Monday, March 30, 2015

2015-03-29 Fungi Falls and Little Bradley Falls

Fungi Falls and Little Bradley Falls
Green River Gamelands
Polk County, NC
Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Fungi Finally Finds Fungi Falls

Fungi (aka Andy Kunkle) at Fungi Falls

Several years ago Andy and I were studying the topo maps of the Green River Gamelands looking for areas with waterfall potential.  This led us to discovering (3) significant waterfalls on Little Cove Creek and its tributaries.

Andy also pointed out a spot along Ostin Creek that he thought had waterfall potential.  For some reason, I never felt very optimistic that Ostin Creek would amount to anything.  I just thought it would be a long series on nondescript slides and small cascades.

Fast forward a few years.  Andy is drinking a few beers with North Carolina Waterfall Guru Kevin Adams, and pulls out his Green River Gamelands maps to get Kevin's take on Ostin Creek.

So the next day, Kevin ends up seeking out Ostin Creek and does indeed find a waterfall.   Even though Andy had not actually been there to document his discovery, Kevin decided to give Andy Credit and called this one Fungi Falls after Andy's "trail name".   Andy and his wife Christy go by Fungi and Fungirl when out on the trails.

So this past weekend, Andy, Bob, and I planned a last minute hike to finally see Fungi Falls for ourselves.  We decided on Sunday, since this is gamelands and Sunday is the only day of the week that hunting is not allowed in the state of North Carolina.

Andy and I arrived at the Bradley Falls trailhead at exactly the same time.  I would have arrived sooner if it wasn't for that slow-poke in Prius in front of me.

We got a call from Bob who somehow missed the Saluda, NC exit and ended up somewhere near Asheville.  Andy eventually got Bob straightened out, but since it would be another 30 minutes or so before Bob arrived, Andy, Boone, Kona, and I did a little warm up hike to a scenic area on Cove Creek a short distance upstream from Big Bradley Falls.

 Cove Creek and a small un-named tributary waterfall

By the time we got back to the trailhead, Bob and Sobie had arrived.  We continued up Holbert Cove Road for about 1.5 miles to a gated Gamelands access road to begin the main hike of the day.

The gate was locked, so we just parked along the shoulder of Holbert Cove Road next to the gate.  There is room for about 5 or 6 vehicles here.  The first 0.7 miles is rather easy and you would actually be able to drive this section if the gate was open.  A large mound of dirt at this point would prevent you from taking a vehicle any further.

We continued on over the dirt mound and soon crossed over Ostin Creek.  From here you pretty much head downstream.   We continued on an old logging road grade which gradually descended in the general direction we wanted to go.

GPS Track to Fungi Falls (click on map to zoom in)

As we got close to the waterfall, we had to leave the gentle grade and find another way down.  We chose a gully which looked good at first, but in hindsight was probably not the best way to go.  However, it did get us down to the base of Fungi Falls!

 Fungi Falls

 Bob at Fungi Falls

Fungi Falls is nice and it turned out to be much easier to get to that I had anticipated.  Total distance is only about 1.25 miles (one way) and only the finally scramble down to the base poses any major difficulty. I would estimate the waterfall to be a series of drops totaling about 80-feet high.  It is difficult to capture the entire falls in one photo.

Me at Fungi Falls

A short distance downstream from the main drop, is another scenic drop of about 10-feet.  I'll call this one Lower Fungi Falls.
Lower Fungi Falls

 Me at Lower Fungi Falls

 Kona, Boone, and Andy at Fungi Falls

Fungi gets some tongue action at Fungi Falls!

After getting our fill of Fungi Falls, there was still plenty of time left for another short hike.   Little Bradley Falls is one of my favorites and since Bob had never been we decided to show him the way.

There were loads of wildflowers in bloom along the 1.2 mile (one way) trail to Little Bradley Falls.

 Wildflowers along the trail to Little Bradley Falls

 Fiddleheads and Toadshade Trillium


Little Bradley Falls is always nice. Today there was not a cloud in the sky making for a beautiful afternoon.  However the bright sun shining directly above the waterfall made for some horrible photo conditions.  I was still happy with the way some of these turned out:
 Little Bradley Falls

 Bob at Little Bradley Falls

 Sobie at Little Bradley Falls

 Me at Little Bradley Falls
 Upper Drop of Little Bradley Falls

 Bob at Little Bradley Falls

 Little Bradley Falls

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Uncle Bryan's Memorial Service
Saturday, March 21st, 2015
Conner's performance at the Corcoran Brewery
Friday, March 20th, 2015

On March 6th, 2015 my Uncle Bryan passed away after a very long illness:
Bryan Ward, age 73, of Norwalk,CT entered into eternal rest on March 6, 2015 from a traumatic brain injury which he sustained on December 18, 2007. Bryan was born on October 12, 1941 in County Donegal Ireland and immigrated to America in 1961. He had a long working history in the field of communication which started in radio stations in Kentucky and Virginia. In 1970 he married his beloved wife Barbara and they relocated to Stamford, CT. He had a long working history as assistant News Director at WSTC from there he worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital as Director of Communication. Bryan took great pride and pleasure in keeping his Irish Heritage up. For many years he hosted a weekly Irish Radio Program, “Out of Ireland.” He was a very active member of the Stamford Hibernian and Gaelic American Club in Fairfield. For over 20 years Bryan was the Master of Ceremonies for the Greenwich St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Bryan loved the outdoors and was an avid horseback rider, a Mets fan, listened to country music, but his favorite passion was listening to Irish music and watching Gaelic football. He is survived by his loving wife and best friend Barbara. Friends are invited to attend a Mass of Remembrances on March 21, 2015 at 2:00pm at Notre Dame Convalescent Home, 76 West Rocks Rd., Norwalk. The Hoyt-Cognetta Funeral Home & Crematory has been entrusted with arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Notre Dame Convalescent Home. 

I discussed it with my siblings and decided that we all wanted to head up to Norwalk, CT for the memorial service to be there for my Aunt Barbara in her time of sorrow.

Not really the time for photography, but it is not often that my family is all dressed up together, so we did pose for a few family photos at the memorial chapel.

 My Brother Bill, My Sister Mary, and Me

 The Thyen Family  
L to R:  Bill, Mom, Mary, Me, Dad

Bill, Mary, and Me with our cousin Jamie (he goes by Jim nowadays, but will always be Jamie to us)

Spartanburg,  SC to Norwalk, CT is about a 14 hour drive, so I broke the trip up by spending some time with my brother and sister in Virginia.  The highlight was being able to see my nephew Conner  perform at the Corcoran Brewery on Friday Evening.

 My nephew Conner entering the Corcoran Brewing Company

 Me at the Corcoran Brewing Company

Beer and Music!  A delightful combination!

Conner performing at the Corcoran Brewing Company

 My sister Mary and Brother Bill

Conner's friend Niki Lynne joins him for a few songs

 My brother Bill and Brother-in-Law Scott (Conner's Dad)

My sister Mary, My Niece Marielle, and my Brother Bill

Here are a few videos of my nephew Conner performing at the Corcoran Brewery:

Piano Man

Conner and Niki - Wagon Wheel

American Pie


I would walk 500 Miles  (Niki didn't know the words)


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015-03-14 Pinnacle Falls on Abner Creek

Pinnacle Falls on Abner Creek
Near the Rocky Bottom Community
Pickens County, SC
Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Pinnacle Falls

Our original plan for the day was to finally get to the base of Windy Falls on the Horsepasture River.  Unfortunately, just like our previous 4 or 5 attempts at Windy Falls, the rain had thwarted our plans.  Windy Falls is definitely not a place you want to be if the rocks are wet!

So we came up with a Plan B!  Pinnacle Falls!

My buddy Waterfall Rich first told me about Pinnacle Falls back in 2006.  Unfortunately sometime between the time that Rich visited the falls and the time when I made my attempt, the access from US178 near the Rocky Bottom Community became heavily posted with dozens of No Trespassing Signs.

The easiest access to Pinnacle Falls is through the property of Camp Hannon which is still heavily posted.  It would be impossible to go this way without blatant trespassing.

However some Team Waterfall research has revealed that Pinnacle Falls is actually located on public land.  Our goal would be to access the elusive Pinnacle Falls without trespassing.  It looked easy enough on the map!

Despite the rainy morning, we had a large group of passionate waterfall wanderers along for this adventure.  Including (2) dogs, we decided to call today's team "The Dirty Dozen"  (Andy, Boone, Kona, Darrin, Mitch, Spencer, Stephanie, Dillon, Thomas, Kitty, Brenda, and Me).

Team Waterfall Gearing Up for the Hike

We decided to start at Chimneytop Gap, along the F Van Clayton Memorial Hwy (the road to Sassafras Mountain).  From there, the Pickens County GIS map shows that "Unnamed Road" stays entirely on public property (SCDNR and Duke Energy land). 

 Hiking up Unnamed Road

This would be a roundabout way of getting to where we wanted to be, but it would make for a fairly easy start to our day and would allow us to get close to Pinnacle Falls on Abner Creek without any trespassing.

At about a half mile, the road crosses Abner Creek (well upstream from the falls).  Most of us were able to get across and keep our feet dry, but some just decided to slosh on through!

 Mitch Crossing Abner Creek

We briefly discussed just bushwhacking downstream from here, but decided to stick with our original plan of Unnamed Road

Soon after, the road crosses Dogwood Creek, a smaller tributary to Abner Creek.  The crossing is narrow enough that you can jump across with one stride.  

Just past Dogwood Creek, Unnamed Road continues straight ahead to the North, while another road heads to the left (West).  We would later find out that turning left here would have been the quickest way to Pinnacle, but since we did not know that at the time, we stuck to our original plan and continued on Unnamed Road.

 Hiking up Unnamed Road

At about 1.5 miles in, we decided it was time to leave Unnamed Road and start the bushwhacking portion of our adventure.  At this point we could hear Abner Creek, so it was just a matter of choosing the path of least resistance.  It was a pretty easy bushwhack compared to some of the others we have done recently.

We arrived at Abner Creek a short distance downstream from the falls.  After a short, but very steep scramble up the bank we were able to pick up the trail that comes up from Camp Hannon.

 Thomas and Kitty Bushwhacking up the bank of Abner Creek

 From here it was a very easy hike to the base of Lower Pinnacle Falls.

 Lower Pinnacle Falls

Lower Pinnacle Falls is nice, but definitely not the main attraction.  The trail continues up the right side of the creek to a nice overlook of Pinnacle Falls!

 Pinnacle Falls from the Overlook

Cables and Ropes lead the way down from the overlook to the base of the falls.  This one far exceeded my expectations!

 Pinnacle Falls

Me at Pinnacle Falls

From the base, the trail continues up the left side of the waterfall taking you some interesting vantage points and access to the top of the waterfall.

 Spencer Swinging from a rope across the top of Pinnacle Falls

We spent at least an hour here hanging out and enjoying this awesome waterfall!

Most of the Group hanging out at Pinnacle Falls

The trail up the left side continues on past the top of the waterfall, so rather than go back the way we came, we decided to see where this trail would take us.

 the trail up the left side of Pinnacle Falls
R to L:  Andy, Boone, Dillon, Brenda, Mitch

Eventually the trail turns into the other road we saw earlier in the day near where Unnamed Road crosses Dogwood Creek.

 Back on Unnamed road where it crosses Dogwood Creek

According to Brenda's GPS, our hike was about 4.5 miles.  However, if we were to turn left past the Dogwood Creek Crossing, it would have been about 1.5 miles each way for a 3.0 mile out and back hike.  This would be the shortest and easiest way to visit Pinnacle Falls without trespassing across Camp Hannon Property.

 Brenda's GPS Track

There was still a good bit of fog out when we finished up the hike and we were just a short drive to the summit of Sassafras Mountain, the highest peak in the state of South Carolina.   Hopefully we could break through the fog and get one of those amazing above the clouds mountaintop experiences on top of Sassafras!

The fog just got thicker and thicker the higher up we got, but we never broke free.   Even without a view, it was still a cool place to be.

 Mitch and Brenda in a fog

Stephanie in the fog

Hiker Trash heading up the trail to the Sassafras Mountain Overlook

There is a place along US178 in the Sunset, SC community that I have driven past many times, but have never stopped.  That would change today!  The Team Waterfall Group made the unanimous decision to stop at Bob's Place for a beer or two.

 Team Waterfall at Bob's Place
L to R: Thomas, Kitty, Andy, Jack, Mitch, Brenda, Dillon, Spencer, Stephanie, Darrin


 Mitch and Darrin at the Bar at Bob's Place

 Mitch and Brenda at Bob's Place

 Kitty, Thomas, and Brenda t Bob's Place

Dillon, Mitch, Andy, Stephanie at Bob's Place

Note: these last few photos from inside Bob's Place were taken with a cell phone under very low light conditions. I apologize for the poor quality, but still felt the experience deserved to be posted.

This was definitely a unique and enjoyable way to end our adventure!

The complete set of photos is posted here: