Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Awesome Jocassee Adventure

Lake Jocassee Sailing, Camping, and Waterfall Wandering Weekend

Oconee County, SC  Pickens County, SC  and Transylvania County, NC
Friday August 28th and Saturday August 29th, 2009
With Captain Johnny and Andy

Another Awesome Jocassee Adventure

For several months, Johnny, Andy, and I have been talking about getting together for a weekend on Lake Jocassee. I have been wanting to visit Sky Falls on Rock Creek which requires bushwhacking about a mile up the creek from Lake Jocassee.

While you can access this point via a long hike on the Foothills Trail, a much easier way is by boat. Also, by camping out we could get there much earlier in the morning during prime light. So that would be our plan for Saturday Morning.

We all agreed to try and get out of work a little early on Friday so we can launch the boat early enough to see some sites around the lake before setting up camp. Andy and I met Johnny at his house at 3:00pm and hit the road towards Devils Fork State Park at Lake Jocassee.

I have hiked with both Johnny and Andy many times before. However, never together. I was surprised when I realized that this was the first time they had actually met in person.
The weather forecast called for a 80% chance of rain, and being that I was planning on setting up a tent would surely bring those rain chances to 100%. However, some of the most incredible lake scenes happen just before or after rain showers. We were not about to cancel the trip due to a weather forecast!

On Hwy 11 just north of Cleveland, SC we passed by Wildcat Falls and saw there was barely a trickle of flow. The area definitely needs some rain, but hopefully it will somehow miss us this weekend.

Somewhere on Hwy 11 near Table Rock the sky opened up with one of the heaviest rain showers I have ever seen. It sure will be fun trying to launch the boat in this, I thought. It probably rained close to 2-inches in about a half hour, but fortunately it had completely passed by the time we reached Devils Fork State Park.

We launched the boat and had several hours of daylight to explore around the lake.

Wright Creek - Right Time

The first stop was Wright Creek Falls. When the Lake is full, Wright Creek Falls right into Lake Jocassee. After another dry summer the lake is currently at about 15-feet below full pool, which reveals a nice Sandy Beach at the base of Wright Creek Falls. Perfect to set up the tri-pods and get some nice photos of this really cool waterfall.

There is short scramble path on the left side of the waterfall that leads to an upper drop. There are no roads or trails that I am aware of anywhere near this waterfall, so the only way to reach it is via Boat.

Other than a little mud coloring to the water from the earlier rain shower, we were definitely at the Wright Creek at the right time!

Moondance via Moondance

Next, we took the boat up the Whitewater River fork of the lake and docked where the river enters the lake. A few hundred yards upstream is the very impressive Moondance Falls.

Several years ago Johnny took Waterfall Rich to this spot. Rich asked Johnny what the name of the waterfall was, and Johnny said it didn't have one. Rich decided to name it after Johnny's boat "Moondance", and posted some photos of "Moondance Falls" to his website.

Rich's site is by far the most valuable online resource for Carolina Waterfalls, and since he posted photos of Moondance Falls, several other sources have picked up on the Moondance Falls name for this very impressive waterfall.

Hopefully Johnny's legacy will live on and future maps and publications will all pick up on the Moondance Falls name and the story about how it came about.

It's a tough little scramble to get to from the lake, especially with the rocks all wet and slick from the earlier rain shower. However, it is still much easier than trying to access it from upstream! As far as I am concerned, via boat is the only way to safely visit Moondance Falls making it a very appropriate name!

Moonshine on Moondance

Darkness was approaching and we were on the complete opposite end of the lake from where we planned on camping. If you are looking to move around the lake at high speed, Johnny's boat is not the way to go. We were about 2 hours from where we planned on setting up camp.

We enjoyed a awesome display of the evening twilight sky over the lake and surrounding mountains . After that faded, we put the cameras away for the night and pulled some other stuff from my cooler in the cabin of the boat. That Crystal Clear elixir of the Gods!

A very enjoyable few hours passed before we docked the boat for the evening in complete darkness at a muddy beach at the mouth of Rock Creek. We toted our tents, sleeping bags a few hundred yards up the Foothills Trail and set up camp with only a mostly cloud covered moon and some flashlights to break the darkness.

After Andy and I set up our tents, Johnny hung around for a little while to enjoy a few more swigs of the Crystal Clear Elixir of the Gods before returning to the cabin of his boat for the evening. Andy and I were planning an early start the next morning, so we retired to our tents as well.

