Friday, February 24, 2017

2017-02-23 Little Bradley and Big Bradley Falls

Matt, Meet the Bradleys!
Little Bradley Falls and Big Bradley Falls
Polk County, NC
Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Matt at the Middle Drop of Little Bradley Falls

My Team Waterfall Buddy Matt was in town for the annual CNPA Convention (Carolina Nature Photographers Association).  He had some free time on Thursday, so I took the afternoon off from work to show him some of my favorite local waterfalls.

Big Bradley and Little Bradley Falls are located right off of I-26 about 30 minutes north of Spartanburg, making them a great destination for an afternoon hike!

We started out with Little Bradley which is about a one mile (two mile out and back) easy hike.  Normally this hike requires getting your feet wet.  However with the ongoing drought, the water levels were low enough to easily rock hop all of the creek crossings!

Little Bradley Falls is one of my favorites!  I actually prefer Little Bradley over Big Bradley.  It is one of the more photogenic waterfalls around and there are virtually unlimited photo angles and compositions you can create with this waterfall!

Little Bradley Falls

Little Bradley Falls

 The Upper Drop of Little Bradley Falls

The only downside to Little Bradley is that it is located just a stone's throw downstream from I-26.  Therefore a lot of road trash tends to gather at the base!  

Next up was Big Bradley Falls.  We started out with the easy hike to the overlook area.

 Matt photographing Big Bradley from the Overlook area
 Tragic Note about this photo:   On February 12th, 2017 two young girls 
watched their father fall to his death from this exact spot!
Be careful out there! 

I never really liked the view from the overlook area, so we decided to head to the base.  Getting to the base of Big Bradley is not an easy task!  Most of the climb is extremely steep, and one section requires a rope climb down a 20 foot ledge!

Matt climbing the rope down to the base of Big Bradley
 Me at Big Bradley Falls
Some rare February Temps in the high 70s made the water quite refreshing!

Big Bradley Falls

 Big Bradley Falls

 Big Bradley Falls

We had also discussed hitting Fungi Falls, but we didn't have quite enough time left to do it justice.  So instead we took our time photographing Big Bradley and also stopped at a scenic section of Cove Creek to photograph what I call Mini Bradley Falls!

 Mini Bradley Falls

In addition to the waterfalls, we also saw an assortment of early spring wildflowers including several varieties of Hepatica, Chickweed, Toadshade Trillium, Periwinkle, and a field of yellow DaffyDills

 Toadshade Trillium

It was a very enjoyable afternoon!
Next time Matt makes it over this way, I will introduce him to the rest of the Bradleys!

My complete set of photos is posted here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017-02-11 Team Waterfall Adventure

Another Awesome Team Waterfall Adventure
Portage Left Falls,  Norm's El Grande Falls
Devil's Courthouse, and Whiteside Mountain
Jackson, Macon, and Transylvania County, NC
Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Saturday's Team Waterfall Adventure started with a warm-up hike up the Whitewater River to Portage Left Falls.  Joining me would be would be Andy, Boone, Darrin, Bob, and Jennifer.

 Group Photo at Portage Left Falls on the Whitewater River
L to R:  Bob, Darrin, Me, Jennifer, Andy, and Boone

My two previous visits to Portage Left Falls found it cluttered with deadfall.  I was eager to make a return visit after hearing reports that the deadfall has since been washed clear of the waterfall during a recent flash flood.

Starting from where the Whitewater River flows under NC281, we began our hike upstream.  I didn't record a GPS track, but I would estimate it to be a little over a mile to the falls.  There is no official trail, but if you head up river left (the right side of the river when going upstream), you should be able to pick up some unofficial trails that take you most of the way.

The rumors were correct!  Portage Left Falls was mostly clear of deadfall!

Portage Left Falls on the Whitewater River

Portage Left Falls on the Whitewater River

Portage Left Falls on the Whitewater River

Portage Left Falls on the Whitewater River

We spent about a half hour at the falls before returning back the same way we came.

Jennifer was only able to make the morning hike.  However Scott (the Professor), Dillon, and Blizzy were able to join us for the afternoon phase of our Team Waterfall Adventure!

The second part of our Team Waterfall Adventure would begin at the Whiteside Mountain Parking Area between Cashiers and Highlands, NC.  This is a very popular tourist spot and with unseasonably warm temperatures the parking area was overflowing!

After paying our $2.00 each and getting a little creative with where we parked our vehicles we quickly left the crowds and headed off trail in search of Norm's El Grande Falls.

With some rough directions and a few waypoints from Waterfall Rich, we had no problems working our way down to Norm's El Grande!

 Norm's El Grande Falls

This one is much more impressive in person!  It really needs a good bit more water to really be photo worthy!  However, even without much flow, it is still a cool spot that not too many people will ever get to!

Boone at Norm's El Grande Falls

We continued our exploration off the main tourist trails and found one more waterfall on a tributary stream that we were not expecting to find.  This one is not the greatest photo subject either, but still a nice little bonus.

A surprise waterfall we stumbled upon

Next up we would begin our climb up to the Devil's Courthouse.  Note:  this is the Whiteside Mountain Devil's Courthouse.  The more well known Devil's Courthouse off the Blue Ridge Parkway is a completely different spot!

Devil's Courthouse Panorama

View from the Devil's Courthouse

 View from the Devi's Courthouse

My Team Waterfall Buddies on the Devil's Courthouse Helipad
L to R:  Andy, Dillon, Darrin, Scott, Bob

After a nice break on Devil's Courthouse, we continued our climb up to the official Whiteside Mountain Trail.  Bob and Darrin decided to head back, but Andy, Scott, Dillon and I had a few more spots we wanted to check out.  First up would be an outcrop that Dillon "discovered" a few years ago!

This spot offered up the best view of Whiteside Mountain that I have ever seen!

 The Professor shows off the view from Dillon's Outcrop

 Andy and Boone

 Dillon gets some Tongue Action from Blizzy

View from Dillon's Outcrop

 The professor hanging out on Dillon's Outcrop

We continued on and hit the tourist trail for a while before checking out a few more spots off trail.  Scott and I headed out on a rock outcrop above what is known as The Nose, while Andy, Dillon, and the Dogs went down to a lower outcrop.   The result was my favorite shots of the day by Dillon and Andy!

Bushwhack Jack (me) and the Professor (Scott) above The Nose of Whiteside Mountain
Photo by Dillon Senn

Bushwhack Jack and the Professor attempt to strike the Gnome Pose above the Nose
Photo by Andy Kunkle

My photo looking down at Andy and Dillon is nowhere near as impressive!

The Professor above the nose of Whiteside Mountain

View from Whiteside Mountain shortly before sunset

We returned down to the parking area via the main trail. 
Here is the GPS track from our Norm's El Grande, Devil's Courthouse, Whiteside Mountain hike:

After our hike we stopped for a nice dinner and a beer at The Ugly Dog Pub (a Bushwhack Jack approved spot for after hike grub)!

It was well after dark by the time Andy, Scott and I set up camp in the Blue Valley area of North Carolina alongside the East Fork of Overflow Creek!  What followed was a very enjoyable evening around the campfire with quickly forgotten stories and everlasting memories!

Andy, Me, and Scott hanging out around the campfire

Our Campsite the next Morning

The complete set of photos from our Team Waterfall Adventure is posted here:

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017-02-04 Pisgah Waterfall Adventure

Pisgah National Forest Waterfall Adventure
Including a New Waterfall Discovery!
Transylvania County, NC
John Rock, Saxifrage Falls, King Creek Falls, Fawn Branch Falls,
Cedar Rock Creek Falls, Lemon Falls, and Eastatoe Falls
Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Me and Mark at Fawn Branch Falls
We believe we are the first explorers to document the existence of this one!

Since my last few weekends involved a whole lotta bushwhacking I decided to stick to mostly trail hiking for today's plan.  I plotted out a route that would include mostly familiar territory, but also add in a couple of waterfalls that neither Mark nor I have ever been to.  

On page 187 of Kevin Adam's "North Carolina Waterfalls" (3rd Edition), he has a short write-up for Saxifrage Falls and King Creek Falls.  These would be our primary goal for the day!

It was a chilly 22 degrees when we started out from the Pisgah Fish Hatchery just north of Brevard, NC.  Originally, I had planned on skipping John Rock, but instead we decided that a little extra climb to start out the hike would help get the blood moving and warm us up a bit!

View of Looking Glass Rock from John Rock

 Mark Photographing the View from John Rock

 The John Rock Death Slide!

From John Rock, we continued on to Cat Gap.   Most trail maps show Cat Gap to be a 4-way intersection.  However there is a 5th trail that heads off to the South East.  We would take this over towards King Creek.  While the trail is not signed or blazed, it is very obvious and easy to follow.

 Me along the trail

The trail soon crosses over FR475C and continues on down the river left side of King Creek.  Saxifrage Falls is approximately a mile downstream from FR475C.  A short but steep scramble took us to the base of this pretty little waterfall.

Mark at Saxifrage Falls

Ice at Saxifrage Falls

 Saxifrage Falls

A short distance downstream from Saxifrage Falls is King Creek Falls.  Again this one requires a steep scramble to get down to the base.

 Me and Mark at King Creek Falls

This one is pretty neat, but not very photogenic, especially with the amount of deadfall cluttering the base.

Ice covered deadfall at King Creek Falls

My favorite feature of this waterfall is the cool cave right at the base of the falls.

Looking out at King Creek Falls from inside a cool cave

Even though I had planned mostly trail hiking, I just had to add a little something extra in order to live up to my Bushwhack Jack moniker!

Fawn Branch joins King Creek a short distance downstream from King Creek Falls.  I just couldn't help but notice on the topo map that Fawn Branch follows pretty much the same elevation drop as King Creek!  So we bushwhacked down King Creek to it's confluence with Fawn Branch.

I was concerned that Fawn Branch would be just a small trickle of stream.  We were pleasantly surprised to find almost as much water as King Creek!  Heading up Fawn Branch is no easy task, especially considering that we were both trying to keep our feet dry.

Most of Fawn Branch is just a long rock slide.  And those rocks are slick!  Especially the ones in the shade which were still covered with a layer of ice.

 Lower Fawn Branch Falls

Eventually we got to a drop significant and pretty enough to pull out the camera and declare this new discovery as Fawn Branch Falls!
Mark at Fawn Branch Falls

 Me at Fawn Branch Falls (photo by Mark)

 Fawn Branch Falls

We pretty much returned back to Cat Cap the way we came and took a short break there to discuss our options

GPS Track from our hike

We chose a return route that would take us past a couple of waterfalls on Cedar Rock Creek.

Campsite Falls (aka Upper Cedar Rock Falls) is nothing special but well worth the quick stop.

Campsite Falls (aka Upper Cedar Rock Creek Falls)

Just downstream from the campsite is Cedar Rock Creek Falls which requires a bit more effort, but still easily accessible for most people.  This one has always been one of my favorite smaller waterfalls.

Cedar Rock Creek Falls

 Me and Mark at Cedar Rock Creek Falls

 Cedar Rock Creek Falls

Cedar Rock Creek Falls

Mark and I both are fans of early starts and we both move at a pretty good pace leaving plenty of daylight left at the end of our hike.  We decided to add in a couple of roadside waterfalls off of NC215 just north of Rosman, NC.

First up was Lemon Falls (page 231 of Kevin Adam's NC Waterfall Bible 3rd Edition)

 Lemon Falls

Lemon Falls

Lower Lemon Falls

Our only failure of the day came next.  On page 229 Kevin lists Big Bearwallow Falls and inlcudes a beautiful photo of this one.  I am 99% certain we were at the right spot, but I could not figure out how to capture this one.  I believe there are a few recent trees fallen in front of and on top of this waterfall.  I did not even bother to pull out the camera for this one.

But we did not let the one failure ruin an otherwise perfect day.  Instead we stopped for a beer!

Since we would be driving right past, we decided to hit one last waterfall on the way back home.  Every time I pick up Kevin Adam's latest edition, I just can't help admiring this beauty!  The always awesome Eastatoe Falls!

 Eastatoe Falls

Eastatoe Falls

Mark and Me at Eastatoe Falls

This was another excellent day of waterfall wandering!

The complete set of photos is posted here: