Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012-08-18 Lower Bearwallow Falls

Lower Bearwallow Falls
Gorges State Park, NC
Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Me at Lower Bearwallow Falls

After we met Johnny at the campground, we decided we still had time for a visit to Lower Bearwallow Falls.  This is one that I have never been to, but have been wanting to check out for years!  It is normally a very long hike, but with a 4x4 vehicle with adequate ground clearance you can now drive most of the way!

So we hiked from the campground back to the parking area and I made the extreme sacrifice and offered up my Toyota Tacoma!  Four sweaty guys and two smelly dogs piled into my truck and we hit the dirt/gravel road that descends from the parking area into the gorge.

You are only allowed on this road if you have 4 wheeled drive and a minimum of 8 inches of ground clearance!  I didn't really need to engage the 4x4 on the way in, but there were several spots where we could definitely see why they require the 8 inches of ground clearance!

Near the end of the drive, the 25% downward grade led to us being able to actually smell my brake pads burning up even through I was using low gear.  Even though it felt like I was going a good pace, the drive of just over three miles took almost 30 minutes.

From the parking area at Turkey Pen Gap, we hiked the gated Auger Hole Road down to Bearwallow Creek.  During times of low water flow, you might be able to rock hop across, but today like most days the crossing requires getting your feet wet.  Since my boots were already saturated from our earlier hike, I didn't bother taking them off.  Instead while waiting for some of the others to take off their boots and put them back on, I went and photographed a nice little cascade a short distance upstream.

Cascade along Bearwallow Creek

After the creek crossing, the road gradually gains elevation.  A short distance later Andy pointed out the spot where we had to start the steep scramble back down to the creek at the base of Lower Bearwallow Falls.

While it is obvious that others have gone this way, and there were a few ribbons tied to some of the trees, there is no trail!  While not quite a bushwhack, this is a tough and very steep scramble.  Fortunately we all made it down to Lower Bearwallow Falls without any issues!  And this one is a beauty!

Lower Bearwallow Falls

We spent a good bit of time hanging out and photographing this awesome waterfall.  Here are a few more shots.

Andy is on the left side of the photo to give a sense of scale

Andy and Darrin at Lower Bearwallow Falls

Lower Bearwallow Falls

L to R:  Me, Darrin, Andy, Johnny 

Kona at Lower Bearwallow Falls

The complete set of photos is posted here:

The hike back to my truck was uneventful, but just as we all arrived, the rain started.  It just wouldn't be a camping weekend without some rain!  It was fairly light starting out, but as we drove up the road it soon turned into a gully washer of a storm!  I don't think we would have made it out without 4x4!

During the heaviest of rain, Johnny and Darrin wanted to cut the hike back down to the campground a little short, so I dropped them off where the trail to the campground crosses the road.  They might have had a shorter hike, but they got soaked!

Andy, the dogs, and I continued in my truck to the parking area where we waited out the rain in the comfort of my Tacoma!  Fortunately we didn't have to wait long until the rain cleared out.

I decided to cook my dinner on the tailgate of my truck while Andy and the Dogs hiked down to the campground.  By the time I finished eating and chatting with one of the park rangers for a little while it was almost dark, and my flashlights and headlamp were back at the campground inside my tent.  The last part of the hike was in almost total darkness!  Fortunately it is a wide trail with not too many obstacles.

It was a very enjoyable evening hanging out around the campfire.  Since all the wood available was soaked, the campfire was not much of a success.  Thankfully Darrin brought a jug of lighter fluid which I am pretty sure we used up throughout the evening to keep the fire burning!

What happens around the campfire, stays at the campfire, so I am not going to go into any details other than to say we all slept soundly!

Coming up next:
Sunday Morning's hike to Rainbow Falls and Turtle Back Falls

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