Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Headforemost Creek
Waterfall Wandering Bushwhacking Adventure
Mountain Bridge Wilderness
Greenville County, SC
Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Me at Headforemost Falls

For years I have been aware of waterfalls on Headforemost Creek, and for years I have been wanting to find them.  Unfortunately there are no trails that lead to these waterfalls.

Both Andy and I have spent some time studying topo maps and figured that the easiest way would be to come up from downstream.  Unfortunately this would  require trespassing across heavily posted private property which is out of the question.

Two years ago, Andy and I attempted a different approach by coming downstream from the Hospital Rock Trail.   During that trip, we did find a couple of small waterfalls and cascades upstream from the main drops of Headforemost Creek, but as we got to the brink of the uppermost major drop we were running out of time and energy to be able to find a safe route down to the base.

This year we would try a different approach which hopefully would not be too difficult and would keep also keep us off private property.

Andy, Boone, and I started at the Falls Creek Falls Trailhead just outside of Jones Gap State Park, SC.  One nice thing about this trailhead is we saved that pesky $2.00/person SC State Park Entrance Fee.

The trail to Falls Creek Falls is about 1.2 miles, but it is extremely steep and eroded  in places.  I learned that hard way many years ago that this trail is NOT Amy approved!  (Note:  Amy was able to make it to the waterfall on that trip, but she was not a happy camper!)

Falls Creek Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in South Carolina.  Unfortunately, I have never been able to take a photo that is able to really show the true magnitude and awesomeness of this waterfall.  Today was no exception and  the bright sunlight shining directly on the waterfall made matters even worse.

Falls Creek Falls

We spent a few minutes trying to take some photos, but decided that the light would be better later in the day when we would pass by again.  So we continued on the Falls Creek Falls Trail.

Andy Crossing Falls Creek at the base of Falls Creek Falls

The steep climb of the trail continued.  Our plan was to leave the trail and start Bushwhacking to the west towards Headforemost Creek.  We really didn't know where the best place to start our Bushwhack would be, but just as the trail made a turn towards the north, I suggested to Andy that this looked like a good place to start bushwhacking.

Andy was originally thinking that we should head higher up, but we ultimately went with my suggestion which I think turned out to be the wiser choice.  The bushwhack started off relatively easy through a fairly open forest.

We maintained a relatively constant elevation as we made our way towards the west through some huge boulder fields.  As far as bushwhacking goes, this was pretty mild, but still much more challenging and time consuming than  typical trail hiking.

Bushwhacking by some impressive Boulders

Vegetation thickened in spots where a few small streams and springs flow down the mountain and there were a few gullies to navigate through, but for the most part we made it to Headforemost Creek without any problems.  The Bushwhack of approximately one mile took about an hour and a half.

We arrived at a nice little waterfall and series of cascades where we took a photography break.
Andy and Boone by some cascades on Headforemost Creek

This was a nice little cascade, but there appeared to be more impressive drops both upstream and downstream.  We decided to head upstream first!

This proved to be the most difficult part of the day as we made our way uphill through Rhododendron, Briars, and Boulders.  We eventually arrived at the base the major upper drop!  I am pretty sure that this is the same drop where last year we made it to the brink, but today we achieved our goal of making it to the base.
The Uppermost Main Drop of Headforemost Falls

Unfortunately, while an impressive sight, this waterfall is not very photogenic and not really worth the effort it took to get there.  We certainly hoped we would find some better stuff downstream.

The descent was made a bit easier by our decision to head further away from the creek where the vegetation thinned out a bit, but it was still a very steep descent!  We eventually worked our way back to the creek and were rewarded as we approached the main Lower Drop of Headforemost Falls.

Headforemost Falls

We spent a good bit of time photographing this one from many different angles and vantage points before deciding to head on.

We continued downstream where we picked up an old forest road and soon spotted another waterfall down the steep bank, which we went to check out!

While definitely not as high or as impressive as some of the other drops along Headforemost Creek, this little waterfall was my favorite from a photography standpoint!

Small Waterfall downstream on Headforemost Creek

We continued on the well maintained forest road, but we were pretty certain that if we continued on, we would eventually end up on private property, so we turned off the main road onto another obvious, but not as well maintained old road.

Unfortunately, this route fizzled out and we were forced back into Bushwhacking mode through some not so hospitable terrain!  This route was definitely much more difficult and time consuming as the route we used to approach Headforemost Creek earlier in the day.  At one point we passed by the remains of an old Moonshine Still.

Remains of an old Moonshine Still

We eventually made it back to some familiar territory and from there we pretty much followed our original path back to the Falls Creek Falls Trail. 

The sky had clouded up quite a bit since earlier in the day, making  photography conditions of Falls Creek Falls much better.  However the wind had also picked up increasing the amount of waterfall spray making it difficult to keep the water droplets off the lens.

Falls Creek Falls

We had earlier discussed doing some further exploring of Falls Creek and Little Falls Creek, but that would have to wait for another day as we were running out of both time and energy!

Overall, it was a very enjoyable day and both Andy and I were pleased to have been able to achieve our goal of finally making it to Headforemost Falls!

The complete set of photos from our Adventure is posted here:


HemlockMan said...

Looks like a really good hike! I like the lower section of Headforemost Falls. Very nice!

I've never seen Falls Creek Falls, so I need to mark that one off my list. In fact, I've never hiked at all at Jones Gap State Park!

Eric Davis said...

That "pesky SC State Parks Entrance Fee" is one of the reasons you are able to enjoy these hikes and waterfalls. Forgive me if I come across as rude.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Jack (and Andy). Just awesome!

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