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.
There are a bunch of waterfalls in DuPont State Forest, most of which we have neglected to visit so we decided to check out a couple of them.
Triple Falls – named for obvious reasons is only about a quarter mile hike along the river. The only vantage point where you can see all three sections is from the trail well above it but there were people scattered all over the rocks at each level of the falls.
Another half mile or so down the same trail is the creatively named High Falls. There are probably about 5 “High Falls” within 30 miles of our house and oddly enough none of them are really all that high. This is a rather popular picknicking area. There are several nice pavillions on the ridge above the falls which no one uses. Instead, most people prefer the rocks at the base of the falls.
Also partial to the base of the falls is Trout. This is actually a little ways below Triple Falls but it was a moderately hot day. This hike appears to generally be very popular with dogs.
South Mountains State Park is about halfway between Asheville and Charlotte, located off a confusing network of roads south of Morganton. Despite the relative difficulty in getting there, it was pretty crowded on the day we went.
The park has a dense network of trails in the eastern half. By far the biggest draw is High Shoals Falls which is about a mile or so from the parking area. Several different sources bill this hike as easy. While it’s short it actually involves a lot of climbing on uneven, slippery stairs.
Technically, there’s no swimming at the falls although we saw about 20 people directly in front of the no swimming sign. There are a multitude of decent swimming holes along the trail though which generally follows the bank of the river.
From the Black Balsam parking lot, it’s about a 5 to 6 mile loop along the Little Sam trail to Chestnut Bald and then back around to the Balsams on the MST and the Art Loeb Trail.
In early August, we were able to collect a bit more than a pint of wild blueberries. We could have almost any number of blackberries if we’d wanted as well but we have plenty of those in the meadow at home.
This is the view south from the saddle between Chestnut Bald and Silvermine Bald, neither of which are particularly bald these days. There are good views further along the Art Loeb Trail and also good open meadow campsites.
These two falls are located in the southwestern part of the Pisgah Ranger District. Toms Springs Falls, besides being hard to pronounce has about 4 other names depending on the map you use. It’s not particularly difficult to get to, there’s a trailhead a bit west of the fish hatchery and it’s a half mile hike along an old forest road to the falls. It’s fairly impressive but there’s not really a good spot to sit at the base of it or swim in a pool.
Catheys Creek Falls is located right along side Catheys Creek Road. There are a series of cascades visible if you walk along the precipitous edge of the road and peer over. Well below most of the drops there’s a tiny pull-off, big enough for one car and a goat path leading down to the river. This picture is just the bottom section of the falls, most of it is not visible here. We couldn’t find a decent vantage point of the whole thing. Trout was disappointed to discover that Catheys Creek isn’t a good spot for swimming either. There’s a small pool here but more rocky drops just below it.
The crazy 8s race in Kingsport, Tennessee was my first 8k race (on roads anyway). It was attractive mainly because of the late night start time (10 pm).
That’s me in the center with number 101. As usual, I get a low number due to alphabetic superiority. 101 is much better than 1 though. When you have number 1 people actually expect you to be good.
The race itself is really impressive, along with the stadium finish portions of the course cover luminary-lit rural streets. Nearly every house along the course had people in the front yard. It appeared that all of Kingsport was out late for this event. Incidentally, I did run the entire course and finish, survive, etc…
There were 1,950 runners in this race. Orienteering races don’t have mass starts generally and the largest 5k race I had previously run in had probably 250 people in it. Lots of extra skills are needed here like not tripping over other runners and getting trampled.
This entry could be called Round Butt Bald because that’s the mountain we circled but since we didn’t summit it that seemed wrong.
From Bearpen Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway we took the connector trail to the Mountains-to-Sea trail and followed that to Wet Camp Gap. Wet Camp is a high open meadow filled with blueberries, blackberries and assorted wildflowers. There’s also a small pond in the center but it was mostly empty on our visit except for a couple remnant pools that were packed with tadpoles.
There’s an unofficial but easy-to-find trail leading southwest out of Wet Camp Gap. This eventually becomes a steep manway to the summit of Gage Bald where there are excellent views of the surrounding mountains. We had a bit of a picnic up here. By the way, these little sling chairs are incredibly light but they’re a bit tricky to set up and it’s definately a learned skill to get out of them with any modicum of grace.
Usually we expect to be scratched up after any sort of bushwhacking. We were after this hike but it wasn’t from Gage Bald, it was actually from the MST heading around Round Butt Bald back to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Haywood Gap. This section is narrow and treacherous, especially overgrown with blackberries and nettles. At the high point on this trail we considered hiking up to the summit of Round Butt Bald. The east approach to the top was pretty much a wall of blackberries and after donating some blood to them we abandoned the attempt and decided to try some other time in a less-summery season (like say, winter).
Green Knob is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway a little north of Mt. Mitchell State Park.
It’s a half mile hike from the parkway or it can be reached from the Black Mountain campground which is much longer and more arduous. There’s not much of a view on the way up but the tower is situated to give a spectacular view of the Black Mountains.Inside Green Knob Fire Tower
The tower is open to hikers and slightly more comfortable than the rocks below it. The top of the trail is overgrown in the summer and requires a bit of pushing through rhododendrons. The view is also partially occluded in June, so it’s probably a better trip in early Spring or late Autumn.
After the short hike to Roaring Fork Falls we drove over to the Black Mountain campground. The setrock trail branches off of a campground road and once the trail starts it’s only about a quarter mile to the falls.
There’s a shallow rocky pool at the bottom of setrock falls so it’s not as good for swimming as roaring fork is. From here, we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway
Roaring Fork Falls is located in the valley east of the Black Mountains. There is parking just outside the Busick Work Center and after about a half mile of forest road, the trail to the falls leaves across a footbridge.
The falls is a long series of cascade dropping about 100 feet total. There is a particularly nice pool at the bottom if you can get over the frigid water temperatures.
On our visit it was a relatively sunny day but the waterfall is located in a deep narrow valley and not a lot of light makes it down there. The log on the right side of this picture is actually bolted to the rock. We’re not really sure why as the view isn’t any better.
This hike was a loop where we parked at Grassy Cove, walked a mile along Yellow Gap Road to the Thompson Creek trail, followed this up to the top end and returned to Grassy Cove on the Pilot Rock trail.
Thompson Creek trail is not heavily used at all. We saw almost no signs of any recent use. The trail is a bit foreboding on a map as it ascends almost 1800 feet vertically in just 2.4 miles. Both our topo map and our pisgah forest trail map show this trail as ascending right up the center of Thompson ridge. This is no longer accurate. After crossing the tributary the trail ascends along Thompson Creek – rarely going out of sight of the water. At the cross trail we backtracked to see how far our topo map was off. The old trail along the ridge is still there and can be fairly easily discerned (with some minor bushwhacking). The trail up to the Pisgah Inn also still exists. The traverse across the Thompson Creek headwaters is the most difficult portion.
The lower portion of Thompson Creek was completely hemmed in by flowering mountain laurels. The trail starts just across from the Pink Beds and the laurels definately carry over. The ascent along the creek is not really all that bad. The hideously steep bit is a series of switchbacks onto Laurel Mountain near the top of the trail. We had hiking poles with us and still found this very challenging. Ultimately, the Thompson Creek trail ends at the Pilot Rock trail about a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Instead, we turned south and came back down on the generally easier Pilot Rock trail. There are some difficult rocky switchbacks on this trail and it’s amazing that mountain bikers managed to make it down and across some of the boulder fields. The trail traverses the top of Pilot Rock which we more or less completely failed to notice. Ok, that’s not exactly true. We stood there for a moment and wondered if this were the top of Pilot Rock and then decided it wasn’t dramatic enough so we moved on. Oh well. The roundtrip hike with the forest road is about 6 miles. We also followed parts of the old abandonded trail just because it was on the 1986 topo quad.
Rufus Morgan falls is located on an isolated loop trail on the east side of Siler Bald. The forest road access to the trail is off of Wayah Rd and it’s about the only maintained trail in that area.
The trail is a loop of about a half mile on either side with a decent elevation gain up to the falls. The main falls can be seen in the background where the trail crosses the creek.
Up close, it’s impossible to see the entire cascade at once but the main drop is impressive and it’s about 5-10 degrees cooler in this little cove than the surrounding forest. There isn’t much of a pool at the bottom of this one.
Probably everyone who has ever been here has a picture involving this prominent rock. Now we do too. Trout usually wanders out of the frame before a picture is taken but for some reason he wandered into this one and sat down nicely in the center.
Big Laurel Falls is located deep into the Standing Indian area of the Nantahala National Forest. If you drive in past the campground, across the creek and a few miles further on – the trailhead is along the right side of the road.
Melanie isn’t tired yet in this picture – the crossing of Betty Creek is only a few hundred yards into the hike but I couldn’t get her standing up and the stream under the bridge at the same time.
It’s a short (0.6 mile) and pleasant hike along a couple different streams to Big Laurel falls. The falls themselves form a nice pool which one might consider swimming in if one is somehow immune to hypothermia. Maybe it’s better later in the summer but even Trout wasn’t willing to stand in this one for too long.
It’s a fairly easy rock scramble to get to the mid level of these falls but we’re probably supposed to mention that waterfalls are dangerous and you shouldn’t mess around with them. Don’t try this at home if you happen to have a 25 foot cascade at home.
Just a half mile or so further down the forest road from the Laurel Falls trailhead is a pull-off for Mooney Falls. You should be able to see the falls off the south side of the road as you approach. It’s just a couple switchbacks down to the river but the canyon is narrow and overgrown through here so it’s difficult to get a view of the entire cascade. This picture is probably less than half of the total drop.
After our two waterfall hikes (below) we felt we needed one more short hike to round out the day. Cowee Bald was a tempting target with it’s prominent location at the north end of the Cowee Mountains and it seemed like it might be a good place to watch the sunset over the Smokies.
Forest Service road 70 is the key to getting up Cowee Bald. It’s sort of hard to find in the maze of roads north of Franklin. Once found it’s a long way up with some fairly steep gravel grades. There’s a gate about a half mile from the summit so we parked there and hiked up to the lookout tower which unfortunately was locked halfway up.
