Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chimney Rock State Park, Eagle Rock,
and Lake Lure
Rutherford County, NC
Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Last Sunday Amy and I decided to make the short drive up to Rutherford County, NC to hopefully catch some nice Fall Color at Chimney Rock State Park.

 Chimney Rock

There were a few trees that were at peak color, but overall the fall color was far less than spectacular.  It was still a beautiful (but chilly) fall morning to be outside. 

 View of Snow Capped Little Pisgah Mountain from Chimney Rock

We hiked the Skyline Trail and the Outcroppings Trail before deciding to head someplace far less crowded!
 Devil's Head

Amy and Jack at the end of the Skyline Trail

I suggested Eagle Rock, an awesome but relatively unknown rock outcropping at the Northwest end of Rumbling Bald Mountain.  You can get there via a long and strenuous hike up and across the ridge line of Rumbling Bald Mountain.  However, since that hike is not "Amy Approved" we went with a much easier access route.

While Eagle Rock is on public property, there is currently no official public access.  There are loads of No Parking signs near the trail head, but we managed to find a place to park that wasn't right next to a No Parking sign.  It is a short and easy hike of less than a mile.

 First Snow of the Season

 Any on Eagle Rock

 view from Eagle Rock

 Me under Eagle Rock

After Eagle Rock, we returned to Lake Lure and had lunch at La Strada Italian Restaurant, which turned out to be better than expected. 

We finished up the afternoon with a stroll around the park by the Lake Lure Marina.

 Lake Lure Marina

 Lake Lure

 Rumbling Bald Mountain

 First Snowman of the Season

 Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

It was a very enjoyable day to be outside!

The Complete set of Photos is posted here:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ladies Night at "The Shop"
Rutherfordton, NC
Saturday, October 25th, 2014

On a typical Saturday Afternoon/Evening, my father-in-law's "shop" becomes a gathering spot for guys to hang out, chew the fat, and enjoy a few adult beverages.  Every year, my father-in-law hosts a ladies night gathering where the men are encouraged to bring their wives or significant others to see what "The Shop" experience is all about.

Here are a few photos from this years "Ladies Night" gathering:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dismal Falls Adventure with Darrin
Pisgah National Forest
Transylvania County, NC
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Dismal Falls

It has been (11) years since I last hiked to Dismal Falls.  Back then, I didn't even own a digital camera.  I had also never ventured off trail making this the most extreme hike I had ever done at the time.  Fortunately that hike was led by Waterfall Rich of  At the time, I don't think I would have had the experience to get to Dismal Falls on my own! 

Spending an awesome day with Waterfall Rich and several other waterfall photography gurus inspired me to purchase my first digital camera shortly thereafter.  Since then I have visited and photographed over 300 different waterfalls.

A revisit to Dismal Falls has been long overdue, so when my buddy Darrin suggested taking a day off from work to make his first visit to Dismal Falls, I immediately jumped in.

The directions to the trailhead on page 420 of the 2005 edition of Kevin Adam's "North Carolina Waterfalls" book are no longer 100% correct since the paving and re-routing of NC281.  Waterfall Rich's directions are a little more accurate.

We arrived at the trailhead shortly after 9:00am and began our hike.  It was a beautiful fall day with morning temperatures of about 50 degrees, low humidity, and not a cloud in the sky.  The first part of the hike is rather easy as it travels along a well established forest service road.  About a half mile in, just before a small stream crossing, a short "side trail" heads off to the right to the base of Aunt Sally's Falls.  Note: I have also heard this one referred to as "Memorial Falls".

Aunt Sally's Falls

Aunt Sally's Falls is not very impressive, scenic, or photogenic and definitely not worth a trip all on its own.  However, it is worth the quick stop along the way to the main attractions later in the hike!

The easy part of the hike continues for another half mile or so.  The trail passes under some power lines, through some tunnels of Rhododendron, crosses a few more small streams before entering a forest of White Pines.  Shortly after entering the pine forest look for a side trail to the left.

This side trail soon crosses a creek large enough that it should be on the topo map, but it is not!  A short distance upstream from here is the next waterfall.  Darrin and I made the mistake of trying to bushwhack up the creek, but soon turned back to the main "trail".

The actual trail heads steeply uphill and turns away from the creek before eventually turning back to parallel the creek upstream.  A short side path the the right leads to the base of "Lower Unnamed Waterfall on Unnamed Creek" or "Lower Rhapsodie Falls" as I like to call it.

 Lower Rhapsodie Falls

This one turned out to be a pleasant surprise as it seemed much nicer than I remembered from my visit (11) years ago.   

Lower Rhapsodie Falls

From here you can continue upstream on either side of the creek.  We chose the right side which I feel is a more pleasant way to approach Rhapsodie Falls, the next waterfall upstream.

 Rhapsodie Falls

This is the one listed on page 424 of Kevin Adam's book which he refers to as "Waterfall on Tributary of West Fork French Broad River".  Kevin is not a fan of coming up with names for unnamed waterfalls, but I prefer to call this one Rhapsodie Falls which is the name that Waterfall Rich established.

 Darrin at Rhapsodie Falls

Whatever you decided to call it, this one is a beauty!  It is a difficult one to photograph and the bright sunny day did not make things any easier.  This 80-foot drop is much more impressive in person and I don't think my photos do it justice!

 Darrin and Me at Rhapsodie Falls

 Rhapsodie Falls

For here we continued up the trail on the left side of the creek.  This "trail" is a bit more established than I remember from (11) years ago, but still definitely not a real trail.  A short distance past Rhapsodie Falls, we spotted the side trail to the left that Waterfall Rich mentions in his write-up.  We decided to save that for later if we still had time.

From here Rich says that it is less than a quarter mile to Dismal Falls.  I believe it is slightly more than a half mile.  Either way, we continued on the faint path which pretty much followed the ridge line steeply uphill.  This is no easy trek, but compared to some of our recent adventures it is not too bad. 

Almost at the crest of the ridge, the trail turns to the left and heads steeply downhill towards Dismal Falls.  And I do mean steep!  There are some sections where the butt slide maneuver is the safest way to proceed down the mountainside!  This is definitely one hike you should not attempt to do solo! 

Dismal Falls is a beauty!  There was some nice fall color, but we were probably several days too early for peak color. 

 Dismal Falls

We took our main break of the day here to have lunch and to photograph and enjoy this awesome waterfall.

 Me at Dismal Falls

We arrived just as the sun was cresting the ridge to the left and had to position our cameras so that the trees would block the lens flare from the sun.  Another fifteen minutes or so and our attempts to photograph this waterfall without lens flare would have been futile!

 Darrin at Dismal Falls

Shortly before we were ready to leave we were surprised to see another couple arrive at the waterfall.  Even on a weekend you would be unlikely to run into any other people here.  On a Tuesday, it was even more surprising.  After a quick chat, we left the other waterfall enthusiast to enjoy this one on their own and headed back up the steep "trail".

There was still plenty of time left in the day check out the waterfall downstream from Dismal Falls.  We found the Bernie Boyer side path and after a short but very steep descent we arrived at the base of a very impressive rock wall.  Even if there wasn't a waterfall up ahead, this rock wall would be a worthy site all on its own.  It gives a great feel for how rugged the terrain in this area is!

Darrin hiking by the Dismal Creek Wall

We continued along the base of the rock wall to where it joins up with the creek.  From here we navigated up, around, and over some huge boulders.  At one point I was balancing on a fairly substantial looking log, which apparently was about 99% rotted through as it collapsed under my 195 pound mass sending me plunging into the creek.

I managed to keep my camera dry, but can't say the same for the rest of me.  At least not having to worry about keeping my hiking boots dry anymore made the final trek up the creek a bit easier.

Lower Dismal Falls is not as impressive as the main attraction upstream, but still definitely worth the side trek!  Unfortunately, the sun's position in the sky and no cloud cover whatsoever, made photographing this one a challenge!  Just another excuse to get back!  Next time I won't wait another (11) years!

 Lower Dismal Falls

 Lower Dismal Falls

 Lower Dismal Falls

The return hike back to my truck was uneventful, but it is always nice to end the day on a rather easy section of trail!

Overall is this is an awesome hike of about 6 miles round trip including all the sides.  Definitely an extreme hike, but not as extreme as some of our other recent adventures.  It is always a pleasure hiking with Darrin and a far more enjoyable day than being at work!

Darrin and Me at Lower Dismal Falls

The complete set of photos from our Dismal Falls Adventure is posted here: