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:

1 comment:

Josh Simons said...

Classic! Great write up, Jack. I especially like the pic of us in the back of Darrin's truck. ;) great to finally meet you!