Wednesday, August 30, 2017

2017-08-26 Toxaway River Adventure

Toxaway River Adventure
with Mark and Renee
Gorges State Park
Transylvania County, NC

Group Photo at Upper Wintergreen Falls along the Toxaway River
L to R:  Mark, Renee, Me

A little over a year ago my Team Waterfall group explored a relatively remote section of the Toxaway River.  My buddy Mark saw my trip report and photos and has been wanting to check it out in person.

This adventure is best and safest with:
  • Warm Water (you will get wet!)
  • Lower than normal waterflow  (very dangerous during high flow)
  • Dry rocks 
    • no rain the previous day or evening
    • and no rain in the forecast for day of the hike
So after a year, our schedules met up and the conditions looked like they would be perfect for me to make a return visit and lead Mark down the Toxaway River.  Fellow waterfall enthusiast Renee (who I've know on Facebook for years, but never actually met in person) would also be joining us on this adventure.

We started out along US64 just below the Lake Toxaway Dam above Toxaway Falls.

Rather than scale down the side of Toxaway Falls like I did on my last trip, we decided on the safer route and took the trail that leads to the top of Twin Falls.  We backtracked a short bit to view Toxaway Falls from the base.

at the base of Toxaway Falls

We continued on downstream to Twin Falls, which I consider to be the prettiest and most photogenic of all the drops along the Toxaway River!

 Renee and Mark at the top of Twin Falls

 Twin falls on the Toxaway River

Group Photo at Twin Falls

Continuing on, this two mile section of river we explored contains at least 15 different cascades, slides, chutes, and waterfalls.  The Kayaking community has given names to most of them including Space Mountain, Folding Slide, Minigizer, Energizer, Sticky Hole Slide, Big Mank, and Feeding Trough.  I am not sure which is which, so I am just going to post some pictures!

Renee and Mark using the butt slide technique

 along the Toxaway River

  along the Toxaway River

  along the Toxaway River

  along the Toxaway River

 I really liked this slanted rock!

Along the Toxaway River

Along the Toxaway River

Along the Toxaway River

There were a few flat sections of river!  This one was a bit on the mucky side!

 Renee and Mark trekking through a mucky section of the Toxaway River!

We had at least (3) different close encounters of the buzzing kind.  This hornets nest was hanging right over the river!  Fortunately Mark spotted it in time and we were able to safely navigate around!

Hornets Nest

This next nest was located just under a rock ledge that I literally butt slid over.  Not sure how I escaped that one, but I definitely stirred them up enough that Mark and Renee had to find another way down!

 Wasp Nest

We also ran across the World Famous One-Eyed Frog!

The World Famous One-Eyed Frog!

Here is a series of shots of Mark and Renee that show what kind of trek this is!

Here are a few of Renee's Photos:
 Mark, Renee, Me
(photo by Renee)

 Me and Mark on a natural rock bridge
(photo by Renee)

Me, Renee, Mark
(photo by Renee)

Eventually we made it down to Upper Wintergreen Falls.  The Uppermost drop of Wintergreen Falls is one I like to call 2nd Twin Falls.

2nd Twin Falls

 2nd Twin Falls

Immediately downstream from 2nd Twin Falls is Upper Upper Wintergreen Falls

 Mark and Renee at the top of Upper Upper Wintergreen Falls

Upper Upper Wintergreen Falls

And finally Upper Wintergreen Falls

 Upper Wintergreen Falls

Before starting our climb back out, there was one more thing I wanted to do.  Just downstream from Upper Wintergreen Falls is a really cool water slide.  Mark and I each rode the Wintergreen Slide about 4 or 5 times!

Mark riding the Wintergreen Slide

And here is a link Mark's video of me riding the slide:

Lower Wintergreen Falls is a bit further downstream, but that one is easier to approach from the other direction, so we decided to save that for another trip!

The climb back out was uneventful, but I do have an amusing story.

At one point I made a wrong turn which got us slightly off track and took us across a short short section of private property.  Out of all the places that I could have stopped to pee, I just happened to pick on where a motion activated game camera was pointed at me which did not notice it until mid stream!   Someone might have a little more than just Deer on their memory card!

We got back on the right path and successfully made it back to our vehicles without any major mishaps!  It was an awesome day of adventure!

My complete set of photos is posted here:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

2017-08-21 Total Eclipse Hike

Total Eclipse Hike
Table Rock State Park, SC
Monday, August 21st, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse view from Table Rock State Park, SC

Spartanburg, SC (where I live and work) was right on the edge of the totality zone during the 2017 Great American Eclipse.  I could have treated it like a normal day and seen a 99.99% eclipse from the parking lot at work.  However, I have heard the claims that the difference between 99.99% and 100% totality is like day and night!

Unless I live to be 108 years old or move somewhere else, this will be the last time in my life that a Total Eclipse will come this close to home and I did not want to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity! 

I had seen partial solar eclipses before, but I have never experienced totality!

So I took the day off from work to head into the Totality Zone!  I decided to get a hike in as well and selected Table Rock State Park, SC as my Eclipse viewing destination.

Apparently, I was not the only person that thought Table Rock would be a good spot to spend the day.  Shortly after my 8:30am arrival, they closed the entrance gates as the park had reached maximum capacity.  Maybe I should have chosen a different place to spend the day?

I started my hike on the Pinnacle Mountain Trail, which gains over 2,000 feet in elevation over about 4.0 miles.  Shortly below the summit, I took my first break of the day to soak up the views from a spot known as Bald Knob.

 view of Table Rock Mountain from Bald Knob

Flowers blooming by the Bald Knob Sign

Bald Knob Selfie with Table Rock behind me

view from Bald Knob

I continued on up to the Summit of Pinnacle Mountain, the highest mountain located entirely in the state of SC.  (note: Sassafras Mountain is higher, but it is located on the SC/NC border).

There are no views from the actual Summit of Pinnacle Mountain, so I had to settle for a Selfie by the Summit Sign!

Pinnacle Mountain Summit Selfie

I continued on the Ridge Trail!  Even on what was probably the busiest day in Table Rock State Park history, you can still find solitude on the Ridge Trail.  I did not see a single other person from the Pinnacle Mountain Summit to Panther Gap.

There would be no more Solitude for the rest of the day.  From Panther Gap, I continued on the Table Rock Trail making a quick stop at Governor's Rock and then on to the Table Rock Summit.

 View from Governors Rock

Table Rock Summit Selfie

The best views are past the summit, so I continued on!

view from Table Rock

 view from Table Rock

 Table Rock Eclipse Viewing Party

Zoomed in view of Slicking Falls.  Viewed from Table Rock

 view from Table Rock

While the day started out clear, it was now about 95% cloud coverage which would not be good for Eclipse Viewing.

I made my way back to Governors Rock where I had originally planned to view the Eclipse.  Governors Rock was packed with people who had the same idea that I had.

Eclipse Viewing Party at Governors Rock

I did not relish the idea of hanging out with all these people, or hiking back down with this crowd afterwards.  And with all the cloud cover, there would be little opportunity to view the Eclipse progression, so I decided to start my hike back down.  I figured if it did clear, I could see the Eclipse just as well back down by Pinnacle Lake.

During my hike down, whenever I would see sunlight break through the clouds I would grab my Eclipse glasses and take a quick peak at the progression.  I did not invest in a solar filter for my camera, so I did not bother to take any photos of the Eclipse Progression.

GPS Track from my Hike

I made it down to the trailhead and over to Pinnacle Lake in plenty of time for totality, but the cloudy sky did not look like it would cooperate.

Then about two minutes before totality, the clouds broke just enough to reveal the eclipsed sun.  And it stayed clear until the sky went dark! 

The rumors are true, the dissappearance of that last sliver of light that only occurs during 100% totality is what makes a Total Eclipse a truly amazing experience!

We did have a little wispy cloud pass by during our two minutes of totality, but that just added to the eeriness of the eclipse!  

Total Solar Eclipse

My complete set of photos is posted here: