Monday, May 5, 2014

2014-05-03 Douglas Falls, Walker Falls, and Beyond

Douglas Falls, Walker Falls, and Beyond
A "Team Waterfall" Bushwhacking Adventure
Big Ivy Area of the Pisgah National Forest, NC
Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Group Photo along our Bushwhack
L to R:  Andy, Jess, Jonathan, Me  (with Boone and Kona at the Bottom Center) 

By studying the topo maps, Andy decided that there was a high probability of additional waterfalls downstream from Douglas Falls and upstream from Walker Falls.  So for Saturday's adventure we decided to do a bit of off trail Bushwhacking and see what we would find!

Jonathan and Jess also decided to join Me, Andy, and the dogs on this adventure.  The hardest part about getting to Douglas Falls is the drive.  It is a bit longer than I usually like to travel for a dayhike and the last section of the drive is about 10 miles of a narrow dirt road.

Fortunately there are several roadside waterfalls along this dirt road to make things interesting.  Many would be worth a stop during times of heavy flow, but we decided to skip most of them.  Except for Walker Falls.

 Walker Falls (an impressive roadside waterfall)

Our plan was to explore upstream from Walker Falls, but we would save that for later if we still had the time and energy after our main hike.

The dirt road dead ends at a small parking area at the Douglas Falls Trailhead.  The hike to Douglas Falls is short (less than a mile) and easy. 

 Andy and Boone hiking by a cool tree root along the Douglas Falls Trail

Douglas Falls is spectacular!  Much more impressive in person than I could capture in photos!

 Douglas Falls

 Andy, Jonathan, and Jess checking out Douglas Falls

After our short break at Douglas Falls we began our adventure downstream.  Starting out there was actually somewhat of a path to follow, but that eventually fizzled out and the bushwhacking began.

It was a tough and very steep bushwhack through thickets of Rhododendron and Briers!  It was a good thing that the morning temperatures were a bit cool because we all still had long sleeves and pants on.  We would have been a bloody mess if we were in shorts and t-shirts!

We descended down to the creek and arrived at the point just downstream from where Douglas Creek and Waterfall Creek join together.  What a great place to shed our packs and set up "base camp" for a while.

There were some nice flat boulders to hang out on, a nice little cascade, and an awesome swimming hole.  It was a bit too cold to take advantage of the swimming hole, but it was still a pretty sight.  The only downside was the bright sun did not make for optimal waterfall photography.

 Nice cascade and an awesome swimming hole

From there, we worked out way upstream a short ways to the point where Douglas Creek and Waterfall Creek join together.  This is a pretty sight as you have two waterfalls plunging into the same pool.  Douglas Creek on the left and Waterfall Creek on the right.

A pair of waterfalls where Douglas Creek and Waterfall Creek join together

We figured that Waterfall Creek was called Waterfall Creek for a reason and we knew there just had to be more upstream!  Heading up the right side did not look possible.  And heading up the left side would required climbing the logs in the center of the above photo (more difficult that it looks), or crossing Douglas Creek somewhere above the waterfall on the left. 

Andy didn't feel comfortable with either option, so he elected to stay behind, while Jonathan, Jess, and I bushwhacked up the left side of Douglas Creek and managed to find a spot to cross.  Not the ideal spot, but a spot where a slip would result in a wet butt slide and most likely not involve serious injury.  Fortunately the rock surface was surprisingly grippy and the three of us made it across without any issues.

Jess Crossing Douglas Creek

And we were rewarded with another impressive waterfall!

 Me by the waterfall on Waterfall Creek

Jonathan crossing a huge log, Jess on the Right below the log

 Jonathan dismounting the log

Continuing upstream from here would be impossible without finding a significant detour route and with Andy waiting down below, we didn't want to take the time for that, so we returned back the way we came.

Just downstream from where we set up "base camp" was another nice sliding waterfall, which I snapped a few shots of before we began our bushwhack back up to Douglas Falls

Andy by a nice sliding waterfall

For the return bushwhack, we stayed a little further away from the creek and managed to avoid the worst section of briers and rhododendron thickets.  It was still a steep climb and we had all worked up a good sweat by the time we made it back to Douglas Falls.

So we all decided to cool off by taking a Douglas Falls shower!

 Jonathan and Jess having fun under Douglas Falls

 Andy having fun under Douglas Falls

 Kona cooling off

Boone was the only one that decided to stay dry

We made it back to our vehicles and declared the day a success!  However, Andy still wanted to explore upstream from Walker Falls.  Jonathan and Jess decided they had enough for the day and headed on back home, while Andy and I stopped at Walker Falls.

A faint path leads up the right side of the waterfall and with one of the few good clouds of the day passing by, we decided to stop and photograph the upper portion of Walker Falls.

The Upper portion of Walker Falls

The path fizzled out at this point so it was pretty much a bushwhack upstream from here.  Compared to the bushwhacking earlier in the day, this was a piece of cake!  And we did find another waterfall at the end.  Not a super impressive one, but still a nice way to end the day!

 Andy by the waterfall upstream from Walker Falls

The complete set of photos from our adventure is posted here:

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