Saturday, March 31, 2012

Creepy Crawly

I took a stroll through Hatcher Garden here in Spartanburg this morning.  I mainly went to photograph the flowers, but it was a bit breezy for good macro flower photography.  So it turns out my favorite photo of the morning was on this Creepy Crawly Critter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blog Interview featuring SCJack

A few days ago someone from pocketranger.com asked if I would be willing to be interviewed and featured on their blog.  I had never heard of pocketranger, but after some quick research I found that they are a maker of outdoor apps for I-Phones.

Since I enjoy sharing my outdoor adventure stories and photos, I agreed to the interview.

Here is the link to the blog post
http://pocketranger.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/off-duty-confidential-the-adventures-of-sc-jack/

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Completely unrelated:
but since I always like to include at least one photo in each of my blog posts,
here is today's photo which was taken in our yard.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Waterfalls of Tankersley Branch


The Waterfalls of Tankersley Branch
Greenville County, SC
Sunday, March 25th, 2012

I like to help support and follow the efforts of several area conservation groups.  Organizations like the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and the Palmetto Conservation Foundation have helped protect thousands of acres of land in the Carolinas from development.

One 600 acre chunk of land that has recently been protected is located adjacent to Jones Gap State Park, SC.  Several years ago I heard rumors that Tankersley Branch which flows down the middle of this piece of property contains some impressive waterfalls.

It appears that this piece of property will soon become part of Jones Gap State Park, but who knows how long that will take.  We wanted to explore it now.

Andy came up with a plan to access Tankersley Branch starting from the Falls Creek Falls trailhead, hiking to the top of Falls Creek Falls, and then bushwhacking east towards Tankersley Branch.  Brenda and I decided to join in on Andy's plan.

However, the more I studied the maps, the more I disliked Andy's plan.   I came up with and suggested an alternate route which would hopefully be much easier and still avoid trespassing across private property.  Brenda and Andy agreed that my plan looked like it just might work.

From Jones Gap, we took Gap Creek Road to Rhodes Lane to Cedar Rock Drive.  I had planned to drive a bit further up Cedar Rock Drive but the road was gated a short ways in.  Fortunately there were not any no trespassing signs, so we parked at a small pull-off before the gate and started our hike up the road.

 Brenda, Andy and Boone hiking along the road

After climbing a pair of long sweeping switchbacks, we spotted an obvious side road heading towards the east which is the direction we wanted to go, so we took that.  However, this road soon turned towards the south and took us to an obvious private property boundary.

From there we followed a barb-wire fence along the property boundary towards the North-East.  It was obvious that others have followed this same path and it was very easy going.  We crossed a small tributary stream and shortly after  arrived at Tankersley Branch.

The terrain was pretty flat here but we knew things would change as we followed Tankersley Branch upstream. 

We started out on the West side of the creek through a fairly open forest.  We soon came upon the ruins of an old cabin with only the remains of a stone chimney still standing.  We took a quick break here before continuing on upstream.

 Andy checking out the old chimney ruins

The terrain started getting steeper, but it was made easier when we picked up an obvious path the led us to the base of the first waterfall just in time for the sun to make it first appearance of the day!
Lower Waterfall on Tankersley Branch

We took a quick photo break, before continuing upstream.  Above the first waterfall is a long and impressive waterslide.  However, we could not find a safe spot to compose a decent photo, so we continued upstream. 

Above the slide, the rock face is mostly dry as the entire creek volume flows through a 2-foot wide channel.  This was an impressive site but my photos do not do it justice.

 Cascades along Tankersley Branch

We continued upstream by walking along the exposed rock.  This is fairly easy since the rock face was dry, but it would be suicide in wet conditions.  Eventually the exposed rock section ended and we were forced into some very thick vegetation.  Despite the weather being plenty warm, I regretted my decision to wear shorts as my legs were getting shredded by briars!

But we pushed on and eventually made our way to the base of another nice waterfall!
 Waterfall on Tankersley Branch

Form here neither side of the creek look very hospitable and I almost suggested we turn back.  Fortunately Andy encouraged Brenda and I to continue on.  We stayed on the west side of the creek moving at a speed of about 20 feet per hour.  We eventually gave up on the west side of the creek and crossed over to the east side.

The forest was a bit more open, but it was extremely rugged with huge boulders to navigate up, over, and around.   
 Boone on one of the huge boulders

Fortunately several additional waterfalls and cascades made our efforts worthwhile and gave us an excuse to stop and take a break.

 Me by a nice smaller waterfall on Tankersley Branch

I was more than satisfied with what we had found and would have been perfectly happy turning back at this point.  However, while Brenda and I stopped to check out one of the smaller waterfalls, Andy forged on ahead.
 Another nice series of smaller waterfalls and cascades along Tankersley Branch

When we eventually met back up, Andy informed us that what was ahead was not to be missed.

Andy was right, this last waterfall is a beauty! 

 Andy's Falls on Tankersley Branch

We could call this one Upper Tankersley Branch Falls, but instead we are going to call this one Andy's Falls!  This one is very cool and I am sure that not many people have made it to this spot!

 Brenda at Andy's Falls

There might be a few more smaller drops further upstream, but not even Andy was willing to push on any further.

For our return, we ventured a bit further away from the creek where the forest was a bit more open.  About halfway down we picked up an old roadbed that headed to the east.  This intrigued us since Peter's Branch, the next significant stream over, comes down the same mountainside and should have its own share of waterfalls.

We followed this old roadbed a short distance before it eventually petered out.  We could have still continued on, but even if were able to make it all the way to Peter's Branch, we would not have enough time to explore.  Plus, we wanted to do a bit more research about the property ownership before attempting that.

Note:  it turns out that except for the high headwaters, Peter's Branch is entirely on private property.  It is not likely that we will ever get the chance to explore that one.

We continued back down to the banks of Tankersley Branch.  The Butt slide method was essential during many parts of this final steep descent.  

 Andy using the Butt Slide method to work his way down the mountain

Since we were already on our butts most of the way down, it made photographing the wildflowers that much easier and this section of the forest contained the most impressive display of wildflowers we had seen on our hike.
 Bloodroot Bloom

We eventually made it back to the creek, crossed over and met back up with familiar territory.  From there we retraced our early steps back to my truck.

 Andy and Brenda crossing Tankersley Branch

To get an idea of how rugged this bushwhack was, according to Brenda's GPS we traveled a total of only 3.5 miles during our 5-hour adventure!



It was 3:00pm when we finished up.  Andy suggested we squeeze a few more miles in and explore a bit up Little Falls Creek.  Brenda was not feeling up to it, and I was worried about time.  So we decided to save our Little Falls Creek exploration for another time.

Andy and I did make a quick stop to check out the Poinsett Bridge on the way home.

 Poinsett Bridge

This was another successful and enjoyable waterfall discovery bushwhacking adventure!  Thanks Andy for encouraging us on to that final waterfall!

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Poinsett Bridge

Poinsett Bridge
Greenville County, SC
Sunday, March 25th, 2012


Before I get to Sunday's main trip report, here is a quick post and a few photos of the Poinsett Bridge.


Andy and I made a quick stop here on the drive home after our hike.  The Poinsett Bridge was built in 1820.  At the time it was along the main route from Columbia, SC to Asheville, NC.  While no longer used for vehicle traffic, it is still pretty much intact and is believe to be the oldest bridge in South Carolina. 


It is not far out of the way while traveling Hwy 11 through Greenville County and worth a quick photo stop.  Here are a few more shots.




Monday, March 26, 2012

Yesterday's Wildflowers

The goal of yesterday's hike was to find some new waterfalls.  As posted yesterday, we achieved that goal!

As an added bonus, there was also a nice variety of wildflowers.  Here are some of yesterday's wildflower shots:
Voilet

Dwarf Iris

Yellow Violet
 
The earliest I have ever seen Rhododendron Blooms

 Fleabane Daisies

 Not sure what this yellow flower is

 Violets

Not sure what this one is
 
Bloodroot

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some new Waterfalls!

Andy, Brenda, Boone, and I had another successful waterfall discovering adventure today.

Here is what we found!






Anyone know where these are?
Hint:  They are all on the same creek located in northern Greenville County, SC

The location will be revealed whenever I get around to posting the trip report!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve


Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve
Greenville County, SC
Sunday, March 18th, 2012

 In my opinion, the Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve is one of the greatest spring wildflower hikes in the Carolinas.  Add in several waterfalls and a trailhead  that is only about 30 minutes from  my house makes this one of  my favorite hiking destinations!

Andy, Christy, Brenda, Johnny, and I decided to meet at the trailhead at 9:30am.  My plan was to leave the house a little early to take advantage of some early morning photo opportunities. 


I figured the peach blossoms should be close to peak bloom  so I had hoped Johnny would tip me off to the location where he took these photos.  Unfortunately it turns out that  this peach orchard has recently been chopped down.  However, Johnny agreed to meet me early to show me some other peach orchards near the Chestnut Ridge trailhead.

The weather did not cooperate.  It was pouring down rain when I met Johnny at 8:30am, so we spent about a half our checking the weather radar and playing with our I-Phones.  Eventually we made our way towards the peach orchard, but the rain did not let up.  Plus, it was a few days too early for peak bloom.

I did attempt a couple of low light, one handed shots (my other hand was holding the umbrella), but they all came out lousy and are not worth posting.  However, at least now I know the location, so I can make another attempt in the future.

It was still raining when we met the rest of the group at the trailhead, but it was definitely letting up, so the five of us (plus two dogs) hit the trail.  The rain made things much colder than we were expecting, but I assured the group that the sun would be shining once we hit the waterfalls.

The first mile is a very easy stroll through the woods with just a few minor ups and downs.  We kept up a quick pace to get our bodies warmed up.  With all the rain, we were a bit worried about the river crossing we would come to later, but the small stream alongside this section of trail gave us a good indication that water flow was still fairly normal.

The second mile of trail climbs about 400 feet of elevation through a forest popping with wildflowers.  This section of trail has the largest display of Bloodroot and Toadshade Trillium that I have ever seen in one place.

Bloodroot blooming under some Toadshade Trillium

The trails crests at a gap with a 5-way intersection offering up some alternate hike options.  After a quick break, we stuck with the main trail straight ahead.

The third mile descends about 400-feet to the South Pacolet River.  While not as many as the climb up, there was still a good display of wildflowers along this section of trail.  The main trail officially ends at the river making for a 3-mile (6-mile round trip) hike. 

However, across the river is a forest service road offering opportunities to extend the hike  which is what we planned to do.

Despite the morning rain, the river was still low enough to easily rock hop across.  The only one that had an y issues was Kona, who had never done a major river or creek crossing before.   After a bit of coercing from the group, Kona eventually made his way across.

Kona's First River Crossing

 We connected with the forest service road across the river and hiked to the west a short distance to where a small tributary flows under the road.  Just upstream is a nice low flow waterfall called Moonshiners Falls.  Years ago, this area was the full of illegal moonshining activity which is how this waterfall got its name.

Moonshiners Falls

Moonshiners Falls is not the most scenic or photogenic of all waterfalls, and my earlier prediction about the sun being shining once we reach the waterfalls proved correct making conditions for waterfalls photography even worse.

However, it wasn't a total lost cause as the base of Moonshiners Falls was full of wildflowers including my first Jack-in-the-Pulpit sighting of the season!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

After a short break at Moonshiners Falls, we continued west on the Forest Service road to the next tributary stream.  A mild bushwhack upstream takes you to an impressive cave which you can either crawl through or find your way around to the base of Cave Falls!

Cave Falls

Since our last visit to Cave Falls, several huge dead Hemlocks have fallen making any photography from  the base  futile.  A difficult scramble up the right side of the waterfall led to one of the only descent vantage points.

Johnny, Brenda, and I decided  to continue the bushwhack upstream .  Except for several more fallen Hemlocks, the forest is fairly open, however the bushwhack is very steep!    

Bushwhacking up to Upper Cave Falls

Navigating  around  dead hemlocks sent us father away from the creek and when we eventually made our way back to the creek we were at the base of a waterfall I did not recognize.

We were further upstream than on our last visit.  Since Upper Upper Cave Falls sounds kind of silly, Johnny decided to name this one Brenda Falls, since Brenda was with us on this discovery.

Brenda at Brenda Falls

After a short photography break, I made my way downstream a bit to the next drop which we call Upper Cave Falls.  This one would be really nice if the deadfall ever gets cleared out, but with all the Hemlocks dying, deadfall will be an issue in this area for years to come!

Upper Cave Falls

Back at base camp (the cave at cave falls), I took a quick snack break with Christy and the dogs while waiting for the others to come back down. 

Just downstream from Cave Falls, a steep scramble takes you to Lower Cave Falls, the 4th significant drop on this tributary stream.

Lower Cave Falls

 At this point the group was a bit scattered about, but we would eventually all meet back up downstream where the tributary crosses the forest service road.  While waiting for some of the others to arrive, I spent some time playing with and photographing the two dogs!

Kona and Boone

From there we hiked back the way we came.  I had switched over to my Macro Lens and decided to focus on the wildflowers for the hike back to the trailhead.

 Bloodroot Bloom Close-up


Except for the rainy morning it was a beautiful day to be outside!

The complete set of photos is posted here: