Rutherford County, NC
Saturday April 10th, 2010
Photos are posted here:
A little over (3) years ago (January 2007), I went on an adventure with the Greenville Natural History Association hiking club to explore some of the caves at the base of Rumbling Bald Mountain. I followed that up a few weeks later with a hike up and over the ridgeline of Rumbling Bald.
My buddy Waterfall Rich, from http://www.ncwaterfalls.com/ saw my photos from these trips and decided that he wanted to see some of this stuff. While Rich's website is by far the most valuable online resource for learning about and visiting the many waterfalls of the Carolinas, he also enjoys adventures that do not include waterfalls.
We decided to meet up at the Lake Lure Marina at 9:00am. We both had the same idea of showing up early to capture some scenes around the lake, and Rich was already there when I showed up at 8:30am. The weather was beautiful, but nothing about it made photo conditions around the lake any more interesting than others we have shot from the same location. So we decided to just get an early start on our hike.
We left Rich’s car there at the Marina and took my truck the short distance to the trailhead. While I was driving, Rich was taking notes to post directions on his website. You can find them here, as well as a topo map of the route we took:
I believe this route will someday become part of the new State Park trail system; however, it is not yet officially opened to the public. In fact, I am pretty sure the spot we parked is still private property. Fortunately, there are no “No Trespassing” signs or anything else to signify that you can’t park here.
On the drive in, a short distance from the trailhead, we spotted a couple of large Wild Turkeys crossing the road. We also heard a bunch of gobbling nearby as we were gathering up our gear to begin the hike. Soon after we started hiking, we heard a gunshot that was much too close for comfort coming from the direction we were planning on heading.
We decided to head away from the gunshot and check out a side path that looked to head towards a small stream that might have some waterfall potential. While the stream definitely has a good bit of elevation drop, the flow was not high enough to be worth bushwhacking upstream in an area where people are obviously hunting!
I decided it would be a good idea to put on my bright orange vest before going any further and we started the hike by having some unnaturally loud conversation in hopes of alerting any hunters of our presence. We quickly encountered a solo hunter who seemed like a nice enough guy, even though he was the same guy that scared the heck out of us a few minutes earlier!
The trail is basically a wide track dirt road. However, it is severely eroded and rutted. On top of that, several winter ice storms had left a large amount of deadfall along the trail. It is also very, very steep!
Lousy Photo, but it shows the typical trail conditionsWe were hoping this would be a good time of year for wildflowers, and while there were some, it definitely wasn’t a wildflower bonanza. We did see Toadshade Trillium, Bloodroot, Violets, Chickweed, Cinquefoil, and Dwarf Iris.
In addition to the wildflowers, we saw several varieties of blooming trees and bushes including Dogwood, Silverbell, Redbud, and Azalea.
The first mile gains about 1,000 feet of elevation and it didn’t take long before we shed our jackets, and unzipped our pant legs. I think Rich was regretting his decision to bring the video camera and heavy duty tri-pod!
There is a spot about a mile in, where an obvious side trail leads to an awesome view of Lake Lure. We decided to save this for the way back when the sun would be in a better position.
We were relieved when we finally reached the Rumbling Bald Ridgeline and the first of three humps. The worst of the climb was over! While there would still be a few more climbs, they would all be shorter than and not quite as steep as what we had already done.
There were also several spots along the trail where we could catch a view of our ultimate destination; Eagle Rock!
You can see our ultimate destination, Eagle Rock, towards the center of this photo
Two more short ups and downs followed by a series of switchbacks up Shumont Mountain and we were there! The view from Eagle Rock is definitely worth the 3.5 mile (one way) hike, and 2,300 feet of elevation gain. Especially if you don’t mind a really good workout!
Waterfall Rich and Me on Eagle Rock
One of my favorite things about this hike is that when you reach your ultimate destination, you have a clear view of the route it took to get there.
View from Eagle Rock - You can clearly see the route we took
Apparently there is a much shorter and much easier way to get to Eagle Rock. We ran into one other couple at Eagle Rock who came in from Shumont Road. I have heard that there is no parking there, but this couple didn’t indicate any problems. I might have to check that out sometime.
Adjacent to Eagle Rock is another Rock Tower which I decided to check out while Rich was busy shooting some video. It’s a much tougher scramble than the one up Eagle Rock and probably not worth the effort, except for the view you get of Eagle Rock!
Eagle Rock - Can you spot Rich?After a little more than an hour at Eagle Rock, we decided it was time to head on back since we still wanted to have a little time left to explore the caves at the base of Rumbling Bald.
Rich scrambling down from Eagle Rock
The return hike is much easier as it is almost all downhill. We did stop at the viewpoint mentioned earlier for what it my opinion is the best view of Lake Lure anywhere!
View of Lake Lure from Rumbling Bald
Panorama - Click for full size
Rumbling Bald Mountain is a very popular spot for rock climbers. The caves are accessed from the same parking area that the Rock Climbers use. When I was last here, this parking area was a very rough dirt road that required 4x4 with good ground clearance to access. Since then it has been significantly improved and includes new State Park signs.
The road to Rumbling Bald
Even though it had been three years since my visit, I didn’t think I would have any problem finding the location of the caves. I was wrong! We wandered around for a good while, but never did find them.
We even asked some rock climbers if they knew where the caves were. They informed us that it is now illegal to enter the caves. They did give us directions, but I believe they might have intentionally misled us. I felt bad that I couldn’t lead Rich to the caves, but we still had a great hike!
Self Portrait on Eagle Rock
Additional photos from our adventure are posted here: