Friday, February 27, 2015

2015-02-22 Little Cove Creek

The Waterfalls of Little Cove Creek
Green River Game Lands
Polk County, NC
Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Me by the Waterfall on the Right (south) Fork of Little Cove Creek (aka Bradley Cooper Falls)

About three years ago, Andy and I "discovered" (3) new waterfalls in the Green River Gamelands of North Carolina.  We are quite proud of these as we found them without any tips or knowledge that they actually existed.  We came across them purely by studying topo maps, speculating where some new waterfalls might be, and bushwhacking into the unknown.

I am sure we were not the first humans to visit these waterfalls, but until Andy and my trip reports from three years ago, there was no information on the web or any print publication about these waterfalls.  It is always nice to be able to claim a waterfall discovery before the likes of Kevin Adams, Waterfall Rich, and Bernie Boyer, who I consider to be the top (3) waterfall gurus in the Carolinas!

This past Sunday, I planned a return visit to show off our discovery to some of my "Team Waterfall" buddies.  It is best to hike the Green River Gamelands on a Sunday as it is a very popular hunting area.  Joining me on this adventure would be Darrin, Bob, Sam, Spencer, Stephanie, and Bob's dog Sobie.

The hike starts on the Gamelands access road just beyond the Wilderness Cove Tube Rental Shack.  I was quite surprised to find a good bit of snow still on the ground.

The road to the trailhead

 Green River Gamelands Trailhead

The first mile of the hike is about as easy as it gets along a wide track forest service road with virtually no elevation change.

Hiking into the Green River Gamelands

Eventually the road arrives at a pair of old cabins.

 Old Cabin in the Green River Gamelands

 Kudzu Cabin

The Green River Gamelands

Turning right and heading past the Kudzu Cabin would eventually take you to the base of Big Bradley Falls, a highly recommend hike.  But that was not our plan for the day.  Instead, we turned left and headed further downstream from Big Bradley.

The first challenge of the hike would be the crossing of Cove Creek.  The water was high enough to make rock hopping impossible, and water temperatures barely above freezing would make for quite the chilly creek crossing.

Darrin, Sam, Sobie, and I decided to go with the knee high and very cold method to get across.

Darrin Crossing Cove Creek

Meanwhile, Spencer, Stephanie, and Bob found another way across a short distance upstream from where the road fords the creek.

Spencer, Stephanie, and Bob finding a much dryer way across Cove Creek

We continued on the forest service road through some open fields where feed corn is grown.  Eventually the road turns in the wrong direction and the bushwhack portion of the hike begins.  A short and easy bushwhack would take us to Little Cove Creek.

You can head upstream on either side of the creek, but I find the left side to be a little easier.  Crossing Little Cove Creek is rather easy, as there are plenty of places you can find to rock hop or log walk across without getting wet.

Stephanie crossing Little Cove Creek

From here it is an easy bushwhack of about a half mile to the first waterfall.  Despite Kevin Adam's dislike for coming up with names for un-named waterfalls, during our initial discovery three years ago, Andy decided to call this one Milton Bradley Falls.  The really "cool" thing about this visit compared to my previous visits was all the ice and snow around the waterfall!

 Waterfall on Little Cove Creek (aka Milton Bradley Falls)

 Waterfall on Little Cove Creek (aka Milton Bradley Falls)

However, that ice and snow would make the next portion of our adventure even more of a challenge.  Continuing upstream the bushwhacking gets much steeper and more difficult.  If there is an easy way, I have not found it!

There is good reason why I should make my Yaktrax a permanent fixture in my backpack during the winter.  But for some reason, I always seem to leave them behind when I need them most.  They definitely would have made things easier and prevented dozens of slips and slides on the hard packed snow and ice!

Eventually we got through the worst of the bushwhacking and reached a point where the two main tributaries of Little Cove Creek join together as one.  A very short distance upstream on each of the tributary forks is where the next two waterfalls are located.

 Waterfall on the Right (South) Fork of Little Cove Creek (aka Bradley Cooper Falls)

Waterfall on the Left (North) Fork of Little Cove Creek (aka Marilou Bradley Falls)

We took our main break of the day here.  Darrin was seriously dehydrated from the intense bushwhack.  Thank god he had his LifeStraw!

Darrin!  Thank God for LifeStraw!

Unfortunately, Spencer did not bring a LifeStraw and had to resort to hooking up an IV in order to replenish his fluid levels!

 Spencer with his IV

After a nice break to photograph and enjoy the waterfalls, it was time to turn back.  Spencer decided the the bushwhack would be easier if we went a little higher up the ridge.  I made the mistake and followed him.  That was definitely not the way to go!  All this did was add a good bit more climbing, followed by a long series of butt slides just to get back to our original route!

Once we got past the difficult bushwhacking part and into flat and open ground, we took some time to pose for a couple of group photos in the corn fields.

 The Children of the Corn  (Darrin came up with the caption and photo idea)

 L to R:  Stephanie, Jack(Me) Spender, Bob, Darrin, Sam, and Sobie

The final challenge would be crossing back over Cove Creek.  My feet were already soaked from accidentally falling into the creek earlier in the day, so I just trekked on through with my already saturated hiking boots.  That gave me time to photograph the others taking the dryer but much more difficult way across!

 Spencer, Stephanie and Bob Crossing Cove Creek

Spencer and Stephanie Crossing Cove Creek

We briefly discussed extending our hike by heading to the base of Big Bradley Falls, but decided to save that for another day.  It would have been pushing things to get there and back in the time we had left.  So we just enjoyed a leisurely stroll back to our vehicles to finish up another awesome day of Waterfall Wandering.

The final stretch out of the Green River Gamelands

Approximate hike route and waterfall location (not based on actual GPS data)

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015-02-07 Waterfall Wandering near the Hwy11 / US276 Intersection

Waterfall Wandering and Bushwhacking Adventure
Near the Hwy11 / US276 Intersection
Mountain Bridge Wilderness, SC
Saturday, February 7th, 2015

 The Nefarious Nine by a Waterfall on Slickum Creek

Over the past few months, I have made a bunch of new Facebook friends that share the same Waterfall Wandering passion that I have.  I have enjoyed sharing photos and trip reports, but I have never met them in person.  Until Now!

Through Facebook, we planned a day of Waterfall Wandering in and around the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of SC near the Hwy11 / US276 Intersection.

The Nefarious Nine (Darrin, Bob, Josh, Todd, Thomas, Emily, Spencer, Stephanie, and Me) as we named ourselves, met up at the Wildcat Falls roadside parking area and began our hike from there.

 The obligatory shot of Wildcat Falls

We did the short loop hike to Upper Wildcat Falls.

Most of the Group at Upper Wildcat Falls

From there we completed the loop and started our bushwhack to the west towards Slickum Creek.  We stopped for a bit to check out an impressive overhanging rock wall.

Thomas, Spencer, Todd, Josh, and Emily by the cool rock wall

As far as bushwhacks go, this part was fairly easy as the forest was mostly open with several areas of exposed rock.

Hiking along the exposed rock area

Slickum Creek originates just above Persimmon Ridge Road and flows down the mountainside for about a mile before emptying out into the South Saluda River just south of Hwy 11.  Along this stretch of creek there are about seven or eight fairly significant waterfalls, slides, and cascades.

We arrived at the creek about halfway up and worked our way upstream from there.

 Slickum Creek

 Slickum Creek

 Slickum Creek

The morning started with temperatures in the low 20s.  So even though it would eventually reach close to 70 degrees, there was still some cool ice formations in the shady areas.

Ice Ice Baby!

We made our way to the top of Heritage Falls (aka Slickum Falls), the uppermost drop of Slickum Creek where we took a nice long break to soak in the sun and check out the views.

Hanging out at the top of Heritage Falls

 Thomas Soaking in the Sun

Stephanie and Spencer

After our break, we continued bushwhacking towards the west which would hopefully take us to Spider Tunnel Falls located on the next stream over. 

  The Hazards of Bushwhacking - featuring Spencer and Stephanie

We arrived at the stream a bit too high up, so we had to work our way downstream before arriving in the familiar territory of Spider Tunnel Falls, a very unique, but virtually unknown waterfall that Darrin discovered a few years ago.

Spider Tunnel Falls

Stephanie and Spencer at Spider Tunnel Falls

Looking inside the Spider Tunnel

After Spider Tunnel, we bushwhacked back towards Slickum Creek.  Our navigational skills were dead on as we arrived at the based of an impressive sliding waterfall known as New Millennium Falls, a short distance downstream from the area we explored earlier.

  Nice cascade at the base of New Millennium Falls

We continued downstream from there and arrived at "Sweet Thing" which is my favorite waterfall on Slickum Creek.  It was here that we met up with Johnny turning the Nefarious Nine into the Tremendous Ten!

Sweet Thing on Slickum Creek

Spencer keeping dry underneath Sweet Thing

Continuing downstream we stopped at the last cascade along Slickum Creek.

Last Cascade on Slickum Creek

Soon after we emerged out of the forest onto Hwy 11 a short distance down the road from where our vehicles were parked.  I believe we hit every major drop along Slickum Creek, but just to make sure we covered it all, a few of us followed the creek South of Hwy 11 to where it emptied out into the South Saluda River confirming that there were no additional cascades on Slickum Creek South of Hwy 11.

After a break for lunch, the Tremendous Ten combined into (2) vehicles and drove up US276 towards Caesars Head for the afternoon portion of our adventure!  Mashbox Falls and Misty Falls!

The Tremendous Ten driving up US276

We parked at a pulloff where the Pinnacle Pass Trail crosses US276 and hiked the trail down towards Jones Gap.  After a series of long sweeping switchbacks, we left the trail and started our bushwhack towards the headwaters of Oil Camp Creek.

We reached the point where the creek forks.  The left (west) fork would take us to Misty Falls, but first we headed up the right (north) fork towards Mashbox Falls.

 Small Waterfall downstream from Mashbox Falls

Johnny and Bob taking a break

Mashbox Falls gets its name from the remains of an old Moonshine Still a short distance downstream from the main drop.  This 100-ft waterfall is one of the more impressive off trail waterfalls in the region.

 Mashbox Falls

Mashbox Falls - Spencer and Stephanie at the base to give a sense of scale

After Mashbox, we backtracked to the West Fork of Oil Camp Creek and bushwhacked upstream to Misty Falls.  It hasn't rained in the past week or so, and this one really needed a bit more flow to show off its full potential.

 Misty Falls

 Darrin at Misty Falls

Can you spot Spencer!

We could have backtracked to the Pinnacle Pass Trail and hiked the long and arduous series of switchbacks back to the road, but it was getting late in the day and the group decided to do the much shorter, but much steeper scramble up the side of the mountain.  After over 10 miles of hiking and bushwhacking that was one hell of a workout to end the days adventure!  I recommend sticking to the trail!

It was an awesome day of Waterfall Wandering!  It is always a pleasure to meet up with my Team Waterfall buddies.  But the best part of the day was meeting new friends!  Thanks to LifeStraw, The Tremendous Ten all survived and will live to hike another day!

Thank God for LifeStraw!

The complete set of photos is posted here: