Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Uncles Falls with CMLC plus a Big Bradley Scare!

Uncles Falls with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
Plus a Big Bradley Scare!
Saturday, May 16th, 2009

"We are giving away tens of millions of dollars to do what we are doing," Ball said.
"You can't take it with you but you can certainly leave something behind."

Thanks to the generosity of the Ball & Schenck Families, close to 4,000 acres of land connecting DuPont State Forest and the Mountain Bridge Wilderness will forever be protected from development!

The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy ( was instrumental in helping these families do the right thing and place conservation easements on their land. Here are a couple of articles that explain the deal in a little more detail.

As a member of CMLC I am offered to opportunity to check out some of these places that are not currently open to the general public. So, on Saturday I joined a large group of CMLC members for a hike into the Schenck Family Property to check out “Uncles Falls”.

I have never heard of this one, so when I saw the posting I jumped at the chance to check out a new waterfall fairly close to home.

I met the group at the Cedar Mountain Community Center along US276. On the drive up, I made a few quick stops at Bald Rock and the Caesar’s Head Overlook. I just can’t seem to drive past there without stopping.

While normally the Cedar Mountain Community Center might be a good meeting place, it was a madhouse when I arrived. There was a Flea Market going on and probably over 100 cars were trying to park where there is only room for about 20.

Our hiking group eventually found each other among the crowd of flea market shoppers and we caravanned together to the trailhead at “Cox’s Cabin” on Green River Road.

A light rain was falling as we started our hike through tunnels of Mountain Laurel that was just beginning to burst open with spectacular blooms. It is just over a mile to the waterfall, gaining about 500-ft of elevation. During that mile, the light rain had gradually turned into a heavy downpour.

Uncles Falls was very impressive and much nicer than I was anticipating! Unfortunately, I was not able to get any acceptable photos. I didn’t bring along an umbrella, so there was no way to keep that water drops off the lens. Hopefully I will get a chance to go back and get some better photos.

Uncles Falls

The rain had let off a little on the hike back and by the time we returned to our vehicles, the sun was shining. On the trail we saw a lone Yellow Lady Slipper, and a lone Pink Lady Slipper. We also saw a few young American Chestnut Trees.

The American Chestnut Tree is virtually extinct. Over the past century an Asian Blight completely wiped out the American Chestnut. However, occasionally some new shoots grow from the stumps and roots of long dead trees bringing the possibility of new life to this species of tree. Unfortunately, most of these young trees succumb to the blight before they reach maturity.

Despite the rain, it was still a pleasant hike. But, since it was a short hike, there was plenty of time left in the day. I decided to head to Little Bradley Falls and Big Bradley Falls, a couple of my favorites which I haven’t been to in a few years.

By the time I got to Little Bradley Falls there was not a cloud left in the sky. I didn’t bother to take a whole lot of photos.

Little Bradley Falls

I did take the time to appreciate the fact that unlike past visits, there was very little trash along the shoreline. It seems that trash and debris from I-26 gets washed into this creek during heavy rains. It is obvious that someone put a lot of effort recently to clean up much of the mess that accumulates around the base of Little Bradley Falls!

I was also impressed with the trail conditions. The trail to Little Bradley Falls seemed to be in much better shape than the last time I hiked it!

Originally, I didn’t plan on going to the base of Big Bradley since I had heard that the rope was removed from one of the rock walls you have to climb down. So I stared out by heading to the overlook areas. It was near one of these overlooks that I got scared!

I spotted a ghost!

Ghost Plant that is:
Also know as Indian Pipe or Corpse Plant.

This is a fairly uncommon and unusual looking plant, so of course I had to go in for a close up shot. So here I am on my knees taking some photos of this eerie looking plant when I hear some rustling in the leaves just inches away.

I don’t know a whole lot about snakes, but as soon as I spotted this guy I knew I needed to give him some space. I was pretty sure I ran across a fairly large and extremely poisonous Copperhead!

I slowly backed away, being careful not to make any sudden movements. Once my heart settled down and I was a safe distance way, I switched from Macro to Zoom for a few more photos as I made my retreat away from my copper headed friend.

I noticed that there was a new rope hanging, so I decided to head to the base of Big Bradley Falls. I would guess this rock wall to be about 25-ft high. Definitely high enough to cause series injury if you slipped and let go of the rope. But since there are plenty of foot holds, it is not that much different than climbing up and down an extension ladder.

Once down the rock wall, the trail is still very steep and slick. There are plenty of trees to hold on to as you make your way down the steep path. At one point, my feet completely slipped out from underneath me. As I was going down, I reached out and wrapped my right arm around a small tree truck. This might have prevented a busted butt, but it left me with a bad case of bark burn!

I saw some poison ivy earlier, which I am pretty sure I avoided. But just to be on the safe side, I shed my shoes and socks and went wading at the base of Big Bradley. The best was to prevent poison ivy, is to wash up as soon as possible before to poison gets a chance to soak into your skin.

In addition to washing away any poison ivy juice, the cool water felt good, and it allowed me to view the waterfall at angles not available from the shoreline. After enjoying Big Bradley Falls, I decided to call it a day and returned home to Spartanburg.

Additional photos from Saturday’s adventure are posted here:

When Schenck and Ball talk about the land, they talk about the past, about the future.
The men stood on a hillside, looking at the mountain ridge that separates North Carolina and South Carolina. Ball talked about his children, and their children.
"That's what they're going to be looking at," he said. "The only change is the trees are going to get bigger."


HemlockMan said...

Nice photos. Especially the last self-portrait.

Yep, that was a copperhead. I actually see quite a few of them. The most I've ever seen in one spot Carole was with me. We walked around Trout Pond, the only natural lake in West Virginia. As we approached the lake a guy fishing there told us to look out for copperheads. He wasn't kidding! They were everywhere. We saw over a dozen in one brief walk around the lake.

You just have to be careful not to step on them. The last thing a copperhead wants to do is waste his poison on something as big and inedible as a human.

K Charles said...


Thanks for the great hike description, and helping to highlight one of our most important conservation focus areas!

Kieran Roe
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy

Susan Adamsen said...

I was astounded to learn the Monotropa uniflora is now classified as Ericaceae. In fact I was surprised to discover it was a plant at all - always thought it a Fungi. Good post! It is very common in the acidic mesic woods of the northwestern plateau of CT.