Monday, November 9, 2009

Cascade Falls and Mountain Lake

Day 3 and 4 of our Weekend Getaway

Cascade Falls and Mountain Lake
Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Photos are posted here:

As a student at Virginia Tech I did the hike to Cascade Falls several times. I remembered it being an awesome waterfall, but it’s been well over 10 years since my last visit. Therefore, the one sight I knew I had to check out on this trip was Cascade Falls (aka “The Cascades”).

After another awesome breakfast at the Huffman House Bed and Breakfast, Amy and I headed up the road to Pembroke, VA and the Cascade Falls Trailhead.

It’s a moderate 4-mile round trip hike (2 miles each way) alongside the very pretty Little Stony Creek. Even without the waterfall, it would still be a great hike. Endless cascades and small waterfalls can be viewed just about the entire hike.

Cascades along Little Stony Creek
Cascade Falls turns out to be even more spectacular than I remembered it! A beautiful 70-ft falls cascading into one of the greatest swimming holes anywhere! Every waterfall lover should add this one to their must do list!

Jack and Amy at Cascade Falls

The only problem with Cascade Falls is that it is a very popular place! We got an early enough start that we had the waterfall to ourselves for a few minutes before the crowds started to arrive. Before long there were probably around 20 people at the falls.

In the summertime this is a great place to check out bikini clad college girls swimming and sunning themselves on the rocks! Today was too cold for any bikini viewing, so I saw no reason to stick around any longer.

The return hike was much easier since it was almost all downhill. Here is a bit more detail about the hike and how to get there:

After our hike we stopped for lunch at a gas station restaurant in Pembroke. While enjoying a club sandwich, the rain started falling outside.

Another nearby place I wanted to re-visit was Mountain Lake.

Amy in front of the Mountain Lake Hotel

A winding road leads about 8 miles up the mountain and ends at the Mountain Lake Hotel sitting above the scenic Mountain Lake. At least it used to be a scenic Mountain Lake.

The severe drought over the past few years caused the lake to completely dry up in 2008. Even with a fairly wet year, Mountain Lake still sits at 36’ below full pool.

Mountain Lake - Way below Full Pool

Maybe it was the dreary rain and fog, or maybe it was the nearly empty lake, but this place just did not seem as nice as I remembered. I did decide that since I’m here, I might as well get a hike in, while Amy explored the gift shops.

The steady rain had let off a bit to just a light misty drizzle, so I headed on up the trail to Bald Knob. It’s a little less than a mile with a steady climb all the way making for a good little workout. Supposedly there are some nice views up top, but for today all I saw was a fogged in mountain top!

A Foggy Balk Knob

We made several stops on the drive down to mountain to check out some of the roadside views.

View from Mountain Lake Road
We also checked out a couple of the covered bridges near the Bed and Breakfast before dinner.

Covered Bridge

One of my favorite places to eat during my years at Virginia Tech was Mike’s Grill. A lot has changed in Blacksburg over the years, but Mike’s is still there in the same location offering up giant burgers, calzones, and excellent pizza! The calzone we ordered was just and good and even bigger than I remember them being!

After dinner we took a nice long walk around Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech Campus. I regretted not carrying my tri-pod around with me, because the Virginia Tech offers a lot of good spots for night time photography. However, even without my tri-pod, I was still able to snap a few decent shots.

Virginia Tech

The next morning after our final awesome breakfast of the weekend, we said our goodbyes to Ron and Carol, packed up the truck, visited with the Turkeys one last time and hit the road.

I had a couple other potential places in my mind to stop off and visit on the drive back, but a steady rain helped make up my mind to skip it and just head on home. Ironically our last stop was in Blacksburg.

Blacksburg, SC that is, to fill up the tank and get a photo to post on my website.

The 2009 Hess Collectable comes out on Friday, November 13th at which time my little side business becomes a 2nd full time job for about 2 months! Therefore, this might be my last trip report for a while!

It was great to have this little weekend getaway before the madness of Hess Truck Season begins!

