Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Trip to Virgina

The reason I haven't posted anything the last few days is because Amy and I took a trip up to Virgina to visit my family!  However, I definitely did keep up with my Photo a day goal!  I just can't stop taking photos of my nieces and nephews.

I haven't gone through the photos yet, but I looked over a few so I would at least have something to post for today!  These are a few from Saturday at my parent's house in Spotsylvania, VA

My Nephew Liam

My Niece Marielle with my wife Amy

Amy, Liam, and Marielle

On Sunday, we all headed on down to my sister's Lake House in BumpAss, VA (yes, that really is the name of the town).  I'll try post some of those photos tomorrow, but it will take me a few days to get through the whole set of photos from this weekend! 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today's Photo - Another Mystery Flower

I have no idea what this flower is, but there are a bunch of buds on this small bush getting ready to burst in our backyard.   Can anyone identify this one?

Mystery Flower

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Today's Photo - Pepper Flower

Last year we had great success growing hot peppers, we decided to try it again this year. 

Like the Tomato, Peppers start out as flowers.  Most people don't really pay much attention to these flowers, but today I decided to get a shot of one:

Pepper Flower

I have no idea what kind of hot pepper this flower will turn into.  Like most of our garden plants, this one started out as a seed planted in Amy's parents Greenhouse.  Amy's Dad bought a variety pack of hot pepper seeds.  He was expecting several packets of seeds, but instead he received one packet with the variety of seeds all mixed together.   We ended up taking (5) pepper plants for our garden this year, and based on the differences in the leaves, it appears we have (4) different varieties.  It will be a surprise what each of them turns into!  But if things go well, there will be Pepper photos in the near future!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Head for the Most Falls

Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area
Jones Gap State Park, SC
Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Head for the most Falls!

The full set of Photos is posted here:

Andy, Boone, and I arrived at Jones Gap State Park at around 9:30am and hit the trail. After a short distance on the Jones Gap Trail, we turned right onto the Rainbow Falls Trail.

The Rainbow Falls Trail is the newest addition to the Mountain Bridge Wilderness trail system. It is a very well designed and built trail gaining a little over 1,000 feet of elevation over about 2.5 miles (including the short section of the Jones Gap Trail).

We made excellent time up the trail, passing several groups of people in hopes of arriving to the falls before the sun rose above the ridge. There are several nice smaller waterfalls and cascades along the way, but we elected to save those for another time as we had an aggressive agenda for the day .

Our timing was pretty good, but a half hour earlier would have been a little better. We had the falls to ourselves for a few minutes before some of the people we passed earlier started to arrive.

Rainbow Falls starts out with a ribbon of water freefalling about 100-ft, followed by a series of cascades below.  It had pretty good flow due to some storms that hit the area the day before.

Rainbow Falls

After photographing the Falls we decided it was time to continue on up the trail. The Rainbow Falls Trail officially ends at the base of Rainbow Falls; however there is another trail that comes done from Camp Greenville above, which we used to continue the hike.

Camp Greenville is private property, but as long as camp is not in session they usually are happy to allow public access to their trails. However, it is best to call ahead to make sure there is nothing going on that would cause them to close the trails to the public.

The trail from Rainbow Falls to Camp Greenville is very steep in spots and requires a good bit of scrambling. Andy had to give Boone a boost up some of the rocky scrambles. It eventually levels out and the last part up to the main road through the camp is much easier!

There are some other smaller waterfalls above the main drop including Shower Bath Falls, which can be accessed from Camp Greenville, but we also decided to save those for another time.

A short stroll down the road took us to Symmes Chapel which is well worth a visit. However, it was closed to the public today due to a private ceremony (most likely a wedding). Since we had both been there before and it was a very hazy day, we were not disappointed that we didn’t get to the chapel this Sunday.

Just before the gate to Symmes Chapel we turned off on a dirt road which would eventually connect us back to the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area trail system. Since we were now at above 3,000-ft (about 1,800 feet higher than when we started the hike), we noticed that it was a little cooler, the humidity wasn’t as bad, and there was a really nice breeze. The perfect spot to break for lunch!

After lunch was when the adventure would begin!

Our main goal for today’s hike was to do some off trail exploration of Headforemost Creek and hopefully find Headforemost Falls.

I am not aware of any current publication or website that mentions this waterfall. However, I do have an old, and out of print book called “150 South Carolina Waterfalls” by Ron Tagliapietra, where Headforemost Falls is listed. Based on the very vague directions, we were expecting that this would be a bushwhack.

We reached the intersection of the Cleveland Connector Trail and the Hospital Rock Trail, and continued East on the Hospital Rock Trail. Approximately 0.7 miles later we could hear Headforemost Creek to left, which was our sign to start looking for an old logging road on the right. (Note: if the trail crosses the creek, you have gone too far)

We were pretty sure we found the correct “old logging road”, which is now covered with about 75 years worth of forest growth. The contour of the road is still fairly obvious, however it was definitely a bushwhack. The sounds of the creek started getting louder so we figured we were on the right track.

When the old logging road started veering away from the creek, we decided to start following our instincts. We left the “road” and started heading steeply downhill. At times it seemed like we were following a faint path, at other times it was a pure bushwhack full of Poison Ivy, Briars, and Ticks!

We eventually made it to a fairly flat section of the creek and we both agreed that we were too far upstream. We took off downstream taking the path of least resistance. The Poison Ivy was really thick during this stretch. On top of that, Andy discovered a few ticks on him.

Andy is not a big fan of DEET, the main active ingredient in most bug sprays. I, on the other hand would rather expose myself to chemicals in hopes of warding off the ticks and mosquitoes. This hike definitely proved that DEET does work against ticks! Andy’s final tick count was reaching double digits while I only ended up finding one!

Bushwhacking downstream, the terrain started getting even steeper and down below we came upon the first significant drop on Headforemost Creek. We decided that this one was worth getting a closer look.

Foremost Cove Falls

This turned out to be a nice little waterfall!  My guess is that this is the waterfall the Ron Tagliapietra’s book refers to as Foremost Cove Falls, so that is what I am calling it.

Based on the amount of Poison Ivy we walked through I decided to remove my socks and boots and soak my legs in the nice cool pool of water at the base of the waterfall to hopefully wash off any Poison Ivy juice before it got a chance to soak into the skin. It seemed to have worked, because it is now two days later and still no sign of Poison Ivy rash! It’s not a big enough pool to swim in, but it was perfect for cleaning up a bit!

After my bath, I applied some additional DEET and we continued downstream. We passed by several other nice looking cascades and small waterfalls. I took a few quick shots of some of them, but didn't take the time to pull out the tri-pod.

Small Waterfall on Headforemost Creek

We eventually reached what had to be the brink of the main drop of Headforemost Falls! Continuing on any further downstream from here would be suicidal! It might be possible to head back away from the creek and find a safer descent through the forest, but at this point we also had to consider time, so we decided to turn back.

The Brink of Headforemost Falls

According to my altimeter, the Brink of the Falls is about 700-feet lower than the point at which we left the Hospital Rock Trail. We would now have to regain that elevation to get back to the main trail. Fortunately we had a better idea of where we were going and made much better time on the climb up. Andy did manage to trip over something and as he fell, he almost head-butted one of the biggest Black Snakes I have ever seen!

Black Racer Snake
Back on the main trail, the worst of the hike was over. It would all be downhill from here! At least that is what I kept saying, but they do manage to squeeze in a surprisingly large number of uphill sections during this mostly downhill stretch of trail! Plus my wrong turn didn’t help matters!

We were crawling though a bunch of deadfall complaining about the poor trail maintenance. I started looking for trail blazes and realized we hadn’t seen any for a while. That’s when we realized I made a wrong turn. Fortunately we didn’t go that far out of the way, but I just hate crawling through deadfall for no reason, especially when you end up crawling through the same stuff twice!

We discovered where we took the wrong turn and continued on the main trail. Our final stop of the day would be the spectacular Falls Creek Falls! While this 200-ft waterfall is definitely a sight to behold, it is impossible to get the whole thing in one shot, and very difficult to find a place to shoot without the constant waterfall spray!

Falls Creek Falls

We had to share our time there with a slightly annoying family who seemed to be taking turns walking in front of our cameras as we were trying to photograph the falls. I still managed to get a few good ones without any people in it.

Falls Creek Falls

It was closing in on 5:00pm and we still had about 1.7 miles of trail plus another 3.0 miles of road walking back to my truck at the Jones Gap State Park parking area.

With some of the longest days of the year, I wasn’t worried about running out of daylight; however I was getting worried that my wife would start worrying if she didn’t hear from me soon. Fortunately this is one of the few Wilderness Areas where you can actually get a cell signal. I am not a big fan of Cell Phones, but it was nice to be able to call Amy and inform her that I would be a late!

We made quick time on the last stretch of the trail, and even faster time once we got to the road walk part. The first part of the road walk is actually very pleasant. We did get delayed by a herd of roaming dogs that all had to introduce themselves to Boone and they all had to do a round of butt sniffing before we could move on.

We were also entertained by the sounds of 1970s disco music coming from one of the small homes and got a quick glimpse of a couple of Hippies gyrating to the tunes while frolicking in the creek!

Much earlier in the day on the drive in, as we turned off of US276 towards Jones Jap State Park, Andy pointed out the F-Mart and said he had heard they had really good hamburgers. It’s a pretty dumpy looking place, but I was getting pretty darn hungry. So during the last part of our road walk, I suggested that we grab a few burger from the F-Mart on the drive home.

Unfortunately the F-Mart was closed and possibly out of business. So we ended up stopping at the Citgo Station in Cleveland, SC to get our burger and fries fix. I have to say, that might have been the best gas station cheese burger I have ever had. Of course, I don't eat a whole lot of gas station cheeseburgers and I was hungry enough that just about anything would have tasted great!

Even though we didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal of reaching the base of Headforemost Falls, it was still a great hike. I had my doubts to begin with and was very satisfied we made it as far as we did. We explored a section of the creek and even found a significant waterfall that very few people have ever seen!

On the drive back to Spartanburg, we discussed another future attempt to get to the base of Headforemost Falls. Next time, we will start at the Falls Creek Falls trailhead and attempt to make our way from Falls Creek to Headforemost Creek. There also looks like there might be waterfall potential up Little Falls Creek. However, this future trip will most likely have to wait for cooler weather!

The Full set of Photos is posted here:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Today's Photos - A couple of more waterfalls from Sunday's Hike

Rainbow Falls
Greenville County, SC

Falls Creek Falls
Greenville County, SC

This might give you a hint to the location of yesterday's waterfall photo.
More details to come when I get to the full trip report and photo set
(Hopefully tomorrow!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Today's Photo - A New Waterfall

This may not be the most beautiful or biggest waterfall you will ever see,
but for Andy and I it was quite an accomplishment to get here.
Very few people have ever seen or will ever see this waterfall.
Although it is on public property, it is by no means easy to get to.

The nearest road is several miles away,
and the last part of our journey here involved an intense bushwhack,
through briars, poison ivy, and a tick infested forest. 
Andy even almost head-butted a snake.

I believe this is one of the rare occasions when we visited a waterfall
before both Waterfall Rich and Kevin Adams.

Does anyone know where this one is?
If not, you will just have to wait until I get around to the trip report.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Today's Photo's - Hatcher Garden

Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve
Spartanburg, SC
Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

When I decided to attempt the Photo a Day challenge, one of the things I planned to do was to visit Hatcher Garden at least once a month.  It's a short drive from my house and there is always something different in bloom each time I go.  I also wanted to check and see how the baby Geese were doing:
Baby Geese at Hatcher Garden

The baby Geese on dry ground with their parents

Today, my wife Amy decided to join me:

Amy carrying my gear and checking out a sign

I started out with the zoom lens to catch some of the wildlife:


The I switch over to the Macro Lens for the rest of our visit: 

Ant on a Leaf

Friday, May 21, 2010

Today's Photos - The Beacon Drive-In

The Beacon Drive-In
Spartanburg, SC

The Beacon Drive-In is Spartanburg's most famous restuarant.  I've eaten there one time and for me that was enough!  If you like large quantities of some of the greasiest food around, you might want to check this place out.   Unfortunately my cholestorol is high enough withoout eating food like this!

So what are we doing at The Beacon? 

My wife Amy drives past this place every weekday on the way to and from work.  She happened to notice the sign that said "CAR SHOW, MAY 21, 6PM-UNTIL"

This is why we ended up at The Beacon this evening:
Amy checking out a Classic Car

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today's Photo - Can you identify this Flower?

I noticed this bush blooming in my yard with tons of little white flowers.  The flowers are only about the size of a pea.  I have no idea what kind of bush or flower it is?  Anyone know?  Not the greatest photo and normally I wouldn't have posted it, but I am really hoping someone can help me identify it.

Mystery Flower

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Today's Photo - Lily Bloom

I've noticed that the Lilies had started to bud a few days ago.  Today one of the buds had turned into a full bloom!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today's Photo - Rose Thorns!

I was attempting to get some good Macro Shots of our Rose Blooms, however the breeze was just a little too much today to get the sharp focus I wanted.  So I focused on the thicker branches near the base where things were a little more stable.

Thorns on a Rose Bush

Many types of plants including the rose bush have these thorns as part of an evolutionary defense mechanism against predators!  This is the reason I tend to come out of the woods all bloody after our bushwhacking adventures!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today's Photo - Toothbrush Macro

One of the things I really enjoy about the Macro Lens is the ability to take common household items and make an interesting photo out of them.

Today I had my semi-annual dentist appointment and as usual came home with a brand new toothbrush.

Warning:  Do not try this with a used toothbrush!  It will gross you out!

For this photo I propped up the toothbrush and used my mini tripod.  I set the ISO at 100 to eliminate any noise (graininess) and minimized the Aperture to ensure the entire depth of field would be in focus.  This combination of settings requires a very slow shutter speed, which is not a problem indoors as there is no wind to worry about.  

In addition to the normal room lighting which was pretty dim, for this photo I used a small LED flashlight, which I swept back and forth across the scene at various angles during the entire 13-second exposure in hopes of minimizing the shadowing.

Toothbrush Macro
ISO 100   F/45   13-second exposure

Toothbrushes sure have evolved over the years into some strange looking devices!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today's Photo - Violet Macro

The nice thing about violets, besides their beauty, is their long blooming season.
These are one of the first flowers to start blooming in the spring,
and they continue blooming well into the summer.

Today I wanted to see how close I could get with the Macro Lens!

Virginia Hawkis Falls

Saturday, May 15th, 2010
Pickens County, SC

The original plan for the day was a Kayak Trip / Bushwhacking Adventure to seek out some very hard to get to waterfalls. With the weather forecast calling for an almost certainty of afternoon thunder showers, we elected to scrap those plans for another day and go with Plan B.

Plan B was basically no plan at all. We would just play it by ear and do a series of short hikes so we would never be too far from the vehicle when the showers decided to arrive.

I met Johnny at his house and we drove up together to the Foothills Trailhead parking area off of Horsepasture Road in Rocky Bottom, SC where we met Paul. We piled into Paul's truck and continued up Horsepasture Road with plans of going all the way to Jumping Off Rock for some awesome views of Lake Jocassee.

Unfortunately, Johnny got his dates messed up and the road to Jumping Off Rock is now closed for the season. For some reason, they only unlock the gates during certain times of the year.

Here are the official dates that the road is open:

September 15th - January 1st
March 20th - May 10th

As it turns out, we were actually very fortunate to have to go with Plan C and D.  However I can't include any details or photos from our fortune!

Since we could only take Horsepasture Road as far as Laurel Fork Gap, we decided to hike from there to Virginia Hawkins Falls.

Virginia Hakins Falls

As I was about to put on my hiking boots, I realized that I had made a critical mistake when packing my hiking gear! I had two different hiking boots? Fortunately, at least I had a left and a right and once I got them on, I didn't really notice they were different. As long as I didn't look down!

The hike to Virginia Hawkins Falls is about a mile (one way) downhill on a wide track forest service road. We didn't see much in the way of wildflowers, but the Mountain Laurel was sure putting on a show!

Mountain Laurel Blooms

We got to Virginia Hawkins Falls at the perfect time as the sun had not yet made its way above the ridge. Photo conditions of this small but very scenic waterfall were just about perfect!

Virginia Hawkins Falls

After about 30 minutes photographing the falls, the sun decided to rise above the ridgeline which was our signal that it was time to move on.

Our next plan was to try and access Sky Falls! I had visited this spectacular waterfall last summer for the first time. On that trip we took Johnny's sailboat and camped out along the shores of lake Jocassee. The next morning, we bushwhacked upstream to Sky Falls.

Today we would try a different way to get to Sky Falls.

We drove up to Rosman, NC to see if we could enter the Round Mountain Community to gain access. This is definitely the easiest way to get to Sky Falls, but unfortunately Round Mountain is a gated community and we were unable to gain entry.

We were all feeling a bit dejected as our various plans for the day were falling apart.

I can't go into any detail about what happened later or post any photos.  All I can say is we got permission to see some spactacular waterfalls on Private Property.  However, I was asked to not post any details or photos.

It was a great day!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Today's Photos - A Great Day of Waterfall Wandering

Wow!  What an awesome day!

Today's plan was to do some hiking and Waterfall Wandering with my longtime hiking buddy Johnny and first time hiking buddy Paul.  We didn't really have a specific plan.  We started out with Virginia Hakins Falls:

Virginia Hawkins Falls

After that we lucked into getting an oppurtunity to see some spectacular waterfalls located on private property.  I've known these were here, but I wasn't sure if I would ever get the oppurtunity to see them since public access is usually strictly forbiddin.

Unfortunately, I was asked not to post any details or photos!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Today's Photo - Dragonfly

Today's photo plan was to roam around our yard in hopes of finding something interesting to photograph.  It didn't take long before I saw this guy fluttering around.  I followed it around for a while hoping it would stay still long enough for me to get a close-up photo since I was using the Macro Lens.

I wasn't having much luck, but finally it landed on the side of our house.  I started snapping away, gradually getting closer and closer.

Most of the shots turned out blurry because this side of our house was in the shade and I was shooting hand held, but I think this one turned out pretty good :

Dragonfly (I think)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today's Photo - Celosia

My wife Amy planted some of these in one of our flower gardens a few weeks ago.  It's called Celosia!  I think it is an interesting looking flower:

I was also playing around with the Macro Lens on some of our rose bushes which are now in full bloom:

Rose Macro

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Today's Photo - Yesterday's Mystery Flower Identified

No one was able to identify the flower photo I posted yesterday.

This it what the little flower turns into:

If all goes well, these will turn into nice plump and juicy red tomatoes soon!  Then once my peppers start producing, its homemade Salsa time!