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bushwhacking camping hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post North Carolina Razor's Edge Rock Jock scrambling Trip report

My First Time on Rock Jock

(The view from the top of the Razor’s Edge descent gully within Razor’s Edge Canyon, Razor’s Edge Point to the upper right, with the North Carolina Wall and Sphinx in view across the Gorge) 
In event of my upcoming return trip to Rock Jock, I headed back to LinvilleGorge.net and retrieved my original trip report for the weekend of October 14-15, 2011. This was the first time I hiked Rock Jock, the first time I got into a serious bushwhack, and my second time ever hiking in the Gorge. I never have made it to Pertraeus Point… Hmmm…. I added a few notes into the report to either clarify or update based on better knowledge.

Though I don’t use it currently, the full photo album is still available on Flickr. I noticed the photos aren’t in chronological order, so sorry about that.

I hope you enjoy this report, and I hope it inspires you to get out and see Rock Jock for yourself! Even if you don’t do any of the side trips, it’s worth seeing.

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Our initial group for Friday was myself, Ben, and Tom. We came up 126 to Kistler and caught our first sight of Shortoff around 12:00PM on Friday. This was the first time I’d seen Shortoff, and it was way better than Google Earth, to say the least. Other than some rough washboarding on the south end, it was in good shape and easily accessible for a front wheel drive car, but you’ll be going slow. No major ruts. We pulled off in a MAX 2 car parking space not too far to the north of MCRT on Rock Jock, and thought we’d just walk north looking for a camp site. (NOTE: MCRT = Mossy Canyon Ridge Trail, more widely known as the southern trailhead to Rock Jock, but it was not part of the original Rock Jock, so out of respect for the builder and not to confuse it with the now lost but still referred to souther section of Rock Jock, I refer to it as MCRT) Based on Allen Hyde’s book, the swing and campsite were not far. Well, we never found them, and ended up just heading back to the truck. We kept driving north and came to the campsite on the east side of the road that overlooked Amphitheater. What a great spot! I hoped it was close enough outside of the wilderness boundaries that we wouldn’t get busted if a ranger checked in on us, and we set up camp.

On a side note, as we were walking up Kistler looking for sites, a hunter stopped in his truck and we spoke with him. Apparently a huge tree had just blown over and blocked the road. It was sooo windy up on Dogback! He informed us he cleared the tree with his chainsaw, and took off. This tree is pretty obvious if you’re down in that area.

For our adventure on the 14th before the rest of our guys got there, we decided to follow Wigg’s trip to Petraeus. It seemed the best option for where we were with the lest amount of driving, plus we could scope out where Rock Jock exits on Conley. We kept looking for Conley Cave, and in one form or another we found it, I’m guessing. I first thought that it was the giant overhang with water running through it (NOTE: this is the Cowboy Hotel, as I later found out), until we backtracked to what I guessed was Petraeus and we began around the base of that. I was thinking, “Sweet! Now I’m finding the real Linville Gorge off-trail!” That was when Ben began yelling, “Check this out!” and we came to what I’m guessing is the REAL Conley Cave? Very cool. Only goes back maybe 40-50 ft? but its very dark, and very cool, and apparently any of the bats that inhabit that cave like Bud Light. I had left my goat trash bags back in the truck… sorry guys. We left the cave and began looking for the crack in Petraeus to climb up and out on top to the faint trail to Lost Dog, and I am sure that we took the wrong crack. Once we were up a few levels, it turned from a scramble to a thick bushwhack. I think eventually the only ground we were standing on was the occasional protruding boulder, otherwise we were on top of down trees and thick brush. We must have pushed and guessed for 30-45 minutes. We were still ascending, but not sure if we had missed Lost Dog and were just pushing straight up to Kistler. Either way, we were able to keep a general direction to the way out. Eventually, after the bushwhack had claimed Tom’s glasses that were hanging around his neck, we came upon a faint trail. We took that south for several hundred yards (2 loads of semi-fresh bear scat here) and stumbled upon the campers at Lost Dog . They confirmed it was Lost Dog, seemed pretty friendly and looking kinda surprised at 3 guys straggling into their camp from the rough stuff. Our spirits remained good through the whole bush push and we enjoyed it, but it was pretty rough going. We came up to Rock Jock and exited via the old Conley exit. This adventure took us somewhere around 2 hours. A good one! Next time I do it, I’d like to find the RIGHT crack! We met up with a couple guys from Appalachian State, and one was wearing Chaco’s. Bloody feet are a good reminder to wear the right kind of foot protection in the Gorge.

We headed back to camp and ate our dinner and made a camp fire. As it got dark, I checked out on the road to see if I could make out any headlights coming our way. Kistler is as black as could be as night!! Holy cow.. I went back to the campfire and about 8:00PM we began to notice a red glow forming behind Table Rock. We stood up to check it out, taking turns guessing what it could be as the glow kept getting brighter and brighter. It became too large to be any kind of headlights (I knew there is a road up that way, but didn’t think it came THAT close to the ridge), then I was guessing a wild fire was starting because beneath the red glow it began to burn bright orange. It grew and grew until we realized…we are watching the moon rise from behind the ridge! It was absoutely awesome to watch. I snapped a picture, knowing it would be a joke anyway. A few minutes after this, the rest of our guys, Erich and Chris, showed up. Tom and Erich hammocked, and Ben, Chris and I shared a 4p tent. It was CRAZY windy that night, and I about froze around the campfire. Ben had checked wind chill and figured it to be something around 17 degrees, but I don’t know for sure. We hit the tent and all was toasty.

Woke up to a great sunrise over the NC Wall, ate breakfast and began shuttling cars to the south and north end of Rock Jock. We parked at the same MAYBE 2 car spot on Kistler we had the day before, because I thought I saw the Rock Jock sign only a little ways down from it. That turned out to be maybe half a mile, oops! Had I not been looking for the trail, we would have missed it. The brown stake is still at the trail head, but it is not very monumental when you’re walking down the road talking with your buddies. Just past the Rock Jock sign was the Adopted by The Gorge Rats sign. Thank you very much, guys.

We hit MCRT and I honestly think as far as the trail goes, this was one of my favorite parts. Even as destructive as the fire damage is, there is a certain level of beauty that is just different than the rest of the areas we visited. One day the plants will claim this as their own, and it is great to enjoy it as it is right now. I think the fall colors were the best here, absolutely beautiful. We made it down to where Rock Jock heads north. I was trying to keep an eye out for where it once extended south, but I didn’t see it. I saw some flagging further up towards Kistler, but not lower. Maybe I missed it? Going in and out of Mossy Canyon was a haul, and seemed like the rest of it was downhill from there.

(Razor’s Edge Rock, as seen from Razor’s Edge Point, with L.O.S.T.’s ledges in the upper right)

As I was looking at the picture of the burnt log Ken gave me and trying to determine if we just passed it, we ran into a group of 1 guy and 6 women hiking south. One of our guys asked if they knew if we were anywhere close to Razor’s Edge. The guy said he’d been out here a lot and had never heard of Razor’s Edge, but he was looking for Zen Canyon. After we passed them, we might have been 30 feet from the spur trail to Razor/Zen. Oops for them! The 2 flags on the small pine are indeed still there. In the set of pictures for this trip, there are pictures of this trail head from the north and south, as well as pictures from where the trail splits off to the left to Zen. We missed the HARD left to get down to Razor’s Edge Rock and found ourselves looking down at it from the point. We ate our lunches on RE point, contemplating how we would get down there.

Tom stayed at RE point to take pictures of us, and the rest of us headed down to find RE rock. Chris and I got a little side tracked scoping out the south side of the point, spotting the campsite where someone’s been enjoying a fire and awesome view of the Amphitheater.  Erich and Ben made it down first, so it was cool to see someone crossing the ledge from the higher perspective. Once Chris and I were on the descent to RE, he asks me, “Are you sure you want to be using those trekking poles?” I said, “Yeah man! They are stabilizing me!” And not 5 seconds after the words were out of my mouth, I took a spill and Chris’s arm was in my armpit. Oops! That descent is slippery on the dirt and mud, and it took out my trekking pole. Getting down to the Razor’s Edge from there was a bit of a scramble up the 15 feet or so of rock and then an easy rock hop and walk out to the edge. I won’t belabor the point with many words, but I will say it’s breathtaking to be on that point and if anyone is doing Rock Jock you absolutely should NOT miss Razor’s Edge.
(Me and my bent up trekking pole in Razor’s Edge descent gully)
Heading back to the Rock Jock, we headed north again. Zen Creek (I’m assuming?) had a great pool of crystal clear water that looked fantastic to pump from. Not really any other sources on Rock Jock that looked as pumpable (although Mossy Creek and Blue Jay both had water running on them). We came back up on the trail to Lost Dog (I think) where we had come out the day prior. There was a nice and big camp site not far from here, and we headed back up to the old Conley entrance. I was wanting to come out on Rock Jock at Conley. Should I have just stayed to the right of that big camp? The map looks like it has a big loop around this area and felt kind of confusing when I looked at it.

We got back to the cars and still had some time, so we headed up to Linville Falls as I was the only one that had been there. It was nice, but there were SOOO many people there it was just the antithesis of what we had just done and was only slightly enjoyable.