Additional Photos from Day 3 and 4 of our weekend getaway are located here:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pipestem Resort State Park, WV

Day 2 of our Weekend Getaway

Pipestem Resort State Park, WV
Friday, October 30th, 2009

Photos are posted here:

As much as I enjoy staying at Bed and Breakfast’s, one of the drawbacks is that you lose a little control over the day’s schedule. Assuming you want to take advantage of the breakfast, you are usually at the mercy of innkeepers as to when you get to eat. For today, breakfast was at 9:00am.

Even with the late night Virginia Tech Football game, there is no way I can stay in bed for that long, especially with the Turkeys gobbling outside our window and the roosters Cockle Doodle Dooing. I interpreted these sounds as “come out and play”; so I did.

The Huffman House Bed and Breakfast

Eventually, after wandering around the farm with the animals it was time for breakfast. There are (4) guest rooms in the B&B, and all (4) were filled with Hokie fans that were at the game the previous evening. Needless to say, the mood around the breakfast table was a bit somber. Despite the sad faces of all the devastated Hokie Fans, breakfast was excellent.

Our plan for the day was to take a drive into West Virginia and check out a couple of the State Parks. I lived in West Virginia for (7) years and one of my biggest regrets was not visiting many of the wonderful West Virginia State Parks.

I decided on Pipestem Resort State Park because there were several waterfalls, a lookout tower, a canyon, a lake, and an Ariel Tramway. Sounded like a lot of neat stuff packed into a State Park.

Here is a link to the parks website:

Our first stop would be Brush Creek Falls. Kevin Adam’s “Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia” book lists this one as being on Pipestem State Park property. I think it actually outside the State Park Boundary and owned by a Nature Conservancy. Either way, the directions from the book were dead on accurate.

It’s a short and easy hike of about a quarter mile and the waterfall turned out to be nicer than I expected.

Brush Creek Falls

I took a very steep but short scramble down to the base, but found out later that by continuing down the main trail for about 100 yards, a much easier path to the base is available. Due to leaving my hat at the base, I ended up doing the scramble up and down twice!

Amy and I continued on the main trail to Whiteoak Creek Falls. Combining Brush Creek Falls and White Oak Creek Falls makes for a 4-mile (2-mile out and back) hike. It’s a pleasant and easy hike all the way.

Jack and Amy sitting by the Bluestone River

Whiteoak Creek Falls is actually a series of smaller drops. It is impossible to capture the whole thing in one shot and trying to scramble up to see some of the larger upper drops would be very difficult. While it was a very nice spot, I wouldn’t put Whiteoak Creek Falls on your must see list.

Jack and Amy at Whiteoak Creek Falls

After a nice break, we returned back the way we came and drove on into the main entrance to Pipestem Resort State Park.

Our first stop here would be the Pipestem Knob Tower Trail. A short but moderately steep climb on a paved trail leads to the Lookout Tower. I was happy to see that you can actually climb the lookout tower which offers up some nice views.

The Pipestem Knob Lookout Tower

Next up would be a ride on the Aerial Tramway! At least that was what I had hoped, but unfortunately the Tramway was closed for the season! However, the gift shop was still open, so I left Amy there while I hiked down to Heritage Point on the Canyon Rim Trail.

We saw lots of Deer throughout the park

Heritage Point was nice, but power lines marred what otherwise would have been an excellent view. The steep climb out made me glad I didn’t try to entice Amy to join me as this trail is definitely not Amy approved!

View from Heritage Point

After exploring around the park a bit more, I decided to do one more short hike to Long Branch Lake. Amy elected to sit this one out and didn’t miss much. It’s a typical small State Park lake with fishing docks, and a place to rent canoes or paddle boats. The trail was nice, but nothing to go out of you way for.

Long Branch Lake

Since we had a late and large breakfast, we elected to skip lunch on the day. But by 4:30pm we had both developed an appetite. Most of the restaurants inside Pipestem State Park were closed for the season, and others did not open until 5:30pm. Amy remembered seeing a sign for a BBQ joint just outside the park entrance, so we decided to check that out.

We followed the sign for “Brandon’s BBQ” which lead on a one-way gravel road past a trailer park. Things were not looking promising, but we eventually arrived at the restaurant which had a 100% empty parking lot. Another bad sign.

However, a bright “Open” sign was lit up, so we decided to check it out. This restaurant turned out to be much better than we anticipated. So if you ever decide to visit Pipestem State Park and find yourself getting hungry, Brandon’s BBQ is worth the stop!

After dinner we decided to make one more stop to check on Indian Branch Falls. You can get here via a 2.5 mile hike from the Pipestem Nature Center, but Kevin Adams book gave directions to another access point which offered up a much shorter hike to the Falls.

We were not very impressed with Indian Branch Falls. The view from the trail is lousy I saw no way to safely get to the base.

The very un-impressive Indian Branch Falls

We returned back to the Huffman House Bed and Breakfast and enjoyed the rest of the evening reading and relaxing.

Additional photos from Day 2 of our weekend getaway are located here:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Disaster in Turkey Town!

Disaster in Turkey Town

Day 1 of our Weekend Getaway
Thursday, October 29th, 2009
Blacksburg, VA

Photos are posted here:

It had been a long time since my last visit to my Alma Mater of Virginia Tech. In addition, Amy has never been to a Hokie home football game or even seen the Virginia Tech campus. So when we decided to plan a little weekend getaway, I suggested Blacksburg, VA.

I left Amy with the job of finding someplace to stay. Since it is almost impossible to find last minute accommodations in Blacksburg for Thursday Night Football games, I wasn’t expecting Amy to have any luck. When 60,000+ people converge on a small college town, every hotel within a 100+ mile radius gets booked months in advance.

I was really expecting to have to come up with a Plan B for the weekend. However, somehow Amy was able to find a place less than 20 minutes from campus with an available room.

The Huffman House at Creekside Farm in Newport, VA.

The Huffman House at Creekside Farm  
Bed and Breakfast

I was excited about this as both Amy and I really enjoy the Bed & Breakfast experience. Unlike a Holiday Inn, you just never know what to expect when you book a stay at a Bed and Breakfast.

Now that our lodging was booked, I went in search of game tickets. Back when I was in college, face value was about $12.00, students got in for free, and even though there were about 20,000 less seats in the stadium, they rarely sold out and even for big games there was never a problem finding tickets.

During my 4 years of college (1988-1992) we would have been happy just to have a winning season. And even one of the lowliest of Bowl Games would have been awesome. Unfortunately, it never happened during my college years.

Then in 1993, the year after I graduated, Virginia Tech made it to the Independence Bowl. Since then we have never had a losing season, played in a Bowl Game every year, played for a National Championship, and won several Big East and ACC championships. Great things have happened to the Virginia Tech Football Program!

However, finding tickets would now be a challenge. Actually finding tickets was not a problem as there were plenty available on eBay. Now finding reasonably priced tickets was another story! Good seats were selling for $400 each! Lousy seats for about $150 each. Plus $100 for a parking pass?

After many hours of searching for some fairly decent seats for something closer to the $48.00 face value, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to happen. I ended up finding a pair of fairly good seats for about $80 each. They were on the 20 yard line about 35 rows from the field. I saw no need to buy a parking pass!

Game Day!

We left Spartanburg at around 8:00am and had an uneventful 3.5 hour drive to Blacksburg, VA. We found an open parking meter on campus, deposited and few quarters, and went exploring. We started with the University Bookstore, which is Hokie Gear Heaven! Amy has never seen so much Hokie Gear in one place and she has seen the inside of my T-Shirt drawer!

After dropping about $100 on Hokie gear we went for a nice walk around campus. It is amazing how much things have changed in the 17 years since I graduated. Many new Hokie Stone clad buildings have been constructed since my last visit, but the most meaningful new addition was the April 16th Memorial!

The April 16th Memorial

One of (32) Hokies Stones.  This one for Christopher James Bishop
Amy and I actually met "Jamie" Bishop at a party about a year before he was Killed in the April 16th, 2007 Tragedy

Fall color was well past peak here with most of the leaves on the ground. However, certain types of trees hang on to their leaves a little longer and there were still a few spectacular displays of fall color lingering around.

Since we were parked at a parking meter, I didn’t have time to give Amy the full campus tour. However, we would be seeing a lot more later in the day when we returned for the football game.

We were still a little early to check into the Bed and Breakfast, so we made a stop at Pandapas Pond, one of the spots I liked to explore when I was a student at Virginia Tech. It’s a nice short and easy hike around a small pond with many connecting trails making it a good starting point for longer hikes.

