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:

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