Heading back to Greenville, SC, we stopped in at REI at the Biltmore Park at Exit 37 off I-26 and got them to warranty my trekking poles. Plus it was member appreciation, so because they essentially gave me a refund and sold me a new pair, I got 20% back from my poles! Sweet deal!

A BIG Thank you to Ken Crump, Jim DeFriess and Michael Hollar for their work on the Rock Jock, and everyone else who helped me make this trip a success. Bob Underwood, I really enjoyed your trail, even if it’s not in its original form. Thanks a bunch, gorge rats!

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High Bethel hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post 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.
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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. 
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Asbury Hills Methodist Camp hiking Matthews Creek Moonshine Falls Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area South Carolina The SC Project Trip Reports Waterfalls

Asbury Hills and Moonshine Falls

It had been raining Saturday night, and looked cold and wet still on Sunday morning. I got the call before church to find out if the hike was still on. “The precip is supposed to drop to 30% after noon, and I think it’ll clear up. So if TJ’s still up for it, we’re still going.” He was up to it, so after church TJ and I headed up to the South Carolina mountains. We had been planning this trip together for several months, and I considered several locations. Finally, I settled on Moonshine Falls located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of South Carolina. Getting there via the Naturaland Trust Trail would be more than I was willing to take on today, so we went in via the Asbury Hills Methodist Camp. It’d still be 2.6 miles one way to the falls, but by looking at the topography it looked pretty moderate, which is exactly what it was.

In my research of Moonshine Falls, I found out that you have to get permission to hike through Asbury Hills. In fact, the camp is gated. You have to have the gate access code (which you can get by calling 864-836-3711). I wasn’t sure of the exact route to take to get to the trailhead, but we stayed on the main drive and found ourselves at the parking area in not too long. Asbury Hills looks like a sweet camp, nestled in the Dismal Forest at the base of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness. Four different blazes start here, but we stayed on the main red blaze, which is the Asbury Trail. Along the way, and I have no idea how he spotted it, TJ caught glimpse of a salamander on the trail. At best, it was 5/8″ long. I looked for several seconds as he pointed toward it and I still didn’t see it until it started moving. Eventually the other blazes left the trees and we crossed over a few creeks until we finally got to the cable bridge crossing at Matthews Creek.

There used to be a cable bridge crossing Matthews Creek further upstream where the Dismal Trail meets Naturaland Trust on the (difficult) lollipop loop to the Cathedral and suspension bridge over Raven Cliff Falls. Last I heard, the trees holding that bridge had fallen. As we were leaving Asbury Hills, the tree on the eastern bank for this cable bridge has definitely seen better days. The west side tree didn’t look too bad. I love a cable bridge crossing. Lots of fun! There’s an element of insecurity to it, especially as the cable can be slippery from water spray. But hold on to the top cable and you’ll be fine. Check it out: Matthews Creek cable bridge crossing

We came out at the intersection to the Naturaland Trust Trail, which indicated Raven Cliff Falls was 1.7 miles to the left, and 276 was 2.9 miles to the right. The trail got considerably more rough once we left Asbury Hills, but was still easy to follow. At one point, the trail became a creek, thanks to our evening rain. There was an obvious side trail to avoid the new creek, which we took. On this side path, we found a red eft (juvenile newt) and took a few pictures of it.

It was typically rocky and rooted and somewhat soggy trail through some lovely green forest until we made it to our turn, a large rock cairn along the Naturaland Trust Trail. Not far beyond it, was a Hot Spot sign, indicating that we were off the main trail, and this is a place where people can become lost. This wasn’t really my concern. The sign also indicated Moonshine Falls was this way, which was my concern. The trail wound it’s way through the lush ferned forest and at the second rock cairn, we started passing by some really cool overhangs. Not caves quite, and not a large area, but still neat scenery. Descending the ridge, we could hear Moonshine Falls. You can see it from the top of the ridge, and we took the trail down. Definitely a cool area here!

The descent trail is not very long, but it got more soggy here. What was forest turned into jungle. There’s a large overhang, with remnants of how the falls got its namesake. Several old 55gallon drums and moonshine stills are rusting away in the overhang. To think of the history that may have happened here, and what those moonshiners might have done to 2 lone hikers that wandered into their operation when it was in action probably wouldn’t have been as pleasant as the time we had. We took a few selfies, and explored around the area getting views and photos from different angles. Moonshine Falls itself falls over the edge of the overhang, so you’re completely behind it while in the overhang. We didn’t climb down to the base here, as it was muddy and the rocks were very slick. There’s a side trail not far from the mouth of the overhang, which takes you to the base of the falls, though you have to do some rock hopping here to get a clear view of it.

We poked around the area a little bit more, looking for a few other things, but we were already past our turnback time so further explorations would have to wait for another day. We went back out the way we came in. The hike back was very enjoyable. We saw a few large snails along the trail, and a finger-sized slug. The palmsized fauna was out today, which was nice for us. None of the rhododendron was blooming. A few teaberries were out, but not too much was blooming. I can imagine what this hike would have looked like not just in it’s brilliant carolina jungle greens, but illuminated with flashes of wildflower colors would really make this a great sight!

Overall, we had a great hike, that was moderate in difficulty. To Moonshine Falls and back was about 5.2 miles, without any extreme elevation changes. TJ and I had a great time, and we discovered one more reason to play in South Carolina!

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Ability Adventure Belief Gear hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Outdoor skills

So You Want To Be An Adventurer

You’ve seen the pictures on social media. You’ve heard the stories from friends or acquaintances or co-workers of great places and amazing sights. Somewhere and somehow, someone presented you with the idea of an adventure. I would define adventure as an event or span of time where one is able to behold something in wonder and marvel. Within that, there are many broad opportunities that may be overlooked. 

But there’s a barrier, isn’t there?

It could be many things, but the ones that immediately come to mind are these: (1) Ability (2) Company (3) Equipment. I believe for the most part, there is one root that these 3 barriers grow out of: Belief. Let’s look at the sub-barriers, first.

ABILITY
This probably looks like: I don’t think I can do it. What if I get lost? I need to get in shape before I go hiking. I’m not very adventurous. I don’t know where to go.

Everybody’s abilities will be different, but that doesn’t mean adventure can’t be for everybody. An adventure can be as small as exploring the backyard with your kids, as easy as a scenic drive, and as difficult as you could imagine. An important part of going on an adventure is being honest about your abilities. We are not all going to be cave divers. We are not all going to summit the highest mountain on every continent. We are not all going to jump from the edge of space. Don’t buy into the lies of comparison. Not everything is for everyone, and you always have to weigh your priorities as far as what you can and can’t do, what you should and shouldn’t do.

If you are wanting to grow your abilities, some of the things you can do are learn how to read a topography map and learn basic navigation skills like how to read a compass with the map. When reading a map, try to match the map with what your senses are telling you (e.g. “I hear water, we must be near X”) What I did was pick one area to explore (Linville Gorge), and I studied the maps, learned the landmarks and trails, and then did my best to mentally match the paper to the place when I was actually there. Eventually, I was able to navigate there without a map. For areas I’m not so familiar with and off-trail excursions, I still use a map and compass and sometimes I use GPS for navigation.

Really, as far as ability goes, the best thing I can tell you is that nothing will prep you for hiking like hiking. Just get out there! Look on websites like All Trails or other local sites, and some trail that’s described as steep, and walk up it. I personally feel like Linville Gorge has put steel in my spine for most hikes. What trail could possibly be as much of a demoralizing grind as Pinch In Trail? After that, everything else seems like a pumpy cakewalk.

But if conditioning yourself for that strenuous trail doesn’t sound like it’s up your alley, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers amazing views from the car with several overlooks you can stop at. Or find a guidebook at a local outfitter for somewhere in your area, and find what sounds best for you.
Just don’t sell yourself short.

COMPANY
This probably looks like: I don’t have anyone to go with. Nobody invites me. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone. 

One of the options I have drawn from in this area is social network hiking groups. It started with the bi-annual Gorge Rat Gathering organized at LinvilleGorge.net, where everyone on the forum is invited to “infest” the Gorge and join on hikes. Facebook has proven to actually be a social network with some of the groups I have joined there, like the Linville Gorge Facebook Group, Exploring Panthertown Valley, and though I haven’t participated, there’s been group activity at the Wilson Creek Facebook Group. Most people that participate in groups like these are more than willing to have new hiking buddies. One note is that not all hikes are for every ability, so you may get some ability and comfort level questions out of care for you so you aren’t thrown in the deep in of the pool, so to speak. There are typically hikes for every skill level.

If you read this blog at all, you may have noticed I recently began The SC Project, which is dedicated to exploring and discovering the wonders in South Carolina. I typically hike with an open invite.

EQUIPMENT
This probably looks like: I don’t own any gear. I don’t have a tent. I don’t have the money for an adventure hobby.

Advertisers are at work, surely. Granted, you are likely to be more comfortable in a $200 ultralight inflatable air mattress than a $7 closed cell foam blue mattress. But you don’t have to have the expensive gear. We can’t all afford standup paddle boards, sea kayaks, carbon fiber mountain bikes, a full rack of trad climbing gear, or scuba equipment (let alone the ability to do all those things).

In all honesty, you don’t really need any of that for an adventure. Some of my best times have been base camping/car camping, and then dayhiking with nothing more gear wise than a water bottle and 1st aid kit. I’ve used that setup in difficult and scratchy off-trail terrain, too. It’s all in what you’re comfortable with. 

If I was going to tell you to splurge on one thing, it’d be your shoes. What you wear on your feet can make or break your trip by giving you blisters, hot spots, smashed toes, etc. The soles of your footwear will also make a difference, depending on what you’re doing. But for dayhike adventures, which is what I mostly do, there’s nothing wrong with wear a pair of comfortable sneakers that you don’t mind dirtying up. You don’t have to have the expensive closet of gear to enjoy the outdoors.

What does all that stuff matter, though, if you don’t think you can do it? You have to believe you can do it. When I first started off, if someone had told me I was going to bike 30 miles on Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, or see 20 waterfalls in 20 miles of hiking at Panthertown, or I was going to bushwhack the Lower North Carolina Wall to the Sphinx in Linville Gorge, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I started slow and small, and sometimes put myself in physically demanding situations. One of my methods for adventures has been to “throw myself into a hole so I have to get out of it.” You can walk 2 miles on a treadmill then get off. You hike in 2 miles, you have to hike out 2 miles (unless you’re hiking a loop). In Linville Gorge, it’s what goes down, must come up. I had always been against doing hard things, so this motto was my way of forcing myself to do hard things. I did what I believed I could do, and as I did, my belief grew. Feel like you need to be in shape? Walk a half mile. Then walk a mile. Then walk uphill a mile. You can do it.
In my recent hike to Moonshine Falls, it had been raining that morning. When I talked to my first time hiker friend in the morning, I gave him the option to call it off for rain. Nope. He wanted to go. You have to want to do it, and that will overcome many of the barriers in this post. 
This is not the most articulate, well thought out, or gathered post. I just don’t want anyone to wish they were having an adventure but think they can’t. I’ll close with one final thought.
In the photo at the top of this page, my son Link is 2 years old. He has very little ability, a very small social circle (me, his mom, and his sister), and he doesn’t have any special gear. What is it that will allow him to have a grand adventure? He wants to do it. That is what it takes. You want to have an adventure.
——
If you’re looking for a light adventure, allow me to suggest you read a post of mine from a couple years ago:
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hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post South Carolina TheSCProject Trip Planning

The SC Project

(Mountain Lake @ Paris Mountain State Park)
The SC Project is something that’s been rattling around in my mind and planning for a while. I live in Greenville County, South Carolina. The majority of my hiking has taken me through the mountains of the Upstate, past Table Rock, Cesaer’s Head, Jones Gap, Lake Keowee, Lake Jocasee, Paris Mountain, The Foothills Trail, and numerous preserves. These are all things I’ve driven past in order to get to my favorite hotspots like Linville Gorge and Panthertown Valley. In starting this project, I’ve pretty much just been telling people that I’m going to focus on exploring what’s in my own backyard.
This doesn’t mean I plan to abandon Linville Gorge, Panthertown, DuPont, the Blue Ridge Parkway, etc. What this really boils down to is contentment. What have I been given, and why am I not happy with it? I’ve made several comments about moving to Nebo, Morganton, Brevard, Asheville… Why would I not be happy with Greenville? What a silly thing. On top of all the great hiking destinations, we have the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is a world class greenway that’s made a huge economic impact on the area, fantastic fishing (so I hear, even though I’m a below novice fisherman), and kayaking. The economy in Greenville is pretty good, combined with the plentiful outdoor opportunities, and it seems very silly that I would not be content with where God’s placed me and my family.
Will I be devoting a huge amount of energy to this and be all-consumed by it? I’m certain it will be a struggle just as it has been with all adventures, but this isn’t an addition to what I’ve already been doing. It’s a redirection. I’m hoping it will allow me to do the hard work in discovering new places, but also build relationships with people I actually llive near and am in local community with. This refocus will also be a better steward of my time, as it will allow for more time to be spent looking for waterfalls, hiking trails, seeing amazing things, than spent in the car for up to 6 hours a day (I’m talking to you, Table Rock Parking Lot at Linville Gorge). This can also afford short trips, that do not consume as much time, allowing me to spend more time with my family.
So, what IS The SC Project? It is one man’s attempt to explore, discover, and document South Carolina.
Hopefully I’ll see you on the trail someday soon.
Categories
hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Panthertown Valley Transylvania County Trip Reports Waterfalls WNC

Panthertown Valley. 20 Waterfalls. One Day.

April 12th turned out way different than I thought it would.
After setting the date, coordinating with some of the Exploring Panthertown Valley group on Facebook, changes of plans, more invites, plans falling through, and seemingly crazy suggestions.. there only remained two: Luke Wilson and myself. We would try to visit every waterfall in Panthertown Valley in one day.
This would be the first time Luke and I had ever met, and only shortly before had we even made contact on Facebook, through the hiking groups. As it turns out, Luke was excellent company, and our day was not only filled with great scenery, but great conversation, enthusiasm, and fellowship. It was very good to have done this with you, Luke! 
For navigation, we would be using Burt Kornegay’s A Guide’s Guide to Panthertown, Todd Ransom’s Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley, my Garmin GPSMAP 62sc, and our own keen sense of direction.
All of the photos taken on this trip were date and time stamped, basically as proof of it being done in one day.
Knowing this would be a long distance day, I was really unsure of what to wear for shoes. I normally hike in 5.10 Guide Tennies, but I didn’t think my feet would hold out in them for what I’d put them through today. I chose Merrell Trail Gloves. Minimalist shoes that literally fit like a glove so there’s no movement inside, which means no blisters. These are a step up from running barefoot, as it gives you some protection but still allows you to feel the ground beneath your feet, whether its smooth or soft or rocky.
I arrived at the Cold Mountain side of Panthertown 40 minutes before our meet time, I thought I would take the opportunity to bag one more fall before we met up. So it began.
(1) Cold Mountain Branch Falls
(2) Bridge of Death Falls
(3) Raven Rock Falls

All three of these are on the same trail. I didn’t take my GPS with me to get distance, but it’s less than 10 minutes of hiking one way to Raven Rock Falls. I don’t believe that 1 and 2 are officially named, but they are documented on Rich Stevenson’s website and I drew out those names from his descriptions. 
I met up with Luke and we started down Mac’s Gap Trail from Cold Mountain Parking a few minutes before 8:00am, which was a little behind schedule. Mac’s Gap Trail joins with Greenland Creek Trail for a short distance and then splits again, where we took Greenland Creek Trail. Shortly, we found ourselves as the massive Greenland Creek Falls. 
(4) Greenland Creek Falls

After climbing up the STEEP side trail to the left of Greenland Creek, we took a quick look at the top of the falls where the creek disappears over the edge. NOT a good place to play. Next up we were looking for Halfway Falls. 
(5) False Halfway Falls
We heard this one from the trail, and since we were looking for it I assumed that it was Halfway Falls. After looking at the map, though, it turns out that the real Halfway Falls is right at the bend in the trail. So, this one isn’t on any of the maps I have, but I have a hard time believing nobody has seen it.
(6) Halfway Falls

Realizing the error on finding Halfway Falls, the time stamp is out of sync on this one only because I took the picture on the way back. Next up was Carlton’s Falls. This was a big destination for me, and what this entire hike morphed out of. I had seen the pictures of this bowl shaped waterfall, and it honestly looked too cool not to have on this years bucket list. As we were hiking towards it, we managed to stay on trail but somehow took a wrong one. From near Halfway Falls, we found some trees blazed in orange and we assumed that was the way to Carlton’s Falls. It wasn’t long before we were standing underneath the Duke power lines. Definitely in the wrong spot. We made our way back and found an obvious pink flag that neither of us knew how we missed. Pretty soon were at Carlton’s Falls, but I didn’t realize it.
(7) Carlton’s Falls
I had seen the pictures of Carlton’s Falls, so I knew what I was looking for. What I DIDN’T know is that the bowl shaped falls I had been looking for were only part of the middle section of a much larger waterfall. There’s also a cool half cave/overhang on the right side of the falls where you can hang out for a breather. Of course, I had to make my way up to the middle falls and get my own photo of the bowl section.
Backtracking back down the trails, we accidentally took the Mac’s Gap Trail at the fork we came out of. We crossed the river on a fallen log (which is much steadier with trekking poles, by the way) and walked for only a few minutes before realizing our mistake. Back across the log and onto Mac’s Gap Trail on the OTHER end of where it merges with Greenland Creek Trail. This all sounds very confusing to read, but it will be much clearer if you’re trying to follow along on a map.
(8) Mac’s Falls

A short walk off the main trail brought us to Mac’s Falls, which empties out into a pool and the pool starts flowing quickly down around a curve that looks like a great spot to go tubing if it wasn’t for the rough landing on the other end.
(9) Pothole Falls

The rough landing. Though it isn’t a steep waterfall, it’s funneled at the rocks at the base, and there are several potholes below it, thus the name.
At this point, we came up Mac’s Gap Trail back to the car so we could make a stop at the cars. It would be the closest we’d be to them until we finished the hike. Luke had realized on the way back that he had left some of his food out of his pack, and I had a backup bottle of water there I could top off with. I should have just brought the second bottle with me. We met some guys coming in, had a short conversation with them, and walked towards Canaan Land. This with the first time I’ve walked across that footbridge and there hasn’t been music playing. We made it down to the Little Green Trail by the shortcut at the end of the first switchback, instead of taking all the switchbacks.
(10) Schoolhouse Falls

If any one waterfall were to define Panthertown Valley, it’d be Schoolhouse Falls. It’s iconic to the area. The beach was swarming with violet butterflies. I had never seen so many in one spot. Another rare sight was that there wasn’t anyone else at the falls with us. We rock hopped the creek along the left side to circle around the back of the falls, which is super refreshing. Coming back out the right side, we had one leg of this trip behind us. It was time to head up Devil’s Elbow.
(11) Warden’s Falls

This one was hard to get a good visual of. We came out of the trees on the footpath and recent rains had the waters up. There is supposed to be a footpath across the river we could follow up to Jawbone Falls, but the steep rock on that side with the higher water levels made us decide to backtrack up to Devil’s Elbow. We barely stayed here for more than just a couple minutes. 
(12) Jawbone Falls

I hadn’t given much attention to Jawbone prior to this trip, but sitting on the grassy beach, just watching the water, this is definitely a new highlight in the valley for me. It seemed like the perfect time to switch out into wet shoes (me in VFF Komodo’s and Luke in Chaco Z2’s). We were heading up to Riding Ford, which was for sure a wet trail crossing. Before leaving, we got our first feel of the water. It was warm…on the shore. That mountain water is COLD. I’m sure it would only be chilly instead of frigid had we been doing this in say, August. We thought we would follow a footpath from Jawbone up to Riding Ford Falls.
(13) Riding Ford Falls
We headed down the waterfall, which doesn’t seem much more than a river crossing when Riding Ford Trail forces you into it. At the bottom of the falls is a truck sized boulder I was able to scramble up on for a good shot. There is a giant pothole at the bottom of the falls that one could easily fit into, and you can see it really well on the photo. From the bottom of the falls, we found ourselves in another overhanging cave area littered with enough debris to let me know I wouldn’t want to be in there in high water. We entered the river. This didn’t last long, though. The water was really cold. As we looked at the map, we thought we’d be able to pick up the footpath that goes down to Elbow Falls. I had been to Elbow Falls a couple years ago, and knew that where the river becomes the waterfall was not a place that I needed to be hiking in the water. We chose to take to the land, which meant bushwhacking in shorts. We fought our way through the rhododendron and briers, angling north, and finally decided our progress was so bad that we would just try to get to the Devil’s Elbow Trail and find the footpath from there. Once on Devil’s Elbow Trail, there are run-offs built into the side of the trail. We passed several, and I spotted a trail extending out of one of them. We took it. As it turns out, that trail really was just a run-off and we were back in the briers. More bush pushing finally brought us to trail that we were able to take down to Elbow Falls.
(14) Elbow Falls
Really the best way to get a photo of Elbow Falls would have to be an aerial perspective, due to the bends in it around the rock. It drops down drastically into a deep slot (good thing we didn’t stay in the river), bends around a giant rock slab with a downed tree on it, and then over a couple smaller cascades. While the formation of each segment of the waterfall may not be the most exciting in the valley, this is a spot where you can really feel that Panthertown is an ancient place. There’s the wild Tuckasegee River (“The Tuck”) winding its way, not so dramatically through the valley, but in the rock along that blue map line. It ceases to be a place where tourists or your average hiker without a heightened sense of exploration would normally go. Elbow Falls is, to me, the doorway to what I think of when I think fondly of Panthertown. It was time to keep going further in. We backtracked into the forest along actual trail to the trail to Red Butt Falls, but we came out a little further downstream than I intended.
(15) Red Butt Falls
When we left the woods, we were in the cave at the base of Red Butt Falls. A fun area for sure, but the water is too deep here to maneuver unless you wanted to go for a swim. I didn’t have a dry bag big enough for everything that needed to be dry, so we made our way up the side of the falls a few yards to where it looked the least sketchy to cross. There are these awesome colored bands in the rock at Red Butt, and honestly I don’t remember making note of them anywhere else in Panthertown during this trip. I’m also amazed at the power of flowing water. You wouldn’t think that crossing a river that is only 6″ deep would be that challenging, but when its speed increases coming down the rock and the rock is already slick (which I can only assume provided the falls its name when someone slipped), we had to take it slow! Luke almost had a red butt himself here as we stepped into the water, and I caught him only because I was in the path of his fall. It would have only been a wet landing for him and he had a dry bag for his stuff. 
Once crossing Red Butt Falls, we stopped at what I’ve been calling Coffee Rock, as my first visit here we climbed up on top and made Starbucks Via in a Jetboil. Coffee Rock is a giant blade of rock standing at a 100degree angle in the middle of the Tuck. We didn’t climb up on top today, but we did stash our packs on one of the boulders at its base. I only took with me my camera, GPS, and trekking poles. We started making our way downstream, and I hadn’t quite committed to the water yet because I was staying on the slickrock at the shore. They don’t call it slickrock for nothing, as it made the decision for me to commit me to the water. I went in the drink just below my chest in one of the deeper sections. I’m pleased to report that my Canon Powershot D10 really is waterproof, and my Garmin took the water as well. Our next waterfall was one of our most anticipated falls of the day, Lichen Falls.
(16) Lichen Falls
On one hand, there is no trail to Lichen Falls. On the other hand, it was the widest trail we’d been on all day. I’m pretty sure the Tuck is wider than the Panthertown Valley Trail at this point. Still, we’d be wading and rock hopping and trying to choose the safest and surefooted path through the river as white water was increasing. Luke has been through Bonas Defeat (which was the original plan for this day), and he commented how this was starting to look a lot like it. We passed our first landmark, Honeycamp Branch, and then the Tuckasegee River went from rocky and shallow to being choked with great boulders and rapids. We were still able to navigate the river by scrambling up the boulders, wading where it was shallow enough (I don’t think we were ever in over waist deep, aside from my entry slip). Up ahead on the left, we could see some water coming over the rocks, and knew we were close. That small stream of water coming over the boulder was like the curtain that was pulled aside to reveal the main event. Lichen Falls was gushing! I had seen some pictures of it, but I didn’t anticipate it would be as big as it was, as dramatic as it was. Lichen Falls is tucked back in a cove, framed by rock and boulders. What a beautiful falls. The river walk plus all the aspects of the falls really made this one of the biggest highlights of my day. Here at the base, we also took note of a bat clinging on the side of the rocks. It took us about 30 minutes to get here from Coffee Rock.
It only took us 20 minutes to get back to Coffee Rock from Lichen Falls, which is interesting to me. On the way in, we could see into the water fairly well, but on the way back the glare of the sun made foot placement unsure. Going back, we were also fighting the current now. We also noticed by this point that the water wasn’t as biting cold as it had first been. I think acclimating to the water temps as well as the type of movement required to walk in the creek allowed us to navigate it very easily. We stopped for a snack and resupplying our water. We slowly crossed Red Butt Falls again, and easily followed the trail back to Devil’s Elbow. No bushwhacking required. Once we had made it back to the top and crossed Riding Ford, it was time to swap back into dry shoes. While doing this, we noted some guys on the other side of the river in swim trunks looking like they were getting ready to make the slide down Riding Ford Falls. The looked hesitant, standing there in trunks and shirts off. We waved, changed shoes, and were on our way before we got to see if they finally took the slide. If they found the pothole at the base, I hope it was a pleasant experience for them.
As this was definitely waterfall day, Lichen Falls would be the last picture I’d take of a waterfall for a while. Luke had not seen a lot of the places off the beaten path, so we decided to take Riding Ford Trail down to Powerline Trail and over to the Overlook Trail so we could take in the sweeping views of the valley. We came to the first view, which I call the false view because it is obscured by trees and scrub that are just below the cliffs on Blackrock Mountain, and kept heading west until we go to the REAL view. In my opinion, the bald on the Overlook Trail is the best “big view” in Panthertown Valley, and should be experienced by anyone who enjoys hiking here. Only one other gentleman was sharing the view with us here. It doesn’t have anything obscuring the view, and you can see a panorama of mountains and valleys laid out before you. Most prominent are Cold Mountain, Little Green Mountain, and Big Green Mountain. What a view! As we sat there taking it in, a group of hikers came up the cliffs. They didn’t come in on the Overlook Trail, but as we engaged them, they had followed the cliffs up after leaving Carlton’s Way. I’ve been in that area partially, but only to stand beneath the cliffs. They were definitely glad to be at the top! As we cut our scenic stop short in effort to continue our day, our friend who had shared the overlook with us commented, “That wasn’t long.” Well, we still had a lot of ground to cover, and at this point I was starting to be considerate of daylight. We had headlamps, though.
We literally ran all the way down Carlton’s Way. I’ve been up it twice, and I have to say that it is much more pleasant in descent. We took this way because I had it in my mind to find the infamous Fat Man’s Misery, as mentioned by Burt Kornegay. There is a faint trail listed on his map below the cliffs of Blackrock Mountain that I had very strong suspicions would lead us to this “boulder choked slot canyon.” Not a waterfall, and I was starting to question even looking for it on this trip since it wasn’t a waterfall and of our daylight situation, but I was feeling ambitious. We followed an obvious path just east of Salt Rock into the forest. After crossing a creek, we began to see mini-canyons filled with boulders and rhododendron. From an article I recently read, I knew we had to be in the right spot. We followed the trail until it became too faint to follow, and found ourselves at the base of the cliffs. What we did find there was bolted sport climbing routes. We climbed through boulders and briers and rhodo searching for a hole that looked like the teaser photo of Burt on the 2013 edition of his map. Eventually, Luke found something. It is possible that what he found was Fat Man’s Misery, because it was definitely a giant series of boulders you could squeeze around underneath, but if it was Fat Man’s Misery, both of us were underwhelmed. For anyone who wants to make the search, I hope this was of some help to you. For us, it cost an hour of daylight and a lot of spent energy. Maybe too much. For those interested, we noted an Indian sign tree in this area, as well.
Back on the hunt for waterfalls. Wilderness Falls would be next on our list, but we needed to decide which was the best way to get to it. We decided just to take the main trail up Salt Rock and snag the big view there. Very nice, and certainly more accessible than the one on the Overlook Trail. 
(17) Wilderness Falls 
Like with Carlton’s Way, we ran down the Deep Gap Trail on our way to Wilderness Falls. We only stopped here briefly, took our pictures, and headed on to the next one, which is only a few minutes away. We ran there, too.
(18) Frolictown Falls
While not as large or dramatic as some of the other falls in Panthertown, I personally really like Frolictown Falls. The area is just calm and serene. Waterfalls definitely have a restorative element to them, and that element is in effect here at the base of Frolictown Falls. I would need it. It was here I started noticing being thirsty, giving clue that I had become dehydrated. The small pool at the bottom was a great place to resupply our water, and though I knew we were starting to get onto a time crunch, I also knew I needed to drink. On to the Great Wall Trail. We ran until we started hearing people near the shelter. We crossed Panthertown Creek, and one of the stepping stone rocks wobbled and I was up to my ankles in water. My shoes were soaked. I didn’t consider it a huge deal because I had gotten them a little wet earlier when we were on Greenland Creek, and they had dried out. We got to the shelter and the whole area was filled with tents and even more hammocks. At least 3 hammocks were hung up inside the shelter itself. I took note of ENO and Grand Trunk, and I didn’t see anyone with an underquilt.
Now would come the big effort. We were about a mile from the next waterfall, and it would be an out an back. Fortunately we would have very little elevation to deal with here. Also, we had the Great Wall of Panthertown to keep us company the whole way. The Great Wall is the bald face of Big Green Mountain that faces southwest, and as we walked and partially ran the trail (energy was beginning to wane), the Great Wall of Panthertown seemed to never leave us. We got to the curve in the trail that takes us up Big Green Mountain towards the steps cut into the stone, but our sidetrack came much before that. Within a few minutes of the turn, we found the trail cutting off to the right towards Panthertown Creek Falls.
(19) Panthertown Creek Falls
Fortunately I was familiar with this area from the trip Todd Ransom and I had made together in January. I knew to angle off the trail above the creek, in search for a clearing. From there, remnants of old flagging would lead us about to the area of the falls. What a delightful surprise it was to find out that there is brand new bright pinkish-orange flagging out there! It isn’t quite a trail yet, but if people keep following the flags, it will be. We found the clearing and followed the flags to the steep side trails that lead to the different segments of Panthertown Creek Falls. We came out in the middle, and had to climb straight down the dirt and rock to the impressive falls. At the very top, there is a huge rock face, and the falls come out below it in a series of twists and turns as the creek flows downstream. As much as I would have loved to stay here, we had to move. We grabbed a quick snack and started back. We had less than an hour before sunset.
It was on the way back through the flagging to the Great Wall Trail that I really noticed a difference in how I felt. I started feeling a low grade upset stomach, which I attributed to my being dehydrated. This would be the beginning of my physical descent. I also lost the flagging on the way out, which was silly because it had been so easy to follow on the way in. Luke had gained some distance ahead of me, though we were still in earshot, and I ended up bushwhacking through to the Great Wall Trail. I had my GPS to follow the track from the way in, but I was already off at that point. Coming back up the Great Wall Trail, I also noticed my feet were still wet. And cold. But we had one more waterfall to go. Back on the Great Wall Trail, the sun was lighting up the granite. This was Luke’s highlight of the day. It was really an awesome sight.  We got back to the shelter and headed into the rhododendron tunnel that is the Granny Burrell Trail. This would begin the worst section of our hike all day, as far as trail goes.
(20) Granny Burrell Falls
The trail was a soggy mess. Black mud with expansive puddles we tried to sidestep, but still couldn’t completely avoid. With the last moments of daylight, we emerged from the rhodo to the grand waterslide, Granny Burrell Falls, with it’s beautiful pool beneath.I would have loved to just crash here, but that couldn’t happen. Not only were my feet still cold, but with the sun setting, the ambient temperature was dropping, too. Our original thought was to sidetrack and climb up Little Green Mountain on the way out so we could get the big view from Tranquility Point, but that energy and daylight had been spent in searching for Fat Man’s Misery. What’s done is done. Time to go. 
We cut through the pine forest shortcut off of Mac’s Gap Trail. I jumped a big mud puddle, and in slow motion I could feel the spring coiling in my leg. My right calf tightened up on me in a wicked charlie horse. It was good that I had trekking poles and my hands looped into the straps, because I leaned on them for all they were worth. As the cramp subsided, I started to walk only for it to come back again with a vengeance. Had it not been for my trekking poles, I would have fallen flat on the ground here. When the worst of it was over, I began to slowly walk it out again, as Luke was right next to me encouraging me through it. He was in much better shape than I was at this point (hmm, so that’s what electrolyte tablets do for you), and he was ahead of me on the trail. Within a few minutes of the charlie horses going to work on my leg, I announced, “I have to stop.” My low grade stomach ache that started at Panthertown Creek Falls had waved it”s white flag of surrender, and with a flash of heat, I threw up. Again, thank God for trekking poles. These things supported me all day long, in good and bad. Feeling much better, I felt the need to crack a joke about giving the coyotes something to look forward to. The temperature had dropped, as the warmth of the sun had left us. We abandoned Tranquility Point, due to my condition and the lack of light we now had, and we were back on the Panthertown Valley Trail. 
This was the worst trail we had been on all day. The whole trail in sections was flooded to where you couldn’t jump over it, not that I would have made the attempt anyway. What a soggy, nasty mess. We crossed paths with the guys we had met earlier in the day when we made our stop at the cars. They told us they had set up camp at Schoolhouse Falls, and were out exploring while the rest of their group was sleeping. As the Panthertown Valley Trail neared where Panthertown Creek and Greenland Creek merge to form the Tuckasegee River, the trail conditions improved greatly. The terrain turned from black mud pits to white sand, and we saw the cool white sandbars. We took the shortcut straight up the ridge and avoided the switchbacks. Finally, finally, back at the car. Wow.. what a day. 
We did it. I could barely believe to have visited all the waterfalls in Panthertown Valley in one day. We got to see so much, and we got to travel in all kinds of terrain. Dry trail, sandbars, steep hills, rocky scrambles, creek walks, mud pits, rhodo and brier bushwhacks.. This day was truly a grand adventure. Again, Luke was a great hiking partner, and I enjoyed his company as our conversation was filled with faith, creation, environmental stewardship, adventures, anecdotes, and husbandry.
As the day came to a close, a verse from Psalms 98 came to mind. I had first read it this morning at the base of Raven Rock Falls, and it came back to me again as I sat in the car. 
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.

We truly experienced the glory of God displayed in creation today. The glory of Panthertown Valley and it’s waterfalls does not belong to the valley, and certainly not to the mere men who hike it, but to the One who crafted it. 

UPDATE: I finally got the Google Earth overlay of our track off my Garmin, and according to Google Earth the distance was significantly shorter than my Garmin recorded. At any rate, here is our path for this day.



Stats for the day:
20 waterfalls
somewhere between 19.5 and 23.85 miles
13 hours and 17 minutes
Categories
Avatar's Rib Babel Tower bushwhacking Hell's Ridge Camp hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post North Carolina scrambling Trip report

Linville Gorge: Babel and Beyond

This hike has been a year in the making. Last year, we only scouted out the top of the area. This year, we would complete the route. 
Brandon, Erich and I left Greenville early Saturday morning and headed up the mountain. We were running early, so we stopped at Bynum trail and walked out a little ways to get a view. We still had some time and Erich hadn’t been to Wiseman’s View yet. Kistler Memorial Highway / 105 was in as good of condition as I’ve seen it (save the giant rut that is only a few feet south of Pine Gap parking), so we made the drive to Wiseman’s in only a few minutes. It was overcast and hazy, so while we could make out all the distinctives of the area, nothing was exactly crisp, other than the 30°F temperature! 
Getting back to our trailhead, we met up with Billy and Lonnie. After waiting a few minutes past our meet time, we decided no one else was coming and headed down the Babel Trail. We made it down in pretty good time, and the trail was in typical conditions: good views at the cliff, roots and talus on the ground, and an erosive ditch at the bottom. Coming out of the ditch, though, is some of the best scrambling the Linville Gorge has to offer. You honestly don’t even have to go very far in to see a lot of very cool features. We, on the other hand, would be going very far in.

Climbing up Babel Tower requires maneuvering down beside of the rocky spires until coming to a trail that turns sharply right and uphill. It gets rocky toward the top, and you’ll have to scramble the last few feet. This time, a tree had fallen down over the top, so we had to do some working around it, but nothing too bad. Views from the top of Babel were as good as ever. Walking towards Avatar’s Rib, there is a rather large crack splitting the top of Babel. The distance is easily jumpable, but the other side is sloping and the bottom of the crack is far enough to at minimum be painful if you slip. Climbing back down the way I came, I scrambled up to the other ledge. From here we had GREAT views of Avatar’s Rib, Henson Canyon, Westface, and all the surrounding areas, not to mention a straight shot south of the Gorge. From here, there’s two options: climb back down the way you came up, or shimmy down a fallen tree to the base. Safest way is to just climb back down. A little scrambling brought us to the next peak, upper Avatar’s Rib. It’s accessible and very easy to get to, and you don’t have to do the steep climbing that is required to getting to the top of Babel. But before we moved on to Avatar, I had some other intentions..
Hell’s Ridge Camp offers views to the north of the river, Island Ridge, Henson, and the area that Hyde’s Ledge runs across. Part of this excursion was to do visual recon for the suggested “Two Saddles” loop, which has Island Ridge connecting to Henson Creek via Hyde’s Ledge. Another part is that last time I was out here, we bushwhacked straight down from Avatar, and on the way back we stumbled across a cairn. I wanted to find the cairn, mark a waypoint for it, and attempt to follow trail out to Hell’s Ridge Camp to get a track for the Linville master map. Let me say that there are only scarce amounts of trail out there. The cairn is easy enough to find. Hell’s Ridge Camp is not difficult if you do the research and don’t go in blind. The connector between the two proves well enough how the area got its name. This ridge had burned in one of the previous fires since 2000 (I’m not sure exactly what year, but I believe Lonnie said it was the Brushy Ridge Complex Fire), and has since grown up thick with brush and briars. The views from the plateau camp are nice, but there doesn’t seem to be much place to hang a hammock. Camping would require backpacking in with a tent, and to be honest, with the “trail” in the condition that it’s in, going in with a pack would likely only be worth it to the most determined camper. The views of Island Ridge and the Linville River below are nice, though. It’s just very scratchy getting out there, and unless you know what rock formations you’re looking for, you may end up frustrated. We tried to follow trail back up to Avatar, and it was much easier to find from the Hell’s Ridge Camp side, but we still lost it in a few places. Eventually, we came back out right at the cairn and headed to the main portion of our day.

Avatar’s Rib. I find the name along with the other names in the area quite ironic and interesting. Biblically, the Tower of Babel was built by men trying to ascend to heaven on their own (you can read about it starting in Genesis 11:1). An avatar is allegedly God in human form. In my studies of Linville, there has definitely been influence of such a person, although that person is now dead. So that tribute of someone claiming to build themselves up to be God on the same peninsula named after a tower that men built trying to get to God is very ironic to me. 
Avatar’s Rib is a very rocky spine on the east side of the Babel peninsula. I anticipated the descent down the many shelves of the Rib would be difficult uptake require a lot of sketchy down climbing. We were about to find out. Last year, Marshall Weatherman and Matt Perry had made this trip, and a map was made that traced out roughly the route they took down the Rib. This map was excellent, and we used it a lot as we determined which way to descend. (You can access it here: http://m.flickr.com/photos/33252703@N08/8350576464/in/set-72157632444717814/) Upper Avatar’s Rib extends out to Point A, and is simply a walk out to the edge. Some backtracking and descending on the north side will drop you below to Point C and Point B. From here you can either climb down the face of Point C, or as I went over to Point B for pictures I could see the gully between the two offered good holds to scramble down. Much safer. Much better. Once here, we had to work our ways backwards (west) on the south side of the Rib only to work our way back east. This was probably one of the more difficult areas of the descent. We split up into 3 groups at this point, but all eventually found each other on Point D and Point E. There are great formations here, and this is referenced as Lower Avatar’s Rib. We decided to break for lunch here, plenty of places to sit and rest, a large rock with a tree to sit under, and what may be my favorite views of the whole Linville Gorge. I had stood on the Sphinx twice at the time of this writing, and while spectacular, doesn’t match Lower Avatar’s Rib to me. Being so close to the river, hearing the road of its whitewater, and the northern corners of the Gorge swallowing you to one side while the ridges frame an open and sweeping view to the south is magnificent. In all honesty, this point takes less work to get to than the Sphinx, as well. 

After lunch at my new favorite place in the Gorge, it was time to finish this puzzle. Moving back to the north side, we found the route below us we wanted to take, but the climb down to that route proved to be the most difficult and dangerous aspect of Avatar’s Rib for us. Standing on a ledge, the ground was probably 10 feet below us, and there were a couple rocky shelves to stand on. Unfortunately the ledge we were standing on is inverted once you climb over the edge, and there is very little to hold onto while climbing down. The rock ledge is smooth, and there was some mountain laurel growing there but most of its branches were dead and crumbled when we’d grab them. There’s a large root across the ledge, but it didn’t feel trustworthy at all. Slowly carefully, we came down one by one, facing out so we could keep our backs to the ledge trying to hold on. Suck it in, stick out your belly, and toss your pack at this point! There’s a rootball off hanging over the ledge to hold onto, but who knows how long that will be there. Once down on the ground, it looks like there may have been a better route down if one we had backtracked some a little higher up, but that’ll will have to wait for another trip.
We were now in the Avatar descent gully. Once in the gully, we had the added benefit of live trees to use as handholds and help. William noted that it reminded him of Zen Canyon, further south in the Gorge off of Rock Jock. Noting that on Marshall and Matt’s trip report they had missed Point F and G, I wanted to try and get to those. Point F looks very difficult from the gully. Maybe there’s a way to get up there from the south side. It may have been possible to climb up from the gully, but a climb down was no way. At least a scramble down was no way. Hanging on the north side of Point F was a huge icicle, that if let loose could really give one a headache! Point G wasn’t too bad to get to but I impressive thanks to the obscured views. Erich and Brandon were able to knock down those big icicles so they weren’t a hazard, and we kept on descending.
Point H was easily accessed and there was a cool cave there and a hole to climb up out of. The downside is that there was a lot of loose rock that would have hurt worse than an icicle should any of it slide or let loose. Deeming it dangerous, we didn’t stick around long. Point H followed a side wall, which was a giant briar tangle. We got another good look at the river, Henson, Big Hole Point, etc. Back to the gully, and down to the river.
Avatar’s Rib? Check. It really was not half as bad as I anticipated it to be, and anyone with off-trail experience in Linville Gorge and Marshall’s map should be able to do it. The one physically difficult section was the rootball climb down off of Points D and E. In all honesty, though, Points D and E are the highlight of Avatar’s Rib, so only going that far would not be bad. You would only miss the river walk and the steep climb out, which we were about to figure out.

Having the three-tiered waterfall and green pools at the bottom of Henson Creek in our view almost the whole way down, Henson was on all of our minds. I didn’t know the area very well at all, so I wanted to scout and see if there was any possibility of a rock hope river crossing to the other side so we could access Henson. We walked up the shore, which is ankle twisting territory. It’s all rock. It’s very uneven. It’s spectacular. Unfortunately, it was also icy. Even though it had warmed up to 50°F, blue skies and sunny, the north face of Babel is still in the shade. A lot of water had run down the sides, forming huge icicles that connected to the ground forming pillars in many places, and coated the already slick moss with ice. It wasn’t everywhere, but there were quite a few places that were hazardous, especially where the river rocks lessened, and we were between cliff side and the river. We rockhopped upstream several hundred feet until we got to two side-by-side waterfalls on the river. There’s a lot of whitewater in here! So much of the area was covered in silt from when the river was at a higher level. We took our pictures, found what looked like a piece of old distilling container beaten up by its tumble down the river, and had a good time scrambling these rocks. It’s definitely a fun time to be here when it’s lower water. At this point, we turned back. I didn’t see any way of crossing the river while staying dry, and if we did manage to cross, the only way to Henson would be on Hyde’s Ledge, which looked thick and nasty.

 Up this close to get a good look at the area, I decided to abandon (at least for now) the suggested Two Saddles loop. It could be a thrilling hike, but it also looks very dense and with what I’d anticipate to be majorly obstructed views, I don’t see the effort worth it for me. Maybe there are other explorers out there who want to give themselves to that, but my time in Linville Gorge is too limited to spend in that direction.
Finding our way back to the overhung campsite below Babel Tower near the Linville Gorge Trail proved difficult from a navigation standpoint. The river rocks turned into river boulders and to deeper water. We were forced off the rocks and back into the dirt, which meant back into the bushes. Using GPS, we tried to stay on the same contour as the campsite, and just pressed on. For anyone who has been to the overhung campsite and is wondering: the broken cot and old cookware is still there, and it wouldn’t provide much shelter in a storm. William spotted the Linville Gorge Trail not too far off, and we worked our way up the switchbacks. This is where our physical work really began. We all seemed bright and in good spirits, but I think we all began to fatigue here. And we were at the bottom of the Gorge.
Those switchbacks below Babel really seem a lot longer in person than they do on the map! After climbing those, we were all showing signs of wear. There’s a wonderful flat spot at the top near where Babel and LGT intersect that provided a nice spot for us to elevate the feet and recover from the grind uphill. We headed west on the LGT.
The last time I was hiking on this section of the LGT was in 2011. It was in August, and the trail hadn’t been trimmed at all. We couldn’t see where we were placing our feet, praying we wouldn’t step on any snakes being so close to the river. Fortunately, the trail was very easy to follow this time around. It wasn’t overgrown, and we didn’t have any snakes, not that we really expected any this time of year. The Linville Gorge Trail is very rough, rooty, and rocky. The footing is very uneven. One if my bucket list hikes for this year was to hike the entire LGT by coming in at Pinnacle and hiking to Linville Falls. I believe I’m abandoning this plan as well, hopefully in favor of moving Shortoff Cliff Base up the list. One thing about hiking in the Gorge, each hike is really only your scouting and planning for the next one. At least it seems to go that way.
Finally, we make it to our last trail in the Linville Gorge, which was my idea. I said, “This will really be icing on the cake to make it a memorable day.” So once we came to the post in the ground that looks an awful like like “Old Sandy,” we started up Cabin Trail.

Ascending 900′ in about 3/4 mile, and extremely rocky, Cabin is, in my opinion, the one official trail that is most representative of the terrain in Linville Gorge. It’s steep. It’s brutal. It requires scrambling. It will exhaust you. It’s awesome. The only thing Cabin IS missing is the exposed views, but it also doesn’t have the fire devastation that Shortoff or PinchIn have. We hauled ourselves up Cabin, slowly but surely. Erich and Brandon moved faster than the rest of us, and I found them lying down on the parking area boundaries when I got there. Wow! Everyone should experience going up Cabin Trail, at least once. Just don’t do it when it’s icy or sweltering hot out!
A short road walk back to Babel brought us to our cars and the end of our hiking adventure in Linville that day. We met for dinner all together and parted ways. One of the reasons I love Linville Gorge is not merely for the rugged terrain and wild views. It’s also because there’s a great community of hikers that like to head out into that wild country together as a team in effort to conquer it. Really though, the Gorge always proves that it’s tougher than anyone who hikes in it.
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bushwhacking hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post North Carolina off-trail Panthertown Creek Falls Panthertown Valley Todd Ransom Waterfalls Waterfalls of Western North Carolina WNC

In Search of Panthertown Creek Falls

This past Saturday had all kinds of rain falling on the Carolina’s. Here in Greenville, there were warnings of flash floods and the Enoree River as it runs near my home was swollen up at least 2ft, by my scientific calculations in guesstimation. The forecast for Sunday was 50°F and sunny with 0% chance of any precipitation. Our original plan was to camp Saturday night along Rock Bridge add and then explore Big Pisgah in the morning. Due to the rain, supreme likelihood of soggy ground, and sub-freezing temperatures, the trip was whittled down to making an attempt to find Panthertown Creek Falls.
Whittled down… or so I thought.
Panthertown Creek Falls appears on Burt Kornegay’s “A Guide’s Guide to Panthertown” map with no trail to it. Doing a search online brought up nothing. No pictures or terrain conditions. Rich Stevenson’s website didn’t have anything on it. Todd had hiked with the late Craig Marvil, who had confessed to having been at the falls. We believed it existed, but we had no idea what it looked like or what we were looking for. Just the general idea of where it was located.
The drive in from Greenville was pleasant, especially as I was able to catch the first light before sunrise on the pull-off along the Oscar Wigington Memorial Highway, which is a very scenic connection between Hwy130 and Hwy107 in South Carolina, just before entering North Carolina. I highly recommend the sunrise here. Highly. The mountain views surrounding Lake Jocassee are absolutely wonderful.
Once I made it into NC heading towards Cashiers, so much of the rock along the road was covered in melting but still thick icicles. By the time I made it through Cashiers and onto Breedlove Rd, the temperature was still hovering right around freezing, the roads were covered with ice, and there was a dusting of snow. Slow going in the front wheel drive adventure-rig.
Todd Ransom and I met at the Breedlove Rd entrance on the west side of the valley Sunday morning. Panthertown Creek flows to the east of the Great Wall of Panthertown, so I thought we would be just following the creek and is why I suggested we park at the west entrance. Turns out Todd had already been exploring in the area twice prior and the bushwhack was so bad that we would be trying another way. I overlooked that detail. 
We came in from Breedlove Rd and headed into the valley. This was my first time on this side, and Todd made sure to take me past Wilderness Falls and Frolictown Falls, both of which he commented on having never seen so much water flowing on them. Thank you, Saturday’s rain. Both of those are very scenic and easy to access, and I recommend visiting both. After visiting Frolictown Falls, we came to a creek crossing. It had stepping stones to cross it, but what makes for gushing waterfalls also makes for swollen creeks. The stepping stones were under a few inches of water. Walking across a creek barefoot when there’s snow on the ground is cold, but good wool socks treated my feet right after drying them off best I could. I at least could feel my feet through every freezing step, so that’s good. 
We headed up the Great Wall Trail and I have to say it was much more impressive than the last time I was on it, which was in the late spring. The Great Wall of Panthertown is the west facing side of Big Green Mountain, a 300ft exposed and slabby granite cliff face. With all the leaves being down from the trees, it looked over up the entire length of the mountain, and was certainly a sight to see. We kept on the Great Wall Trail up the side of Big Green over bridges and mysterious steps cut into the rock until coming to the Big Green Trail, which we took away from Big Green towards Mac’s Gap. Using Todd’s “Waterfalls of Western North Carolina” iPad app*, we followed what the map showed as an old roadbed which dead ended very close to the headwaters of Panthertown Creek. We found the estimated start of the roadbed, and it must have been a very old road. There was great difficulty in making out what that road once was. Using his guide map, we were able to follow the “roadbed” roughly by following the topography. Eventually, after fighting through rhododendron and greenbriar and crossing the creeks a couple times, we came to a convergence of feeder streams that became the headwaters of Panthertown Creek.
Off-trail adventurers, bushwhackers, and Type2** fun seekers, make note that the greenbriar is alive and well in Panthertown Valley. There were a couple times the briars were so big they were blades and no longer thorns. The bush got really thick as we closed in on the sound of rushing water. A small cascade. Back into the bush until we heard the rushing water. Another small and nearly identical cascade. If these were Panthertown Creek Falls, we were going to be sorely disappointed. Looking at the topo map, our lines weren’t getting tight enough yet, so we kept pressing on downstream. Rushing waters again.. and we were not disappointed.. at least not entirely.
Panthertown Creek Falls has to be the wildest waterfall I’ve personally seen in Panthertown Valley. Multi-tiered over several shelves and levels, giant rock faces and overhangs shadowing it in, and we couldn’t believe where all the water had come from, those small feeder streams? The biggest downside is that there was so much rhododendron that getting a decent picture was impossible. At least of the upper tier. Making our way further, retreating from the banks, sliding down next to rock overhang caves, bushes, greenbriar, rhododendron, and mud, we came to an opening of the mid-tier. The imposing inverted rock face at the top of the falls, the walls of the gorge on either side, and the lower levels before us, this is a waterfall you truly have to see to see it. It’s impossible to take it all in on film, not that we didn’t try. Although, I’m sure Todd got better pictures than I did. 
Once we finished at the falls, we both agreed it best to climb the ridge and work our way back towards the Great Wall Trail. To our surprise, we actually found some orange flagging in several places, marking the path towards Panthertown Creek Falls. As we got closer to the southern slopes of Big Green Mountain, the flags started to disappear. No matter, we were almost at the way we had hiked in, according to the GPS track. 
We made it back to real trail, and after bushwhacking through thick weeds, low brush, and greenbriar, it was a welcome sight. During the off-trail section we had just come out of, Todd had made the comment about this being our second hike together, and this one and the first one were both epic bushwhacks. They aren’t all like this, I promise! 
We hiked up Big Green Mountain, caught the view of Goldspring Ridge on the first overlook, and headed on down the unofficial trail off the backside of Big Green. Supposedly the USFS had closed this trail, but we were able to follow it without much trouble: it’s backpackable, but it’d be miserable. That trail is no joke, is very steep, and would be really unpleasant to go up. Fortunately, we were going down and didn’t have to, though there was still ice and snow on the trail at this point. This drops you right out at the campsite behind the entrance to the Granny Burrell Falls Trail. 
We hiked north on Mac’s Gap through the pine forest and what an amazing campsite that is. Near water, and room to have a serious group event (REMEMBER TO LEAVE NO TRACE AND PACK OUT YOUR TRASH). There is room for dozens of tents and the tree spacing is perfect for hammocks. The floor of the forest is shrub free and all fallen pine needles. The only thing missing is a rock outcrop to go sit on to see the stars (which you can get at Tranquility Point, but there’s a lack of water on top of the mountain. You can easily fill up before at Schoolhouse Falls). 
On towards the Panthertown Valley Trail, we crossed over to the North Road Trail to hike Carlton’s Way. Last time I was there, it was a guess to which was the right side trail, but this time there was an official USFS sign and the trail was designated with a number (which I didn’t record – sorry). I had remembered hearing that the Friends of Panthertown were doing trail work here last summer, which I thought odd because it hadn’t been official last time I was in the area (August 2012). The hike up Carlton’s Way turns your leisurely walk along the flat valley floor into a steep uphill workout, instantly letting your body know it’s time to switch gears. The views from the top once you get to the Overlook Trail, though, are worth the extra effort and are some of the best views in the whole valley. Little Green Mountain with Tranquility Point facing straight at you, Big Green Mountains shadowy side, the pine forest in the valley, the clearing which is actually a bog (so don’t plan to camp there!), Cold Mountain and Shelton Pisgah in the distance. What views!
We made our way up to the Blackrock Mountain Trail (you start ascending Blackrock once you start up Carlton’s Way). A nice walk through the woods which reminded me of hiking in Upstate SC as we completed the final leg of the journey back to the cars.
Approximately 10 miles later (I forgot to reset my trip computer on my GPS until a tenth or two into the hike), we had gotten some great views, made note of campsites, and seen many waterfalls and creeks. There is a very tame side to Panthertown, and there is a very wild and rugged side to Panthertown. The trail network is a maze, but some of the best waterfalls are not far to get to, either. Panthertown truly is a great destination for all kinds of outdoor adventurers. It can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. It can be a couple hours of dayhiking, or several days of backpacking. It can be a pleasant stroll on old gravel roads to swimming holes and dramatic waterfalls, or it can be an epic bushwhack through greenbriar and creek crossings and endless rhododendron to find waterfalls that are so complex a picture could never represent what’s out there. There is so much mystery to the area, it feels like a mine that one could never possibly deplete. It feels old, and ancient, and has parts that don’t seem anything like North Carolina. The diversity of what is there is amazing. Whatever you do, take a map or guidebook with you, so you do not get lost. Any time of the year is a great time to visit Panthertown, and this weekend I discovered the delight of winter hiking there.
* Waterfalls of Western North Carolina is an app developed by Todd Ransom for iPhone and iPad that guides you to waterfalls in the area of WNC with driving and hiking directions, downloadable map tiles for use when there’s no reception, and photos of each waterfall. You can buy it on the App Store here –> http://appstore.com/FlickinAmazingInc
** There are different types of fun. Type1 fun is fun to do and fun to talk about later. Type2 fun is not fun to do but fun to talk about later. Type3 is not fun to do nor is it fun to talk about later.
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camping hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post scrambling South Carolina Trip Planning

Potential 2014 Adventures

Well it’s almost 2014 and there were several 2013 bucket list trips that didn’t happen. Let’s look at some of the thoughts I have for 2014. These are open invite, but some of them will require more gear than just comfortable shoes. I may get them all and I may get none of them, but it’s at least in the ballpark of where I’d like to be journeying next year. I hope some of you will decide to join me.
1. Bonas Defeat
Anticipated difficulty: high, potentially dangerous
Overnight: maybe
This was high on my list this year and it never happened due to the large amount of rain the area got in its prime season, then when the opportunity opened up later in the fall, I had already committed to the Gorge Rat Gathering in Linville. So what puts Bonas Defeat on the list? Not a trail, that’s for sure. I’ve read in articles that it’s been described as hiking down the barrel of a shotgun. It’s a rock hopping scramble that almost guarantees getting wet. It needs to be done when there hasn’t been any rain due to an automatic floodgate at one end that can open and flash flood the whole gorge, making it more dangerous. Recent reports have suggested the danger, though existent, may be over-hyped. The YouTube videos look awesome though. I’d want to visit Paradise Falls nearby on the same trip.
2. Return to Big Pisgah and Dismal Creek
Anticipated difficulty: very high
Overnight: probably
Giant waterfalls, lush jungle landscapes, house-sized boulders, cliff faces, rock walls, and “steep”-doesn’t-do-them-justice ridges. Dismal Creek has been referred to as one of the most foreboding places in the Southern Appalachian Mountains (Jim Bob Tinsley The Land Of Waterfalls). Ever since going to Dismal Falls on Big Pisgah this year, the desire to go back has been growing, even though as I was finishing that first hike it seemed to be one of the most leg-destroying hikes I’ve ever been on. This was originally the “traverse Big Pisgah” plan, but that may not happen due to wanting to be considerate and mindful of not trespassing on private property. While it will probably include a trip to Rhapsodie and Dismal Falls, the real point is to see what’s beyond those explored spots. New territory. What’s in those hills? This is the area that fueled my thoughts of wanting to have a handheld GPS unit. If one got lost in there, they’d be in a world of hurt. Very little traffic coming through here, comparatively. Experienced adventurers only. 
3. The entire Linville Gorge Trail
Anticipated difficulty: moderate
Overnight: probably
It’s 16+ miles from one end of the Gorge to the other, whether we go N>S or S>N is yet to be determined. Though Linville is rugged, I’ve hiked parts of the LGT (albeit probably the easier parts), and I don’t see it as difficult as say, a hike up PinchIn or doing the LNCW/Sphinx scramble. The southern end is a nice walk through the woods, and the northern end has ankle twisting talus covering the path. Probably overnight it and camp somewhere between PinchIn and Conley Cove, which is a section I have not been on but give incredible views of the NC Wall, Ampitheater, and Sphinx from the river.I’ll be using Phil Phelan’s LGHC guide to help plan this one more thoroughly when the time comes, as this is essentially half the circuit of his loop around the whole Linville Gorge. Also, maybe but maybe not noteworthy is that this would be the longest hike I’ve ever done. 
4. Falls Creek Falls
Anticipated difficulty: moderate
Overnight: nope
Not too far from Jones Gap in SC, this is one waterfall that’s too close to home for me that it’s a shame I haven’t been there this far. The guidebooks say it’s strenuous of 600ft in elevation over 1.5 miles, but after hiking in Linville Gorge, that sounds pretty mild. I’ve heard it described has having several different rock characteristics all wrapped up in one waterfall that makes it a very unique experience. Greenville, this one is right in our backyard so I hope some of you go.
5. Two Saddles Loop
Anticipated difficulty: nightmarish
Overnight: probably not
Linville Gorge off-trail trying to “hike” a “hypothetical” loop that reportedly involves crawling on hands and knees through briars and rhododendron and 2 cold river crossings. The map for this can be found on Bob Underwood’s yahoo group for Linville Gorge. It will go down Brushy Ridge Trail, cross the Island Ridge saddle, bushwhack Hyde’s Ledge above the river as it makes it’s way through Babel Canyon, up Henson Creek, and then back out the north quad. Only the senseless need apply for that one. This will be a bleeder, and we’ll likely be mighty confused as to what path to take in certain parts.
6. Babel Tower peninsula exploration
Anticipated difficulty: high
Overnight: probably not
A return to Babel Tower for a thorough exploration which would include Hell’s Ridge Camp, finally doing Avatar’s Rib, overlooks of Babel Canyon, and a lot of cool scrambling with some bushwhacking involved. Only rated high because from what I’ve read and seen first hand, some of the scrambling looks technical. Standing at the top of Avatar and looking down is certainly intimidating, and climbing down is always more difficult than up. The bushwhacking I’ve already done in the area wasn’t that bad.
7. Rim of the Gap
Anticipated difficulty: moderate
Overnight: no
My friend Erich and I have been talking about this hike for a couple years now. It’s in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness in Upstate SC. While the terrain looks steep, we would shuttle and hike from Caeser’s Head down into Jones Gap with cars parked on each end, so I would anticipate the difficulty being less in this direction. Approximately 5 miles of ridge looking down into Jones Gap.
8. Devil’s Fork State Park
Anticipated difficulty: moderate
Overnight: No
My family went with me last year to see the endangered Oconee Bells blooming in April. I’d love to go again, perhaps to a different part of the park, and see some more of the shore. Lake Jocasee is really one of the most beautiful spots in SC, even from the drive up docks at Devil’s Fork.
9. Waterfalls on Highway 11
Anticipated difficulty: high
Overnight: no
This is another carryover from last year, and I almost made this trip mid-December, but the combination of mid-30°temps and rain made me lean toward canceling it. Per the guidebook I’m using, there are 10 waterfalls in this area starting at Wildcat Falls. There are two branches (Wildcat Creek and Slickum Creek) that I hope to follow upstream as far as possible, as far as Persimmon Ridge Rd if that’s possible. There have been some deaths of even experienced hikers at Upper Wildcat, so I would likely not venture to the top of that one, but hopefully Slickum is “actionable.”
10. Greenland Creek
Anticipated difficulty: moderate to high
Overnight: maybe
I’ve seen Schoolhouse Falls on Greenland Creek, but if I’m correct (without looking at the map), Greenland Creek Falls and Carlton Falls are both upstream from there. I’ve been looking at pics of both, especially Carlton Falls, and if love to visit both of those firsthand.