After our little visit to Pandapas Pond, we arrived at the Huffman House Bed and Breakfast. Upon our arrival we were greeted by two very friendly dogs!

Then we were greeted by Carol who offered us some fresh baked cookies and showed us to our room. Very nice accommodations, but I wanted to check out the farm! I quickly realized that you could not walk around the farm without a flock of turkeys following, gobbling, and pecking at your legs, shorts, and shoelaces. You just can’t get that experience at the Holiday Inn!

Soon we decided it was time to head back into Blacksburg and find a place to park for the game. It seems that all the new buildings constructed over the years are all in places which used to be parking lots. Plus the stadium has grown by about 20,000 seats. This has led to quite the parking shortage on game day.

Three and a half hours before game time and all the public lots were full. I soon understood why people were paying so much for reserved parking passes. Luckily as we were about to leave to find some off campus parking, we found the last public parking area that still had available spaces and paid our $10.00 parking fee.

It was still about a mile away from the stadium, but it beats parking way off campus and having to herd into a shuttle bus, which is what we would have ended up doing if we arrived any later. Glad we decided to park first and then go get some dinner.

From the parking lot we took a walk just off campus to Macado’s ( for some dinner. I remember Macado’s being a great place for a casual meal with a huge selection of sandwiches to choose from. It was just as I remembered! It takes about 2 hours to read the menu, so you are better off just picking the first thing that sounds good, rather than trying to decipher the entire menu.

After dinner we returned to the parking lot to find the driver’s side window of my truck missing. Someone broke into my truck while we were at dinner. Hopefully they didn’t find where we stashed the tickets. At least we still had about 2 hours before kick-off to deal with it and file a police report. Maybe some tailgaters tossing a baseball around accidentally broke it and left a note. Either way, this really sucks! All this went through my head.

Fortunately my 10 seconds of panic were for naught! I just accidentally left the window rolled down for 2 hours while we went to dinner. It was a huge relief to find nothing missing or disturbed. So we grabbed the tickets, packed our bag full of layers of clothing and blankets and started the walk across campus.

Even with taking several detours to explore some other sites around campus, we still had about an hour till kick-off by the time we got to our seats. Being ex band geeks, we actually enjoyed and appreciated the Pre-Game performance of the Virginia Tech Marching Band; The Marching Virginias!

It was the perfect night for college football! The stadium was packed, the fans were going wild, and the weather was a perfect 50 degrees with no rain in the forecast. College Football just doesn’t get any better than this!

Then disaster struck!

The Hokies ended up losing to the University of North Carolina (UNC), possibly the worst team in the ACC! It was a huge disappointment to make it to my first Hokie home Football Game in years and have them play one of the worst games I have ever seen!

Despite the Hokies disappointing performance, it was still great to make it back to campus and take Amy to a big time college football game. I certainly won’t go this long again before returning to Blacksburg!

For now I would just have to get over the devastating loss as we still had the rest of our weekend to enjoy (to be posted sometime later).

Additional Photos from Day 1 of our weekend getaway are located here:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 4th Annual SSPBDT Mancation

The 4th Annual SSPBDT Mancation

Mortimer Campground
Wilson Creek, NC
Thursday, October 22nd thru Sunday October 25th, 2009

Bone Breaker!

Photos are posted here:

The first part of this trip report describes things that occurred prior to my arrival. Therefore, I can not be held responsible for the accuracy of my descriptions as to what actually happened on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Scott M and Steve-O volunteered to arrive at the campground a day or two early to grab the prime spots and set up the massive SSPBDTCTPT (Spartanburg Steel Products Beer Drinking Team Camping Trip Party Tarp). If you have ever seen a SSPBDT tarp erection, it is not a sight you are likely to forget.

The goal for any SSPBDT tarp erection is to get the tarp and supporting ropes, strings, and bungees up high enough to eliminate any potential trip or clothesline hazards. This is accomplished by climbing trees, climbing up steep hillsides, standing on picnic tables, and standing on the roof of Steve’s S-10 pickup. Basically anything we can come up with to string the ropes as high up in the air as we can get.

During the tarp erection, Scott was dragging the main 300-ft support rope up the side of the steep hillside behind the community gathering site. Out of the corner of his eye, he spots a full moon and quickly turns to avoid scarring his eyeballs. Then from behind a hissing white uni-fanged cat leaps out of the woods towards Scott.

