Guidebook review Nantahala North Carolina Panthertown Todd Ransom Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley WNC

Guidebook Review: Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley

If you’ve been looking to visit Panthertown Valley in Western North Carolina, there is a new guidebook on the market by Asheville photographer Todd Ransom, “Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley.”
When visiting Panthertown, the trail network is complex, so it’s crucial to the enjoyment of your time there to go in with a map or guide. Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley gives you both, and covers the main southern valley of Panthertown. The guide even ventures into the more wild Big Pisgah area to the northeast. 
The guide opens up with a simple and easy to follow map for three main parking areas: Cold Mountain Gap, Salt Rock Gap, and Big Pisgah. What follows is topo maps with tracks and waypoints mapped by Todd Ransom himself.
What stands out immediately to me from these maps is locations of campsites. In the times I have visited Panthertown, trying to plan a backpacking trip has been difficult due to the lack of published resources designating campsite locations. This will be a great aid for any backpackers looking for more than a dayhike.
Beyond just being a guide to the valley, the author also gives the reader important sections on skills of navigation and staying found, as well as Leave No Trace principles. While this may seem redundant to some, the education is vitally important to be in the hands of would-be adventurers. Lack of knowledge is how campfires become wildfires, and how the over ambitious get lost and need Search and Rescue to find them. There is also a section on what kind of wildlife you may come across while in Panthertown, what to look for, and even notes on how to tie up a bear bag.
Throughout the guide you’ll find beautiful photographs of Panthertown and it’s waterfalls, all taken by Todd Ransom. The meat of the guide is divided into three sections: Devil’s Elbow area, Big Green Mountain area, and Big Pisgah Mountain area. Within each of these, the waterfalls each have their own guide (note their locations on the included maps for planning your own hikes). Each waterfall is given distance, estimated time, difficulty (with elevation ascent and descent), and the description of the falls and how to get there. The waterfalls you’ll find in the valley will range from the easy access and iconic Schoolhouse Falls, to the river wading Lichen Falls, to the wild and remote Dismal Falls and Panthertown Creek Falls. You will really find an amazing variety of waterfalls in this very compact area.
As a bonus, the author includes some non-waterfalls destinations such as Tranquility Point, Laurel Knob, and the Great Wall of Panthertown.
I mentioned previously using the maps to plan your own hikes. If that kind of planning isn’t for you, there are also several suggested hikes in the guide, ranging from relaxed atmosphere to the go-getter.
Closing out the Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley guide is one of my favorite parts, history of the valley. While I’m hiking, I love to know some of the happenings that have gone on before me, who has blazed and cut the trails, and stories of those who have lived in the valley and features and landmarks were named after.
To finalize the book, there’s a checklist index for you to keep track of your ramblings in the valley. At the time of my writing this, I have visited about half of the destinations. I’ll be using this guide myself for my upcoming plans in Panthertown.
Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley belongs in the library of any explorer. The beautiful photography inspires you to use the guide and get out there and see those waterfalls for yourself! For anyone who wants to do more than scratch the surface of Panthertown, I highly recommend Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley to you. It will be a benefit to multi-day backpackers and family day hikers all the same. 
To purchase your copy of the guide, please visit
camping Eagle's Nest Outfitters ENO Ember Gear Review Hammock Camping

Gear Review: ENO Ember

I’ve owned the Eagle’s Nest Outfitters Ember under quilt for just over a year and a half now. I’ve camped out in it 5 times: 3 times in the Linville Gorge and twice in my backyard. Having tested it at several different temperatures, I feel I can finally give it a thorough review. This is for the ENO Ember only, not the rest of the system.
My typical hammock camping setup has consisted of an ENO DoubleNest, ENO SlapStrapPro’s, ENO ProFly and Guardian Bugnet (when needed on either), the ENO Ember for underquilt, and a 15°F 600 fill down sleeping bag opened as a top quilt. ENO fanboy. 
I’m more of a base camper than an ultralight backpacker, but weight is still something to consider. The specs on my unit with the included stuff sack are 2lbs .25oz/916g. Once in the stuff sack, it straps to my backpack pretty easy where a sleeping pad would normally store.
The shell is dark green 30d ripstop sil nylon, and the inner liner is 30d ripstop nylon that feels soft yet sturdy. The fill is stated to be Hi-Loft Synthetic Insulation. Except in extreme cases, it seems to cut breeze and wind very well. Having a tarp properly setup will aid in that, as well. One of the downsides to the Ember is that there is NO temperature rating from ENO, though the literature states that “hammock camping is now a 4-season game.” 
The setup and adjustment is VERY easy and convenient. There is very little effort to getting the Ember in place. You can view that process here:
For the majority of times, I’ve camped at 45-50°F, and the Ember has done beautifully. Last fall I used it at Hawksbill at Linville Gorge, and we had some major windgusts that beat us all night long and pulled up my tarp stakes (lower right in the above picture). The low was approximately 40°F that night. With those windgusts, I had a couple cold spots but some slight adjusting in the hammock worked well. Had I set up my tarp lower and less against the wind, I suspect I would not have even had those spots. Still, I had read a couple online reviews saying the Ember was good down to 25°F, so I wanted to personally test it at cold temperatures.
Enter Winter Storm 2014 in upstate South Carolina. Trying to work with last times tarp setup in mind, I got in my hammock at 11:30PM and drifted off to sleep. Temperature: 29°F. I was fine until about 2:30am, and I awoke to similar cold spots like I experienced in Linville. I shifted and adjusted, trying to keep a diagonal lay (which I don’t feel the Ember prevents). As the night went on, my cold spots stayed with me and turned into a full blown case of CBS (Cold Butt Syndrome). By 3:30am, my cold spots had grown to chilling my whole body and I had to call it quits. Temperature still holding at 29°F. (The top picture above is the Winter Storm, I did use the ProFly that night but removed it for a better view of the Ember)
I’m going to have to disagree that the Ember makes hammock camping a 4-season game. For Fall and Spring camping in the Carolina’s, beautiful. I have stayed cozy and snug without a cold spot down to 45°F. Below that, and winds added in, it starts getting chilly. Had I waited until I was out in the wilderness to test the Ember below 30°F, I would have been in for an uncomfortable night. Instead of a sole go-to unit of lower insulation in below freezing temperatures, the Ember seems like it would do well as part of a layering system. If one were to use a sleeping pad coupled with (for the sake of being the ENO fanboy I am) the ENO HotSpot, I suspect it would withstand the temperatures. If I come into possession of a HotSpot and can test it, I’ll update this review.