High Bethel hiking Lichen Falls Nantahala Panthertown Valley Trip Reports Tuckaseegee River

Canaan Bound

It seemed like a perfect way to start the day, but I didn’t realize it would be so fitting for the days events. Awake early for a hike into Panthertown Valley, I was on my way to pick up my friend Ben, who I haven’t seen since our January 2013 hike in Linville Gorge. This would be his first time hiking in Panthertown. Over the car stereo, Andrew Peterson ushered in the day.
Sarah, take me by my arm
Tomorrow we are Canaan bound

Where westward sails the golden sun

And Hebron’s hills are amber crowned

Ben and I got to Cold Mountain Rd about half an hour before our rendezvous time with the rest of the group, so we do what I always do if I’m running early for a group hike on this side of the valley: we stopped at telephone pole 61 and hiked down to Raven Rock Falls. It never disappoints. It’s a short walk, with some soggy and slick parts, to a very lovely waterfall. We headed back to the car, took the left turn at Canaan Land, and still made it to Cold Mountain parking on time.

Ben and I met up with Todd Ransom and Thomas Mabry, who I’m friends with through the Exploring Panthertown Valley group. We had big plans for the day of waterfalls, rivers, bushwhacks, footpaths, and clifftop views, but we didn’t even consult the map at the trailhead. We had planned it, even though we would have to hike a couple miles to our first waypoint. Red Butt Falls would be the first dot to connect.
We made it up Devil’s Elbow and down the footpath to Red Butt Falls in good time. The Tuckaseegee River was flowing lower today. We stopped on the dry rock to get prepped for entering the river, and had our minds on our highlighted waypoint of Lichen Falls.
In my efforts to carry less, this would be the first trip I used a LifeStraw on. Kneeling at Red Butt Falls, I had my first deep drink straight from the Tuckaseegee River. It was the first of several uses of the LifeStraw throughout the day, and I’m happy to report post-hike that I never had any ill effects.
We crossed the falls without any slips to create our own red butts, passed Coffee Rock, and entered the Tuck. Deciding where to enter is one of the trickier aspects of hiking downstream. If you stay on the banks to the far left, which is where you’ll naturally stay after crossing over Red Butt Falls, you’ll be really prone to slipping on the slick rock. Once passing Coffee Rock, there are boulders in the river you can get to, and you’ll be in up to your calves at this point unless you’re rock hopping. You will get wet from here.
The last time I was here during the 20 waterfalls last April, and the water level was significantly lower this time. The temperature was significantly higher, as well. Both of those elements made it a much easier trip. Less obstacles, and less stinging cold. It’s a lot easier to navigate terrain when your feet aren’t in pain.
This was my first river hike wearing a pair of Keen Newport H2 sandals, which I actually wore the whole day. They provided excellent traction on the wet river rocks, even with the current. I love walking in this river, and it really just makes me want to explore Panthertown via its waterways than its trail system. In surprisingly short time, so much so that I didn’t even realize we had passed by Honeycamp Branch, we were at the giant boulders that tell you to “Look up, you’re at Lichen Falls.” This is one of my favorite places in Panthertown. It’s like a  jewel in the crown of the river gorge.

After several pictures, we crawled down the boulders and crawled on hands and knees through rhododendron along the bank of the Tuck. From here, we explored downstream a little ways. After an extremely shallow section, the whole area became bathed in green. Everywhere we looked, it was as if we were soaking in our surroundings through green lenses. Every rock was lush with different kind of mosses. Sunlight broke through the canopy at what seemed to be the perfect angles to refract green luminescent light against every surface.

We had received some intel on an old Carlton McNeill trail in the area, so we opted to take that up to the peak of Devil’s Elbow. It was roughly 300′ in elevation from where we were at, to which Todd quipped, “Don’t worry, it’s all at once!” It was definitely the steepest terrain we had been on up to that point. As it turns out, there was not much of a trail there at all. More like the path of least resistance through a rhododendron thicket. I do have to applaud Todd’s navigational skills here, as we came out in the dead corner of the trail on Devil’s Elbow. So we will just call it perfect aim.
After a couple misdirections and standing on ant hills, we made our way along the unofficial footpath up Shelton Pisgah mountain. There is a pretty good overlook there. Comparing the GPS track to Burt Kornegay’s map got me mixed up. We followed the path easily, and it only matches the track on the Kornegay map roughly. If you’re counting corners and turns and comparing it, it’s not exact. Anyway, Cold Mountain is big and bold right in your face as the trail skirts the cliff for a few yards.

We were running low on water and this point, and the closest source was at Little Green Creek. Like a drop of providence, we came upon a new (looking at least!) Nalgene bottle full of water. Not quite trustworthy enough to drink straight out of, but fortunately Thomas had brought along his new LifeStraw, as well. Certainly good enough for a LifeStraw. We finally made it to Little Green Creek and had a proper resupply of water. Even at a shallow low flow, this was a good source with clear crisp mountain creek water.
Looking at the GPS, High Bethel on Cold Mountain was only two-tenths of a mile away, as the crow flies. Turns out one (like myself) should save such group announcements until confirming with the trail map. The distance between our position and High Bethel as the crow flies was quite different from the distance between our position and High Bethel along the actual trail. Fortunately, my error gave the guys an opportunity for a bit of fun with me. The effort from the grunt of a climb up (the trail) to High Bethel was quickly forgotten as we emerged out of the green rhododendron tunnel to be bathed in sunlight and take in the stunning views of Panthertown and beyond. Northwards, I was able to make out five ridgelines beyond Panthertown, with atmospheric perspective giving each ridge its own distinct azure hue.

The distinct feature of High Bethel is the altar that was constructed by Canaan Land below. No sacrifice is needed on the altar, but it did make a good spot to spread the map out and compare to our surroundings to the paper in front of us. It was certainly a different perspective than seeing the valley from the Overlook Trail, Salt Rock, or Little Green Mountain. 
It certainly took far less time and effort to get down from High Bethel than it took to climb up it. We were back at Little Green Creek in no time. Thomas and I took a few long swigs from our (induvidual) LifeStraws and headed down the path back to Devil’s Elbow. Somewhere along the line, our conversation turned to politics. Never any heat in the discussion because we all just seemed to agree that it was all broken. I was reminded of a comment my friend Matt Rawlings had made recently, “Everything has been broken since Genesis 3.” Humorous, but there is much truth in it as well.
We emerged onto Devil’s Elbow Trail and took it directly across the Panthertown Valley Trail to a footpath that took us to  Schoolhouse Falls. I much preferred this route. For Ben’s first visit, we couldn’t not go to Schoolhouse Falls. On a downside, we must have disturbed a yellow jacket next, because one buzzed Ben a couple times. This path brings you to the route that goes behind Schoolhouse Falls. We had been in solitude the entire day, enjoying the green shades of the river and twilight beneath the canopy. Now we were met with several groups who came to experience Panthertown, all concentrated in its most iconic waterfall.

One final destination. One final overlook. One final climb up a mountain. We were at the base of Little Green Mountain already, and Tranquility Point from the peak is one of the best highlights of Panthertown Valley. We were a lot slower climbing Little Green. Our food supplies had been consumed, and talk of cheeseburgers began to dominate our conversations. One footfall after another, stride not quite so long, we emerged from another canopy onto the granite bald. A wonderful and rewarding view to close our day!

The final destination would be Cold Mountain Parking. More slow pace, but we weren’t in a rush, either. No more conquering or exploring to be done. No more studying maps or decisions to be made. We bypassed the switchbacks, as we always do, and heard the music coming from the speakers at the gate to Canaan Land. It was absent on our way in, but that sound is always the sound of “just a few more steps!” When we got back to the car we were tired, but not exhausted.
Canaan bound. As the music ushered back to the cars where we would find rest, I find myself very often longing for Heaven, which Canaan is a foreshadow of, in the same way. On that day with Jesus, there will be ultimate and final rest, where the one who carved these mountains and rivers will make right everything that is broken, and reverse the effects of Genesis 3 once and for all.
Family hiking Jones Gap Middle Saluda River TheSCProject

A Middle Saluda Walk

We had the afternoon free, so we headed up to Jones Gap State Park for a hike I’ve been wanting to take Jenny and the kids on. We would take it as far as Jones Gap Falls, if the kids made it that far. If we didn’t make it to the falls, the hike alongside the Middle Saluda River would be scenic. Win either way.

According to the DNR, The Middle Saluda River became the first river protected under the Scenic Rivers Program in South Carolina in 1978. Starting at Jones Gap, the walk from the parking lot towards the main office and hiker registration gave us a taste of what we’d be seeing the rest of our day with a rocky path, big boulders for the kids to climb on, and the sound of rushing water close by. Crossing over the Middle Saluda on a bridge brought us to the main area for lazy days by the river and a great place for family picnics.

As we were registering at the kiosk, we overheard another hiker talking with a ranger about yellow jacket swarms. They make their nests, which they’re very protective of, in hollowed out trees and in the ground. Apparently, this is their more aggressive season.  

A few months ago, we all went on a hike in Paris Mountain that had some low level scrambling for the kids and they loved it. Jones Gap Trail is the next level up from there. The trail is quite rocky, which makes it more difficult for little kids, but the grand boulders alongside the trail are perfect for the kids to climb on. They really get a sense of satsifaction from climbing “to the top” and a sense of what it’s like to be “on the edge,” though none of it is particularly precarious under the watchful parental eye.