Due to towers for cell phones, radio transmitters and such the view north is non-existant. The view in other directions isn’t bad though. This is looking south towards Franklin, NC. and Dillard, GA.
On Memorial Day, we bravely hazarded the stretch of US 276 through Pisgah Forest between Looking Glass Falls (approximate number of cars parked here = 40) and Sliding Rock. This is the location of the Moore Cove trail which is a 0.7 mile spur up to the falls.
This was after a day and half of rain so presumably the falls is often just a trickle. The trail mostly follows the creek upstream crossing on wooden bridges several times. There are other smaller falls in the vicinity as well.
The ‘cove’ portion of the falls is quite impressive on its own. There is substantial space inside the overhang.
The location of the falls is well-shaded and the water was frigid but it was worth standing in nonetheless. Trout, of course, only stood in the falls long enough to get damp before finding some mud to lie in. We had intended to change into more serious hiking footwear after this trail and visit something a little more obscure but the rain moved back in shortly after we got back to the car and hasn’t really stopped since.
We took the scenic route back from Danville along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our intent had been to hike in the Linville area but it just kept raining and raining. Finally we gave up and decided we were just going to get a little wet. How bad can the half-mile hike to Linville Falls be anyway?
The falls are quite impressive, especially after several hours of rain. There is an upper view point (just below those very top cascades in this picture) but by then we were soaked in a persistent downpour so we figured we might as well keep going.
Here are Melanie and Trout at the overlook. Trout didn’t seem to consider this a proper sort of hike. He would’ve been more than happy to jump in a river and swim around but he’s not thrilled to be rained on.
How much did it rain? A lot. Notice that you can’t see my toes in this picture and I’m standing on the trail. There were pools of water six inches deep – but, we did get at least one small hike in.
Pigs in the Park – part of the Festival in the Park – was our first KCBS barbecue judging experience for 2009. We don’t have very many pictures of the festival which included a lot of crafts, some kids’ rides, a music stage, and a cheesecake competition (alas, we didn’t judge that).
As barbeque contests go, Danville’s is very well organized and we had a good time. ‘Cool Smoke’ won the competition, although they seem to win just about every competition we go to.
This section of the AT starts in North Carolina and finishes in Erwin, Tennessee. We parked at Uncle Johnny’s Hiker Hostel in Erwin and he shuttled us up to Spivey Gap which is about 11 miles away by trail.
There’s a bit of a climb out of Spivey Gap and a couple short climbs further on in the hike but for the most part it’s downhill with an elevation loss of 2000 feet from the highest point. There are plenty of stream crossings in the first half of the hike. No Business Knob Shelter (yes, that’s the name of it) is almost exactly halfway through this hike.
The last two miles of this hike is pretty much all down. There’s a long series of switchbacks descending into Erwin. To make up for this at every left turn (heading northbound) there’s a rocky overlook of the Nolichucky River with occasional views of Erwin as well.
With day-sized backpacks, this hike took us just a bit over 6 hours with two stops for food and one stop for a tragic shoelace emergency (thanks random thru-hiker with a lighter!)
We often paddle the section of the French Broad river between Marshall, NC and Barnard – particularly when we take the dog along. We don’t normally put it on the blog here, but we thought we’d share this one because Trout invented a new way to sit in a kayak.
What’s happening here? We don’t really know. Obviously sideways is not the way to do this but Trout was feeling creative. There are an assortment of small rapids in the section of the river, most of them class II on the whitewater scale so that when the dog leaps out in the middle of one it’s not too difficult to get him back in the boat. None of these rapids are big enough to have names so we’ve christened a few of them on our own.
One of those is Trout Beach with is about a mile or so downstream from the Marshall dam. There is a river-wide ledge with a sandy beach below it on river right. We almost always stop here for a swim and to let the dog run around a bit.
Flag Pond is a small community just across the NC border into Tennessee. We’ve driven through many a time but hadn’t ever actually stopped. The annual Ramp Festival was a great reason to spend a few hours in town. Ramps are basically a wild member of the garlic-onion family and are often called wild leeks. They grow wild in the Appalachian mountains and are highly resistant to any sort of farming so they’re not common outside of the mountains and not really even easy to find in the mountains except for a month or so each year.
The ‘festival’ is really more like a lunch, or maybe dinner depending when you get there. There are a couple of gospel / bluegrass bands but the main reason to visit is to eat. A ticket costs $7 and you can wait in line in front of skillets frying up either bacon or potatoes with or without ramps. Just in case you weren’t hungry yet you will be by the time you reach the actual food.
It started raining while we were collecting our food so we ate in the Flag Pond School gymnasium. Here’s what you end up with, from the top clockwise on this plate are fried potatoes with ramps, bacon, cornbread, raw ramps (optional), and soup beans with a bit of chow chow on top. There’s also slaw and desert on separate plates. In the potatoes, the ramps really just taste like strong scallions. They’re not really noticeably strong until you eat the raw ones. Those have a pretty good spicy onion kick to them and you’ll have no problem remembering what they taste like for at least 12 hours afterwards. Maybe a whole day or two.