Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trying out my new Camera

Sunday, June 21st, 2009
Hatcher Gardens
Spartanburg, SC

Trying out my new camera

I've had my Olympus C-5060 for about six years now, and for the most part I have been happy with it. While it does have many more features than your basic point and shoot camera, it is not an SLR. My biggest issue with it is that it has a very limited aperture range.

So, for about the last three years I have been talking about upgrading to an SLR.

I finally made the plunge and ordered a Canon Rebel XSi.

It took a little longer to arrive than I had hoped, but FedEx finally came and delivered my new camera yesterday. After charging up the battery, I played around a little with it yesterday evening. Today I decided to take it on its first field trip.

So Amy and I made the 5-mile drive down Reidville Road to visit Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve:

So far after the first field test, I am very pleased with my new camera!

I got the basics down, but I still have a lot to learn about many of the more advanced features. Also, I only have the basic 18-55mm "kit" lens. I figured I would play around with that to start out with before deciding on what my next lens purchase will be.

Here are a few of the photos from today's excursion:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

2009-06-13 Pisgah National Forest, NC

Davidson River, Right Fork Falls, Shuck Ridge Creek Falls, Pilot Mountain
Pisgah National Forest, NC
Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Photos are posted here:

Since Andy only had until around noon to get a hike in we decided to get an early start and meet at the Pisgah Fish Hatchery at 7:45am. In an unusual turn of events, Andy actually arrived early, while I showed up right on time (usually it is the opposite). We made the short drive to the Daniel Ridge Trailhead and hit the trail right at 8:00am

On tap for the morning would be a new waterfall for both of us. The Waterfall on Right Fork (page 235 of Kevin Adam’s, North Carolina Waterfalls Book). Neither Andy nor I had wanted to attempt this one solo, since it requires some tough off trail bushwhacking.

We started out on the Daniel Ridge Trail, which I had hiked several years ago. However, this time, we veered off the main trail and took an unofficial trail that follows closer to the Davidson River. This side trail was actually in pretty good shape and we were rewarded with a waterfall that I missed on my last hike here.

There are several other cascades and small waterfalls along the way. We turned off the Daniel Ridge Trail and took the Farlow Gap Trail. From there we followed Kevin Adam’s directions, which were pretty good. Once leaving the main trail, the going gets much more difficult. There is a faint path the follow most of the way, but it becomes nonexistent at times.

We knew that if we just continued upstream we would eventually get to the waterfall. However, the bushwhack seemed longer than I was expecting! We didn’t notice any poison ivy, but the area was full of Stinging Nettles, which were rubbing against our legs the whole time. Fortunately, the sting is only temporary and they don’t leave a long lasting rash.

The waterfall at the end was worth it, but now we had to deal with the gnats! I have never seen this many annoying gnats in one place! They made photographing the falls very difficult. Most of my photos were ruined by little gnat blurs. I had loaded up with DEET, but that has little effect at repelling gnats. The good news is that they don’t bite; they are just a huge nuisance!

The return bushwhack seemed much shorter and we arrived back at the main trail at around 11:00am. I was in the mood for a longer hike and a good workout, so while Andy returned to the trailhead so he could meet his wife in Asheville, I continued on the Farlow Gap Trail. I made sure to let Andy know my planned route before we parted ways.

Shuck Ridge Creek Falls has been on my to do list for many years, but for some reason I had not gotten to it until today! It exceeded my expectations!

The Farlow Gap Trail is rated “Most Difficult”, but up to this point it seemed rather easy. However, the next section of trail from Shuck Ridge Creek Falls to Farlow Gap gains about 1,000-feet of elevation in less than a mile. And there were no switchbacks to ease the pain.

From Farlow Gap, I turned towards the South on the Art Loeb Trail, up and over Sassafras Knob and down towards Deep Gap. While there are no views along this section of trail, there was a nice display of Flame Azalea and Mountain Laurel.

From Deep Gap, the trail climbs steeply up Pilot Mountain. Fortunately, there are switchbacks almost the whole way up making the climb a bit easier than it could have been. At a little over 5000-ft, there are some excellent views at the summit of Pilot Mountain.

I took a little break here, actually got several bars on my cell phone, so I called my wife Amy to let her know my estimated time that I would finish up.

The remainder of the hike went much quicker as it was almost entirely downhill. I passed through probably the most spectacular display of Mountain Laurel I have ever seen!

The last couple of miles was an easy stroll along FR475. When I passed over Laurel Fork, I thought briefly about the waterfalls upstream, which I have yet to visit, but thought it would be best to save them for another day.

It was a great day to be outside!

Photos are posted here:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bushwhacking in Thongs - Landsford Canal and Chester State Park

Landsford Canal State Park
Chester State Park
Saturday, June 6th, 2009
Chester County, SC

“Bushwhacking in Thongs”

Photos are posted here:

My buddy Johnny was planning to lead a kayak trip down the Catawba River to check out the Spider Lilies at Landsford Canal State Park.

This section of river contains the world’s largest known strand of the rare and endangered Rocky Shoal Spider Lilies. I saw some photos that Johnny took last year and decided I had to join him on this trip to check out this impressive wildflower first hand.

Johnny’s truck was out of commission, so I volunteered to drive. I met Johnny at his house, we attached his kayak trailer to my truck, and we drove back to Spartanburg to meet Glara, another member of the group who would be carpooling with us.

From Spartanburg, it is about a 1.5 hour drive to Landsford Canal State Park in Chester County, SC. I know I have driven through Chester County, but I don’t think I have ever stopped to see what the area has to offer. Until Now!

There were (10) of us from the Upstate Hiking and Outdoors Adventure Group that met up at the park with Kayaks ready to go!

Unfortunately, the Catawba River was at flood stage and the park rangers were not allowing anyone out on the river. With all the rain that came down the previous evening, Johnny anticipated that this might be an issue so we had to go with plan B.

Without being on the river, we could not check out the Spider Lilies up close. However, we could at least view them from a distance. The park has a 1.5 mile trail that parallels the river making for a 3.0 mile hike. At about the midway point along the trail there is an overlook area where you can see the Spider Lilies from a distance.

We could definitely make out the thousands of white blooms, but really could not appreciate the beauty from the distance we were at. Plus they were a bit past peak bloom and only the tallest of the plants were actually showing through the high water. It was still an impressive site, but I will definitely have to get back about a week or two earlier in the season and when the river level is low enough to safely run in a Kayak.

The group hiked the entire trail which is interesting enough even without the Spider Lilly attraction. The park is home to the well-preserved remains of the canal system that made the river commercially navigable from 1820 to 1835. The trail is a nice combination of river views and historical remains.

We didn’t bring our Kayaks all this way not to use them, so the second part of our plan B was Chester State Park which offers a 160-acre lake for us to safely paddle around on our Kayaks. Also a nice picnic area offered up the opportunity to enjoy a group lunch.

After Lunch, we launched our Kayaks and hit the lake, paddling to the North-West corner of the lake towards the Spillway. Johnny wanted to check out the Waterfall at the bottom of the spillway, and since I just can’t pass up a waterfall I followed.

Since we didn’t want to take a chance to getting too close to the Spillway, we hit the shore line a few hundred yards away. We headed up the steep bank looking for the trail that runs around the lake. It turns out that the trail doesn’t go all the way around the lake, and there was no trail where we were at.

So bushwhacking it would be! Normally not a problem, but have you ever tried bushwhacking in thongs (aka Flip Flops). I can now say first hand that bushwhacking in thongs is not the way to go!

We eventually made our way to the base of Caney Fork Falls, which was quite a bit more impressive than I was expecting.

While several fishermen that we chatted with on and around the lake were not having a bit of luck, the two guys at the base of the waterfall had found the spot. According to them, the day after a heavy rainfall, the base of Caney Fork Falls is the place to go fishing! They had a nice bucket full of fish to prove it!

We stayed closer to the shoreline on the bushwhack back to the kayaks which proved to be much easier, but still not the place to be wearing thongs.

Once back to our Kayaks we leisurely paddled the entire lake. We saw lots of turtles sunning out on logs along the shoreline and a even a young fawn who posed by the shoreline for most of the group, but decided it was time to head back into the woods as soon as I pulled out my camera.

While the day didn’t go as we had originally planed, we made the best of it and a great time was had by all.

Photos are posted here:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Map of Three Forks

This past Saturday was my first visit to the Three Forks area of North East Georgia. I was not able to find a good trail map of the area so I decided to make one.

Click on the link to pull up a full size map:

The Red Line is the Route we took. The widest lines show where the trail would almost be drivable in a 4x4 (some sections actually would be). Where it gets a little narrower shows where the trail is more of a single track. Where it gets real narrow shows where the trail became non-existent and we ended up bushwhacking & creek walking.

This route was not based on a GPS track, but I believe it is a good approximation.

The black lines show where I believe some other trails go. This was based off of several different maps and information I found. As of right now I would use this information only as a guide and to show where the trail intersections are. I have heard that the trail along Big Creek is in pretty rough shape, so there may be some bushwhacking involved there.

The blue dots show the approximate location of waterfalls in the area. A larger Blue dot shows what I consider to be a fairly significant waterfall based on our actual visit, or of photos I have seen. Smaller blue dots show smaller waterfalls, places where I believe there are waterfalls based on what we heard from the trail, or places where other maps show waterfalls.

I hope to get back soon to confirm much of this information.

There are no blazes in this area, so make sure you have a good map and compass and that you know how to use them!