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FlickinAmazing.com Guidebook Todd Ransom Waterfalls Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley WNC

Todd Ransom on Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley

Last month, I reviewed the new guidebook “Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley” by Todd Ransom. One month later, I wanted to check in with Mr. Ransom and see how it was going.

[Josh] Congratulations on the release of your guide book, Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley. It’s been out for a month now. How has the reception been? Any surprises?

[Todd] Thanks, Josh. The reception to the book has been unbelievable. There have been so many local book stores, hiking clubs, photography groups, outfitters, bloggers, and others that have helped spread the word about the book, it really has been an amazing show of support from the local outdoor community here. 

[Josh] What challenges did you come up against in the process of making your guide?

[Todd] Believe it or not, I don’t feel like I faced any significant challenges making this book. It’s almost as if I had been preparing to make this guide for the past twenty years of my career: studying and developing my skills in design, photography, writing, product development, product testing, software development, etc. Once I realized I had the ability to make this book, I jumped at the chance to spend as much time as I could in Panthertown. I’ve been there on the most beautiful days of the year and I’ve been there when everything is frozen solid, but Panthertown Valley always shows me something new and amazing.  I have spent many nights above Panthertown Valley on wind swept balds contemplating the mysteries of guidebook design. LOL

[Josh] In our last interview, we talked about how you developed an interest in photography. In addition to your new guidebook for Panthertown, you also have a guide app for Waterfalls of Western North Carolina. What brought you beyond photography and into guide writing?

[Todd] I actually started as a software developer, so the iPhone guidebooks came first. I had a camera but I was still in the “why doesn’t anything look like I want it to look?” phase of my photography career. If you saw my iPhone guidebook then, it was pretty pathetic. A design that emphasizes photography needs great photography and so I really started delving into the technical aspects of that in order to make my guidebook better. Being a 20 year computer geek, it was natural that I start there. But exposure and histograms really aren’t that hard to understand. I started to consider myself a real photographer when I really became concerned with expressing the character of these amazing backcountry places I was going. The print guidebook is an extension of that, I gave it a focus on photography and a focus on the amazing uniqueness of Panthertown Valley in the hope that others will also fall in love with this special place and it will remain protected in the future.

[Josh] There is so much to experience when you visit a place like Panthertown Valley, not just in the way of waterfalls but for the senses as well. What is one thing you hope your guide users will experience when they visit the Valley?

[Todd] It is easy to walk down some of the wide gravel roads of Panthertown Valley and think of it as a safe, civilized place. I hope my readers have respect for the Valley, both in the sense that it can be a rugged, dangerous, harsh wilderness and in the sense that it is a fragile ecosystem which needs to be protected. How do you show respect to a wilderness area? You slow down to wilderness speed, appreciate the backcountry as it is without altering it, and try to experience as much of it as you can without harming anything.

[Josh] Taking into consideration water flow, wildflowers, and uniqueness, what are the best times through the day and year to visit Panthertown?

[Todd] Every day is different. As long as you are prepared for the conditions, and respectful of the dangers nature can inflict, you can see amazing things any day of the year in Panthertown Valley. A sunrise from one of Panthertown’s granite balds, like the appropriately named “Tranquility Point”, is something to remember. A steady rain that makes all the creeks rise will give you a healthy respect for nature. A week of freezing weather which turns the waterfalls into frozen sculptures is a beautiful sight, and rare in the south.

[Josh] Do you have any intentions of creating a second volume that includes the northern half of Panthertown and Bonas Defeat?

[Todd] I’m not sure what the future holds. I will make more guidebooks, I know that. Whether they are in print or electronic form, or both, I don’t know. The northern half of Panthertown Valley is a rugged, dangerous place and my guidebook is meant to be accessible to all. After much consideration, I decided to leave Bonas Defeat and the entire Rock Bridge rd area out of this guidebook. I have certainly considered making an “Adventurer’s Guide to Panthertown Valley”, but it is just a vague thought at this point. I’ve got a lot of vague thoughts. Some of them turn into real projects that get finished and many others get forgotten when I narrow my focus to finish something. 
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Todd Ransom is an independent app developer, author, and photographer living and working out of Asheville, NC. He has published iPhone and iPad guidebooks to the Waterfalls of Western North Carolina as well as a print guidebook to Panthertown Valley. You can find him and his work online at flickinamazing.com.
You can find my review of “Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley” here and my previous interview with Todd here.
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Waterfalls, Photography, and Passion: An Interview with Todd Ransom

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Todd Ransom for the first time, though I have followed his Facebook page, Waterfalls of Western North Carolina, much longer. We both joined up with a small group to explore in the Linville Gorge, seeking our first views of the waterfall recently christened Rockefeller Plaza, as well as locating the mysterious and scarcely documented Dellinger Falls (above, with Todd standing at the base). 
Graciously, Todd agreed to be a guest contributor to this blog when I asked. Thank you so much, my friend! I highly recommend his resources to any adventurer of all skill levels just as I would recommend visiting Western North Carolina itself where his passion lies.
So without further delay….

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Todd Ransom is an independent app developer and photographer working out of Asheville, NC. You can find his guidebook apps at http://appstore.com/FlickinAmazingInc, a web guidebook at http://flickinamazing.com/waterfalls, or join the community of waterfall lovers at http://facebook.com/waterfalls.wnc.

Josh: How did your passion for the outdoors develop, and eventually lead to waterfall photography? Why waterfalls instead of ridges, canyons, peaks, valleys, lakes or wild flowers?

Todd: I was a boy scout, so I’ve been hiking and backpacking since I was just a young kid. My love of the outdoors led me to rock climbing in my mid twenties and I started traveling all over North America to different climbing destinations. On my thirtieth birthday a friend and I climbed a route up the 2,000 foot El Potrero Chico canyon in Mexico.

As I sat on top of this enormous cliff after a full day of climbing, exhausted but satisfied, and looked down into the gorge, I realized that some day I would be an old man, no longer capable of clinging to tiny holds on a rock wall. I thought about how fallible our memories can be and I decided that I needed some way to capture these moments with more permanence, something I could look back on and remember the things I had seen and the young man I was.

I bought a camera, started taking pictures of climbing trips, and soon became frustrated with the fact my pictures did not turn out the way I expected most of the time. I started exploring the technical aspects of photography so I could more accurately capture the sights of rock climbing and the next thing I knew, I was more excited about photography than climbing!

As my interest in climbing waned I thought it would be a good time to explore new aspects of the outdoors here in Western North Carolina. I had just rescued my dog Joker from being abandoned on a trail and I was determined to make him the hiking dog I had always wanted. Since Joker is a Husky mix, I knew we would have to stick to river trails during the summer or I would need to pack twice as much water for him as I do for myself. In my hiking experience to that time river trails were a rare treat. Usually I would be backpacking the Appalachian Trail and water would be scarce. As I started to explore the hiking opportunities of WNC I realized there were literally hundreds of river trails in this area. The rest is history – Joker is now my perfect hiking companion, I rarely take a hike that does not follow a stream or river these days, and photography is a big part of my full time job as a guidebook author.

Josh: What would you say is the “sweet spot” time of year for waterfalls?

Todd: Any day you choose to be out in nature and seek to appreciate its gifts, you have found the sweet spot. In the Spring you get to see creeks and rivers swollen with snow melt and rain, teeming with new life. In the Summer, wild flowers and icy cold mountain swimming holes. And of course in the Fall we are treated to the colorful changing leaves. Even Winter has its own unique charm – you get to carry twice as much gear and alternate between sweating and freezing each time you stop to rest.

Josh: What is the greatest length you’ve gone to trying to find a waterfall?

Todd: I get really excited about the possibility of getting rare shots, and I get really annoyed if I take pictures of a waterfall and then find someone else has used the exact same composition. I want my work to be unique. With waterfalls this can mean hiking to places that not many people go or it can mean capturing perspectives that others cannot. The latter is usually the more dangerous of the two and I have often made a relatively mellow hike to a waterfall only to find myself climbing trees, cliffs or mossy rocks trying to get that perfect composition that no one else will be crazy enough to duplicate! I am going to refrain from telling any particular stories, though, because I don’t want to encourage anyone else to take risks they are not prepared to take.

Josh: I’ve downloaded the app for iPhone and have really enjoyed it. What are you hoping the user gains from using your Waterfalls of Western North Carolina app guide? 

Todd: My great hope for the guidebook apps is that they lower the bar for outdoor adventure by allowing people who are not proficient with a map and compass to venture into the wilderness without fear of getting lost. In the old days guidebooks were updated every five to ten years at the most. This meant the driving directions in rural areas were often out of date (turn left at the going out of business sign), the trail descriptions were often out of date (hike for 1/2 mile and bear right at the big spider web), and the authors generally had little incentive to keep things up to date.

By putting the information into an app, I can provide turn by turn driving directions directly to each trailhead from any starting point and GPS assisted trail navigation even with no cell signal. I also add new waterfalls regularly without the expense of printing a new edition.

Josh: For the new and seasoned seekers, what are the 5 waterfalls in WNC that should not be missed?

Todd: There are several fantastic roadside waterfalls in WNC – Whitewater Falls is the highest on the east coast, Looking Glass Falls, Linville Falls and Dry Falls are all beautiful and easily accessible. These are all amazing falls but as you know the places that call to me are the rugged, wild places where the landscape itself is dangerous and keeps all but the most fit and adventurous hikers at bay. So for me Big Falls on the Thompson River is the crown jewel of WNC waterfalls. I am also a big fan of waterfall hunting in Gorges state park (Lower Bearwallow Falls is spectacular, Windy Falls is a rugged and dangerous delight), Wilson Creek, Linville Gorge, and Panthertown Valley (Carlton Falls is not to be missed).

Josh: Regardless of skill level, what words of caution do you have for people who hunt for waterfalls?

Todd: I wish more people would learn to respect the power of waterfalls. Every year there are several deaths at waterfalls in WNC and they are usually the result of simple carelessness. One slip above a 50 foot waterfall is almost certain to be fatal and I often see kids and teenagers jumping, diving and climbing around waterfalls in ways that I (a seasoned rock climber and waterfall jockey) would not dare to do. I would urge each of your readers to never cross a creek or river directly above any waterfall, never swim behind a large waterfall, never jump from any waterfall, and never climb on a waterfall. You can have a lot of fun swimming at the base and playing in the river without endangering your life needlessly.