Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2009-04-26 Hickory Branch Falls and Buckeye Knob

Hickory Branch Falls and Buckeye Knob
Mackey Mountain Area of the Pisgah National Forest
Dayhike with Andy, Bob, Andy #2 (Bob’s Son), Joel, and Boone
Near Old Fort, NC
Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Photos are posted here:

With the beautiful weather forecast, I was definitely going hiking this weekend. What the heck, I’ll go hiking both days!

Andy suggested some hike possibilities in the Mackey Mountain area. I have never even heard of this area, much less hiked it. So even though it was a little further than I normally like to drive for a day hike, I jumped at the chance to explore some new territory.

We agreed to meet up at the Wal-Mart in Marion, NC. As usual, I was early, but what really surprised me was that Andy was early as well! Of course he was traveling with Bob, which I am sure had something to do with Andy’s early arrival.

Joel arrived right on time. We combined into (2) vehicles and we made the short drive to the trailhead. Along the way we made several detours to scope out some potential areas to drop off one of the vehicles for a shuttle hike. We could not find a spot that wasn’t posted “no trespassing” so we decided to settle for an out and back hike from the Curtis Creek Campground.

We took the Hickory Branch Trail, which was loaded with a spectacular display of wildflowers. This well maintained trail climbs about 900-ft over about 2-miles. It passes by two “better than I expected” waterfalls along with several other smaller cascades. There are several creek crossings, but they can all be rock-hopped without getting your feet wet.

Once the trail starts climbing away from the creek, there are a couple of nice views, but no spectacular vistas.

The Hickory Branch Trail ends at a T-Intersection where we took a break for lunch. Joel and Andy#2 were not up for any more climbs, and elected to stay behind and take naps while Bob, Andy, Boone, and I did some more exploring.

Andy wanted to check out Mackey Creek. I was a little concerned since my map did not show a trail heading down that way. But, Andy’s much more detailed map did, so we decided to go with Andy’s map.

There was definitely some sort of trail that we started on, but it obviously is not maintained. Lots of deadfall made it very easy to loose the trail. The further down we went, the less obvious the trail became until we eventually completely lost it.

We knew that we would eventually hit the trail alongside Mackey Creek if we continued bushwhacking downhill, but this did not sound appealing to any of us, so we decided to turn back.

Somewhere during our return bushwhack I was viciously attacked by a downed tree and my leg was bleeding in three different places. Fortunately none of the cuts were deep enough to cause any major issues, so we continued on.

There was still some time left, so we decided to climb Buckeye Knob. Andy mentioned that this trail might also be a bushwhack, but it turned out to be in much better condition than we expected.

Buckeye Knob turns out to be a PUD (pointless up and down). There is somewhat of a view through the trees, but nothing that would make me recommend it as a must see destination.

The return hike went much quicker as it was all downhill and we didn’t stop to take anywhere near the number of photos we took on the way up.

Photos from our hike are posted here:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

2009-04-25 Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail

Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail
With the Upstate Hiking and Outdoor Adventures Group
Greenville County, SC
between Landrum, SC and Tryon, NC
Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Johnny Corn, one of my hiking buddies recently joined the Upstate Hiking and Outdoor Adventures Group:

Since I am always looking for more hiking buddies, I figured I would sign up as well and join them for a hike.

I met Johnny at his house and from there drove the remaining 15 minutes or so to the trailhead to meet the group. The hike destination for the day was the Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail from just west of Lake Lanier to Vaughn’s Gap and back.

I have done this hike several times before, and while I don’t consider it to be a spectacular hike, it is only about 30 minutes from home making it a nice destination when I don’t feel like traveling to far. It also has enough of a climb to offer a good little workout.

Johnny and I were the first to arrive. Mary Jo and Laurie arrived a few minutes later. A big black snake was nice enough to keep us entertained by posing for some photos while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. Caroline, Sharon, George, Tim, and Steve drove up together from Greenville, SC and we started our hike shortly after 10:00am

The hike starts fairly level on a wide track dirt road for the first mile passing by two very scenic ponds, which are appropriately called Twin Ponds. On the way up, we took a short side loop, which passes by a nice little waterfall.

This is a fairly new side trail and this would be only my second time hiking it and the first time I have seen the waterfall when it actually had water. My last visit was during last year’s extreme drought and the waterfall was just a trickle. While still not spectacular, it was much nicer this time, but the bright sun didn’t make for a good photo opportunity. I’ll just have to get back on a more overcast day after a good rain!

Shortly past the second pond, the trail leaves the dirt road and the climb begins on a more traditional single track trail, gaining about 1500-ft of elevation over the next 2-miles. On top of that, the unseasonable warm temperatures of near 90-degrees sure did get the sweat flowing.

We were treated to a very impressive display of wildflowers, including at least three different variety of Trillium, some Columbine, Dwarf Iris, Hawkweed, Chickweed, Fleabane Daisy, many varieties of Violets, Rhododendron. The dogwood trees along the trail were also in full bloom.

There are a few views through the trees, but this is definitely not a hike if you are looking for some spectacular vistas. We took a nice break at Vaughn’s Gap before returning back the way we came for a total of just over 6-miles.

It was a great day for a hike and a pleasure to meet and hike with some of the Upstate Hiking and Outdoor Adventures Group. I am sure I will join them again sometime very soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Destruction of a Beautiful Waterfall

Twin Falls on the Thompson River
Transylvania County, NC
April 29th, 2006

Same Spot
April 18th, 2009
As you can see, the area on across stream from where
I am standing has been completely stripped of trees.
A massive concrete foundation has been poured,
which will soon turn into another multi-million dollar monstrosity!
It won't be long before the spot where I was standing
is also stripped of all it's natural beauty,
along with the lot just downstream (to the left of the photos) .
Sure, the waterfall will still be there, but it will never be the same.
Soon, the general public will never again be allowed to visit this spot.
Instead it will be left to a handful of rich people
willing to destroy a beautiful waterfall by
forking over $500,000 - $600,000 for one of these lots,
cutting down all the trees and vegetation,
and building a multi-million dollar monstrosity!

2009-04-18 Waterfall Wandering with Amy's Cousin Rick and his wife Cali

Waterfall Wandering with Amy’s Cousin Rick and his wife Cali
Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Photos are posted here:

Amy’s Cousin Rick and his wife Cali came down from the flat lands of Delaware for a visit this weekend. We decided to show them the mountains and take them on a grand tour of some of the area waterfalls.

First up was the Lake Jocassee Overlook at Duke Power’s Bad Creek Hydro-Electric site. This spot offers up a great view of Lake Jocassee, which I consider to be one of the most beautiful lakes anywhere. From the overlook, you also get a distant view of Lower Whitewater Falls.

From there it was on to Whitewater Falls, one of the areas most spectacular waterfalls. The short and easy walk to the viewing area should make this a must see for everyone. I took a few obligatory shots, but the bright sun made photo conditions less than ideal.

Next up would be some lesser-known waterfalls. Slippery Witch Falls is on private property, but since we didn’t see any no trespassing signs, we parked at a small pull-off on Upper Whitewater Road and hiked the short scramble path down to the base.

About 2-miles further up Upper Whitewater Falls is Twin Falls on the Thompson River. This one is a beauty, but it won’t be long before it is completely destroyed. The waterfall and surrounding area is part of a new development. Construction has already started on the first multi-million dollar monstrosity. The land immediately south of the waterfall has been stripped of all trees and a massive concrete foundation has been poured. I guess for a little while longer, we can still pretend we have a spare $600,000 and check out the waterfall from one of the still vacant lots that are up for sale.

After that, we backtracked back down to NC281 and visited John’s Jump and DEW Falls (Dorothy Ehrlich Walker Falls). While nothing spectacular, both of these small waterfalls are short and easy hikes, well worth the visit if you are in the area.

We failed on our attempt at White Owl Falls. From a previous visit, I remembered the “trail” being fairly easy to follow, but it seemed completely different this time. Rather than continuing on the bushwhack that we seemed to have gotten ourselves into, we abandoned our attempt and instead decided to move on to our next destination.

Eastatoe Falls near Rosman, NC is another one of my favorites. It is on private property, but fortunately the owners are gracious enough to share their beautiful waterfall with visitors. There was also a nice display of wildflowers on the short easy hike to the waterfall.

Our final stop of the day was Twin Falls on Reedy Cove Creek in Pickens County, SC. This one has become quite popular over the last few years. So even though we had to share it with a large crowd of visitors, it was still a nice ending to a great day of Waterfall Wandering!

Photos from today’s adventure are posted here:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter 2009

Had a great weekend. My parents came into town on Thursday Evening for a relaxing weekend. We took a visit to Hatcher Gardens:

Amy's Sister, Brother-in-Law, and our two nieces came into town on Sunday along with Amy's parents and we enjoyed an easter feast.

Some photos from the weekend are posted here: