Friday, May 26, 2017

2017-05-20 Bear Creek Lake Kayak Camping Weekend - Day 2

Bear Creek Lake Kayak Camping Weekend

A Team Waterfall Adventure

Jackson County, NC

Day 2

Saturday, May 20th, 2017
Bear Creek Lake, Party Island, Flat Creek Falls, Robinson Creek, Verdae Falls, 
Tuckasegee River Gorge, Bonas Defeat

Bob, Darrin, Me, Christy, and Andy

I was awake before any signs or sounds of stirring from Andy or Christy, so I decide to start the day with a little paddle around the island.

 Party Island on Bear Creek Lake

 Morning Fog over Bear Creek Lake from Party Island

I also wanted to hit Flat Creek Falls before the sun rose above the ridge.  The "trailhead" for Flat Creek falls is less than a 5 minute paddle from Party Island, and the hike is about a mile (each way).  There is no official trail, but for the most part if you know where you are going you can pick up some obvious paths most of the way.

Flat Creek Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls anywhere!  Unfortunately I was a few minutes too late and the sun was already lighting up the top section of the waterfall causing less than optimal photo conditions.

Flat Creek Falls

When I returned to the campsite Andy and Christy were finally awake.  Andy was going to paddle back to the boat ramp/parking area to fetch some more beer!   Bob and Darrin were not expected for another couple of hours.  So I decided to go on another paddle/hike to Verdae Falls on Robinson Creek.

The mouth of Robinson Creek is about a 15 minute paddle from Party Island.  From there it is a short creek walk upstream to this small but scenic waterfall.

Verdae Falls on Robinson Creek

 Cascasdes along Robinson Creek

Soon after I returned to party Island, Darrin and Bob had arrived.  Andy returned a short time after.

 Darrin (aka The Salmon) testing out the island's rope swing

After Darrin finished testing out the island's rope swing, the five of us decided to spend the afternoon exploring the Tuckasegee River Gorge (aka Bonas Defeat).  This place has been on my to do list for years, but have never made it there until now!

From Party Island it is about an hour paddle to get to the mouth of the Tuckasegee River
Andy paddling by the first "Welcome Team Waterfall" Sign


Where did the name Bonas Defeat Come from?

Legend has it that an old hunting dog, named Bonas, had been trained by its master to run game off the rock face causing the game to fall of the cliff deep into the gorge creating easy meat for the master.

However, one day a smart buck caused the dog Bonas's death (aka defeat) when he stepped away as the dog chased him causing Bonas to take the plunge that he had caused so many of his hunting prey to take prior to his own demise.

One very important note:  Make sure you check the Duke Energy Dam Release Schedules and do not head into this area if there is a release scheduled of if there is any chance of a flash flood!  As the signs say, the Tuckasegee River Gorge is used as flood control by Duke Energy.

 Bob by another "Welcome Team Waterfall" Sign

We did do our research and found no dam releases scheduled for the day and any potential flash flood causing rains were not expected until much later in the evening.  Plus we were only planning on exploring a very short section of the gorge.

Mountain Laurel

 Andy geared up and ready to go!

We didn't go very far, but what we saw was awesome and we had a great time playing around and exploring this amazing gorge!

 Team Waterfall hanging out at Bonas Defeat

Team Waterfall

Darrin "The Salmon" takes flight

 Andy and Darrin checking out the slot canyon

Bob on the Rocks

Darrin and Bob

 Exiting Bonas Defeat

I was very pleased that I finally got to experience Bonas Defeat, but I would definitely like to make a return visit for a full day exploration of the entire gorge!

Christy and Bob paddling back to Party Island from Bonas Defeat

The paddle back was uneventful and we all built up a thirst for the FABs (Frosty Adult Beverages) that were waiting for us back at Party Island.  A very enjoyable evening was had by everyone!

Darrin, Christy, and Andy hanging out at our Party Island Campsite
Sunset over Bear Creek Lake from Party Island

Darrin photographing the Sunset

Bob, Darrin, Me, Christy, and Andy

Christy and Andy

Sometime after my camera was packed away for the weekend, Spencer and Carlos arrived at Party Island and the Team Waterfall celebration continued long into the night.  Thanks to Bob's BAT (Big Ass Tarp), even the rain did not dampen our spirits.

The next morning I awoke to a steady rain.  The one thing worse than packing up camping gear in the rain, is having to load it onto a Kayak, Paddle for an hour to the boat ramp, load all the wet gear into your vehicle, and then have to load and tie down your Kayak to the Roof Rack. 

I had though about doing a few other short adventures on Sunday Morning, but I decided to pass on those plans due to the rain.  In fact, my camera never exiting my dry bag since I packed it away Saturday night!

Despite the rain, it was a very enjoyable Team Waterfall Weekend!

The Complete set of photos from Day 2 are posted here:

And if you missed Day 1, those are posted here:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017-05-19 Bear Creek Lake - Day 1

Bear Creek Lake Kayak Camping Weekend
A Team Waterfall Adventure
Jackson County, NC
Day 1
Friday, May 19th, 2017

Andy and Me at Sols Creek Falls

Party Island on Bear Creek Lake is one of the coolest camping spots I have ever had the pleasure of pitching a tent on!  So when Andy threw out the date for a return visit, I inked it onto my calendar!

The only problem with Party Island is that you can not reserve it.  So if another group  beats you to it, you are out of luck and the backup options are far less appealing.

So I volunteered to take the day off from work on Friday to try to snag the island before the weekend crowds arrive on the lake.

The Bushwhack Jack Kayak loaded up and ready to go!

The paddle out to the Island takes about and hour (at a very leasurely pace)!   An experienced Kayker with a higher quality Kayak could probably do it in half that time.    I also prefer to take my time and hug the shoreline to get as much shade as possible which adds a little bit of distance.

I was very pleased to find the Island empty of inhabitants.  So I staked my claim and declared the Island as Team Waterfall's for the weekend!

 Party Island on Bear Creek Lake

I was also happy to see that the previous inhabitants left a good supply of firewood!  For car camping, I will load up the truck with as much firewood as needed, but I just do not have room on my Kayak to strap on any wood!

After unloading my gear and setting up my tent, I was going to go out for another paddle. 

However, the skies darkened up and thunder started booming in the distance.  It wasn't long before a deluge of rain hit the island!  So I escaped into my tent to lay down and wait out the storm!  Fortunately the heavy rain only lasted for about 20 minutes.

About 45 minutes after the rain stopped, I spotted Andy and Christy rounding the corner of the final stretch of the paddle towards Party Island.

Christy and Andy on the final stretch towards Party Island

I offered up a hand in unloading their gear and helped them get settled onto our island home for the weekend.  After getting set up, Christy was content to hop into her Hammock and relax for a while, but Andy and I had other plans!

 Christy relaxing in her Hammock on Party Island

Andy and I decided to go for a little paddle/hike to Sols Creek Falls!

From Party Island it is about a 15 minute Paddle followed by a 15 minute hike to the Spectacular Sols Creek Falls!  Add in some photography time, and it is about a 2 hour round trip mini-adventure!

 Andy paddling towards Sols Creek Falls

 First view of Sols Creek Falls from the Lake

Sols Creek Falls
 Andy photographing Sols Creek Falls

 Sols Creek Falls

We returned to the Island in time for a nice sunset followed by a very enjoyable evening around the campfire!

 Sunset from Party Island

 Sunset from Party Island

 Andy and Christy
A Glimpse into the Future!

 Evening Twilight from Party Island

 Andy photographing the Evening Twilight

Cool Clouds above Bear Creek Lake

Christy relaxing in her Hammock by the Campfire

 Me, Andy, and Christy hanging out around the campfire

The complete set of photos from Day 1 of our Bear Creek Lake Kayak Camping weekend is posted here:

To be Continued
Day 2 coming soon!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dillon's Birthday Weekend - A Team Waterfall Adventure!

Dillon's Birthday Weekend Celebration
A Team Waterfall Adventure
Margarette Falls and Bailey Falls,
Red Fork Falls and camping along Red Fork Creek,
and the Beauty Spot along the Appalachian Trail
Greene County and Unicoi County, TN
Saturday, May 6th and Sunday, May 7th, 2017

 Andy and I celebrating Dillon's Birthday by the Campfire

The plan was to celebrate Dillon's birthday with a huge gathering and overnight camping trip at "The Beauty Spot" along the Appalachian Trail.

Although it is only about two hours away, I have seen very little of this part of Tennessee, so I was gung-ho to make the most of the weekend.  I even thought about taking Friday off from work to get an early start.

As the date got closer, the weather forecast got worse and worse.  Unseasonably cold temperatures, high winds, and almost certain rain seemed destined to put a damper on this event!  But that didn't stop Andy and I from meeting up on Saturday Morning for a little hike to Margarette Falls and Bailey Falls near Greeneville, TN.

Margarette Falls and Bailey Falls
Me and Andy at Margarette Falls

Margarette Falls is an easy 1.2 mile (2.4 mile out and back) hike along a well established and maintained trail.  It follows the West Fork of Dry creek all the way to the base of Margarette Falls passing by numerous small waterfalls and cascades along the way.

We decided to save those for the hike back and focus on getting to the main attractions before the rain started!  (According to the radar, the rain was definitely on the way!)

Margarette Falls is a beauty and well within the capabilities of almost any skill level.  I would definitely classify the hike as "Amy Approved"!

Margarette Falls

 Margarette Falls

 Margarette Falls

Bailey Falls is a little less than a half mile upstream from Margarette Falls, but getting there is much more difficult.  The trail officially ends at the base of Margarette Falls.   A steep scramble path takes you up to the top of the waterfall.  From there it is a bushwhack and/or creekwalk upstream!

I would guess that waterflow was higher than normal and we faced knee deep wading in several spots.  And that water was COLD!  Much cooler than I was expecting!  With air temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, it was probably not the best day to be wading through creeks.

But our persistence paid off because Bailey Falls is truly spectacular and very unique!

Lower Bailey Falls

 Lower Bailey Falls

Me at Lower Bailey Falls

Just upstream from the lower drop of Bailey Falls is another equally impressive upper drop!  Getting to the upper drop is another challenge!

Upper Bailey Falls

Upper Bailey Falls

Me back down at the Lower Drop of Bailey Falls.
I did not realize at the time that Andy was photobombing me.
(see the very top of the photo)

A cold rain had started to fall by the time we turned back.  But that didn't stop us from taking our time and photographing many of the cascades and small waterfalls on the hike back.

While the lighting was perfect for waterfall photograph, the challenge was keeping the water drops off the lens.  Below is only a small sampling of some of the cascades and small waterfalls along the hike since many of my shots had so many drops and water smudges that I deemed them un-post-worthy!

Even though this is a relatively short hike, we spent a good six hours exploring and photographing this beautiful creek.  In addition to being in the creek much of the time, there was a steady rain for the entire second half of the hike.

I have been colder before, but I don't think I have ever been this cold in May!

I got back to my truck, turned the heat up to full blast and changed into dry cloths.  Surprisingly there was a good cell signal at the trailhead so we were able to communicate with some of the others.

Spencer suggested that we change our camping site to something a bit more sheltered.  He posted a map to an alternate site along Red Fork Creek about 1,500 feet in elevation down the mountain from the Beauty Spot.  That would work out well because it would allow Andy and I to squeeze in another short waterfall hike while we waiting for some of the others to arrive.

There would be no cell service at our campsite, so our last contact with the rest of the group was at around 5:00pm when we found out that Dillon was having car trouble and would have to cancel on his own Birthday Party Celebration.

Red Fork Falls and Camping along Red Fork Creek  

We had no problems finding the spot that Spencer Suggested, but before we set up camp we would do the short scramble hike down to Red Fork Falls!   It must have rained even harder here as the trail was a mucky mess and the creek was a raging torrent of water down the multiple drops of Red Fork Falls.

Red Fork Falls was an impressive site, but the spray was intense making photo conditions very difficult.   Strategically using my last dry lens cloth, I managed to snap off a few shots without too many annoying water spray and smudge marks!

Red Fork Falls

 Red Fork Falls

 Red Fork Falls

 Red Fork Falls

 Red Fork Falls

Cascades just above Red Fork Falls and just downstream from our Campsite

After Red Fork Falls we decided to set up camp.  The campsite was not far enough from the road to be considered backpacking, but it was far enough that toting all the firewood down was a bit of a nuisance. But it was essential as we had a cold evening ahead of us and we still hadn't warmed back up from being wet all day!

Fortunately the act of toting the firewood and our gear down to the campsite started the warm up process, and a few adult beverages had continued the process!

By nightfall, we had camp set up, a roaring fire, and more than enough beer and moonshine to share!  By about 10:00pm, I finally declared myself warm and toasty and very content!

Andy and Me relaxing by our campfire

When Andy started "napping", I decided to call it an evening and head to the comforts of my tent.  This was right around midnight.

 Andy "Napping" by the campfire

I fell asleep quickly and slept soundly until about 7:00am.

Sometime between midnight and 7:00am, our campsite was invaded!  A hammock had magically appeared between my tent and Andy's.  Even Boone (Andy's normally reliable canine companion) was not awakened by the intruder.

Our campsite the next morning.
Note: the hammock between our two tents was not there the previous evening

I managed to see Spencer's head pop out of the Hammock long enough for me to say Good Morning.  During the very leisurely two hours it took for Andy and I to pack our our gear and have a little breakfast, Spencer never fully exited his Hammock.

Even though our camping plans changed, I still wanted to check out "The Beauty Spot" along the Appalachian Trial.  So I said my goodbyes to Andy and hit the road up the mountain.

The Beauty Spot along the Appalachian Trail

I think we made the right choice changing to a more sheltered, and lower elevation campsite.  The wind was howling and it was quite chilly up on the exposed mountain top.  Beauty Spot is located at about 4,400 feet.  Mountain tops just a few hundred feet in elevation higher had reports of Rime Ice and some even got a few inches of snow.

I wasn't planning a long hike, but I did want to do a little something, so I hiked the Appalachian Trail for about a mile or so.  The Beauty Spot was definitely beautiful enough for a return visit!

Taco at the Beauty Spot Parking Area
Note:  This very well might be the last photo of Taco (at least by me)

The trail to the Beauty Spot

view from the Beauty Spot

 view from the Beauty Spot

Along the Appalachian Trail

The Beauty Spot (our original planned camping location)

Even though Dillon's Birthday Weekend didn't go as planned!  Andy and I made the most of it and still had a great time!

My complete set of photos is posted here: