Tuesday, September 27, 2016

2016-09-18 Raven Cliff Falls on Upper Creek

Raven Cliff Falls on Upper Creek
Burke County, NC
with Andy, Kitty, Matt, Rick, and David
Sunday, September 18th, 2016

The Uppermost Drop of Raven Cliff Falls on Upper Creek

The Third Edition of Kevin Adam's North Carolina Waterfalls Book contains about 400 "new" waterfalls that were not included in the second edition.  One of those new waterfalls is Raven Cliff Falls on Upper Creek (page 48 of Kevin's new book).

I believe this is the only waterfall in the book that Kevin gives a Triple 10 rating to:
Beauty Rating = 10
Photo Rating = 10
Hike Difficulty = 10

Therefore we just had to go check it out!

Kevin gives directions coming up from the South-East, but we decided to approach it a little differently from the North-West.

We met up at the Pull-off where the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) crosses NC181 about 20 miles north of Morganton, NC and began the hike from there.
GPS Track from our Hike

The first 1.2 miles drops about 800 feet in elevation and arrives at Upper Creek.  A side trail follows the creek downstream.  We took the side trail for a short distance stopping at a nice little cascade and swimming hole to evaluate our options.

Nice Cascade and Swimming Hole on Upper Creek

Kitty was insistent that we should continue downstream, but Andy didn't think that would work.  I would have thought that Andy has been married long enough to know that the woman is always right, but we ended up following Andy's lead, and turned back to continue on the MST.

We followed the MST for another mile or so before realizing that we had missed the side trail that Andy was looking for.  We backtracked a bit and picked up a goat path down the mountain which connected us to where we would have been an hour earlier if we had listened to Kitty!

Fortunately, I do not have a problem with hiking a few miles out of the way, and we did run across some interesting things we would have missed otherwise!

Not sure what this is

 Watch for the Herd of Evil Crawdads!

We continued downstream on what was now an obvious, but un-blazed trail which took us up above Raven Cliffs before descending steeply back down to the creek downstream from our ultimate destination.

Using common sense (and the GPS coordinates in Kevin's book), we had no problems finding the right spot to leave the trail and begin our creek walk!

Since it has not rained for over a month (not an exaggeration!), water levels were about as low as you will ever see them, making for a fairly easy creek walk.
Andy heading upstream along Upper Creek 
Raven Cliffs can be see in the upper part of the photo

It wasn't far before we arrived at the base of the Lowest Drop of Raven Cliff Falls.  This one comes equipped with an awesome swimming hole!

The Lowest Drop of Raven Cliff Falls

 David and Kitty at the Lowest Drop of Raven Cliff Falls

Getting past here was probably the most difficult portion of the hike.  Fortunately someone has strung some steel cables along side the rocks making the traverse a little easier.

Andy using the Cable Method 

Matt chooses a more difficult route up the Lowest Drop of Raven Cliff Falls!

Raven Cliff Falls is not one single waterfall.  It is actually a series of Falls and Cascades.  The next series of photos is what we saw along our climb/creek-walk up Raven Cliff Falls.

 Kitty at the next drop of Raven Cliff Falls

Raven Cliff Falls

 Raven Cliff Falls

 Raven Cliff Falls

 Rick at one of the drops of Raven Cliff Falls

The Uppermost Drop of Raven Cliff Falls

Matt at the top of the Uppermost Drop of Raven Cliff Falls

The uppermost drop also has a great swimming hole at the base.  So we took a nice long break here to cool off!

Matt Cooling off at Raven Cliff Falls

Upstream from here the creek leveled out a bit and we continued our creek walk to where Burnthouse Branch enters Upper Creek.  We followed Burthouse Branch upstream a short distance to the base of Burnthouse Branch Falls (page 51 of Kevin's new book).

 Burnthouse Branch Falls

Some people really like this one, but I was very underwhelmed with Burnthouse Branch Falls.  I would have to agree with Kevin Adam's Beauty Rating of 2 on this one.  However, water levels on this trip were about as low as they get, so I am open to a revisit under normal or high flow!

I was even less impressed with Upper Burnthouse Branch Falls!  This one was definitely not worth the Poison Ivy exposure I had to climb through to get to!  I am still paying the price for that!

Upper Burnthouse Branch Falls

We descended back down and picked up"Kitty's Trail" stopping at one more nice cascade on Upper Creek.

Cascades on Upper Creek

Soon after we arrived back at the MST.  The climb back up to our vehicles was a good little workout to end our day.  It sure would have been nice to find a swimming hole when we got back, but all we got was a very light rain shower!

I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure!  It is always a pleasure hiking with Andy and Kitty and it was great to meet Matt, Rick, and David for the first time in person!

As for Kevin's Triple 10 rating for Raven Cliff Falls?   My rating would be closer to a Triple 8.  However, as stated earlier, water flow was about as low as it gets!  High Flow would make Raven Cliff Falls even more impressive and it would definitely push the difficulty up to a 10!

My complete set of Photos from our Raven Cliff Falls Adventure is posted here:

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