Monday, January 30, 2012

DuPont State Forest Hike
Lake Dense, Joanna Mountain, Grassy Creek Falls
Transylvania County, NC
Saturday, January 28th, 2012

After our morning CMLC (Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) hike, there was still plenty of time left in the day for another hike.

Andy, Brenda, and I decided to head on over to DuPont State Forest.  Our main goal for the afternoon was to hike to the summit of Joanna Mountain since Andy and Brenda have not been there before.  I've hiked there on several past occasions, but I had no problem making a return trip since it is one of my favorite spots in DuPont State Forest.

We started at the Buck Forest parking area, hiked across the covered bridge at the top of High Falls, and then took the Pitch Pine Trail over to Lake Dense where we took a nice break to enjoy lunch in the sun.

Andy and Brenda taking a break at Lake Dense


Picnic area at Lake Dense

From Lake Dense you get a nice view of Joanna Mountain where we would be hiking to later in the day.  While not the highest mountain peak in the land, the rocky west face of Joanna is fairly impressive.

view of Joanna Mountain rising over Lake Dense

After our lunch break, we hiked the Lake Dense trail to check out Lake Alford, which I would consider more of a pond than an actual lake.  Lake Alford is in a nice secluded spot that doesn't get a whole lot of traffic and is another one of my favorite spots in the Forest.

Lake Alford

From there, we backtracked past Lake Dense and hooked up with Joanna Mountain Road, which rises gradually up Joanna's backside!  The road takes you most of the way up and then the Joanna Mountain Trail takes you to within 100 feet of the summit.

From the end of the trail its a steep scramble up a rock slide.  I don't remember this being too difficult from my previous hikes, but after all the rain we've had lately there was significant seepage down the rocks making it as slick as goose snot!

Andy and Brenda coming down the steep section.
Photo is out of order, but I didn't get any good shots of them coming up,
so you will just have to settle for this one of them coming down!

After the steep rocky section, it is a short and easy bushwhack to the summit.  There are no actual views from the summit, but some more easy bushwhacking down the west side takes you to the exposed rocky areas we saw earlier from Lake Dense.

View to the North from Joanna Mountain

While the bushwhacking is easy, there are a bunch of Briers to contend with.  And since I unzipped my pant legs earlier, I ended up with the standard bloody calves and shins that tend to result from bushwhacking through briers in shorts.

We took another break on the Rocky Face of Joanna to soak in the views and the beautiful sunshine!

Andy and Brenda taking a break on Joanna Mountain

Another enjoyable thing about this spot was that we were able to view several of places we had hiked to earlier in the day.  Rich Mountain (our earlier morning hike) could be seen directly to the West while Lake Dense was very obvious down below.

View  to the West from Joanna Mountain
Rich Mountain is the peak on the left side (with the radio tower)
Lake Dense is in the Foreground

After our break, we returned down Joanna Mountain using the butt slide method on several occasions and decided we had time for one more sight.  Grassy Creek Falls!

To be honest, I wasn't all that excited about Grassy Creek Falls.  I visited it one time in the past and was less than impressed.  But since the water level was up, it might be worth checking out.  Therefore it didn't take much for Andy to convince me.  And I am glad he did!

Grassy Creek Falls


While nowhere near as impressive as the some of the other waterfalls in the forest, this one we had to ourselves and the higher water level made it much nicer than I remember.  I've upped my rating from a 2 to a 4 (out of 10). 

Andy photographing Grassy Creek Falls

We thought briefly about visiting High Falls on the way out.  And while High Falls is one of the more impressive waterfalls in the area, I have been there more times than I can count on one hand and didn't feel the need to go back today.  Brenda was also ready to head on home, so we called it quits for the day  and hiked back to our vehicles.

Here is our hike route for the afternoon which totaled about 8 miles according to Brenda's GPS.  Making for a total of 11 miles on the day (including the earlier morning hike).

Hike Route

It was another great day to be outdoors!  I wonder if we are going to get winter this year?

The complete set of photos from our DuPont Forest hike is posted here:
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/582253814svtOBo

Sunday, January 29, 2012

CMLC Rich Mountain Hike from Camp High Rocks
Adjacent to DuPont State Forest, NC
Saturday, February 28th, 2012

A few weeks ago I saw the following hike posting in the CMLC (Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) newsletter.

CMLC invites you to a public winter hike to the top of Rich Mountain. Starting from Camp High Rocks’ beautiful grounds, near DuPont State Forest, we’ll cross a few horse pastures, then pick up a strenuous trail through open forest. We’ll pause for a breather between two unique and massive rock formations, and then we’ll make a short, but steep climb up the southeast ridge of Rich Mountain to the top. The summit affords virtually 360 degree views, with particularly good views of the Blue Ridge to the west and north—perfect for a lunch break before heading down. CMLC has been granted access by the Camp’s owners, Townsend and Hank Birdsong. This is a special opportunity to walk through the camp en route to the beautiful Cathedral Rock formations and up to the summit of Rich Mountain, where you’ll have breathtaking views of the surroundings. This is a STRENUOUS HIKE on existing trails, with a total elevation ascent of about 700 feet in 3 miles. Be aware, there are several steep sections during the ascent and descent.


I am generally not a fan of large group hikes, but it in this case it was an opportunity to hike someplace that is no open to the general public. 

Andy, one of my regular hiking buddies decided to sign up for the hike as well.  And since the trail is right across the road from Brenda's community, she also decided to join the group.

Andy met me in Spartanburg and rode with me the rest of the way to Camp High Rocks in Cedar Mountain, NC.  We were the first to arrive, so we took a few minutes to check out a small lake at the camp.

The Lake at Camp High Rocks.  Rich Mountain can be seen rising above the lake.

Other hikers started to show up and we ended up with a group of about (20) humans and (2) dogs.  Normally dogs are not allowed on CMLC hikes which is why Boone didn't come along with Andy, but these dogs belonged to the owners of the camp and took it upon themselves to join the group.

The two dogs that decided to join the hike

The hike starts off with a easy stroll through the camp and a few open fields before entering the woods and climbing up the mountain. 

The group hiking across one of the horse pastures

There are a few steep sections but nothing too strenuous.  The highlight of the hike up, is several huge rock formations along the way. 

Not the greatest photo, but it shows some of the huge rock formations we passed along the way to the summit

We originally thought it would be 3 miles to the top, but it is actually only 3 miles round trip making it only a mile and a half to the top of Rich Mountain.  There used to be a fire on top of the mountain, but now all that is left is the foundation.  In its place are several unsightly radio and cell towers.

The old house where I assume that whoever monitored the old fire tower used to live still stands as well as several other run down structures.

The old fire tower keepers house

At the summit of Rich Mountain

The views from the summit are not as impressive as I as hoping for.  The highlight is the distant view of Whiteside Mountain.
view of Whiteside Mountain from the summit of Rich Mountain

This is not a hike that I would really want to do again, but at least whenever we view the summit of Rich Mountain we can say we've been there!  I appreciate the CMLC for giving me the opportunity!

Since we only hiked about 3 miles and it was still was only about noon when we finished up; Andy, Brenda, and I decided to head into DuPont State Forest for  some more hiking!  That will be tomorrow's blog post!

The full set of photos from our first hike of the day is posted here:
http://community.webshots.com/album/582246330kHhrxR

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Waterfall Wandering Bushwhacking Adventure
Mill Creek and Rachael Creek
Just outside of Table Rock State Park, SC
Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

After contemplating several different hike options, we decided that Sunday would be the perfect day for a Waterfall Wandering Bushwhacking Adventure.

I had heard about a waterfall on Rachael Creek just outside Table Rock State Park several years ago from Waterfall Rich (http://www.ncwaterfalls.com/) and have been wanting to check it out ever since. Bernie (another master waterfall seeker) had found several additional waterfalls in the area and recently supplied Johnny with a map.

All of these waterfalls are off trail and would require a good bit of bushwhacking. They are also on fairly low volume creeks and streams, so it is best to visit when the water is up a bit.

The area has had a good bit of rain recently supplying the first necessary ingredient for a perfect day. Second, it was early enough in the year that the forest would be as open as it gets allowing easier navigation, and the poison ivy would not be out yet. Another essential element would be the overcast skies, making for perfect waterfall photography conditions.

In addition, the weather was absolutely perfect for bushwhacking. Cool enough that you could wear long pants and long sleeves so you don't turn into a bloody mess from all the briers, but warm enough that you don't have to worry about getting too cold, even if you end up falling in a creek (more on that later).

