Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Not every hike has to be an epic once in a lifetime type trip. Sometimes a hike is special just because of who you spend it with.
Amber hiking along the narrow trail near Upper Sill Branch Falls.

A few weeks ago Amber and I visited the Clarks Creek area of Erwin, Tennessee on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Clarks Creek is quickly becoming the waterfall mecca of Northeast Tennessee. Just off the top of my head I can think of twenty waterfalls off of the gravel road that runs parallel to the creek. Being late in the day we chose the Sill Branch hike to visit both the upper and lower waterfalls.
The ultimate meat tenderizer.

It's not unusual to find the trail head jammed with cars since it's such a easy hike to the lower waterfall. In just over half a mile you arrive at a nice 60ft waterfall, but few people take the time or effort to visit the upper falls even though it's only another mile upstream. When Amber and I arrived at the trail head there was only one other car there and we started the hike up to the lower falls expecting to find the person there. I couldn't resist stopping a few times as we made our way upstream to photograph the many cascades. Amber was patient and stood along the creek waiting as I jumped from rock to rock looking for the perfect shot. When we reached the first waterfall I was excited to see it flowing nicely and I knew our trip would be worth it to see the upper falls. Between the lower and upper falls several streams branch off and the upper falls rarely is worth seeing if the lower falls isn't at a significant flow. Amber strolled around the base of the falls and I set up the tripod in several spots just to have enough pictures to fill the blog entry.
Sill Branch.
Lower Sill Branch Falls.
Side view with  the cliffs at Lower Sill Branch Falls.

From the lower falls we hiked back to the trail intersection at the creek crossing and headed uphill on Sill Branch South. I was afraid Amber would get aggravated at the climbing but we stopped at some rock outcrops to rest and play on the boulders and took our time enjoying the nice weather for as early as it was in the year. We reached another creek crossing and more climbing with the creek now on the right side of the trail. I pointed out one of my favorite trees that is shaped like the number 4 and is right beside the trail. Only a few minutes later we arrived at the logging road that heads up the mountain and around the top of lower Sill Branch Falls before dropping to the creek and continuing on to the upper falls. I noticed some yellow tape marking the way and whoever left it obviously was scared of getting lost! Every few feet there was that ugly tape hanging from a tree branch. I started plucking it from the branches until my pockets were full, I really didn't see a need for it since there was only one trail crossing the mountain. When we reached the top of the ridge we took some time to rest and look out over Sill Branch Valley. An increasingly dark sky was on the horizon and the wind was picking up but Amber wanted to continue on since we had came so far already, it was one of my prouder moments being her husband! The hiking becomes easier as the trail lowers you back into the valley above the cliffs surrounding the lower falls. I love this part of the hike as it follows the creek and there are really nice cascades to photograph but with the threatening rain we didn't stop until we reached the upper falls.
Upper Sill Branch Falls.
Downstream from Upper Sill Branch Falls.

Even with the nice flow at Lower Sill Branch Falls the upper waterfall wasn't quite as nice as I was hoping but Amber liked it and that was what mattered to me. It's hard for me to get her to come out with me and to see her happy after a two mile uphill hike I counted it as a win! She sat along the high banks that surround the waterfall as I shot from several angles before the howling wind told me it was time to head out. Hiking back Amber told me she had really enjoyed herself and vowed to join me more on the trails in 2015, so who knows where we will show up next! Until next time, happy trails!

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