Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012-09-16 Mountain Bridge Passage Hike

Mountain Bridge Passage Hike
Mountain Bridge Wilderness
Greenville County, SC
Sunday, September 16th, 2012

The Mountain Bridge Passage is one of the newest trails in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness of South Carolina.  For the last few years my buddy Darrin has "adopted" this trail, which means he volunteers his time to help maintain it. 

I decided to join Darrin and Brenda on a Sunday afternoon hike along his trail.
As usual, I was running a bit early so I made a stop at Wildcat Falls. The overcast sky made for nice lighting however it was swarming with people. I wasn’t able to get any shots without people, but at least they give a sense of scale to the waterfall.

Wildcat Falls
Our plan was to meet at the old Camp Spearhead Gate along US276/Hwy11 which would be the ending point of our hike. We would do a short shuttle and start the hike at the Oil Camp Creek trailhead. While waiting for the others to show up, I passed the time by photographing the Bees and Flowers.

Bee on a Flower
Brenda showed up first and then Darrin arrived with his buddy Bob, Bob’s Son, Darrin’s Son, and a dog! We all managed to pile into Bob’s truck for the 15 minute drive to the Oil Camp Creek trailhead.
The trail starts off as an easy stroll along a wide track forest service road that follows Oil Camp Creek heading upstream for about a mile. There are many scenic cascades along the creek and several low-flow waterfalls on some of the tributary streams. These really need a lot of rain to make them photo worthy and since the area is still in a mild drought and it hadn’t rained all week, I didn’t bother stopping for any photos.
Eventually they Forest Service Road joins up with the Pinnacle Pass Trail. The Mountain Bridge Passage starts about a half mile later. We would hike the entire 4-mile long Mountain Bridge Passage making for about a 5.5 mile hike.

Our Hike Route (from Brenda's GPS)
This trail starts out all uphill until it crosses over Campbell Mountain, and then it is just about all downhill from there. We would stop on occasion to clear some minor deadfall from the trail, but there were several areas that were too much to handle with a small hand saw. Darrin made note of these areas with plans on coming back with his chainsaw.
On the downhill stretch, the trail passes by several waterfalls. Most are fairly low flow and cluttered with deadfall making them not very photogenic. However, the last one was worth a closer look.

Hamlin Falls
According to Darrin, this one does not have a name, so I am calling it Hamlin Falls. I figure since Darrin puts in many volunteer hours maintaining this trail, this waterfall should be named after him! We will see if this sticks!
The trail eventually leaves the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and enters into the Ashmore Heritage Preserve. There are several other trails that branch off in this area if you are looking to add a few more miles to the hike, but we just stuck with the main trail.
The trail finishes up by passing through the old Camp Spearhead which was shut down several years ago. I believe this land has been purchased by the Nature Conservancy. Hopefully they will do something about some of the old camp buildings, because they are definitely an eyesore right now!
It was definitely an enjoyable Sunday Afternoon Hike!

Elevation Profile (from Brenda's GPS)

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Pink Cadillac Diner

The Pink Cadillac Diner
Fancy Hill, VA
Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Well, I finally finished all the trip reports and photos from our vacation to Shenandoah Nation Park.

However, I have one more quick post.  The Pink Cadillac Diner!

On the last morning of our vacation we didn't feel like waiting until 9:00am to get breakfast at the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at so we took off with plans on getting breakfast on the road.

We could have gone with fast food or one of the typical breakfast chain restaurants.  Instead we opted for a more unique experience when we saw the signs for the Pink Cadillac Diner!

Located right off I-81 at the Fancy Hill Exit (Exit #180) it was conveniently located.  The food was excellent, the service was fast, and it was definitely a more interesting eating experience than a McDonalds or Waffle House!

Here are the last shots from our vacation (taken with my I-Phone since my camera was packed away):

 The Pink Cadillac Diner

Me at the Pink Cadillac Diner

 Amy eating breakfast

 Not sure why there was a giant Gorilla in the Parking Lot

And in case you missed any, here is a summary of our trip with all the links in one place:

Blog Posts:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 7 - Shenandoah National Park Vacation

Shenandoah National Park Vacation
Day 7
Blue Ridge Sunrise and
Saint Marys Falls
George Washington National Forest, VA
and some Nelson County, VA Breweries!
Friday, September 7th, 2012

Amy and I enjoy the unique aspects of staying a Bed and Breakfasts when we travel.  The Belle Hearth Bed and Breakfast was OK but definite not one of our favorites.  Our room was nice, but we didn't have control of the thermostat and the room was quite warmer than we prefer.  Also, they were not very accommodating as to when we like to eat!  Breakfast was at 9:00am - take it or leave it.

I generally don't like to wait that late to get my day started, so I didn't.  I got up early, left Amy in Bed and hit the road to catch a sunrise along the Blue Ridge Parkway!  It was not the greatest sunrise I have ever experienced, but definitely worth getting up early for!

Just before Sunrise

Sunrise along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunrise along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunrise along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunrise along the Blue Ridge Parkway

After sunrise I returned back to the Belle Hearth Bed and Breakfast to meet back up with Amy and enjoy a nice breakfast.  After breakfast, we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway heading south.  Our first stop was White Rock Falls at around mile marker #20.  Amy decided to sit this one out.

Kevin Adam's guidebook lists the hike at 0.6 miles, but based on how long it took me (about a half hour), I think it is a little over a mile to get to White Rock Falls.  This was a neat little spot, but the waterfall was less than impressive.  Maybe with a good bit more waterflow it would be worthwhile, but today I was not impressed with this one.
White Rock Falls

After a few quick less than spectacular photos, I returned back to Amy and we continued on.  My next plan was Saint Mary's Falls which definitely sounded like an Amy approved hike!

The Saint Mary's trail is about 2.2 miles long with only a few hundred feet of elevation gain.  However, like most wilderness areas the trails are not blazed.  Also, the trail experienced significant erosion and destruction from the Hurricanes 10 years ago and has not been repaired.

As a result there are many sections where it is questionable which way you should be going.  However, if you just head upstream it really isn't that difficult.  We did end up crossing back and forth across the river more than the three times that Kevin Adam's guidebook says.

Amy crossing the Saint Marys River

If I remember correctly, we had to cross back and forth a total of 5 times each way.  Fortunately with the low waterflow, the river crossings were not very difficult.  Another good thing is that Saint Mary's Falls is still very nice even with low flow.

Saint Marys Falls

I actually think this turned out to be the most photogenic of all the waterfalls I saw during our entire trip!

Saint Marys Falls

Jack and Amy at Saint Marys Falls

It also helped that despite the earlier sun, some nice cloud cover rolled in just as we arrived at the falls making photo conditions just about perfect!

Saint Marys Falls

I took us about an hour and a half to hike to the falls, with much of that time spent trying to figure out when and where to cross the creek!  Since we would hike back the same way we came, there was not that uncertainty and we were able to make the return hike in about an hour.

I really enjoyed the hike and Saint Mary's Falls!

Jack and Amy at Saint Marys Falls

Originally I had also planned on checking out Crabtree Falls, VA but there really wasn't enough time.  Especially since I was eager and more than ready for what we had planned next!

Highway 151 in Nelson County, VA is a hot spot for Wineries and Micro Breweries!  There are (7) wineries and (3) Breweries located along this 25 mile section of road that runs through rural western Virginia.  With my designated driver at my side, I wanted to check out the (3) Breweries.

This was a very enjoyable ending to our vacation and a fun way to do dinner.  Each of the Breweries also has a restaurant.  In additional to sampling some of the beers at each location, we had appetizers at the first two restaurants and our main meal at the third.  The Wild Wolf Brewery was my favorite of the three!

The complete set of photos from Day 7 of our Vacation is posted here:


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 6 - Shenandoah National Park Vacation

Shenandoah National Park Vacation
Day 6
Doyles River Falls and Jones Run Hike
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Today we would be making our way from our cabin in Standardsville, VA to our next accommodations in Waynesboro, VA.  I regretted not packing up the truck the night before, because it was pouring down rain when we got up and ready to hit the road.

The rain continued as we made our way to the Skyline Drive for our journey south.  We still managed to stop at several overlooks for a few quick photos.

View from the Skyline Drive

I could not check the radar on my I-Phone because this part of the Skyline Drive is a Cell Phone Service Dead Zone.  Despite the rain, I still wanted to go hiking, and maybe the first good rain of the week would help the waterflow for the waterfalls I would be checking out on my hike.

Amy wanted no part of hiking in the rain, so she dropped me off at the Doyles River Trailhead with plans of picking me up a few hours later at the Jones Run Trailhead a couple of miles down the road.

It was still raining pretty good for about the first mile along the Doyles River Trail.  I think I saw more Deer during this short section of trail than I have ever seen on one hike.  However, due to the rain, my camera bag was packed inside a plastic bag inside my pack and therefore I did not take any photos.

Fortunately, by the time I arrived at the base of Upper Doyles River Falls the rain had stopped and all I had to deal with was the water drops from the trees.

The good news is that the rain definitely helped out the waterflow!  Upper Doyles River Falls turned out to be a real nice waterfall!
Upper Doyles River Falls

Me at Upper Doyles River Falls

A short distance later the trail passes by the top of Lower Doyles River Falls.  I looked around for a safe way to scramble down to the base but didn't find one.  I am glad I didn't make effort because the trail actually switchbacks down a short distance later and takes you right to the base of Lower Doyles River Fals without any effort at all!

Lower Doyes River Falls
Me at Lower Doyles River Falls

The trail continues on and eventually leaves the Doyles River to head upstream along Jones Run.

As I was hiking along Jones Run I spotted movement in the creek and quickly realized it was a black bear.  This is the first time ever in the wild that I spotted a bear at close distance before it spotted me.  I slowly backtracked a short ways to a spot where I had a clearer view.

It was still overcast and rather dark in this section of the forest, so I had to remove the polarizing filter, crank up the ISO, and adjust the aperture to get a fast enough shutter speed.  Just as I had my shot lined up, the bear looked up and directly at me.  It froze just long enough for me to get one single shot off before it darted away into the forest on the opposite side of the creek.  Fortunately that one shot turned out to be the best shot I have ever gotten of a bear in the wild!

Black Bear

Seeing a bear in its natural habitat at close range really does get heart racing!

I continued upstream paying close attention to my surroundings when soon after the bear sighting I arrived at the base of Jones Run Falls.  Kevin Adam's gives this one a higher rating than both the Falls on Doyles River, but I wasn't overly impressed.  However, it was nice enough to stop and take a few quick shots.

Jones Run Falls

The hike out was a pretty good climb with about 1,500 feet of elevation change.  I took a quick stop to try and photograph some Deer in the forest, but didn't really get much in the way of Deer photos.


I ended up seeing about (40) Deer, One Bear, and Zero other humans on this hike!  Between the earlier rain, 100% humidity, and fairly steep climb I was soaking wet by the time I made it to the Jones Run Trailhead to meet Amy.  She handed me a pile of fresh clothes and made me change before allowing me back into the truck!
Good thing my truck is there!

We continued our drive along the Skyline Drive stopping at a few more overlooks.

Amy at one of the Skyline Drive Overlooks

View from the Skyline Drive

Eventually we made it to the end of Shenandoah National Park where the Skyline Drive officially turns into Mile Marker Zero of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesboro, VA.

It was too early in the day to check into our Bed and Breakfast, so we continued a few miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Humpback Rocks Visitors center at around Mile Marker #5.  Here we decided to check out the short Mountain Farm Trail which takes you through a 120 year old Mountain Farm.

Old Farm House
Chicken on the Farm

Many aspects of this farm reminded Amy of how her Grandparents and Great Grandparents used to live.

After a nice visit to the farm we made our way back to Waynesboro, VA to check into the Belle Hearth Bed and Breakfast.

The Belle Hearth Bed and Breakfast

Waynesboro is a nice little town.  Our Bed and Breakfast was just a few blocks from Downtown Main Street so we decided to walk to dinner.  We had a great meal at the Green Leaf Grill which turned out to be our favorite restaurant stop of our trip.

There is a good bit of "Old Money" in Waynesboro and that became even more obvious to us as we passed by a unique car dealership which specializes in exotic and classic German Automobiles.  Even though we have no intentions of dropping a hundred grand on a Porsche, it didn't stop us from walking through the museum-like showroom!
The Porsche's are nice, but I am partial to the old Bug!

 I didn't know Porsche made Tractors

Amy by a Classic Porsche

The complete set of photos from Day 6 is posted here:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 5 - Shenandoah National Park Vacation

Shenandoah National Park Vacation
Day 5
Cedar Run - White Oak Canyon Loop
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

One of the reasons why we decided to visit Shenandoah is that I saw a photo in the April 2012 edition of Popular Photography Magazine and I immediately knew I wanted to visit that spot someday.  That photo was of Whiteoak Canyon Falls.

Therefore, Whiteoak Canyon was on my must do list of hikes.  Further research showed that there would be a total of six major waterfalls in Whiteoak Canyon and I wanted to see them all!  A 9-mile loop hike would take me to those six, plus several others along the Cedar Run Trail.

This would also be the most difficult hike of the trip with over 2000 feet of elevation change.  This would definitely not be an Amy approved hike, but she was more than happy to stay behind at our cabin with her Kindle loaded with books!

I got a nice early start in hopes of catching a sunrise before the hike, but the mountain was all fogged in.  The fog was like pea soup making the drive much longer than I was anticipating as I did not feel comfortable driving more than 20mph.  There were many Deer out an about alongside and on the road and I definitely would have hit one if I was going much faster!  I came pretty close even at slow speed!

Just as I was about to give up on sunrise, there was a break in the clouds shortly before I arrived at the trailhead.  It was actually about 30 minutes after sunrise, but I still managed to get a few good shots.

Sunrise along the Skyline Drive

I started my hike on the Cedar Run Trail which descends about 2,200 feet over the course of about 4 miles.  Cedar Run Creek was almost completely dry, but as I continued my descent it did gain a little bit of water.  Unfortunately not enough to really make the waterfalls on Cedar Run photo worthy.

Waterfalls along Cedar Run

My only hope was that Whiteoak Run would be a larger creek with more water or else this would end up being a total dissappointment.  I took a connecting trail to meet up with the Whiteoak Canyon Trail and was happy to see a little bit more water in this creek.

As I was hiking along the creek, I heard a loud growl and turned around to see a large black bear about 50-feet away scampering out of the creek and into the brush.  I think I scared him more than he scared me.  The bear was out of view before I had a chance to pull out my camera, but it was still exciting to see it!

Soon after I arrived at the base of Lower Whiteoak Falls (aka Whiteoak Falls #6) where I took a little photography break.

Lower Whiteoak Falls (Whiteoak Falls #6)

According to my Kevin Adam's "Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia" guide book, the next two waterfalls up the creek would require a bit of off trail exploring to get to.  It was a steep climb, but not too difficult to make my way to the base of Whiteoak Falls #5.

Whiteoak Falls #5

I couldn't remember which side of the creek Kevin recommended to get to the next waterfall, but I chose the left side.  Crossing the creek was not an issue due to the low flow, but would probably not be a good idea with high water.

Again it was steep but fairly easy to get to the base of Whiteoak Falls #4

Me at Whiteoak Falls #4

Whiteoak Falls #4

After a nice photo break, I backtracked and returned to the trail at the base of the Lower Falls to continue my hike upstream.

The trail leaves the creek for a while, so if you stick to the trail you would definitely miss waterfalls #4 and #5.  It returns to the creek upstream from those falls and soon arrives at Whiteoak Falls #3 which turned out to be my least favorite of the bunch.

Whiteoak Falls #3

Continuing on the trail I soon arrived at Whiteoak Falls #2

Whiteoak Falls #2

Continuing on, I actually arrived all the way at the upper overlook for Upper Whiteoak Falls (aka Whiteoak Falls #1) before I realized I missed the side trail to the base, so I had to backtrack downhill and repeat that climb later.  But it was worth it as I would not have wanted to miss the base of the Upper Whiteoak Falls.

Upper Whiteoak Falls (Whiteoak Falls #1)

The Whiteoak Canyon trail continues a good ways upstream, but since there are no more major waterfalls, I took the Whiteoak Fire Road in order to complete my loop back at the Cedar Run Trailhead.

This was a great hike, but the low waterflow was a bit dissappointing.  I would definitely like to do this hike again someday during much higher water!

The complete set of Photos from Day 5 is posted here: