Monday, April 22, 2013

2013-04-21 Buck Hollow Bushwhacking Adventure

Buck Hollow Bushwhacking Adventure
Jones Gap State Park
Mountain Bridge Wilderness, SC
Sunday, April 21st, 2013

My buddies Andy and Darrin were camping at Jones Gap State Park this past weekend.  While I was not able to join them for the camping, I was able to meet up with them on Sunday for another waterfall wandering bushwhacking adventure!

I arrived at their campsite bright and early and found that they were nowhere near ready to begin the adventure.  So while waiting for them to cook breakfast, eat, and pack up their campsite, I wandered around Jones Gap with my camera and tripod for some leisurely photos.

After about an hour, they were finally ready to begin our hike.  Andy, Darrin, Boone, Kona and I headed up the Hospital Rock Trail.  Despite a rather cool morning, things warmed up quickly and the steep uphill trek lead us all to shed our jackets and unzip our pant legs.  This proved to be a mistake!

The first part of the trail heads up Rocky Branch and a newly rerouted section now takes you to the base of Buckeye Falls.  This one really needs a good bit of waterflow to be worthwhile, so we didn't take the effort to pull out the tri-pods.  It is easy enough to get to that I will save my better photo attempts for when conditions are better.

 Darrin, Kona, Boone, and Andy at Buckeye Falls

There is another waterfall further upstream on Rocky Branch that is clearly visible from the road leading into Jones Gap State Park.  It can be seen along the left side of the power line clearing.  We got another view as the Hospital Rock Trail crosses over the clearing and decided to see if we could make it up to the base.  Heading up the power line clearing seemed like a good idea.

 View from the Power Line Clearing

Unfortunately when trees are cut down to make way for power lines it seems that briar bushes grow profusely!  And none of us was smart enough to zip our pant legs back on leading to a boatload of bloody briar scratches all over our legs.

While the briar scrapes are a bloody nuisance, the steep rocky cliff face was a show stopper.  We eventually made it to a spot with a slightly better view, but this one is definitely not worth the effort!

 Waterfall on Rocky Branch
aka "Waterfall best viewed from the Road"

After a good bit of effort without much reward we returned to the Hospital Rock Trail and continued on to Hospital Rock where we took a little break to study the maps and plan the next leg of our adventure.

Andy and Darrin at Hospital Rock

While the Hospital Rock trail does eventually cross over the headwaters of Buck Hollow Creek, the areas we suspected to find waterfalls were a good ways off trail.  Just past Hospital Rock, we left the trail and started our bushwhack to the east towards Buck Hollow Creek.

Due to the heavy tree cover, the undergrowth was not very thick making the bushwhacking much easier than we were anticipating.  In fact, we arrived at Buck Hollow Creek much faster than we were expecting that both Andy and I thought it must be a tributary stream.  We actually continued on a ways past Buck Hollow Creek before I finally decided to pull up my IPhone GPS app which confirmed that we did indeed cross over Buck Hollow Creek.

So we backtracked to Buck Hollow Creek and arrived at the base of a nice little 15-foot waterfall.  We decided to break here for lunch.

Waterfall on Buck Hollow Creek

In addition to the waterfall there was also a nice display of Trillium and Jack-in-the-Pulpit.



It looked like there might be a few more smaller waterfalls downstream, but according to the topo map, the steepest drops would be upstream.  So after lunch we continued our bushwhack upstream alongside Buck Hollow Creek.

Heading up the creek was impossible so we made our way into the brush and boulder fields along the left side of the creek.  This turned out to be one of our toughest bushwhacks ever and after over an hour we made virtually no progress!  It appears that this section of Buck Hollow Creek was just an endless series of cascades down a boulder infested cliff!

We eventually decided to give up and declare that this area of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness is not suited for even the most die hard waterfall wanderers.  Of course I would not be surprised if Andy goes back to studying the topo maps and comes up with another possible approach!  And of course I will be game to go back and try again!

The hike back was uneventful except for my first snake sighting of the season!

Eastern Ribbon Snake

Even though this waterfall wandering bushwhacking adventure was not a roaring success, it was still a great day in the woods.  And we all got a good workout!

Boone = Dog Tired

Kona Napping by Andy's Feet at Hospital Rock

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Monday, April 15, 2013

My 43rd Birthday

My 43rd Birthday
Saturday, April 13th, 2013
Spartanburg, SC

My parents planned their annual spring visit for my 43rd Birthday Weekend.  So my wife decided to add to the celebration by throwing me a little party.  Amy's Dad volunteered to bring his smoker down to BBQ a bunch of meat.

My Father-in-Law Chris and his Smoker

Slow cooking BBQ on the smoker is an all day activity, so Amy's Dad arrived at the crack of dawn to start setting up.  I was up early as well to help my father-in-law get set up.

Several hours later, my wife Amy and my parents emerged out of bed.

 Me with my Mom and Dad

My Wife Amy and her Dad

 Most of the morning and early afternoon was spent hanging around the smoker doing quality control as the BBQ was ready for samplin'

 My Father-in-Law Chris showing off his Ribs

Now that's a Flop-N-Turner
(spatula for those not familiar with the redneck language)
The rest of the guests started arriving after lunch and the party went on well into the evening.  Here are a few more shots from the day.

 Amy and Austin

 Children at Play

Austin by the flowers

 Anita and Amy

Hanging out in the Driveway

The Complete set of Photos is posted here:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013-04-07 Rumbling Bald Hike

Rumbling Bald Hike
Rutherford County, NC
Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Over a year ago Keith stumbled across my blog and emailed me about some waterfalls on Little Cove Creek that my buddy Andy and I had found.  I volunteered to take him to visit these waterfalls.  Over a year has passed and our schedules have never matched up.

I knew I wanted to get out hiking this past Sunday, and since Little Cove Creek in on NC Gamelands, it is best to plan to visit on a Sunday since hunting is not allowed.  So I eMailed Keith to see if he was available.

It turned out that he already had a hike to Rumbling Bald planned with some of his buddies and asked if I wanted to join up.  Rumbling Bald is one of my favorite mountains and it had been several years since my last hike there, so I eagerly accepted Keith's invitation!  Charlie, Bob, and Kim would also be joining us on this hike!
Group Photo from the hike
L to R:  Bob, Keith, Charlie, Me, Kim

I have always hiked Rumbling Bald the hard way which involves starting at the base and gaining over 2,000 feet in elevation over the first 1.5 miles.  Partially because I enjoy a good work-out, but mostly because parking on the northern end is a bit sketchy.

Fortunately Keith knows one of the property owners at the north-west end so we would be able to park a vehicle there to begin our hike which would now be a mostly down-hill shuttle hike.

From the Shumont Road access where we began our hike it only took about 20 minutes to arrive at Eagle Rock which offers some spectacular views.

View from Eagle Rock looking at the Rumbling Bald Ridgeline we would hike

It is a bit of a scramble to get up and down from various parts of the rock.  Nothing too difficult, but definitely not 100% safe!  It is best not to try and scramble up and down these rocks on a solo hike!

 Climbing down from Eagle Rock

Next up we took a side trail that leads to the summit of Shumont Mountain.  Both Keith and I have been to the summit before and there are no views and not really anything to see.  However, what intrigued us was an exposed rock area on the western side of the mountain that is clearly visible from Google Earth.  We wanted to see if we could get there!

About half-way up to the summit of Shumont an obvious side trail heads off to the right.  We followed that until it started turning to the east.  From there it was a bit of trial and error, but mostly easy bushwhacking  until we arrived at the exposed rock area.   I am not sure if this has an official name, but I am calling it Shumont Rock.

 The gang on Shumont Rock

We took a break here to enjoy the views before continuing our hike.

 View from Shumont Rock

We could have easily back-tracked to the main trail, but the side trail we were on did start heading to the east which was the direction we wanted to go, so we followed it.

It soon fizzled out, but we were far enough along that we knew we would get the main trail if we just continued on to the east, so the bushwhacking began.

 Bob and Kim on the Bushwhacking portion of our hike

There were some rocky areas, rhododendron, briers, and deadfall to navigate around, but for the most part it was fairly easy bushwhacking and before long we were back on the main trail.

From here the trail, which is actually a wide track old jeep road, follows the ridge line of Rumbling Bald Mountain.  There are not many wide open views, but since most of the trees have not sprung their leaves yet, there are plenty of views to be had in all directions.

 View from the trail looking back at Eagle Rock

While we were hiking mostly downhill, there were some uphill sections as there are three obvious humps along the Rumbling Bald Ridgeline. 

This was definitely not a wildflower bonanza, but we did see a nice display of bloodroot, toadshade trillium, and several other common varieties that I failed to get any good photos of.  I didn't bring my Macro Lens along so my wildflower photos were less than desirable.

 Bloodroot blooming behind a toadshade trillium

One of the main highlights of the hike is Party Rock which offers what I believe to have the best overall view of Lake Lure.  We took our last break of the day here to soak in the scenery!

 Keith on Party Rock

Bob on Party Rock
 Charlie and Kim on Party Rock

Not only do you get some great view of the lake, but also some nice views across the gorge of Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Falls.

 Distant view across the gorge of Hickory Nut Falls
Due to the haze, this photo worked much better converted to Black and White

The last portion of the hike was all downhill.  Most of the trail is actually drivable, and the parts that are not drivable, people still attempt to drive every now and then.  However, even the most well equipped 4x4 would have a tough time getting through some of the rocky and badly eroded sections of this road!  Here is what happened to one truck that attempted to drive up Rumbling Bald!

The weather was absolutely perfect for hiking!  And it was great to meet and hike with Keith, Charlie, Bob, and Kim!

The complete set of photos is posted here