|Nearing the base of Burgess Falls.|
|Even with the water drops, an awesome sight!|
|Last shot of Burgess and maybe the best one I took that morning.|
Our itinerary was much more reasonable that morning with stops at Burgess Falls, Cummins Falls, and finally visiting Rainbow Falls and the cave that it empties into on our way home. When we arrived at Burgess Falls I was thrilled to see that we were one of two cars in the parking lot and also relieved the sun was still tucked behind the mountains. The trail is easy and follows the river downstream passing a few other nice waterfalls that would be the highlight of most hiking trips. The middle falls is really beautiful but you view it from a cliff on the opposite side of the river. Due to time constraints I decided we would have to skip attempting to bushwhack up river to it's base for another time. A few minutes later we arrived at the overlook for the main falls. The only people there besides us were viewing the falls and we decided to hike on down to the base. The trail is steep but switchbacks down to the river just before the top of the falls. There is a nice caged walkway that lowers you over the cliff and down to a really good photo spot of the falls about halfway from the base. The river level was up since my last visit and the mist at the base was intense. I decided I had come far enough and began taking pictures. Steve couldn't stop there and continued on to the base. Eventually I couldn't stand it and followed him down there as well. The mist was quickly soaking through my shirt and I had my camera wrapped in it trying to protect it as best I could. I turned my back to the falls and shielded it long enough to shoot a quick picture off but it was still marred with water droplets. The sun had also made an untimely appearance just above the falls and the glare was enough to make me pack up and head back up the trail.
The next stop of the day was at Cummins Falls. I had never been there so I was excited to see it in person. The area was recently converted to a state park (for years it was private property) so I anticipated we might have company. When we arrived at the parking lot there were several cars but I was still hoping for a picture that would crop out any people. The trails are new and the area is signed well. We followed the downstream trail that led away from the falls and met the river about half a mile from the base. From there it's up to you to pick the best route back upstream to the base. We followed the left side of the river until it met some rock cliffs and crossed just above a shoal. There was a nice side stream waterfall near where we crossed. Negotiating the trail up to the falls was not an easy task. The path is rocky and lot's of driftwood piles litter the trail. I seen that the side we started on was looking easier and waded back just as I could get a view of the falls. Cummins was really beautiful. The waterfall is wide and cascades down wide looking steps at it's base. The pool is green, REAL green and absolutely massive. I imagine it gets crowded when the heat cranks up in midsummer. We took our time wading and getting pictures from all angles here. I found my favorite spot was underneath the rock cliffs on the left side because it gave me some shade from the sun. Steve, meanwhile, perched on a large rock across the pool staying vigilant for approaching college girls arriving to sun bathe. Eventually I had to tell Steve we had to go if we were going to hike anywhere else.
|Me and this guy kept a similar pace.|
|What a swimming hole!|
|It's hard to scale just how massive this is.|
The drive from Cummins to our next stop was on a curvy, boring road. Rainbow Falls was listed in the guidebook as being "possibly" on private land but the directions were provided anyway. The trail head was at a cemetery (never a good omen) and we had to find the main trail just off a logging road in the woods to our left. Steve was pumped to see another 110ft waterfall that vanished into a cave and led the way. We followed a logging road and saw no signs of life with the exception of an empty mountain dew can from the 80's. We crossed over a mountain in a mile and even though we had the book with us could never find the trail! Steve began getting flustered and started striking out through the woods at random places to see if he could hear or see anything that would clue us in. Each time he rejoined me, his language grew more colorful. We eventually decided that the directions were outdated since we had found several new roads crisscrossing the mountain and that we could find it ourselves. We found a creek and tried to trace it upstream, the wet clay mud on the banks was slippery and soon I found myself lying on my back staring up at Steve laughing hysterically. I found my hat and sunglasses and continued on. I realized we were not going to find it and found a rock to rest on while Steve trudged on. After thirty minutes, I began to worry but soon I could hear faint cussing and fussing coming back in my direction that I knew had to be him. He told me if the guidebook wasn't mine he would have chucked it into the creek and stomped it dry.
I reminded him of our success and of the many good times we had experienced just in those few days. He didn't want to hear any of it but by the time we made it to the truck he was already cracking jokes at how angry he had been just a few minutes earlier. All told we had seen 27 waterfalls. I was bummed that our final stop was a failure but it gave us a challenge to seek out next time we were in the area. When we finally pulled in at my house that night. I could barely unfold out of the truck, we decided we would take the next day off before hitting the mountains of North Carolina on Friday morning...to be continued...