Thursday, April 3, 2014

2013-03-30 Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Greenville County, SC

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Jack, Karen, and Keith at Moonshiners Falls

One of the best Spring Wildflower hikes in South Carolina is the Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve!  The most popular hike in the preserve is the 2.75 mile (5.5 mile out and back) trail that takes you from the parking area, up and over squirrel mountain, and then down to the South Pacolet River.

However, this 1,900 acre preserve offers a lot more than just the main trail.  Across the river is a network of Forest Service Roads and Old Logging Roads.  Several years ago some of my "Team Waterfall" buddies and I discovered some undocumented off-trail waterfalls.

This past Sunday my friend Keith was leading a hike along the Chestnut Ridge Trail and asked if I would provide a little more detail on how to get to these waterfalls.  I did even better than that and decided to join the hike and lead to the way. 

There are several large Peach Orchards near the trailhead, so I decided to head up early in hopes of catching the peach trees in bloom!  While not quite at peak bloom, there was definitely a good display of peach blossoms!
 Peach Orchard at the base of Hogback Mountain

 Old Cabin at the Peach Orchard

It was extremely windy day with gusts of up to 40 mph.   In fact my plan to explore some of the back roads that I have never been on was thwarted when I came across a downed tree across the road!
 Just a little too much for my Tacoma to handle

So I backtracked and headed on to the trailhead via the old familiar way.

Several others who had planned to join us on this hike had backed out, so it was just Keith, Karen, and Me.

We started out on the main trail which gains about 700-feet of elevation over the first 1.8 miles. The display of wildflowers did not disappoint, however wildflower photography with 40mph winds is not a good mix. It didn't stop me from trying, but most of my flower shots were a blurry mess.

Here is a sampling of some of the wildflowers we saw:
 Golden Ragwort




 Toadshade Trillium

 Star Chickweed

 Fleabane Daisy

  Spring Beauty


After crossing over the ridge of Squirrel Mountain, the final mile of trail descends down to the South Pacolet River. The trail officially ends here, but as mentioned earlier there are many more acres of preserve waiting to be explored!

We rock-hopped across the river and hooked up with a wide-track forest road across the way. From here we headed west a short distance to the first waterfall which is known as Moonshiners Falls.
Moonshiners Falls
During the winter time, you can actually see this one from the road. It is a short and easy scramble to get to the base. 

After a short break at Moonshiners Falls, we continued west to the next major tributary stream.

Several years ago when we first explored up this stream it was a total bushwhack. However, while definitely not a trail, there is now somewhat of a path to follow.  We followed the scramble path to a neat cave near the base of Cave Falls.

 Jack, Karen, and Keith at the Cave

The main drop of Cave Falls was much nicer when I first saw it several years ago.  However, since then, some large trees have fallen scattering the base with unsightly deadfall.

Cave Falls

Heading upstream from here gets a bit more difficult.  No scramble paths exist beyond the base of Cave Falls.  However, Keith, Karen, and I were up for a bit of bushwhacking.

We crossed over at the base of the falls, and bushwhacked up the left side of the creek.  It is a very steep climb, but fortunately the forest is fairly open.  We stayed a good bit away from the creek to avoid the rocky ledges and cliffs.  Once above the main falls, we made our way back to the creek at the base of Upper Cave Falls (aka Brenda Falls).

 Upper Cave Falls (aka Brenda Falls)
Keith is near the top to give a sense of scale

After a nice break here, we returned back pretty much the way we came.  Below the main drop of Cave Falls is another drop which I call Lower Cave Falls.  This is another one that would be much nicer if not for all the deadfall.  A bit of cloud cover would have helped photo conditions as well. 

 Lower Cave Falls

We ran into a handful of other hikers on the way in, but on the hike out I would estimate we saw close to 50 other hikers.  I have never seen more than 3 or 4 vehicles in the parking area, but when we got back it was overflowing with over 20 cars.  This used to be a relatively unknown hike destination, but I guess word has spread!

The heavy winds and bright sun did not make for an optimal day of photography, but it was still a beautiful day to be outside! 

 Fiddle Head

 Snail Shell

The complete set of photos is posted here:

1 comment:

Brenda W. said...

"40mph winds and wildflower photograph" LOL ... I'll bet that was indeed a tough mix. However, the shots you got look great!! Such a wide variety of flowers.