Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 12, 2016 - waterfalls on Denton Creek, Tate City, GA

Cindy was heading out of town for a few days, so I called my buddy Harry up to see if he wanted to make a trip down to north Georgia to hike with our pal Bernie. He was definitely in, so I headed up to his house in Lake Toxaway to spend the week end. It's a lot shorter drive from there to Clayton, GA than it is from my house in Hendersonville.

Our destination was Denton Creek which has 3 very nice waterfalls on it. It's accessed off of Tallulah River Rd which is the same road that holds the trail head for High Falls and Bull Cove Falls in NC. I don't have the directions for Denton Creek up on my site yet, but go here for the directions to High and Bull Cove Falls, except once you turn on to Tallulah River Rd, drive 6.5 miles, pass the Tate City Mall on the right and look for the single lane dirt road on the right. Drive down this for a short distance (as long as you don't have a really nice vehicle you don't want to get dirty) and park in one of the small cleared areas. There's only room for 4-5 vehicles in here at the most. If you get to the creek, you've passed all of the parking spots and you can't drive across the creek.

Tate City Mall

Harry and I met Bernie at the Ingles in Clayton, then we piled into Bernie's vehicle and headed towards the trail head. The known waterfall on this creek is called Denton Branch Falls most everywhere online. I'm not sure why as the topo map clearly labels this as Denton Creek. A couple of months ago, some Facebook lady friends found an upper waterfall on a tip from a local. I told Bernie about this and he set out to investigate a couple of days later. He found that waterfall and another nice one not too much farther up the creek.

Once we got parked, it was a short walk to cross Denton Creek. The old road continues for less than 1/4 mile, then turns to the left and heads uphill. At this point, a side trail splits off to the right and heads towards the lower waterfall that people call Denton Branch Falls. We had decided to continue up to see the second waterfall first. To get there, continue left and up the old road which has narrowed down to a more of a trail. Continue away from the creek, then make a right bend back towards the creek. After about 1/3 of a mile and 200' gain in elevation, look down to the right for the waterfall. Part of it was visible with the leaves off, but I'm not sure what the situation will be once the leaves come back out. It's a steep scramble down the bank to get the good view of the falls. Head towards the huge dead hemlock that has come down near the base of the 30-40' falls. I was sitting on that hemlock to get these shots.

middle waterfall on Denton Creek

Once back up on the main trail, continue a short distance and the trail and creek get closer to each other. (There's a nice cascade down there also that I was going to shoot on the way back down the trail, but the sun was on it and I passed until next trip.)  From here it's only about 1/4 mile to the upper waterfall. About half way there, the old road heads right towards the creek, but the trail to the waterfall continues up the left side of the creek and dead ends at the waterfall. This one is maybe 30' high also, but has a totally different character than the middle falls with all of the small ledges. The rhododendron on the right could use some trimming.

Harry, Bernie and me at the upper waterfall

After getting our fill of photos and video, we headed back down towards the lower waterfall. Once at the side trail to the falls, it's not even 0.2 miles to where the trail ends at the waterfall. We first passed a smaller cascade which is the first picture below. Unfortunately, there are a lot of downed trees around the main waterfall, but it's still a nice 25 footer and well worth the hike. I've seen shots of this falls where the water levels were quite puny, so be sure to visit during higher water.

small cascade before Denton Creek Falls

Denton Creek Falls

I'm planning on returning to this area when it greens up and camping at one of the campgrounds along Tallulah River Rd. There's still a lot in here that we haven't seen and want to see Denton Creek, High and Bull Cove Falls when the leaves are out. Below is a video of some of the sights we saw today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 4 & 8, 2016 - Mountains to Sea Trail, Asheville

There's not been a lot happening lately, so Cindy and I have been back to DuPont and also have been hiking sections of the Mountains to Sea Trail between Asheville and Tanbark Tunnel. These sections have limited interest, so it's been a good time to knock these out for Cindy's upcoming hiking book on the mountains portion of the MST.

Two of the sections we hiked are worth mentioning, though. On the 4th, we did the section from the Folk Art Center north to what's called Lunch Rock. It's about a 5 mile round trip hike and Lunch Rock has the view in the following 3 photos. The snow covered mountains of the Parkway made a nice background. If you go looking for this, there's a side trail marked with only a faint red dot on a tree at about 2.5 miles into the hike. This short side trail comes out on a rock face, so keep a close eye on kids if you bring any.

views from Lunch Rock

Then on the 8th, we hiked the section of the MST from Ox Creek Rd off of the Parkway to Rattlesnake Lodge which I think is about a 5 mile round trip also. This is a very popular section of trail during the warmer months. We began the hike right where the MST crosses Ox Creek Rd, but there's more parking farther up the road if you want to shorten the hike.

This section of trail is quite nice with a nice mix of uphill and downhill sections. The lack of leaves on the trees allow for a few views you probably wouldn't have otherwise.

The Rattlesnake Lodge has an interesting history.  The lodge was built in the very early 1900's and served as the summer home for Dr Chase Ambler and his family. The Romantic Asheville web site has a great write up here if you would like to read more. The only thing left of the lodge today are a few stone walls as shown in the photos below.

an interpretive sign gives a little history and location of some of the buildings
the barn foundation
tool shed

swimming pool

The weather is warming and it will soon be time for the wildflowers to begin blooming. We'll be out a lot and the forests green back up, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February 27, 2016 - Cliff Falls, Firewater Falls & Rockcliff Falls - Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina

I somehow missed these 3 fairly easy to get to waterfalls in Caesars Head State Park. I had seen them referenced online recently and all 3 are listed in Thomas King's South Carolina waterfall guide book, so it was time to pay them a visit. Directions to the trail head and hike info can be found on this page of my site. First, here's some video that includes all 3 waterfalls - Cliff Falls. Firewater Falls, and Rockcliff Falls.

I did a little research online for info about the hike to these 3 waterfalls, but there isn't a lot that has been posted. Firewater Falls is an especially interesting area as you can see from the video. Parking for this hike is at the Caesars Head State Park visitor center. Like a lot of areas in South Carolina, there is a $2 per person fee for using the trails. This is very reasonable and I wouldn't mind if NC did the same for more areas, as long as the money were used for trail maintenance and improvements. 

The hike begins on the Frank Coggins Trail which is on the opposite side of 276 from the visitors center. Before we got packs on, I went across the road to get a money envelope, but they were all wet and were falling apart. I went into the visitor center to see if they had any more and they said I could just pay there, so if you do the hike, keep that in mind.

The hike begins along a gravel drive, but soon narrows down to a footpath through the woods. Not too far into the hike, we noticed some idiot had spray painted FBG on the end of a sawed log and on a tree. The trail leads to the top of the first waterfall on the list - Cliff Falls. That same idiot had spray painter a rock at the very top of the waterfall also! It really takes a special kind of ignorance to carry a can of spray paint - or anything - on a hike just do you could deface a natural area. You can see it in the picture below. They actually spelled out what FBG stands for.

top of Cliff Falls
I knew from pictures that I had seen that there was a way to get to the base of Cliff Falls. The Rim of the Gap Trail turns to the left just after the bridge and the scramble trail down to the base is a short ways down this trail. There was some ice in the spray zone of the falls, so we weren't able to rock hop around for different views of the falls, so a return trip is definitely in order. The map indicates at least 150' more feet of drop below this and that needs investigating also. This part of the falls is about 20' high.

Next waterfall on the hike is Firewater Falls. It's only 0.3 miles up the trail and I really wasn't expecting much here. All the pictures I saw online were just of the waterfall and none showed the big rock area that extended beyond the falls. You can see that in the video. We ended up spending more time here than at the other 2 waterfalls mainly because there was a lot of video I wanted to shoot. I saw one photo online that showed the rock where the waterfall is as bone dry, so be prepared for that of you go during a dry spell. It's still a very interesting area.

The last waterfall on this hike is Rockcliff Falls. It's off of the Naturaland Trust Trail which is a short distance up the trail from Firewater Falls. The trail crosses back over 276, then crosses a private driveway a short distance later, then on to the base of the waterfall. This is another waterfall that might be a trickle in drier weather. It's about 40' high and had a lot of down fall on the right side of the falls when we were there. A couple of the write ups for this hike recommended walking back up 276 for 1/2 mile to the visitors center, but I don't recommend that at all. The safest option is to retrace your path like I mention in the write up on my site.

Rockcliff Falls