Scott darts out the way, still hanging onto the rope that is now wrapped around a Holly Tree. The momentum of his 260 pound body causes him to lose grip of the rope. His right foot lands on a tree root stopping it dead in its tracks. Unfortunately the rest of his body continued down the hillside. A loud popping sound coming from Scott’s ankle was heard for miles.

Thanks to Jeff for providing this highly accurate reenactment of the accident

Steve’s Diagnosis of Scott’s Injury: Sprained Ankle.
Treatment: Large Quantities of Frosty Adult Beverages (FABs)

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

The next day, Jeff and I come rolling into the campground at around 11:00am. We were surprised to find them awake as last year they were both sound asleep when we showed up. Scott was limping around and we were given the story behind Scott’s Injury.

Scott R. (not to be confused with the injured Scott M) was also there with his Kayaking Buddy Steve (not to be confused with Commissioner Steve-O), and Steve’s dog Zipper. They were about to go on a hike to check out the Gragg Prong of Lost Cove Creek. I quickly gathered my hiking gear and took off to join them on their hike.

Since they were planning a shuttle hike, we parked one vehicle at the old schoolhouse at the intersection of NC90 and FR981 and then drove 4.1 miles up FR981 to start the hike. As soon as we started the hike, it started raining.

There was a perfectly good trail, but Steve really wanted to check out the river, so much of the hike was spent off trail. There were some really scenic spots, but with the rain falling, and without an umbrella, photography was very difficult.

Small Waterfall along Gragg Prong

Several fairly impressive waterfalls and cascades can be seen along this stretch of River. It is interesting hiking with Kayakers, as they have cool names for every waterfall, cascade, and rapid. What the waterfall guidebooks call “Upper Waterfall on Gragg Prong” and “Lower Waterfall on Gragg Prong”, the Kayakers call, “Death Drop” and “Drag Strip”.

While standing on top of the “Lower Waterfall on Gragg Prong” I heard Steve say, “Dude, your hiking stick is taking a ride down Drag Strip”. Yup, my hiking pole was now at the base of this 100-ft tall waterslide.

At the Top of "Drag Strip"  Where I dropped my hiking pole!
The rock face along side the falls was way to slick to make it down to the base safely, so we searched for an alternate route. We found a faint path through the woods down towards the base, but this soon became a complete bushwhack. We did eventually get to a spot about 200 yards downstream from the base of the falls. I could see my hiking pole circling around in the pool at the base of the lowest drop.

Downstream from the base of Dragstrip
The sides of the river are a lot slicker than they look!

If it wasn’t raining, it probably would not have been a big deal to walk along the rocks and retrieve my pole. But today the rain made the rocks slick as ice with virtually nothing to hold on to. After almost sliding down into the river, I decide it would be best to shed my pack and camera.

Using methods like the crab crawl and butt slide, I eventually made it to where I could safely retrieve my hiking pole. But I still had to retrace my steps back over the same slick rocks.

Several times, I almost slid into the river again, but eventually made it back to the others and we continued on downstream with all hiking poles intact. The rain started falling harder, so I decided to put the camera away for the day.

Zipper fetching a stick in the Creek
Last photo before putting my camera away for the day

We reached the confluence where Gragg Prong joins up with the main branch of Lost Cove Creek. We were planning to continue following Lost Cove Creek downstream. I was a little concerned because my map did not show a trail heading in this direction. On top of that, my map showed that we would be heading through private property.

We did run into a bunch of private property signs that said things like, “No Hunting, No Fishing, No Horseback Riding, No Motorized Vehicles”, but nothing that flat out said, “No Trespassing”, so we continued on.

I had lost count, but up to this point we had probably crossed the smaller tributary creek about 10 times. I had failed to keep my socks and boots dry about 8 crossings ago, but Steve and Scott’s footwear were still relatively dry compared to mine.

We got to a point where we obviously had to cross this now much larger creek. I just trekked through the knee deep water to arrive at the other side, where I waited and watched the other two cursing up a storm, bushwhacking through some thick brush trying to find a place where they could rock hop across.

They both failed miserably and now their footwear was just as saturated as mine. I turned to Scott and said, “Don’t worry; there are only 8 more crossings to go”.

Actually I had no idea how many creek crossings there would be as up until now, I had no idea a “trail” existed along this section of Lost Cove Creek. It was pretty easy to follow most of the way, but the path kept crossing back and forth over the creek. After each crossing I would say, “Only 7 more to go”…. “Only 6 more to go” …. “Only 5 more to go”

Amazingly, my wild ass guess as to the number of creek crossings was dead on accurate.

After the last crossing we passed by a few private residences and got attacked by a pair of yip yip dogs. For about a quarter mile, these two little beasts were barking up a storm a couple of feet from our ankles. I was amazed at how well Steve’s dog Zipper was able to almost completely ignore them.

While the hike was only about 5 miles, it took us close to 5 hours to complete. And it wasn’t because I was spending a lot of time taking photos. All the bushwhacking, creek crossing, rock sliding, river exploration really slows down the pace.

I was soaked to the bone, but still had a great time. A very enjoyable hike.
Since I was not needed to retrieve the other shuttle car, I decided to minimize the number of wet butts in the cars, and hiked the 2 miles along the road back to the campground.

Me soaking wet after the hike

Back at the campground, Scott M’s ankle was not getting any better. Steve-O prescribed some additional FAB treatment for that evening. According to Scott, “The treatment definitely made me feel better, but my ankle still hurt like hell”

The rest of the evening, things get a little fuzzy. I know that Arizona Guy stopped by with his pair of Dingos, and later Skip from my Carolinas Adventures group showed up at the campground to experience first hand what goes on at SSPBDT events.

Skip was not aware of the SSPBDT guidelines of “A case a day plus a case in case” and quickly depleted his miniscule FAB supply. We are always there to help out a friend in need and tossed a few more FABs his way. Skip even successfully did his first ever beer bong, complete with the customary trumpet blast. Fortunately for Skip, the heavy rain prevented me from pulling out my camera, so there is no official documentation that this actually took place!

Several Mason Jars were pulled from various coolers and passed around the campfire. It was raining like hell at times, but we didn’t notice because we were all under the awesome tarp!

Eventually the SSPBDT members and guests started retiring to their tents. I believe I heard a chicken and a hissing cat outside my tent, but the sounds of rain on the tent and a good buzz quickly lulled me into a sound sleep!

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

It was close to 9:00am by the time I woke up. It had rained pretty hard throughout the night. I had several small puddles of water inside my tent, but for the most part things stayed reasonably dry inside.

I was planning to see if Skip wanted come along and check out some sights with me, but found that he had already left to go exploring. After breakfast, I did the short hike to Thorps Creek Falls. This is a real nice 20-ft waterfall and after the heavy rains the night before, the flow was better than I have ever seen it.

Thorps Creek Falls

Back at the campground, I couldn’t find any takers to go hiking with me. Scott R was heading towards Wilson Creek with his Kayak; Scott M. was in no condition to go hiking and would actually end up driving to Morganton to get some medical care for his ankle. Steve and Jeff would be smokin a Butt all day long and didn’t want to leave the keg smoker unattended for any extended period of time.

I wasn’t in the mood for a long hike, and instead opted to do several short hikes.

Big Lost Cove Cliffs
For some reason I had never hiked this trail before. It’s a moderate 1.5 mile (3.0 mile out and back round trip) hike to a really nice view over the Lost Cove Valley. I would say the Fall Color was near peak making the view even more spectacular.

Jack at Big Lost Cove Cliffs

Upper Little Lost Cove Falls
I had hiked this one last spring, but wanted to check it out with better water flow and with some Fall Color.

This time I decided to save a few miles and actually drive the forest service road most of the way. I am pretty sure I would have been stuck in the mud if it wasn’t for 4x4. During dry times you can probably make it without a 4-Wheel Drive vehicle, but after a heavy rain, I wouldn’t attempt driving this road in a 2WD vehicle!

Upper Little Lost Cove Falls definitely had better flow this time. However, to get the best viewing angles you need to cross the creek. The rain slicked rocks made this very difficult and I managed slip and plunged knee deep into the creek soaking the last of my dry footwear. Fortunately this waterfall is worth getting in the creek for!

Upper Little Lost Creek Falls

I elected to skip continuing on down to Lower Little Lost Cove Creek Falls. That is definitely one that should not be attempted solo! Especially with rain slicked rocks!

Little Lost Cove Cliffs
This is one of my favorite short hikes in the area. You can get out and back to the cliffs in a little less than 2 miles, or you can hike a little of the Forest Service Road making a 3.0 mile loop hike. This was my 3rd visit to Little Lost Cove Cliffs, but my first with near peak Fall Color!

Jack at Little Lost Cove Cliffs

Darkside Cliffs
I had time for one more short hike and this half mile (one mile out and back) trail fit the bill. The view is not quite as good as the ones from Big or Little Lost Cove Cliffs, but still very much worth the short hike.

View from Darkside Cliffs

Back at the campground, most everyone was back including Scott M with a cast on his broken leg. Yes, the leg was actually broken. After last months bust down for bailing out on a SSPBDT poker night, Scott redeemed himself for showing the dedication to return to camp and hang out after breaking his leg! His excuse for missing Poker Night was that he had to mow his lawn. Well, he won’t be able to use that excuse next Poker Night!

Scott's Ankle X-Ray

Also at camp was Rod, who had made his arrival earlier in the day and had brought a large load of firewood. Skip was making himself at home hanging out with my SSPBDT buddies. Jeff and Steve’s butt was smoking away and smelling great!

However, once Arizona guy and his two Dingos showed up, I decided to escape for a little while and get cleaned up. By the time I finished my shower, Arizona Guy was gone and I rejoined the festivities around the campfire.

Scott Hanging out with a cast on his broken ankle

Skip had replenished his FAB supply sometime during the day and informed the team that we had to help make sure his cooler was empty by the end of the night. The SSPBDT is always willing to help out in situations like this!

We played wood-pile Jenga and got an impressive fire going. Unlike the fireproof wood we attempted to burn the previous evening, the stuff that Rod brought actually burned!

At around 9:00pm, Jeff and Steve finally pulled their butt out of the smoker and it was awesome! The mason jars were passed around again, the rubber chicken started doing Beer Bongs, and the white uni-fanged cat made another appearance that evening.

Rubber Chicken Doing a Beer Bong

The White Uni-Fanged Cat and the Rubber Chicken

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

The next morning for the first time in SSPBDT Mancation history it wasn’t raining when we were packing up camp. However, things were still damp enough that we would still have to unpack and let our camping gear air out when we got home.

By 11:00am, we were packed up and heading home.

After a lunch stop at Burger King in Morganton a mystery was solved.

Which way is quicker? Jack’s shortcut around Rutherfordton, or the more traditional way through downtown Rutherfordton?

Steve was right behind me on US221 when I made the turn to start my short cut. Steve elected not to follow. About thirty minutes later while rounding the first traffic circle at the I-26 intersection in Columbus, Steve merges into the circle right behind me. Mystery solved! Although my route is about 6 miles shorter and more scenic, the two routes are identical in terms of time.

Despite Scott’s broken bone, it was another awesome SSPBDT Mancation Camping Weekend! I am sure the tradition will continue!

Additional Photos are posted here:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009-10-18 Pisgah National Forest Hike

Pisgah National Forest Hike

John Rock, Cedar Rock Mountain, Grogan Creek Falls, Cedar Rock Creek Falls
Sunday, October 18th, 2009
Jack, Johnny, Bob, Andy, Myron, Dorcas, Boone, and Matilda
Transylvania County, NC

Photos are posted here:

Earlier in the week, Andy sent out an eMail asking if anyone was interested in hiking this past Sunday. It seemed that a bunch of us were up for a hike, so we planned a little adventure to the Roan Mountain Highlands.

As hike day approached, the weather forecast for the Roan Highlands area was calling for sub freezing temperatures with snow and ice. We decided that we would have all winter for that stuff, but only a couple of weeks left of fall color.

Andy anticipated the area of Pisgah National Forest near the Fish Hatchery should be at about peak color and came up with a new hike suggestion. Bob was a little disappointed with the scrapping of the Roan Mountain idea, but we were all still up for the new hike.