Climbing on all the rocks and hiking slowly along the trail ate up a lot more of our time than I had, in my drill sergeant planning, allowed for. We decided as to head back towards the entrance, as the sun was setting and we may be pushing the limits of the parks hours if we were to continue on any further. Mostly, the kids wouldn’t have time to wade around in the river, which they’d been looking forward to. 

Back near the registration kiosk,  there are a few good places to allow the kids to get their feet wet. The best spot we went to was right beneath the footbridge that brings you into the park. The water is lower there, or the ground is higher, however you want to look at it. Towards the middle there are a few deeper spots, so one still has to watch them. Keep in mind that the Middle Saluda River in Jones Gap is a rocky river. It’s not flat and sandy. Footing is very uneven in the riverbed, so the kids could easily slip and get soaked. River rocks are slick, so that adds to the potential of a full soak, if not twisted ankles or bonked heads.

In all, Jones Gap Trail along the Middle Saluda is a good adventure trail for kids. Lots to climb and play around on. When you sense they’re getting near having enough, you can turn around. What’s nice is that you don’t have to walk very far for nice scenery. 
Christianity Reading Plan Satan spiritual warfare the Gospel

The Weak to Make War

How does the weak make war? I’m about to find out. It came as a revelation to me about six weeks ago that I had begun believing lies. I had grown sour over my perceptions, a friend came to me and tried to dig beneath the sourness in search of a root, and I began to regurgitate the lies to him. I didn’t even believe them as I said them, but that was how I was feeling. It all starts so subtly, I didn’t even realize that I had taken the bait until the words came out of my mouth that I couldn’t even trust myself! It is terrible advice to follow your heart, trust your feelings, and believe in yourself. It is when we start doing these things that we open the gates and leave ourselves defenseless. This is how the heart works, and we are given an accurate diagnosis of it in Jeremiah 17:9 ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Taking advantage of my already dumb and dull weakness, Satan is an accuser. He is not so much one to play the boogieman ready to drag me into the closet and poke my bottom with a pitchfork, but that sly fox is a whisperer, sowing doubt, worry, and discontent. Hear me loud and clear: the devil didn’t make me do it. I am responsible for myself, my actions, and my believing of lies. If the Christian life is a walk, then Satan definitely tells us there is an easier path, a lighter load, and it won’t be of any harm to look back.

So what is to be done about it? Clearly I am too blind to spot the gaping holes in my armor, as I had succumbed so fully to the lies that I was believing. Disoriented, distrusting of myself, I need True North to find my way out of the tangled thickets of deceit.

It is with this, I need help. I have nearly abandoned all personal study of Scripture, pursuit of Christ, and defense of myself.  I have no strength of my own to fight with, because my own strength has been proven futile. Many times, I lack the resolve to utter even a weak prayer. It came to mind to begin a Psalm supported book study of Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, written in the 1600’s by a Puritan by the name of Thomas Brooks. The book is exactly what it sounds like, and as Satan means to work in the shadows, it seeks to drag him and his tactics out into the light so the believer might be able, by the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit, to make war against him.

Precious Remedies has twelve sections on the Table of Contents, and I have divided those twelve sections up to be accompanied by a Psalm (some of my selection, and some of pastoral suggestion as I presented this reading plan) for each reading. So, if I read for 30 second or I read for 10 minutes, I’ll read the accompanying Psalm in an effort to store up God’s word in my heart that I might not sin against him (Psalm 119:11).

The Plan:
(Psalm 1) 
1. The Epistle Directory 
2. A Word to the Reader
3. Introduction
4. The Proof of the Point
(Psalm 23)
5. Satan’s Devices to Draw the Soul to Sin
(Psalm 42)
6. Satan’s Devices to Keep Souls From Holy Duties
(Psalm 50)
7. Satan’s Devices to Keep Saints in Sad Condition
(Psalm 91)
8. Satan’s Devices to Destroy & Ensnare
(Psalm 145)
9. Five More of Satan’s Devices
10. Seven Characteristics of False Teachers
(Psalm 150)
11. Six Propositions Concerning Satan and His Devices
12. Conclusion: Ten Special Helps and Rules
If you are one who struggles with believing lies and want to link arms with me, pray with me, trust in God with me, or if you just simply want to see what in the world it is I’m reading, you can download a free PDF of Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices and YouVersion offers a free Bible for your phone, tablet, and computer.  I use the English Standard Version primarily.
I pray that the Holy Spirit would be my power against Satan’s devices, and that in that power I might make war against the devil and his accusations.