Monday, August 20, 2012

2012-08-18 Waterfalls on Bearwallow Creek

Split Rock Falls, Indian Camp Falls, Chute Falls, and Paw Paw Falls
Gorges State Park, NC
Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Me at Paw Paw Falls

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Andy, Darrin, Johnny, and had planned for a weekend of camping and waterfall wandering around Gorges State Park in Transylvania County, NC.  By the time the weekend came, all the others had informed me that they would not be able to get there until Saturday.  However, if I am going to go camping, I like to go for at least two nights.

So I drove up to Gorges State Park Friday evening after work.  Most of the camping that I do is considered Car Camping which means you can pretty much park at the campsite.  This time it would be a little different as the campsites are located about 0.75 miles away from the parking area.   Since I don't have much in the way of backpacking gear, I planned on making two trips to tote my heavy and bulky gear down to the campsite.

 The Pond at the Campground

I was surprised that I was the only person staying at the campground, which made for a very peaceful and relaxing evening.  I wouldn't want to camp alone for more than a couple of nights, but for one night it was very pleasant!  What surprised me the most was that it didn't rain a drop all night.

 My Campsite at Gorges State Park

I didn't want to worry about bear-proofing my food supply, so I decided to do all my cooking at my truck.  So Saturday morning I hiked back up to the parking area to cook up some breakfast and wait for Darrin, Andy, and the dogs to arrive.

Once they arrived, we hiked back down to the campground and set up their gear before beginning our main hike of the day.

Our plan was to find the (4) waterfalls on Bearwallow Creek which used to be collectively known as Paw Paw Falls.  However, recently they have been given (4) separate names.  From the campground, we hiked a series of forest service roads which took us most of the way there.  However the last stretch down to the creek would be a total bushwhack.

It was a tough bushwhack, but compared to other recent bushwhacking adventures this one was not that bad.  We arrived at the creek at the base of Split Rock Falls, which is actually the second from the top.

Split Rock Falls

Since I knew we would be doing a lot of bushwhacking, creek walking, and possibly swimming, I decided to bring my older camera along for this hike.  One critical mistake I made was that I forgot to attach the tri-pod mount to the camera.  So while I did remember my tri-pod, it was kind of useless without the mount.  Therefore most of my photos were either hand held or taken using boulders, tree trunks, and rocks as makeshift tri-pods.

Split Rock Falls was a nice start, but it ended up being my least favorite of the (4) waterfalls.  
From there we decided to bushwhack upstream to get to Indian Camp Falls.  This is a neat sliding cascade that makes a sharp 90-degree left hand turn through a narrow channel at the base.   I think this was my favorite of the (4) waterfalls.

Darrin and Andy checking out Indian Camp Falls

Indian Camp Falls

Indian Camp Falls

We backtracked down to Split Rock Falls and continued downstream by walking through the creek.  This was quite challenging and both Darrin and I took a fall in the exact same spot.  Andy decided to avoid the same mistake and instead bushwhacked through the brush.  I don't think the route he chose was any easier!

We eventually arrived at the top of Chute Falls.  We made our way down to the base along the side of the waterfall.  It was a good thing it didn't rain because this descent was scary enough on dry rocks.  It would definitely not have been safe on wet rocks!

Andy and Kona at the top of Chute Falls

Boone and Kona at Chute Falls

At the base of Chute Falls, we ran into our next problem.  At the base of the waterfall was a deep pool of water surrounded by rock walls on the sides.  There was no getting around this obstacle; we would have to get wet.  The shallowest section was about belly high (chest high for Andy).

Darrin making his way across the pool at the base of Chute Falls
At first it looked like a really good swimming hole, but the bottom of the pool was covered with boot swallowing mud!  I made it across the muddy water as quickly as possible so I could set up and photograph the others making their way across. 

Andy working his way across

From there we continued downstream along the left side of the creek.  At times it seemed like we were on an old roadbed, but then it would disappear and turn into a bushwhack.  But it wasn't long before we heard to sounds of falling water and made our way back down to the creek.

We ended up a bit further downstream than planned, but it was a fairly easy creek walk upstream to the base of Paw Paw Falls.

Working our way upstream towards Paw Paw Falls

We made this our main lunch break and Andy was kind enough to lend me his tri-pod while he ate his lunch.

 Andy at Paw Paw Falls

 Paw Paw Falls

Paw Paw Falls

Johnny was expecting to arrive later that afternoon and our plan was to meet him at the campground at around 4:00pm.  It was only about 1:00pm, so we figured we might be able to make it up to Upper Bearwallow Falls and still get back to the campground in time to meet Johnny.

From Paw Paw Falls we were able to pick up the remains of the old roadbed, which gradually got more and more navigable the further we went.  Soon we were making good progress and would definitely be able to make it to Upper Bearwallow.

After some rough bushwhacking and creek walking this was a quite pleasant and enjoyable section of the hike.  However, somewhere along the way we made a wrong turn and/or missed a turn we should have made. 

When we eventually got our bearings we realized that we were several miles away from where we should have been.  So we scrapped our plans to hit Upper Bearwallow Falls and instead worked our way back to the campground to meet Johnny.

We arrived at the campground at around 3:30pm which was perfect timing as Johnny showed up about 2 minutes later.   After Johnny set up his gear, there was still plenty of daylight left for one more waterfall wandering adventure.

Coming up next:
Saturday Afternoon Adventure to Lower Bearwallow Falls

1 comment:

HemlockMan said...

That was some set of waterfalls! I think I prefer your favorite one, too.