Eight of us (6 humans + 2 dogs), met at the Pisgah Fish Hatchery and hit the trail up John Rock. It was a bit chilly, but we were all dressed appropriately. Plus climbing almost 1,000 feet in elevation over the first two miles sure gets the blood warmed up and pumping!

The views from John Rock are excellent; however we didn’t take much time to enjoy them. With 50mph winds beating down on the open rock face there was no lingering around. The layers of clothing that were shed during the climb up were pulled back out of the pack in order to venture out onto the rock for a few quick photos.

view of Looking Glass Rock from John Rock

After retreating back into the protection of the forest away from the wind, we took a break for some lunch.

After the break, we descended down John Rock towards Cat Cap. There are a few spots along the trail offering up some pretty good views to the east. At Cat Gap we connected to the Art Loeb Trail towards Butter Gap. The trail goes around the south side of Cedar Rock Mountain, but Andy knew a side trail that heads up to the summit.

From the main trail it is less than a half mile, but about 400-ft of additional elevation to get to the summit. Myron elected to skip the side trip up Cedar Rock Mountain and instead found a sunny spot to take a nap. The rest of us hit the mountain!

Andy and I took the lead and closing in on the summit we stopped at an overlook offering up some great views to the South, figuring this would be a good place to wait for the others to catch up.

view from the South Side of Cedar Rock Mountain

This was a very pleasant spot. The sun was shining, it was mostly protected from the wind, the view was excellent, and the seepage down the rock face gave the dogs some needed hydration as they licked the wet rocks.

Boone and Matilda licking the wet rock

After about 15-minutes Johnny never showed up. We figured that he must have given up on the climb and turned back to wait down below with Myron. Just as we were about to continue on towards the summit, Johnny comes trekking up the trail.

At the summit of Cedar Rock Mountain is a great campsite where we ran into a guy setting up quite a spread. A pair of camp chairs, table with table cloth, wine glasses, wine, flowers, candles, fresh fruit, etc. It seemed like quite a bit of overkill for a backpacking destination.

Turns out that his best friend was going to propose marriage to his girlfriend after rock climbing up Cedar Rock Mountain. What a great friend to tote about 60 pounds worth of stuff at least 4 miles and almost 2000-ft of elevation to help create the proper ambiance for his buddy’s proposal.

From the campsite, a short trail leads to the main viewpoint from Cedar Rock Mountain. This is also the place where the soon to be engaged couple would be climbing up. We were careful not to disturb any of the roses that adorned the trail from the rock face to the campsite at the top of the mountain.

Cedar Rock Mountain offers up one of the nicest views anywhere. Unlike the view from John Rock, this one offers up an almost 100% wilderness view. If you looked hard enough you could spot the only evidence of man in the form of the Blue Ridge Parkway traversing below the snow frosted mountaintops.

Snow Frosted Mountains viewed from Cedar Rock Mountain

view from Cedar Rock Mountain

We descended back the way we came and continued on the main trail towards the Butter Gap Shelter where we took a nice break. From there we decided it was time to pick up the pace as it was getting late and we still wanted to check out a couple of the waterfalls near the end of the hike.

Group Photo at the Butter Gap Shelter
L to R:  Johnny, Andy, Boone, Bob, Backpack, Dorcas, Matilda, Myron, Jack

I was really impressed with Grogan Creek Falls. I know that I have hiked this section of trail before and can’t quite figure out how I missed this trail side waterfall? I must have been in a complete daze when I last hiked past this.

Grogan Creek Falls

The final stop of the day would be at Cedar Rock Creek Falls. Myron, Dorcas, & Matilda, elected to pass on this one and finished the hike on their own.

There are actually at least 3 significant cascades and small waterfalls along this section of Cedar Rock Creek. You could spend hours exploring and photographing the various cascades and waterfalls here.

Since we were running short on daylight, we just hit the main drop. I have been to this spot about 3 or 4 times and have never seen another person. This time there were about 15 photographers at Cedar Rock Falls. It was some sort of digital photography workshop expedition.

It was almost impossible to find a place to shoot without including other people in the photo, but I did the best I could to crop them out of view as I snapped a few quick shots of this very pretty waterfall.

Cedar Rock Creek Falls

The remainder of the hike was all downhill making for an easy and uneventful finish to a great hike!

Additional Photos are posted here: