Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2016-01-24 Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail

Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail
Snow Hike with Keith
Greenville County, SC
Sunday, January 24th, 2016

At the Lower Pond along the Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail

Our original plan was to do a snow hike to the top of Bearwallow Mountain along the Henderson/Buncombe, NC county line.  However, Keith heard reports that even 4x4s with chains were getting stuck on Bearwallow Moutain Road.  So we opted for a different snow hike with a little easier access.

The Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail is located in the far North-East Corner of Greenville County, SC.  This area got about 8-inches of snow of Friday making it deep enough that there would still be plenty left, but not too deep to make hiking overly difficult.

I am glad we decided to meet in Columbus and take my car to the trailhead, because there is no way that Keith's FWD Saturn would have made it all the way around Lake Lanier to the Blue Wall Passage Trailhead.  Fortunately "Wallie", my AWD Subaru was built for these type of conditions and had no major problems making it to the trailhead.

 Wallie all alone at the Trailhead Parking Area

The Blue Wall Passage of the Palmetto Trail

The first part of the hike follows a wide-track old road and is rather easy.  We were soon greeted by a very scenic Pond with Hogback Mountain looming above.  There was virtually no wind making for some nice reflection shots.

 Hogback Mountain Reflection

I have been here several times and never knew there was a waterfall just downstream from this Pond.  Keith was proud to lead the way to show off a waterfall that was brand new to me.  As far as I know, this one does not have a name.

Looking down from the top of the waterfall

I wasn't planning or prepared to do any bushwhacking today, but I just could not resist trying to get down to the base.  This was no easy task in these conditions!  There is a lot of deadfall at the base and it is difficult to capture the whole thing in one shot.  Fortunately the snow and ice still made for an interesting shot!

Un-named waterfall downstream from the lower pond
Can you find Keith in this photo?

We continued on to the second (upper) pond.  Since the upper pond is much shallower, and a little smaller it tends to ice over sooner than the lower pond.  

The Second (Upper) Pond

The main trail heads towards the left along the south side of the pond.  We decided to turn right and hike the side loop that encircles the pond.

Keith crossing a snow covered bridge

After a short distance we arrived at our second waterfall of the day.  I have been to this one before, but never in the snow and never with this much flow.  Still not the most impressive waterfall, but definitely prettier than I have ever seen it!

Un-Named Waterfall Upstream from the Upper Pond

We continued on around the lake through a beautiful snow covered forest.  It is obvious that this area is home to a bunch of beavers as their dams have sectioned off this pond into several smaller ponds.

Keith by one of the Beaver Ponds

For a longer and much more difficult hike, we could have continued on to Vaughn's Gap, but we elected to stick with just the easy parts around the ponds.

 Face in the Water

We had the place all to ourselves starting out, but a few more humans were out and about by the time we finished up.  One of these other humans had built a series of mini-snowmen along the trail!

 Mini Snowman and Keith's Boot

Mini Snowman overlooking the Lower Pond and Hogback Mountain

Our total hike was only about 3 miles with very little elevation change.

On the drive out, I made a stop at one of the pull-offs to check out and photograph Lake Lanier.

 Wallie and Keith at Lake Lanier

 Lake Lanier, SC

Lake Lanier, SC

It was another beautiful day to be outside.

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016-01-23 Rutherfordton Snow

Rutherfordton Snow
At the In-Laws
Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas pretty much missed our side of Spartanburg.  While places just a few miles to the north had upwards of a foot of snow, we had almost all rain.  In total, we ended up with about an inch of nasty slush!

Fortunately we didn't have to drive far to find some snow!  A quick trip up to Amy's parents place gave us plenty of opportunity to play in the white stuff!

Amy's Parents House
Amy throwing a snowball at me

 Run Down House at the corner of Green Road and Coopers Gap Road

 Me along Green Road

Amy having fun in the snow

Tracks in the Snow

Ice on "The Shop"

Sunset over the Woodshed - with a view of White Oak Mountain in the distance

The Complete set of photos is posted here:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

2016-01-16 thru 2016-01-18 Martin Luther King Weekend Getaway

Jack and Amy's Martin Luther King Weekend Getaway
Boone, NC and surrounding areas
Saturday, January 16th thru Monday, January 18th, 2016

 Amy and Jack at Cascade Falls

For the Martin Luther King Holiday, Amy and I decided on a last minute weekend getaway in search of some white stuff!  We saw a good chance of snow in the forecast for the North Carolina High Country around Boone, NC.

So Amy found and booked us a nice cabin about 15 miles outside of Boone for about the price you would pay for a typical hotel room.

We left Spartanburg on Saturday Morning and arrived in Boone just before lunch.  We easily found a parking spot, fed the meter $2.00 for 2 hours of parking and started exploring around downtown.  After about an hour of Amy enjoying some of the many quaint little shops, it was time to head to the Lost Province Brewing Company for a flight of brew and some lunch.

Enjoying a Flight at the Lost Province Brewing Company
This turned out to be one of the better Brewery/Restaurants I have been to.  Another one to add to the SCJack recommended list!

After lunch we took a nice little stroll along the Boone Greenway Trail.  Definitely not a destination type trail, but a nice little walk to burn a few calories if you happen to be in Boone.

Covered Bridge along the Boone Greenway Trail

Dam Ruins along the Boone Greenway Trail

After our nice little stroll, we made our way to the cabin to unpack.  The cabin proved to be very nice, clean, equipped with everything we could possible need, and in a nice quiet and secluded location.

For dinner we would make our way to Blowing Rock, but first back to Boone for some pre-dinner brews.  The Booneshine Brewing Company.

Me at the Booneshine Brewing Company

I was not really impressed with this one, but since they have only been open for a few months, I would give them some time to work out the bugs and possible give them another chance next time I visit Boone.

We also stopped by the Appalachian Mountain Brewery, but that place was way too crowded and noisy for us.  So I decided to save that one for when it is warm enough to sit outside!

Continuing on into Blowing Rock, NC we had dinner at The Town Tavern, which was our favorite of all the Blowing Rock Restaurants during our weekend getaway there a few years ago.  Nothing fancy, just typical pub food, but so far everything we have gotten there has been excellent!

After dinner we stopped for a flight at the Blowing Rock Brewing Company.  Excellent beer, but the restaurant/bar area is a bit too small to handle Saturday Evening crowds.

After enjoying my flight, it was time for something on Amy's agenda, The Chetola Resort Festival of Lights.  This proved to be a disappointment, but at least admission was free!

The next morning, I woke up early to possible catch a sunrise, but after checking the radar and seeing snow flurries outside I decided there would be too much cloud cover for a sunrise, so I just enjoyed my coffee at the cabin, and took a little stroll outside while waiting for Amy to wake up and get herself ready.

 Sunday Morning Snow at our Cabin

 Christmas Tree Farm near the Cabin

After a light breakfast at the cabin, we hit the road towards the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This would be Wallie's first Snow!  (Note: Wallie is the name that Amy gave to our new Subaru Outback). 

 Wallie's First Snow

Our first stop was at the Tomkins Knob Overlook for the short stroll to check out the Jesse Brown Cabin and the Cool Spring Baptist Church.

 Amy at the Tomkins Knob Overlook

 Me at the Jesse Brown Cabin

 Jesse Brown Cabin

 The Cool Spring Baptist Church

 Amy by the Jesse Brown Cabin

 The Jesse Brown Cabin with the Spring House in the distance

We continued on to the Cascade Falls Trailhead, an easy "Amy Approved" hike of about a mile round trip to an impressive waterfall.  This hike was even more magical with all the fresh snow!  I always enjoy being the first one to make tracks through the snow along the trail!

 Amy along the trail to Cascade Falls

 The Top of Cascade Falls

 Cascade Falls

 Amy and Jack at Cascade Falls

E.B. Jeffress Park, near the Cascade Falls Trailhead

As we drove along the Blue Ridge parkway back towards Boone, the snow had stopped and the clouds had settled down into the valleys below leaving a sea of clouds to the South!

 A sea of clouds from the Blue Ridge Parkway

 Amy checking out the sea of clouds

 Wallie above the clouds

While not as stunning as the sea of clouds, the views to the north were pretty as well:

 view from the Blue Ridge Parkway

 view from Blue Ridge Parkway

along the Blue Ridge Parkway

We made our way back to Boone and had lunch a quirky little restaurant called The Red Onion Cafe which turned out to be an excellent choice!

For the afternoon we made our way to West Jefferson to do what I expected to be some Amy Approved hiking on top of Mount Jefferson.  You can drive almost all the way to the summit and from there the trails are all fairly easy.  Unfortunately the road to the summit was close just past the Ranger Station.

 Road Closed to the Summit of Mount Jefferson

That didn't stop me, but the 1,200 feet of elevation from there to the summit was a bit more than Amy was willing to tackle, so I was on my own for this one!

 One benefit to the road being closed was that by the time I got to the top, I had the place all to myself!

After my hike to Mount Jefferson, we made our way back to West Jefferson for dinner at Boondocks Brewing Tap Room and Restaurant.  Boondocks turned out to be my favorite of the (5) breweries we visited this weekend.

I thought about a few more hikes along the way home the next morning, but since it was 6 degrees F, I decided to save them for another time.  I did stop to take a few photos from the along NC221 between Blowing Rock and Linville.

 NC221 Looking up at the Linn Cove Viaduct

Frosted Mountain Tops above NC221

I had also hoped to catch Toms Creek Falls with a bunch of ice, but apparently it didn't get nearly as cold down toward Marion, NC.

Toms Creek Falls

This was a very enjoyable weekend getaway!  The complete set of photos is posted here: