Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall is my favorite season with the bright color and cool weather there's nothing to dislike about it. I've spent most of my off days this fall in and around the Linville Gorge. Being about an hour from my house, it's not a bad drive and there's literally something new to see each time I hike there.Steve and I have feverishly knocked off the waterfall challenge list from the Carolina Mountain Club and were excited to complete the Grandfather Mountain area portion with one last waterfall.
Road heading toward Gragg Prong.
More fantastic views from the road.

The waterfalls on Gragg Prong are a short four mile drive off the Blue Ridge Parkway with the parking area being next to the creek you follow the 1.5 miles to the top of the first waterfall. I'm not sure why we picked the waterfalls last or if we have any reason at all behind the order in which we visit each one. The weather was perfect for hiking that morning with the sun being high in the clear sky with cool temperatures, however it wasn't ideal for photographing waterfalls with the settings I usually use on my camera. I didn't mind though, I was in the woods and wasn't wearing a tie, all my problems were gone for the day.
The trail folowing the creek downstream.

The first portion of the hike follows the creek and the trail literally runs through the creek bed but the water levels were so low we were able to keep our feet dry. Gragg Prong is a beautiful little creek with small cascades and deep pools. The water is so clear you can easily see the trout swimming and there are several creek crossings along the way to up the adventure factor. The last crossing requires a leap that would be impossible for most people but with long strides I was able to stick the landing on the narrow rock and keep my feet dry. The trail continues to parallel the creek and the sound of water grows louder as you follow it downstream. Soon a faint trail leads out onto the exposed bedrock along the creek and you are at the first waterfall. It's not very high or powerful but the overall setting is fantastic. The first part of the waterfall slides only a few feet before emptying in a large deep tub shaped swimming hole. If it had been summer I would have been it head first! The lower portion of the waterfall is about a 12ft cascade that sweeps around a large boulder that rests in the middle of the creek. As I looked around I couldn't help but think of how wonderful the scene would have been just a week earlier with most of the leaves still on the trees. Steve walked up to knock me from my daydream raving about the swimming hole. Although the rock was kind of steep around the waterfall it was dry and we could climb around on it without any trouble. I found a large tree limb around 10ft long and stuck it into the swimming hole as far as I could without being able to touch anything! Both Steve and I stared into the depths knowing we would be back as soon as temperatures would cooperate.
The epic swimming hole at the upper falls.
Upper waterfall on Gragg Prong.

We left the first waterfall feeling wonderful and excited for what awaited us just a short trip downstream. I had read the lower waterfall was much larger but didn't have a height listed because of it's sweeping cascade into the gorge below. The trail travels through a nice campsite and a young couple was there and greeted us as we passed through. They both had already been to the waterfall and told us of how wonderful it was. We quickened our pace and soon we emerged onto the steep sloping rock above the lower waterfall. I had seen pictures but in person it was huge! It had a vertical drop at the very top but then cascaded wildly approximately 70ft downstream. Steve made his way down the left side of the waterfall near a large steep slide to the bottom. He didn't give it a second thought before sitting down, throwing his hands in the air, and sliding down the rock like a kid on playground slide. Just before he would land in the creek he rose to his feet and did an awkward run to regain his balance. I'll have to admit it was really cool. I could hear his cackles as he walked out of sight briefly leaving me to decide if I wanted to do the same move with a $1000 worth of camera gear strapped to my back. I've never been one for spending much time on fretting on what to do so I too took the slide to the base. In fact, it was so fun we both done it several times. The waterfall itself was also fantastic, even though it was sunny there was enough color to make some good photos from downstream. Steve continued to play as I lined up photos and we both were in great spirits and realized that it would be one of our last hikes until next year with our busy holiday season schedules.
Top of the lower waterfall.
...and Steve on his way to the bottom.
From the base.

The waterfalls on Gragg Prong are absolutely wonderful. I can't do enough justice to these two waterfalls with words. It's an easy three mile round trip hike to see them for yourself, so if you are near the Blue Ridge Parkway around Grandfather Mountain make this short trip and I promise you won't be disappointed! Until next time...happy trails!
Further downstream on Gragg Prong.
Reflections on Gragg Prong.

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