Sunday, February 28, 2010

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach and Murrells Inlet, SC

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Photos are posted here:

Out of all the beaches that I have been to, Myrtle Beach, SC is by far my least favorite. So when Amy informed me that we were going to Myrtle Beach with her family to celebrate her Mom's birthday, I was not all that excited. At least we would be going during the off season and it would only be for a short weekend.

Myrtle Beach is just like I remembered it and I really don't have anything good to say about the town. However, 15 miles south is a quaint little town called Murrells Inlet that I have been wanting to check out. So that would be our destination for Saturday.

Since I was awake before Amy, I decided to head out to the beach to catch a Myrtle Beach Sunrise. Unfortunately I forgot that we were a bit further east and that the sun rises about 20 minutes earlier here, so I missed the sunrise by a few minutes. I did get a couple of good shots shortly after sunrise.

Myrtle Beach Sunrise

Amy was up and about by the time I got back to our room. We decided not to wait around for the rest of her family to get their act together and just headed out on our own. We would catch back up with them later.

After a nice breakfast at one of many Myrtle Beach pancake restaurants we hit the road towards Murrells Inlet. Now this is more my idea of what a beach town should be like!

We took a nice little stroll along the "Marsh Walk" which was very enjoyable and then headed on to Huntington Beach State Park.

Amy really wanted to visit "Atalaya", the former winter home and studio of noted American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. Very interesting and well worth the visit!
Inside Atalaya

We explored around the park a little more before heading on back to join up with Amy's family. For dinner, they decided they wanted to go to Murrell's Inlet where we enjoyed some excellent seafood at "The Inlet Crabhouse". After dinner we took another stroll along the Marsh Walk.

Amy's Dad, Bubba Love, and Me at Murrells Inlet

In typical Myrtle Beach style, in addition to about ten swimming pools and three lazy rivers, our hotel also had a bowling alley! So later that evening we just had to take advantage of the hours worth of free bowling that included with the room rental. I won't go into how that turned out.

It was nice to get away for a weekend! I still don't like Myrtle Beach, but the Murrells Inlet area is very nice and worth a return visit. I would like to come back a visit Brookgreen Gardens, and also check out Georgetown and Pawley's Island.

Additional Photos are posted here:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway and the Waterfalls on Bubbling Spring Branch

Waterfalls on Bubbling Spring Branch

and the Blue Ridge Parkway
Haywood County, NC
Sunday, February 21st, 2010
Jack, Johnny, and Waterfall Rich

Photos are posted here:

I knew I wanted to get out this Sunday, but had no idea where I wanted to go. I thought about joining my buddy Andy for a hike, but he was doing a backpacking weekend. While he suggested that I meet up with him for a Sunday dayhike, I really didn't want to tie him down to having to be at a certain place at a certain time to meet me.

Johnny also mentioned wanting to get out on Sunday, but he also didn't have any specific destination in mind. Johnny contacted Waterfall Rich and we ultimately decided to meet Rich along NC215 at 9:00am and play it by ear from there. Sounds like a plan to me!

I picked Johnny up at his house a little before 7:30am and we hit the road. Before leaving South Carolina we stopped to fill up the gas tank and our bellies in Cleveland, SC. We met Rich at exactly 9:00am and came up with the plan to hit the High Country further up NC215.

The further we got up NC215, the more snow we saw on the ground. While the road was mostly clear, there were still plenty of patches of snow and ice to watch out for. Since all of the shoulder area pull-offs were blocked with several feet of snow mounds from the plows, we decided to just park at the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike from there.

My Tacoma along NC215

First up would be the Waterfalls on Bubbling Spring Branch (page 285 of Kevin Adam's North Carolina Waterfalls book). Johnny and I have never been here before, and Rich was looking forward to a revisit in winter conditions.

We started out on the Mountains to Sea trail where we follows some footprints in the snow, which was well over a foot deep. These waterfalls are not on the trail, they require bushwhacking, so we quickly left the trail and the footprints.

It was obvious that we were the first people to venture this way in quite some time as the snow cover was 100% undisturbed. It is not easy walking through deep snow, but it sure was beautiful and it was nowhere near as cold as it appears to be in the photos. Some spots where the snow had formed drifts, the white stuff was well above our knees.

Johnny in the Snow

Another difficulty was the numerous stream crossings. While normally these would be very easy rock hops, most of the stream was covered with a layer of snow covered ice. Solid enough that it might be safe to walk across, but then again it might not. Many times (mostly under the feet of Johnny), the ice would crack and boots would get wet, but no major casualties were had.

Rich crossing the snow and ice covered creek

After the taste of spring like weather the last few days, we were all amazed at how much snow and ice was still present here in the High Country. We arrived at the Lower Waterfall on Bubbling Spring Branch to find it almost 100% covered. It was a magical scene, but for photography purposes we could have done with a little less snow and ice.

Lower Waterfall on Bubbling Spring Branch

After the Lower Waterfall, we continued our bushwhack to the Upper Waterfall, which is a short distance and steep climb up hill. The snow had really drifted along the bank we had to climb and at times found ourselves up to our bellies in snow. But we trekked through it and eventually made it to the Upper Waterfall.

I will definitely be making a return visit to both of these waterfalls sometime when they are not covered with snow!

Upper Waterfall on Bubbling Spring Branch

We returned back the way we came. While this hike/bushwhack is less than a mile, it was very slow going and felt a lot longer. It took us close to 3 hours

We originally planned to do a little three mile loop using the Mountains-to-sea trail connecting with the Blue Ridge Parkway, but based on our current 3 hours per mile pace, we decided that wasn't a good idea.

So we hiked back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and decided to just do a little out and back hike to Devil's Courthouse. Johnny has mentioned many times in the past, that one of his favorite places to hike is a snow covered Blue Ridge Parkway.

Johnny and Rich hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway

It sure does make for a really nice hike! Since they close the parkway to vehicles at first sign of snow or ice, you don't have to worry about getting run over, but you can still enjoy all the views.

The snow was more packed down on the pakrway, making for some much easier walking. While we didn't run into another person on our bushwhack to Bubbling Springs Falls, there were several groups of people out and about enjoying the winter wonderland in sunny spring like temperatures.

A family building a snowman on the Blue Ridge Parkway

We hiked to the Devil's Courthouse Tunnel and then up to the Devils Courthouse Summit/overlook area. It sure was beautiful!

Jack at Devils Courthouse

We returned back the way we came to our vehicles. It was a great day to be outside and the perfect location for a hike!

Johnny and I stopped along NC215 on the drive back down the mountain to check out some crazy people ice climbing!

Crazy Ice Climbers

Additional Photos are posted here:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spartanburg Snow!

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Spartanburg, SC
Finally some Snow

This year the East Coast has been bombarded by snowfall after snowfall. However, we are located just a little too far south and all we've got was a bunch of rain and ice!

Finally, last Friday evening we got our wish of a little bit of the fluffy white stuff! It started just as I was leaving work, and by 8:00pm we had a good bit of accumulation.

It is pretty rare to get more than an inch or two down here, but by Saturday Morning we ended up with a good 4-inches.

Looks like about 4-inches to me!

So I snapped a few photos around the house.

Our House

Later in the morning, Amy and I took a little drive to visit Hatcher Gardens, a Woodland Preserve in Spartanburg.

Hatcher Gardens

Additional Photos are posted here:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010-02-07 Linville Gorge Wilderness Hike

Linville Gorge Wilderness

Shortoff Mountain Hike
Burke County, NC
Sunday, February 7th, 2010
Jack, Bob, Andy, and Boone

For Super Bowl Sunday I elected not to spend the day watching endless hours of pre-game programming. Instead I decided to join Andy and Bob for a hike into one of my favorite areas, The Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Our plan was to hike a short section of the lower east rim to the summit of Shortoff Mountain. I had never done this hike before and after seeing the reports of winter weather the previous day I was really looking forward to some winter scenery!

Since the trailhead at the end of Wolf Pit Road has very limited parking, I met Bob and Andy in Morganton where we combined into one vehicle. On the drive we caught our first glipse of Shortoff Mountain and it was covered with sparkling white! This should be a good one, we all thought!

Wolf Pit Road probably would have been drivable in a regular passanger car, but it was definitely better to be in a 4WD truck. There was still a good bit of soggy snow on the ground and the parts of the road that weren’t snow covered were a mucky muddy mess. About half-way up the road, we passed by a few homes and a Chocolate Lab started chasing Bob’s truck.

We arrived at the trailhead, and Boone immediately jumped out to great his new friend. After gathering up our gear we hit the trail with our unexpected hiking companion. Boone and the Chocolate Lab were both crazy with excitement.

Boone and the Chocolate Lab

The trail gains about 1,000 feet of elevation over about 2 miles. The scenery was spectacular, so we took plenty of breaks to snap photos and soak it all in. The trees were all encrusted in a layer of crystal clear ice and most of the ground was covered in snow.

Since the temperatures were now above freezing there was a good bit of snow melt coming down the mountain. Most of it seemed to be flowing along the trail and at times it felt like we were hiking up a small creek. My feet were soaked and I regretted not wearing more watertight hiking boots. However, I didn’t let it bother me becuase the scenery was amazing!

View of Lake James from the Shortoff Mountain Trail

The Chocolate Lab that joined us at the start of the hike stayed with us almost all the way to the summit. However, When Bob and I stopped at one of the many specatular vistas to wait for Andy to catch up, the Chocolate Lab left us to join another hiker. This turned out to be the only other person we would see the whole day.

Bob and the Chocolate Lab

Once at the summit, the trail enters into the forest. Normally this would be considered the boring part of the trail, but today it was a Winter Wonderland of ice encrusted trees and snow covered ground. The sun was shining brightly and the sounds of melting ice crystals breaking off the branches and falling to the ground was magical!

Andy and Boone hiking through a Winter Wonderland

We checked out several unofficial side trails that lead to the cliff edges for endless incredible views. We also passed by a small partially ice covered pond which was a very interesting feature. You don’t often find bodies of water like this so close to a mountain’s summit.

Pond near the summit of Shortoff Mountain

We stopped for lunch at what Andy says is his favorite spot in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. This spot definitely did not dissappoint!

view from the Summit of Shortoff Mountain

We spent about two hours hanging out, exploring the snow covered cliffs, and snapping endless photos. I just couldn’t stop the urge to take more and more photos. I’m sure glad the days of film photography are past as I ended up taking over 400 photos on the day.

Jack at the Summit of Shortoff Mountain

After lunch, we considered continuing on a little further, but our wet feet had become cold after the long break and we were all ready to head on back. Plus there was a certain Football Game that we wanted to get home in time for.

The hike back to Bob’s truck went much faster on the way down. Much of the ice on the trees that made for a spectacular scene on the hike up, was now melted and there was no need to stop for more photos. Plus, I think we were all looking forward to changing into dry socks and shoes!

I ended up making it home in plenty of time for Super Bowl kickoff. While it was a good game, the hike was definitely the highlight of my day.