Panthertown is a valley in the eastern portion of the Nantahala National Forest, just north of Lake Toxaway. It is not heavily used and this was our first visit to it – a few days after Toxaway had received more than 10 inches of rain.
The trails in general are not well-signed and there are old trails that are being reclaimed by the forest, new trails that will eventually be official, and then some unofficial trails. It’s generally a map and compass area. Schoolhouse Falls is easy enough to find however. Almost everyone else we saw in the forest was in the vicinity of Schoolhouse Falls which has a lovely big swimming hole at the base of it.
About 2 miles upstream from Schoolhouse is Greenland Creek Falls. The trails go up out of the gorge and connect back with the river about a half mile from the falls. We decided to bushwhack up the river directly. There was an old trail on the east side of the river but portions no longer exist. With high water, this is a strenuous hike that involves almost as much climbing as hiking. There are several more falls along the way. Pothole is the most impressive of these but it involved hanging over the river from branches just to get a glance at it.
The Greenland Creek Falls trail is not marked but it mostly heads upstream from an old forest road. At high water it involves crossing several tributaries.
Our third consecutive year at the Flying Pig – we skipped the sprints this year and participated in the middle and long courses which were both held in Mt. Airy Forest in Cincinnati.
We do have to mention a couple of restaurants on the west side of Cincinnati that we happened across during this year’s event. First – just on the edge of Mt. Airy Forest is the best-named ice cream stand in America (that we currently know of) – Putz’s Dairy Whip. It’s been there 70-some years and it’s a fine place to stop after a few hours of running about in the woods.
Secondly – our annual Cincinnati Chili fix. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with Skyline or Gold Star but we’ve been trying to experience the full range of Cincinnati chili parlors. This year we tried Price Hill Chili which is more of a full service restaurant than Skyline and Gold Star. The exciting menu item here is the chili omelet. Probably not the healthiest breakfast in Ohio but you can always afford a few extra calories after an orienteering course.
Ran-It Granite is a 3-day orienteering A-meet held a bit west of Baltimore. We stayed in nearby Ellicott City which is a scenic well-preserved town at the bottom of a river gorge – if you can find it amidst all the expressways.
The terrain at Patapsco has an apparently infinite number of small pits, depressions and other holes that can fill with water during heavy rain and then have a flag placed in them for an orienteering course.
Before our hike we spent a little time along Cold Creek in the Harmon Den area. There were hundreds of butterflies drawn to the salt deposits along the road so we have a few dozen pictures that look like this.
Mid-May is a great time to hike in the area because of the wildflowers. We headed north bound on the A.T. from Brown Gap, which starts with a decent climb but is relatively gentle and rolling after that.
The trilliums were particularly abundant. They’re a bit hard to see in this picture but all those specks of white and pink are trillium. It was pretty much deserted on this part of the mountain until we reached Max Patch. We decided not to climb to the top on this particular day. Instead we let Trout lie in a stream and cool off while we studied the map.
We decided we could take an alternate route back to Brown Gap. This started by taking the A.T. southbound for a quarter mile or so to the junction with the Cherry Creek Trail. We then took the Cherry Creek trail for maybe a half mile or so until it intersected an old forest service road (named 3533 on some maps). We left Cherry Creek Trail and followed the road along the ridge. This worked out great for a while at least. The road was broad and easy to follow and it was paralleling the A.T. about 200 ft below it. This is how it looked with a dog in the middle:
About halfway back to Brown Gap the road ends. This was not entirely unexpected as our A.T. map also showed the road ending. Our plan was to orienteer from here by following the 4000 ft. contour line around the ridge until it intersected the A.T. which would be descending towards Brown Gap at that point. Even in May the forest was pretty thick and there was a lot of sharp foliage (blackberries in particular). So when we encountered a really old road bed we decided to follow that instead. This road bed was long unusued and had substantial trees growing in it as well as fallen across it. It was quite clear that bears and deer used it though. Melanie’s theory was that it would connect directly into Brown Gap as we had noticed an old road leaving from a campsite there on our way out. In the end, she was right although it’s a bit of a circuitous route it takes to get there. We did it all with the A.T. map, a compass and an altimeter but I think if we did it again, a better topo map might help. On the other hand, it would be hard to get seriously lost in this area since everything on this side of the Appalachian Trail drains down to Harmon Den Road.
Our trip to Charlotte started with a stop at the Carolina BBQ in Statesville, NC. Carolina BBQ is the 6th location on the NC BBQ Trail we’ve been to and it’s definately one of the best. The chopped pork is incredibly smoky and the sides, which are often just an afterthought, are good as well.
Our trip had two main purposes. One of those was Charlotte’s Oktoberfest which is where we spent most of Saturday afternoon. This year it was held at an ‘expo center’ which seems to be the term for a bunch of quick construction metal warehouses in a parking lot. Compared to the 2006 rendition (which merited part of its own webpage) the location left something to be desired. We also went to Latta Plantation on Saturday morning for a canoe orienteering race. Latta Plantation is a restored home from the settlement days of central Carolina.
On Sunday we returned to Latta plantation. We had primarly seen it from the water during the canoe race, with a few forays into the woods. Besides the plantation, the area has a nature center, horse and hiking trails and is the home of the Carolina Raptor Center. The Raptor center is really a recovery center for injured raptors that also works as a specialized zoo of sorts. There are about 25 or so exhibits, including this quirky little owl who refused to leave the fencing.
If you like owls, hawks, falcons, eagles and so on it’s a great place to spend an hour or two. There is an enormous two-part enclosure for Bald and Golden Eagles. Among the more interesting birds: this is Honeysuckle a semi-albino hawk. She’s not quite a true albino but that doesn’t really detract from the visual appeal she has.
Just down the road from Latta is Lancaster’s BBQ in Huntersville, NC. It’s not a member of the BBQ trail because I don’t think it’s been around quite that long but it’s also a worthwhile stop.
We were in Charlotte for a couple reasons. First – we had to pick up a refrigerator so that we can brew lagers as well as ales, but that’s probably a whole separate entry. The other reason was the Carolina Orienteering Klubb’s Score-O meet in McDowell Nature Reserve. There was a two-hour limit on it but it’s still good practice for some of the 24-hour races we’re planning to do later this summer.
It had been raining all morning so pushing through the foliage left us drenched fairly quickly. Generally we weren’t real fast but I think our route choices and navigation were good. We ended up in 4th place overall, including a stumbling sort of sprint through a swamp at the end to get back to the finish line inside the 2 hour time limit (actually it was more like right exactly at the 2 hour limit).
Having already involved beer (or beer-related acquisitions) and orienteering in the day, there was nothing left to do but go visit a new site (for us) on the North Carolina BBQ Trail. This is Bridge’s in Shelby, NC. Here you can find, well… pork. Bridge’s has a fairly strict interpretation of the NC BBQ menu with pork and slaw dominating (although the deviled egg sandwich is vaguely intriguing). The pork is chopped, the sauce is a warmed tomato-vinegar concoction and the hush puppies are particularly good in pimiento cheese. (That was sort of an accident originally but it worked out well.)
The trailhead for this hike is in the vicinity of Greystone, TN. It’s not the easiest place to find but there is a big parking lot once you arrive. A gravel road leads about a half mile through a private land easement into Cherokee National Forest where trails split off in all directions. Several of these trails go up to the AT near Camp Creek Bald. For Margarette Falls, basically follow the main stream of water, although the trail itself is blue-blazed and mostly easy to follow. There are at least 4 stream fordings along the way and numerous small waterfalls. There are also a couple decent pools for swimming if you’re so inclined. About .6 miles up from the trail junctions the canyon will narrow and there is an enormous rock spire on the south bank called Cathedral Rock.
Just upstream from Cathedral Rock is Margarette Falls which is about a 50 foot drop, most of it in a single cascade.
There’s a very nice deep hole at the base of the falls. On our hike this water was far too cold for swimming, unless maybe you’re a dog.
The trail ends at Margarette Falls but our hike did not. To continue upstream of Margarette the easiest path is to scramble up the hillside on the north bank of the creek, cross the rock outcropping, and come back down the hill to the creek upstream of the falls. (Usual Warning: The top of the falls is slick and very dangerous, you should give it a wide berth if you are hiking further upstream.) Once above the falls, it’s easiest to ford back across to the south bank and bushwhack your way along the banks. Why would you do this? About a tenth of a mile upstream the two branches of Dry Creek come together. Here you’ll find the 8 foot Glen Falls which is pretty but not spectacular.
Glen Falls is nice but not really a reason by itself to deal with circumventing Margarette Falls. The reason for that is another 0.1 miles up the stream. If you’re standing at Glen Falls, that would be the branch on the left (i.e. the one that isn’t a waterfall). There is no way up but by canyoneering – walking, climbing, and swimming directly up the stream. On our trip there were several pools that were 4 to 6 feet deep. The rock walls of the canyon lend themselves nicely to traversing if you have even the most basic rock climbing or bouldering skills (or want to start). In warmer weather, it wouldn’t be an issue to just swim the pools. Not far upstream by distance (but a decent amount of effort) is the 45 foot high Bailey Falls which has at least three drops before pouring into the narrow canyon shown here. Note that this would be a very bad place to be if a flash flood were possible.
If you happen to do this hike with a dog make sure he can swim. I ended up lifting Trout up over several of the steeper ledges anyway.