Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I can't say enough good things about the Clark's Creek area of Erwin, Tennessee. To me it's the waterfall mecca of Northeast Tennessee with a wide variety of waterfalls and trails from beginner family friendly hikes such as Sill Branch Falls to one of the most difficult hikes in the entire state, Buckeye Falls.

This afternoon I had completed all my house chores and was finally feeling better after spending over a week with a head cold. I wanted to get out in the woods for a while and Clark's Creek was calling my name. A few weeks ago I visited Delsatch Falls off of the Buckeye Falls Trail and fell in love with it. Delsatch is over 85ft high and located on Chigger Branch that flows into Clark's Creek. Despite it's height, it receives very few visitors or attention, which is quite frankly, baffling. The trail begins at the dead end circular parking area on Clark's Creek Road. There is a immediate creek crossing that is a fairly good indicator of what kind of flow to expect at the falls, if you don't have to get your feet wet, I would suggest hiking elsewhere. The past few days it's rained hard and for most of the day. I was anticipating swollen muddy creek conditions but found it to be calm and maybe slightly above normal levels. I did have to wade the creek at the crossing so I trudged on up the wide road that serves as a horse trail trying to stay quite in hopes of seeing one of the many bears that call Clark's Creek home. The warm temperatures have really helped with the woods greening up and all types of wildflowers lined the trail. I noticed the trilliums were starting to wilt, another bothersome development, considering they're one of my favorites.
Trail heading up Chigger Branch.
Plants along the trail.

In all, there are seven creek crossings before you need to start watching for a small faint path that will turn left and cross Clark's Creek at the mouth of Chigger Branch. It's not marked so just pay attention to the lay of the land you will see the large valley of Chigger Branch as you approach the spur trail. Once across Clark's Creek you will see a path on the left of the branch. I was surprised at how easy the trail was to follow but was informed that another group of hikers had cleared it a while back thinking they were blazing the way to Buckeye Falls. In reality, Buckeye Falls is much further up Clarks' Creek and far more difficult to access. The trail although easy to follow isn't worn and you get the feeling of being one of the first people up that valley. There's no sign of trash or graffiti and the hike is level as it stays with the creek. I took my time and soaked in the beauty of it all stopping to take pictures of flowers and cascades along the way. I can't recall hiking on a trail that has as many grapevines as Delsatch does, sometimes you have to pick your way over and under them as they hug the trail for a small stretch. As the trail begins gently rising I was pleased to see that most of the Trillium was still at full peak and as I stopped to photograph one I saw a tiny spider hiding in the bloom. Sometimes I wonder of what I miss on some of the hikes I have rushed through.
Spider posing on a Trillium bloom.
Chigger Branch.
Delsatch Falls.
A short distance up the waterfall and the rock is super slick!

As I mentioned earlier, the trail is faint but clear, sometimes it's easier just to wade up the creek and picking the best route for you. The creek will take you directly to the base of the waterfall so there's no way to get lost. When closing in on the waterfall the creek kind of spreads out and one fork of it is dry and easy to hike in. A cool breeze starts coming from ahead and through the trees you can see the upper portion of the cascading waterfall. I climbed around a large rock and fallen log and found a flat spot to set my tripod on. There's a lot of dead fall piled up here but today I spent some time moving it to the bank below the falls. Some people would suggest against tampering with the scene but I feel there's no harm in removing something that is already dead. Once I finished I was really pleased with my efforts, a small pool was now visible and enhanced the waterfall *in my opinion* Large white bloom Trillium line both sides of the waterfall and I climbed around to take pictures of some of the larger ones. A huge tree has fell about halfway down the waterfall into some of the cascade but it doesn't distract from the falls too bad in it's current resting place. I climbed up to just below it to look down the falls, it certainly isn't a spot you would want to fall. It would be a long slide and a painful landing! As I was finishing up the clouds parted and the sun came out, making my hike out a little warmer but just as pleasant. Enjoy the pictures and get out and enjoy the woods, and as always, happy trails!
Dwarf Iris.

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