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:


HemlockMan said...

Your photos are better than mine! Damn, your camera captures so much!

That was a great hike. The best day-hike of my life. I'm not exaggerating.

Jack said...

Thanks Bob! It was a great hike. I wouldn't quite put it up there as the best day-hike of my life, but it was definitely one of the better ones!