Saturday, June 14, 2014

I've had a lot of wonderful experiences on the trail but this year has been the best so far. I've been hiking with different groups of people on almost every outing and I've enjoyed myself so much, I once again find myself hopelessly behind on my blog entries. I was walking through my store the other morning when a moment of inspiration struck me in the form of one our vendors. He stopped me as I passed and asked if I had updated my blog lately and that he and his girlfriend had been reading all my previous entries and were anxious for more. I don't think he realized it, but it meant a lot to me that anyone would take time from their day to read about my adventures, so Marvin, this one is for you!
Waterfall on Cedar Rock Creek.

My hiking buddy Jeff Forrester recently took a vacation and asked that I join him on a hike with his friend Larry Gullette who was flying in from Oklahoma for the week. Jeff was determined to show Larry there were other locations besides the Great Smoky Mountains to do some hikes and I went to work immediately on what may be the ultimate North Carolina waterfall sampler. I poured through Kevin Adam's North Carolina waterfall guide and picked our trip based on distance, quality, and most importantly, variety. I've been hiking in North Carolina for several years and chose a loop of sorts that started us in Brevard and swung us up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and back down 215 meeting highway 64 again outside of Brevard. When I finished my list, I wasn't sure if I could even do it but 30 waterfalls were on the agenda and I had two eager partners waiting to give it a shot.
Slick Rock Falls.

The morning of the hike I awoke at 4:30am and made the hour and a half drive to Brevard meeting Jeff and Larry at the Walmart just before the 276/64 intersection. I found Larry standing in the middle of the parking lot brushing his teeth. It was only the second time I had ever met him in person with the first meeting being just long enough to show his friends back home how tall I was with a photo op. Larry happily greeted me and I ran in to pick up some bandages for some nagging blisters and we were on our way to our first stop of the day, waterfall on Cedar Rock Creek.

Only a short distance up 276, a left turn took us toward the Pisgah Center for Wildlife and we parked there for the trail head, putting us on our first hike before 8am! The trail skirts the main building and enters the woods across a paved bridge and picks up the Cat Gap Trail. It wasn't long into the hike before I realized that Adam's book listed the distance of the hikes for one way only, our mileage was doubled. I didn't want to break Larry and Jeff's spirit so early in our day so kept the info to myself as we traversed a ridge away from the creek. I noticed Larry had a limp and he told me had proudly spent over one hundred dollars getting a "booster shot" for his knee so it wouldn't bother him on his trip. Soon I could hear the falls down to our left and within minutes we arrived at the base of a nice 20ft waterfall. It was also my first trip to see this waterfall and I was impressed with everything from the flow to the mossy rocks that surround it. Larry showed great agility and speed by rock hopping over for a closer inspection before I could even set up for my first shot! I was encouraged to see it knowing that we had a long day ahead.

Our next hike was a short drive past the Wildlife Center at the trail head for the base of Looking Glass Rock. A short 100 yards off the trail was a 40ft waterfall on a low drainage creek known as Slick Rock Falls. Although it was a mere trickle I really liked the waterfall and you could photograph it from all sides, including behind it! We all took turns grabbing our shots and were back on the road and to a stop that I knew Jeff had been waiting on for 40 years!
Looking Glass Falls.

Looking Glass Falls may be the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina. It's not only beautiful but the most accessible by being right beside of the main road. The park service has done a commendable job keeping it clean and maintaining a slight resemblance of a natural setting if you are able to hike downstream of the sidewalks a little. Jeff had sent me an image of his mother standing near the road with the waterfall as a back drop and we were able to line it up and almost recreate it with him in the same location. Larry was a blur the whole time we were at Looking Glass. He was near the base, downstream, over logs, on the get the idea, he was loving it! As much fun as we were having I rounded them up and got us back on the road to Moore Cove Falls.

The Moore Cove hike is a little longer than our first few stops and gave us a good leg stretch as it winds uphill into the valley where the waterfall is hidden. Since my first visit to Moore Cove, the park service had installed several wooden bridges and when we arrived at the base there was a large observation deck constructed. The fancy woodwork did little to contain us and Larry was once again on the loose. He walked behind the 50ft waterfall and ducked his head under it's flow gasping with approval. I scurried up the bank to the right of the falls and took some shots in the weeds eliminating the man made trails and decks in my shot. Jeff seemed to really like the waterfall and also ducked his head under it, so as I hiked down the bank I took my turn under mother nature's shower.
Jeff behind Moore Cove Falls.
Moore Cove Falls.

I'm not sure if Sliding Rock counts as a waterfall but it's a long cascade and is one of the most popular stops in the mountains of North Carolina. Due to it's popularity it's also a fee area, but we were elated to see the collection area closed with a sign stating "Free Admission Day" Jeff and Larry both were eager to hit the water slide but were slowed by closed bathrooms and having to change "on the fly" I can only imagine how much therapy bills would be for the person who would stumble upon that scene. I arrived at the observation deck above the cascade and was happy to see less than five people riding down. I had brought my new GoPro with me and gave Jeff a quick tutorial on how to use it so he could video his ride down Sliding Rock, another trip that was 40 years later for him. Larry was the first to take the slide and his enthusiasm was clear as his smile was wider than any of the children playing in the water. He crashed in sideways and Jeff was a right behind him with the camera rolling as he splashed down. Both of them were quick to make it back to the top of the rock and Larry took over the camera for the second trip down but accidentally turned it off so his video was ruined. After a couple of trips on Sliding Rock and many laughs later, we got back to the car and took turns watching for approaching vehicles so that Larry and Jeff could get dressed in dry clothes and were off to Log Hollow for more hiking.
Larry's face says it all. Sliding Rock.
Log Hollow Falls.
Northern Tributary of Log Hollow Branch.

A few weeks ago I had been in the area we were hiking and went to Log Hollow Falls for the first time and was impressed with the three waterfalls there. Jeff, Larry, and I hiked the old logging road around the ridge skipping the first waterfall to arrive at the main attraction first and then took in the furthermost of the waterfalls before stopping at the first waterfall which is the most difficult one to reach. All three falls are beautiful but Jeff and Larry seemed to be most impressed by the low flow 100ft Northern Tributary of Log Hollow Branch. Sometimes I feel like a difficult hike makes a person appreciate a waterfall even more and this was a perfect example. When we arrived back at the car we had finished the highway 276 portion of our hike and had already seen eight waterfalls!


1 comment:

  1. Jason, I am tickled to see you made a foray to enjoy some of the gorgeous waterfalls of NC. It is like being a kid in a candy store, eh? :-)