Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016-08-06 Toxaway River Adventure

Team Waterfall Toxaway River Adventure
Andy's Birthday Bash Camping Weekend
Saturday, August 6th, 2016
(and a little bit of Sunday Morning)
Transylvania County, NC

Group Photo at Upper Wintergreen Falls along the Toxaway River

My Team Waterfall friends decided to get together this past weekend to celebrate Andy's Birthday.

Our weekend would start on Saturday with an exploration of the Toxaway River from US64 (just below the Lake Toxaway Dam), all the way down to Wintergreen Falls in Gorges State Park.  We shuttled a couple of cars to our planned end point before beginning our trek.

Here is a list of the cast of characters that would participate in this adventure.

Fungi = Andy Kunkle (Team Waterfall Founder + Hike Leader + Birthday Boy)
Bushwhack Jack (Me)
The Professor (Scott Burns)
The Gnome (John Forbes)
The Rock Sprite (Kitty Myers)
The Salmon (Darrin Hamlin)
The Flying Fish (Robert Sedler)
Kyle Logan
Jennifer Loow-Knepp
Boone and Kona (Andy's Dogs)
Ziggy (Kyle's Dog)

There was no easy warm up for this hike as we immediately started out with the steep scramble down to the base of Toxaway Falls.

Toxaway Falls

The Professor sliding down Toxaway Falls

After a short break we continued downstream.  Several of the lower drops of Toxaway Falls also turned out to be great places to slide!

Kyle getting ready to start his slide


 Darrin "The Salmon" Hamlin

Continuing on, the river leveled off for a while

The Gnome, the Professor, and Kyle navigate through the Toxaway River

Eventually we arrived at the top of Twin Falls, one of the more photogenic waterfalls along the Toxaway River.
Twin Falls

 The Professor and The Gnome do the Gnome Pose on top of Twin Falls

 Ziggy cooling off at Twin Falls

Most of the group at Twin Falls
L to R:  Jennifer, Bob, Kyle, Andy, Kitty, Darrin, and the Gnome
with Boone and Kona up front

It was here that I realized that I had left my wallet out in plain site on the front passenger seat of my truck.  I knew that I would be worried all day if I didn't go back and get it, especially after hearing reports of recent car break-ins in the area.  And since we were only about a half mile into the hike, I knew I would be able to catch back up.

Beyond Twin Falls is a series of rapids which the Kayakers have given names like Space Mountain, Folding Slide, Sticky Hole Slide, and Minigizer.  Since I was playing catch up, I didn't stop to take any photos of these rapids.

I caught up with the group at "The Energizer" a long and powerful slide that empties out into a great little swimming hole with a nice Sandy Beach.

 The Energizer

Heading down to the Sandy Beach at the base of The Energizer

Darrin looking to slide down  a short section of The Energizer

The next rapid squeezes under some overhanging rocks that would whack the heads of any Kayakers crazy enough to run it.  Which is why they call this next one "Portage"

Andy, Boone, and Kona below "Portage"

Beyond this is a constant series of rapids and waterfalls which the Kayakers call:
Crappy Boulder Series
Big Mank
Feeding Trough
20 foot Falls
and 40/40

I am not sure which is which, so I am not going to attempt to put names to them.  Each provided it's on set of challenges to navigate through and/or around.

 Jennifer, the Salmon, the Professor, and the Gnome

There were plenty of great swimming holes along the way to stop and cool off!  Many deep enough to safely jump into from the boulders alongside the river!



Continuing on downstream, this is what we saw:
Andy photographing a nice Chute Type waterfall

Andy, and the Gnome on top another nice Chute Type Waterfall

A Nice Sliding Waterfall  (I call this one 2nd Twin Falls)
I believe this is the one the Kaykers call 20-foot Falls

 The Gnome Striking his famous Gnome Pose!

The Salmon and the Gnome working their way down

Upper Wintergreen Falls

Ziggy Cooling Off

There was also an Awesome Slide we came across!  I was too caught up in the enjoyment of sliding that I did not take any photos.  Here is one that Darrin took of me!

Bushwhack Jack Sliding down the Toxaway River (photo by Darrin Hamlin)

Also, check out Darrin's Awesome GoPro Video of Kyle and Darrin's Run down this slide!

There are a few more drops downstream including the main drop of Wintergreen Falls, but since we were running out time we elected to skip them and start our climb back out of the gorge.

We were scheduled to meet some other team waterfall members in Highlands at 7:00pm.  It was already past 5:00pm and we had no idea how long the hike/bushwhack out would take.

Still there was a strong urge to continue exploring.  So we took a vote and decided it was best to start the trek out.

The first half of the climb was uneventful with just a few harmless snake sightings:
A Harmless Garter Snake

We passed by a rickety deer stand, triggered someone's trail cam, and then the Yellow Jackets Struck!

They hit Jennifer first, and then several others (including myself).  So we took off in a mad dash swatting our legs as we scrambled away, only to run into an electrified barb wire fence.   I tried to dive under, but I grazed a bit of the wire giving me a quick burst of electric shock.

We regrouped and continued on.

For the next hour or so, Andy would check his GPS and give us an update of "Only a Half Mile to Go" about every 10 minutes.  Eventually we did arrive exactly where we planned and piled into the two shuttle vehicles to head back to the where the rest of the cars were parked.

Most of the group would continue on into Highlands where we would meet some additional Team Waterfall Members at the Ugly Dog Pub.   We arrived at about 8:00pm (only an hour late).

 Birthday Boy Andy and his wife Christy  (Fungi and Fungirl)

The Badger, who had cancelled out on the weekend plans do to illness recovered enough to make a guest appearance at the Ugly Dog

 The Badger (Thomas) with Stephanie and Kyle at the Ugly Dog Pub
(photo from the Badger Selfie Collection)

I was so hungry that I ordered a Cheeseburger even before I ordered a Beer!  That was a wise decision as I got my food well before anyone else!

By the time everyone else had eaten it was well past dark!  The two-mile backpack up the mountain to our Top Secret Campsite would be aided by headlamps and flashlights!

Darrin, Bob and I were the first to make it to the top and meet up with Dillon, Lauren, and Blizzy, who had arrived at the mountain top several hours earlier!

It was close to midnight by the time every one was set up and settled around a small campfire.  Just big enough to keep the bugs away and provide a little ambiance to go along with DJ Darrin's musical selections!

I elected not to attempt any late night photograph, but check out this shot that Dillon took!

Our Campsite Under the Stars  (Photo by Dillon Senn)

It was an awesome evening around the campfire with great friends.  The only real mishap involved Andy's Birthday Cake and the dogs.

When the battery went dead on Darrin's IPod Speaker at about 3:00am, it was our sign that it was time to hit the tents for the evening.

About four hours later I heard some activity outside my tent.  Dillon and the Gnome were snapping photos of the sunrise.  I grabbed my camera and got up just in time to catch the tail end of this spectacular sunrise!

Sunrise from our Campsite

The perfect end to an awesome adventure!

My Complete set of photos is posted here:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2016-08-02 Some of my favorite photos

With the oppressive heat of summer, I have not gotten out much recently.  However, I did take some time to go through my photo archives and create a gallery of some of my favorite shots over the years.