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:


HemlockMan said...

SWEET! Sorry I missed that! I love me some snow!

~Christina~ said...

B E A U T I F U L !!!!! Oh Im so green jelly!! Winter is my favorite season and the scenery here is just so beautiful. You lucky duck you!