It was perfect sleeping weather. With the cascading creek beside the tents and a good dose of shine in my blood, I slept like a rock!

The Sky is the limit

Andy and I got up shortly before 7:00am grabbed our packs and camera gear and started our bushwhack up Rock Creek. Johnny decided to pass, as he had visited Sky Falls just a few weeks ago.

While Andy and I bushwhacked to Sky Falls, Johnny would take his Kayak on the lake and explore up the Toxaway Fork of Lake Jocassee. This part of the Lake is too shallow and Rocky to bring the sailboat, so the Kayak would be the perfect vessel.

The bushwhack up Rock Creek was much easier than I was anticipating. Some parts were made even easier by just trekking through the creek in ankle to knee deep water, so I wouldn't recommend it in cold weather.

Rock Creek plunges over a cliff and falls close to 150-feet in a series of drops to form the very spectacular Sky Falls.

We did not pass any No Trespassing signs, but I am pretty sure the waterfall is on Private Property. There is a small shack of a cabin on the left bank overlooking the waterfall, but fortunately there was no sign of life there during our visit.

Since our boots were already wet, getting in the creek was not a problem and gave us the option of virtually unlimited composition angles. We spent close to an hour photographing the falls before deciding to move on.

There is at least one more substantial drop upstream called Indian Ford Falls. However neither of us knew much about it our did any research as to how to get there. Looking at Sky Falls, we decided there was no way to safely advance upstream on either side.

We knew that Waterfall Rich had visited Indian Ford Falls several years ago and he got there by descending down from somewhere in the Round Mountain Community.

We backtracked downstream a little and connected to the path leading away from the earlier mentioned cabin. We assumed this would take us into the Round Mountain Community.

This might have been the steepest path I have ever been on. I can't imagine anyone taking a passenger vehicle up or down it. I can only assume that the cabin's owner's park near the top and take an ATV down to their cabin.

That was a grunt of a climb, but we made it to the top and saw several other homes along with an impressive view of Lake Jocassee far down below. As long as we didn't come across any No Trespassing signs, we would continue on.

We took several paths back towards the creek which all fizzled out in the incredibly steep terrain. The most promising one was at the end of OL'Looney Coon Road. A long rope lead down a scramble path. I figured that must lead to somewhere.

It led to Hell! Andy quickly gave up. I continued on a little farther before deciding this was not a good idea. Last thing I wanted to do was to injure myself a week before our Yellowstone Vacation! So I turned back as well.

After some after hike research on Google Earth, I believe if I continued on, I would have ended up at the cliffs just above Sky Falls or right along the side of it. Definitely not a safe place to explore alone. I think that Indian Ford Falls is located a good bit further upstream.

Hopefully we can get some inside information from Waterfall Rich as to the best place to access and return again to find Indian Fork Falls. At least for now we know we can get to the Round Mountain Community without passing any "No Trespassing" signs and without having to drive into the development and violate any of the "No Parking" signs. The few people we saw inside the development just gave us a friendly wave and didn't appear to mind us being there.

Rather than heading back the way we came, we took a little side trail which Andy was pretty sure would connect to the Foothills Trail and back to our campsite. Andy led the way taking care of the spider webs. However, he really needs to do a better job of getting the high ones!

Andy was right, we soon entered Gorges State Park and connected with the Foothills trail. Close to our campsite, Andy spotted a bear in the creek.

Moondance sets sail

Actually, it wasn't a bear, it was Johnny exploring the creek. We packed up our tents and camping gear and with Johnny's help, toted it all back to the boat in one trip, and hit the lake.

Once we got into the more open section of the lake, we docked the boat, cleaned it up a bit, and went for a little swim in the lake to clean off the weekend's grime and sweat. Johnny set the sails and the remainder of our journey would be via wind power.

There wasn't a whole lot of wind, but just enough breeze to fill the sails and fill the rest of the afternoon with a peaceful sail on Lake Jocassee.

It was a great weekend, and we squeezed a lot into our little overnight adventure. It was nice to get back on Saturday and know I had all day Sunday to go through the photos, write the trip report, and get ready for my last week of work before Yellowstone!

Thanks Johnny for another awesome Jocassee adventure!

Additional Photos are posted here:


HemlockMan said...

Sounds like a very cool trip! I didn't know you were going to Yellowstone! Very cool!

KT said...

Great TR Jack! Glad it didn't rain on your parade. From you photos you captured some nice scenics.