Johnny, Bob, Brenda, Andy, Boone, and I met up at the Palmetto Trailhead inside Table Rock State Park and began our hike!
Johnny and Andy at the Palmetto Trail Trailhead

About a mile in, the trail crosses over Mill Creek. Shortly afterwards, and unsigned, but fairly obvious side path heads up the left side of the creek.

Andy rock hopping across Mill Creek

This unblazed, but well-worn side trail gains approximately 600 feet of elevation over a little less than a mile and ends at the base of a very impressive waterfall on Mill Creek.

Waterfall on Mill Creek.
To give a sense of scale, Bob can be seen lining up a photo

There is a Mill Creek Falls on the same creek inside the State Park Boundary. However the one we visited is located just outside the park a short distance downstream from the more well-known and visited Mill Creek Falls. Fortunately, it is still considered public land, so no trespassing is required. I would guess this series of drops fall more than 150 feet and in my opinion, is far more impressive as the Mill Creek Falls upstream inside the Park.

One of the drops of this multi-tiered waterfall on Mill Creek

We backtracked to the Palmetto Trail and continued towards the West. Over the next two miles the trail gradually gains elevation, crossing a ridge, before beginning it's descent into the Rachael Creek area. The most notable thing about this section of trail is the amazing amount of recent damage done by wild hogs.

The trail first crosses over the main branch of Rachael Creek and a short distance later, it crosses a smaller tributary stream. All my previous hikes on this section of trail have been during the spring or summer when you cannot see very far upstream through the foliage. However, with the lack of winter foliage we could see upstream to the next waterfall! It is a bit of a scramble, but not overly difficult to get to the base of this one.

Waterfall on Rachael Creek Tributary

Continuing to the West, the Palmetto Trail crosses a second tributary of Rachael Creek. From here, we left the trail and headed downstream into the forest to begin some fairly intense Bushwhacking!

I just had to squeeze this photo of Boone in somewhere

There is absolutely no trail here and the woods are thick with Rhododendron, Briers, and a very uneven footing. We crossed the steam several times following the path of least resistance. As we got to the top of the first drop, it was obvious that the West side of the stream was the way to go.

We meandered our way down to this next waterfall, a very scenic 15-20 footer. It was nicer than anything I was expecting, but nothing compared to what was yet to come.

Waterfall above Yucca Falls

Not much further downstream, it appeared that the stream dropped off the face of the earth! It was obvious that the next waterfall would much taller than anything I was expecting. With steep cliffs all around, there was way to safely get down the side of this waterfall. So we headed into the woods and found a much safer way down around the cliffs.

My favorite part of the entire hike was coming down the side and catching our first view of what was up ahead! According to Bernie, this one is called Yucca Falls and it far exceeded my wildest expectations!

First view of Yucca Falls from the side

The fact that I was in minor pain from stepping in a hole between some rocks and twisting my knee did not stop me from continuing the steep scramble down to the base of Yucca Falls! Wow, this one is a beauty!

Yucca Falls

Just downstream from Yucca Falls, is another small but scenic waterfall of about 10-15 feet tall.

Me by a small waterfall just downstream from Yucca Falls

Shortly downstream this tributary joins the main branch of Rachael Creek, significantly increasing the volume of water. We continued downstream and found ourselves at the brink of the next drop which I am calling Rachael Creek Falls.

Finding a safe way down to the base of this one proved to be a major challenge. My knee didn't feel quite right from when I twisted it earlier and I managed to step wrong and started to fall down the side of a cliff. I managed to stop my downward momentum using my hiking pole. However the force of the fall was enough to significantly bend the end of my shaft!

My Hiking Pole

From there on out, I decided to use the much safer butt slide method to make my way most of the way down. The last part of the descent was probably the most difficult, but fortunately it would not be too far of a fall if things went wrong, so I followed Johnny's lead and used the Tarzan Swing method for the final 5 or 6 feet of descent.

Johnny then used a large log as a balance beam to get to a better vantage point across the creek. I made the mistake of using a smaller log which snapped in half from my weight and sent me plunging feet first into knee deep water. The January water was definitely cold, but since my feet were already soaked it made any remaining exploration of the creeks much easier as I wasn't concerned anymore about keeping my feet dry!

The main waterfall on Rachael Creek is not as high as some of the others we have seen, but it is still much higher than it appears to be in the photos. I would guess this series of cascades to be about a 40-50 foot drop.

Rachael Creek Falls

Downstream from here the terrain appeared to level out, and I am sure if there was any more significant drops, Bernie would have noted it on his map, so we followed Rachael Creek back upstream.

We found one more worthwhile Falls a short distance upstream, and a couple additional small cascades. We could have continued following the creek, but with the heavy vegetation creek side, we took to the more open forest back to the Palmetto Trail.

Small Waterfall on Rachael Creek just upstream from the main falls

With the shorter days of winter, we only had about 2 hours before dusk and still had about 3 miles of hiking back to our vehicles. Fortunately while a bit uncomfortable, my injured knee didn't really slow down my hiking pace.

GPS Track and Elevation Profile (Thanks to Brenda!)

This was definitely one of my most enjoyable hiking adventures in quite a while, but later that evening and the next morning I could barely walk. Fortunately my knee is feeling much better now and I don't anticipate any long term lingering effects!

The complete set of photos from our adventure is posted here:
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/582220168eIOReI

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday's Waterfalls

Waterfalls Wandering Bushwhacking Adventure
Just outside of Table Rock State Park, SC
Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Here photos of the (7) significant waterfalls we Bushwhacked to on Yesterday's Waterfall Wandering Adventure.

1.  Waterfall on Mill Creek


2.  Waterfall on Tributary of Rachel Creek


3. Waterfall just upstream from Yucca Falls on another tributary of Rachel Creek


4. Yucca Falls


5.  Waterfall just downstream from Yucca Falls


6. Rachel Creek Falls


7. Waterfall upstream from Rachel Creek Falls

Next post will be the full trip report with additional photos and a link to the complete set of photos

Awesome Waterfall Wandering Adventure

Yesterday, Andy, Bob, Boone, Johnny, Brenda and I teamed up to seek out some little know off trail waterfalls around the Jocassee Gorge Passage of the Palmetto Trail.  This adventure was a roaring success as we visited (7) relatively unknown waterfalls!

With plenty of rain the previous day, a nice overcast sky, and perfect hiking weather (not to hot and not too cold), we picked the perfect day for this type of Waterfall Wandering Adventure!

Here is a quick self portrait of myself in front of my favorite of the bunch!


This one is on a small tributary of Rachel Creek
and involves one hell of a bushwhack to get to!


Plenty more photos to come over the next few days!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Free Flowing - Beaver Battle Part 2

Yesterday afternoon a Spartanburg County Road Maintenance crew came out and removed the Beaver Dam from the culvert.  Here are a couple of before/after shots of our little stream.



Before (Same photo as posted yesterday)

After the Beaver Dam inside the culvert was cleared out




Before (notice the tree in the middle of the pond)

After (the tree is back on dry land)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dam Beavers!

We have a small stream that flows along the edge of our property.  Except after heavy rains, the water is rarely over a few inches deep.  The stream flows under our street through a culvert.  About a month ago I noticed that the water level was much higher due to what I thought was a build up of debris at the entrance to the culvert.  So I busted up the debris pile which brought the water level back down to normal.

A few days later, I noticed that the debris pile was back and the water level was up again.  So I busted it up again.

When we returned from the our week away for the holidays, we found that our little stream had turned into a small pond.  The water wasn't flowing through the culvert any more and was backing up onto our property.  The location of the previous debris pile was now completely under water.

There is normally just a few inches of water flowing through the bottom of the culvert


The tree in the middle of the pond is normally above ground alongside the banks of the stream 

This required some further investigation!  I couldn't see inside the culvert from my yard, so I got with my neighbor across the street to investigate from his side of the road.  Inside the culvert was completely blocked up with debris.

Blocked up Culvert


Also along his part of his creek we spotted several tree stumps which were obviously downed by beavers!  Now normally, I have no problem with Beavers!  I think they are pretty amazing critters, but when they decide to flood my property, something has to be done!


Some recent Beaver Activity


 I wasn't about to go crawling inside the culvert, so we contacted our Homeowners Association and the County Road Commission.  They should be out later today to bust up the dam inside the culvert, but I am afraid the Beavers will quickly rebuild!

Another Beaver Dam on my neighbors property

The battle against the Beavers has begun!