September 23-24, 2016
Two hikes. Two destinations very much worth the effort to reach. Neither seen. Two great days nonetheless.
(as always, click on any photo for a larger version)
I just returned from a whirlwind trip to North Carolina, in which I flew down, had a few hours to kill, then began driving back to Michigan. I tried to continue my pursuit of NC waterfalls, but as my trip was not planned, I just made a quick scan of my waterfall map before deciding on a location for my day one excursion. The fall chosen was Big Bradley Falls, fairly convenient on my drive from the Greenville/Spartanburg airport up to Asheville.
The hike back to the falls is about a mile, mostly following the route of a creek, either alongside or well above. One shallow creek crossing, but mostly pretty easy for NC, slightly challenging for my Michigan body hiking. It was a gorgeous day, a bit hot, especially for September, but not too bad. The hike was very nice, mostly through the woods which took the bite off the heat and allowed me to really enjoy my surroundings.
About halfway through, I consulted the ncwaterfalls.com site for a bit more info and it was then that I discovered that to see the falls required scrambling down a pretty steep trail, then dropping down a 20′ near vertical cliff (though a rope is said to be present). The pretty steep trail was marked by warning signs indicating that people have died trying to access the falls. Now, I will admit to being a bit heights intolerant and a bit too risk averse, and coupled with my being alone, discretion was in order. I did scramble down much of the trail, yet as it kept getting steeper and steeper, and as I had someplace I had to be, I eventually turned back. It was quite a trudge back up the slope, especially carry my camera equipment, and once up I was happy to enjoy a nice, easy hike back to the trailhead.
When I reached the creek crossing, the view was spectacular. Lots of small cascades over and around rocks of all sizes. I spent about an hour playing around the area looking for interesting angles to shoot. The light was a bit challenging, as bright mid-day sun contrasted with the cool shade of the woods. Got a few good shots, but was unable to really capture a delicate curtain of water falling from the cliffs across the creek. Still a good time.
Later, my business complete, I began a drive that would take me to Beckley, WV and position me to spend about six hours the next morning discovering the New River Gorge National River unit of our National Parks – a great way to spend the 2016 edition of the National Public Lands Day. My initial plan was to head to the Grandview are of the park and get some hiking in, then make a quick trip to Sandstone Falls, before heading up to the bridge near the Canyon visitor center.
Upon reaching Grandview before 8AM, I was greeted by a canyon full of clouds and sunny blue skies above. Absolutely magnificent and a most unanticipated pleasure. I don’t know that this was anything other than fog, but it reminded me of the cloud inversions that happen at the Grand Canyon, and of which I have only see pictures.
After spending too little time (in retrospect) taking in that scene, I decided to take the Grandview Rim Trail down to the overlook at Turkey Spur. Shortly, into the hike, I came across the junction for the Castle Rock Trail, which was listed as strenuous with uneven footing and steep drop-offs.
Having wimped out the day prior, and since I was somewhere where other would surely follow I went ahead and took the trail, and found it to be not that terribly strenuous, and lacking the type of narrow cliff side situations I had pictured. I reality, a fall would have been a pretty good tumble, but one that would have been stopped within 50′, as it was probably a 70 degree slope that had lots of trees and scrub to slow progress. What it did have was more fog, which to me feels like mystery and intrigue. I very much enjoyed the experience, partly because of all the “uneven footing”.
The Castle Rock Trail climbs back up to rejoin the Grandview Rim Trail after .6 mile, leaving about a mile to Turkey Spur. The fog continued, this time on wider trails and a bit right next to the empty road.
Upon my arrival at Turkey Spur, I found the trail to the top of the rock formation closed due to fire damage. Frustratingly, the stairs leading up to the top were brand new, but blocked off. I resisted the temptation to climb them anyway, and explored the backside of the formation in hopes of another way up, or another viewpoint. All I saw was trees, and views of new fencing atop the rocks. Oh well, better to respect the rules and save my rare transgressions for respectful off trail waterfall photography. On my return to my car, I took the whole Grandview trail back, and enjoyed the views from the North Overlook along the way.
That theme would continue, as after a trip to the Sandstone Visitor Center for passport stamps, I took a drive up to the Sandstone Falls Overlook, and found it closed due to “dangerous trees”. I did not have time to do what I really wanted, and drive around to the other side of the river and the base of the falls, so I called it a visit and headed north. By that time, it was also too late to visit the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and the bridge, and so I headed back to Ann Arbor.
Both hikes did not end as I had planned or hoped, but both had unexpected, and quite possibly greater pleasures. And I did get lots of passport stamps. Until next time, #optoutside and take a hike!