Monday, July 19, 2010

Paradise Falls and Upper Sols Creek Falls

Paradise Falls and Upper Sols Creek Falls
Jackson County, NC
Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Photos are posted here:

Paradise Falls (Page 429 of Kevin Adam's North Carolina Waterfalls Book) is located on Wolf Creek a short distance downstream from a Dam. Because the creek is dammed, there is usually very little water flow making Paradise Falls not much more than a trickle down some impressive rocks.

However, thanks to a tip from Kevin Adams on his NCWaterfalls Yahoo Group, we learned that they are currently draining the lake in order to do some maintenance on the Dam. It could be a once in a lifetime chance to see this waterfall in all its splendor, and we weren't about to pass on the opportunity.

Andy had a job assignment this week somewhere in Tennessee and this part of North Carolina is kind of on the way. For me, it is a bit farther than I like to drive for a Dayhike, but I wasn't about to let that get in the way of checking out Paradise Falls with full flow!

We decided to meet up at the trailhead at 10:30am. I was a little early as usual, and when I arrived at the trailhead I saw my buddy Waterfall Rich of packing his gear into his car.

Rich had the same idea we had, and decided not to let this opportunity pass. Unfortunately he had already completed the hike and was getting ready to head back home. We chatted for a few minutes before Andy arrived right on time.

Despite having a printout of Rich's directions from his website and Kevin Adams book, Rich gave us some additional tips including one where it said to make sure we check out the a side trail which offers a great spot to get right up to the side of the falls.

After chatting with Rich for a few minutes we said our goodbyes and Andy and I gathered our packs and camera gear to hit the trail.

The first part of this half mile hike is rather easy until you reach a creek crossing which normally can be rock-hopped. However with full flow of the creek, there is no way across without going through thigh deep water. Fortunately, in the heat of the summer we had no problems getting in the cool water.

Andy Crossing the Creek

A short distance after the creek crossing, a side trail leads down to the top of the falls. We decided to save that for the way back.

Soon after, we reached the most difficult part of the hike, which is a short but very steep scramble down to the base. There are plenty of good footholds and trees and rhododendrons to grab hold of, so it is fairly safe if you take your time.

During our descent, we could catch glimpses of the waterfall through the trees and could easily tell this was going to be spectacular!

We reached the base and we were proven correct! With full water flow this is one of the most spectacular waterfalls anywhere! For the best viewing and shooting angles, we had to cross the creek again to get to the opposite bank.

Paradise Falls

We spent a good hour photographing the falls from the base. Since the sun was shining directly on the waterfall, most of our time was spent composing the shots and waiting for one of the rare stray clouds to diffuse the sunlight for a few seconds while our shutters snapped.

Iggy makes an appearance at Paradise Falls

Eventually, we decided to head back up. We took Rich's advice and found the side trail which took us to a very impressive side view of the main drop and enabled us to get right up next to it and behind it!

While this spot is a spectacular location to get the full experience of this waterfall visit, it proved to be a very challenging spot for photography. I decided it was necessary to change over to my wide angle lens.
Paradise Falls
Behind Paradise Falls

With Andy standing there, this shot gives a better idea of the size of Paradise Falls

We spent about another hour here again waiting for a few clouds to give us better lighting conditions, before deciding it was time to move on.

We stopped briefly at the top of the falls to chat with a small group of hikers hanging out there. There is not much of a view from the top, and we weren't about to get any closer in hopes of a better view. It would be certain death if you slipped and fell off the top of Paradise Falls.

Back at the trailhead, we took a little lunch break while deciding what to do next. We decided to head un up to Upper Sols Creek Falls (Page 435 in Kevin Adam's NC Waterfalls Book).

And now a word from our sponsors:

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Back to the trip report.

Upper Sols Creek Falls is on National Forest Property. However, to access it you have to cross over a short section of private property and there currently is a no trespassing sign.

Rich had said that he had heard that someone said they talked with the landowner and he said the reason for no trespassing signs was that someone left a slaughtered horse down this road. The landowner said he still didn't mind if hikers walked down this drive to visit the waterfall.

So based on our fifth hand information, we decided it was OK to do something I normally would not do. We ignored the no trespassing sign to cross this short section of private property to gain access to National Forest land.

Most of the way follows an obvious fisherman's path, but at times it disappears. Basically, we just made our way up the creek, crossing it several times and just walking through it at others. It's really not difficult, but you will get your feet wet!

Upper Sols Creek Falls turned out to be much nicer than I was anticipating!
Upper Sols Creek Falls

Me at Upper Sols Creek Falls

Again, we were fighting the sun when we first got there, but soon some dark clouds arrived, offering up some excellent photo opportunities. However, those opportunities were short lived as the Thunder started booming.

We weren't in the mood to get caught in a Thunderstorm, so after getting a few more shots, we packed up our gear and headed back to our vehicles. We made it just in time, as the rain started falling just as we got in sight of our parked vehicles.

Despite the rain, we decided to check out Double Branch Falls! The skies really opened up during our drive to the trailhead. It was a real gully-washer of a storm, and I didn't think it would stop anytime soon.

Andy was going to try and wait it out for a while, but I decided to give up and head on home.
The rain did not let up until I was well into South Carolina. I decided to make a quick stop at the Table Rock visitors center because I thought the cloud cover over Table Rock Mountain looked cool, but mostly because I needed to use the restroom and wanted to change into dry shoes and socks!

Clouds at Table Rock

While the days trip required almost 5 hours of driving (over 2 hours each way), and we actually didn't do a whole lot of hiking, it was still very satisfying! I got to see two spectacular waterfalls that I had never visited before, including one with possibly once in a lifetime water flow!

And it was great to get together with Andy for another waterfall wandering adventure! I'll be curious to read about how the rest of his day went!

My full set of photos is posted here:


HemlockMan said...

Paradise Falls looks fantastic. It's shots like those that make me hate dams. We should take them all down and allow the rivers to flow as they did before we started screwing up the natural order of things. If I'd gone with you guys I'd have been SO swimming in that plunge pool!

Jack said...

Yup! That be a great swimming hole! Even when it is dammed up and the flow is low, I hear it is still a dammed good swimming hole!