Saturday, June 8, 2013

Steve and I took a day of rest before tackling the Wilson Creek area in North Carolina on Friday. The day of the hike I was feeling refreshed and was anxious to visit somewhere I had never been. Our first hike of the day was to North Harper Creek Falls and we found the trail head rather easily off of FR 58 near the Blue Ridge Parkway. North Harper Creek Trail gradually winds downhill following the stream and there are several creek crossings along the way. I didn't bother trying to keep my feet dry, the cold water worked as a good numbing agent and kept my mind off the burning blisters. After about a mile we came to the upper portion of the falls which is a long sliding cascade area that is roughly 100ft long. I found it to be really awesome and enjoyed the ability to climb along either side of the waterfall. Steve and I worked our way down the rocky slope and soon were at the top of the lower half of the waterfall which is almost a vertical drop of 40ft. We noticed a worn path on the opposite side of the creek from the main trail and used it to work our way to the base. There was a deep pool in a rocky trench to the left of the falls that was loaded with frogs and salamanders. The area was really beautiful but the sun was out so I had to wait as clouds would drift in to try to take photos. We stayed at the base until Steve had caught all the frogs for photos and I had got some good pictures of the waterfall. The hike up the trail back to the truck was only mildly strenuous and we made good time even though the heat was getting worse by the minute.
The sliding cascade at North Harper Creek.
Steve approaching the main drop of the waterfall.
Upper portion of the waterfall. left side.
Upper portion of the waterfall. right side.
The cascade looked shallow but was deeper and POWERFUL!
Deep water hole at the top of the falls.
Lower portion of North Harper Creek Falls.

We found our way back to the main forest road and traveled to the parking area for our next stop, Little Lost Cove Creek Falls. The night before our hike I had added it to the list and thought that both the upper and lower falls would be a good two for one. The trail head is on a seldom used forest road and it was gated, and instantly the hike was extended by two miles. Steve was aggravated that we were hiking on a road that the truck could easily handle but the downhill grade wasn't too extreme on our legs. As we made it to the side path for the first falls we found the trail to be rutted and steep. When we arrived at the creek the falls was really beautiful but there were a lot of yellow jackets flying around and we didn't stay too long to investigate. The waterfall is huge and is broken by a large flat boulder the area reminds me of a rain forest and the mist was a welcome natural air conditioner. The sun was bleaching out my photos pretty bad and I took a few hoping to salvage something once I got them on my laptop for editing. The climb out was tough and slick, not to mention that I was getting really hot and the laurel blooms were sticking to my clothes as I fought through the thickets. Back at the main trail we continued on the old forest road before taking a side rutted jeep road around some mud holes. The road was rough and we found the trail to the lower falls by a piece of flagging tape. It was evident not many people get down here. The path is nearly vertical and the leaves covering it were slick. I fell multiple times trying to reach it's base and Steve laughed hard each time. Once I fell directly on a log face first trying to get over a fallen tree, Steve waited a full second before erupting in laughter once again. The lower waterfall is the better of the falls in my opinion, unfortunately it's really difficult to photo the entire drop but it's a long steep sliding cascade. The hike down had gassed my legs and I rested by the creek while Steve turned over rocks looking for snakes. The hike out of there was TOUGH, by the time we reached the old jeep road I was gasping and had a mile and a half to hike to the truck. Steve kept the conversation going although he often answered his own questions and we arrived at the truck quicker than I thought we would.
Downstream from Upper Little Lost Cove Creek Falls.
The waterfall is much bigger than this picture indicates.
Lower Falls on Little Lost Cove Creek.
Lower Little Lost Cove Creek Falls.

Resting briefly, we almost decided to call it a day. I had a couple more waterfalls on the list, but I was hurting bad with the blisters and my legs were jelly. Steve also was tired but let me make the call. I decided to knock off one more waterfall before calling it a vacation. Bard Falls won out over Hunt Fish Falls and we were soon on our way to the North Harper Creek Trail shortcut that leads to the falls. This hike was really pleasant and gently switched down the mountain arriving at the creek in just over a mile. The trail follows North Harper Creek downstream for another mile passing several nice cascades and swimming holes. When we finally got within sight of Bard Falls I knew we had made a great choice. It's only about a 30ft waterfall but is gorgeous and features a really cool pothole to the left of the waterfall that can be climbed down inside of. Steve was as thrilled as me with the falls, and we both rested at it's base knowing that our hiking vacation was coming to a close.
Me inside the pothole at Bard Falls.
Bard Falls.
Further downstream from Bard Falls.
Awesome frog we found.

It's hard to believe that in four days on the trail we had seen over 30 waterfalls. Between the mountains of North Carolina and the plateau of middle Tennessee there isn't much better hiking to be found. Perhaps the most surprising part is that we have only touched a fraction of the waterfalls in Western North Carolina and there are several in Tennessee that have still eluded us. Hopefully I can get all of these knocked out and begin working on a guidebook of my own one day. Until then...happy trails.

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