most impressed with the deep wide pool at it's base. Between the dogs, children, and fat chicks at the base, photography was a challenge! I finally cropped the photos down enough to capture the falls but it was not what I was hoping to take home.
Silver Run Falls.
After a wonderful day of hiking we were on our way home. A quick meal at Wendy's in Cashiers and we headed toward Tennessee. During our conversation on the drive, I mentioned Kathy Creek Falls near Brevard and we decided to stop for one more waterfall (this happens a lot) Kathy Creek is a large 80ft cascade just a couple of miles off Highway 64. I had visited it before and was really impressed so I wanted Steve to see it as well. The road to the falls is narrow and steep and we parked high above the trail, giving us one more bank scramble to tame before home. The falls was beautiful and we both rested taking it all in, and talked of our next trip to North Carolina and another day of hiking and swimming. Until then, happy trails.
Kathy's Creek Falls.

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