Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 3, 2016 - Courthouse, Cody, and Chestnut Falls - Pisgah National Forest

I've been wanting to get back up to the Courthouse Creek area all summer, but was holding out until water levels were higher. This summer's drought has really had an effect on the creeks. I was surprised by the higher levels I saw in Lake Toxaway the other day, so I thought today would be a good day for Courthouse. Plus, someone had posted on FB that a huge dead hemlock had fallen at Courthouse Falls and I was eager to see just how much of the view of the waterfall was blocked.

I only saw 1 vehicle along FR140 as I made my way up to the Courthouse Falls trail head - my first stop of the day. Directions to Courthouse Falls and Cody Falls are on this page of my web site. There was no one here either and skies were still overcast - excellent shooting conditions. I noticed that the forest service had added orange trail blazed to the blue ones that were already there. The orange was now for the Courthouse Falls Trail and the blue was still the Summey Cove Trail. Before arriving at the base of Courthouse Falls, there's a view of the waterfall though the trees that I like to shoot.

Courthouse Falls from the trail

That view was still good, but I could see the big downed hemlock through the trees and shrub. A set of wooden steps leads from the end of the trail down to the base of the falls. When that hemlock fell, it damaged part of the steps, but not enough to make them unusable.

the damage done

I didn't get a good close up shot of the damage, but maybe you can tell from that shot that most of the damage was done to the lower section. My favorite spot to shoot Courthouse Falls from was a big rock in the middle of the creek. This is what it now looks like from that rock.

view from the rock

The hemlock also brought down a couple of younger live trees, so their branches and leaves are among the litter. My guess is that all of that mess will be there for a while. It'll take a huge flood to wash all that out of the picture. But - there is good news if you have a wide lens and don't mind standing in the creek. I took these next 2 shots with a 10-18mm lens on my Sony a6000 and was standing in the creek just in front of all the debris.

Courthouse Falls

I spent quite a bit of time here and thought I got all the shots and video I wanted. My next stop was Cody Falls which is just down creek from Courthouse Falls. The waterfall is a short distance up Mill Station Creek from it's confluence with Courthouse Creek. I hadn't been to this 25' high waterfall since 2005 which is a real shame. Courthouse Falls can get crowded, but very few people go to Cody Falls. One reason could be that there's no trail to it. The sure fire way to find it is to wade and rock hop Courthouse Creek down to Mill Station Creek, then head up to the waterfall. There's also a way to cut down the steep bank from the Courthouse Falls trail, but you have to come out at exactly the right place or you'll be on the rock cliff surrounding the falls. My plan today was to take the creek down, then find the best place to head back up so I could describe that way in my directions to the waterfall.

Following Courthouse Creek down wasn't an easy task task today since there was a lot of tree debris in the creek. I made it to Cody Falls and was very pleased to see that no logs had washed into the waterfall. The sun was now in and out of the picture, so I spent quite a bit of time waiting for cloud cover, but it was well worth it. The waterfall is in a small little cove and the wide angle lens came in handy here also. The water flow wasn't as high as I expected, but that didn't turn out to be a bad thing.

The sun was out enough at times to really bring out the red color of the rock without washing out the entire scene. The green moss just added to the beauty. This is such an awesome little spot! Getting back up the bank wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I ended up at exactly the right spot back up on the Courthouse Falls Trail and have that updated description of how to get down in case you don't care to creek walk.

The last stop of the day was Chestnut Falls which is accessed from a different spot along FR140. Those directions are here. It had been a few years since I'd been here also, but more recently than 2005! The trail is still in good shape, but this waterfall could have used some more water. I took a few shots, then the skies really darkened, so I put all the camera equipment away and prepared for the rain. After 15 minutes, there was no rain and the skies lighted, so I got everything back out and continued shooting. Soon after that, the skies cleared completely, but by then I was about done for the day. Below are a couple of photos of Chestnut Falls, then a video including all 3 waterfalls.

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