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:

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