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Governor's Rock hiking kayaking Lake Oolenoy paddling Slicking Falls South Carolina summit Table Rock TheSCProject Trip report

Good Morning, Table Rock

Saturday morning was planned to be a short trip to Slickum Creek to show off the waterfall Sweet Thing on Slickum and a visit to Cesaer’s Head, but events changed the course of the morning. I was given a kayak several months ago (thank you!!) and still had not put it in the water yet. 
My plan was to wake up leisurely, have breakfast and coffee at home, and then leave the house about 8:00am. Instead, I woke up at 5:00am and became anxious. Some of that was life events; a big bulk of it was, “I’m supposed to be sleeping and I’m not falling asleep.” It’s still dark. My mind turned to being able to catch the sunrise. If you have never seen a Carolina sunrise, let me tell you that they are typically brilliant. Many are motivated to trudge up mountains in the dark to savor the few moments of the morning majesty. As I was driving on the Pumpkintown Highway, the glow began to illuminate the tips of the tree tops, and by the time I was at the intersection with Highway 11, the burst of light was happening.

Sunrise burst over the trees at the corner of Highway 11 and Pumpkintown Highway
I pulled into the Table Rock visitor center across from the East Gate entrance. After parking, unloading the kayak, and hauling it down to the water, I noticed the boat launch was on the other side of the lake. I would have to launch right off the shore, but no big deal. It looked like more than one person had walked down there anyway. A short walk out onto the dock gave me a view of Lake Oolenoy, as smooth as glass in the cool of the morning. Dragging the kayak out into the sandbar, I sat in and used the paddle to push off into the lake.
This was my first time ever in a kayak. The only experience I had with kayaks was looking at them in a store, wearing a Life is Good t-shirt, and watching Pat Keller videos on YouTube. For anyone interested, mine is a Pelican Ultimate100dlx. Entry level, for sure. As I glided through the water, I heard water trickling. Looking into the boat, I was expecting to see it slowly filling with water. Nope. That sound was only the kayak gliding through the water. Newbie kayak experience. 
I stayed near the shore as I paddled until I began to feel more comfortable with the kayak, the stability, and the maneuvering. First destination was going to be under Highway 11 and towards Table Rock. The only other company I had on the lake was a few fisherman trolling around in john boats. I paddled up to where the lake narrowed and became very shallow. My presence there was enough to disturb several of whatever was in the water. They trashed about, splashing the shallow water and kicking up the sediment from the bottom in a murky escape. I made my way back under Highway 11 towards to boat launch side of Lake Oolenoy. A few more boats were out now, and not wanting to interfere with a couple guys launching their canoe took me further out into the center of the lake. Pretty comfortable by this point so I made my way towards a couple coves on the south side of the lake where I was able to sit in the shade while taking some unobstructed panorama photos of Pinnacle Mountain and Table Rock. This is an awe inspiring view that you do not get from any terra firma that I have stood on. I paddled around a bit more on the southern side of the lake before making my way back to shore. I had spent about an hour on the water and felt great. With the kayak back on the roof of my car, it was only 8:00am.
Pinnacle Mountain, Panther Gap, Table Rock, and The Stool
I did not bring a backpack with me, but I did manage to grab a few essentials (water bottle, LifeStraw, small snack, GPS, monocular) to stuff in my cargo shorts pockets just in case there was an opportunity for a quick hike. The destination was one I already had in mind, which is why I packed what I did. The GPS and monocular would allow me to accomplish two goals that I have been thinking about ever since embarking on The South Carolina Project: take a photo of Slicking Falls and get an elevation profile and track (with waypoints) of the Table Rock trail. A quick hike. 
Carrick Creek Falls
So, for the unfamiliar, the red blazed trail to the top of South Carolina’s awesome monadnock Table Rock is a lengthy uphill 1800′ over the course of 3.6 miles. Being solo, I figured I could make the out and back within 4 hours, though it would not be without some huffing and puffing. I wanted to be back home around 1:00PM, so I estimated that there would be enough time. Start time, 8:30am.
Carrick Creek Falls is only a minute or two into the hike. There’s a nice deck built there to turn it into a popular splashing hole for families with kids. There is no reliable water on the trail after passing the intersection of the green blazed Carrick Creek Trail. There are two moist gullies that I remember crossing over in the second mile of the trail, but there was not enough to filter. Maybe after heavy rains, but again: not reliable. The trail is filled with large SUV sized boulders that are easy to scramble on, but unfortunately the views are obscured by all the trees. On the plus side, that makes for hiking that, though hot, is not sun baked and scorching. By the time I had reached the shelter at the halfway point, I had passed most groups. Not that it’s any badge of ability or anything, but hiking solo can streamline what time frame you’re able to accomplish something in. There is a nice view just a few yards past the shelter where you can make out Pinnacle Lake, Lake Oolenoy and even a distant Paris Mountain. The first couple miles just feel like up and up and up until it levels out decently for a short time after the 2 mile mark.
Shelter at the halfway point
View from near the shelter.Pinnacle Lake and  Lake Oolenoy below. Paris Mountain barely visible towards the left.
I crossed paths with two hikers, Bruce and Nicole, coming up to Governor’s Rock. We made some friendly small talk, and I asked him if he had heard of Nine Times Forest and Preserve, which you can see past Pinnacle Mountain. I fumbled with my GPS trying to figure out which mountain was Big Rock, but given that I was trying to keep a time schedule, I left Bruce at the bald and kept on towards the top. Some of the steepest and rockiest scrambles of the trail are in the second half of the trail, but once on the ridge, it levels out. Before emerging to the view on the south side of the mountain, a large tangle of BlackBerry bushes was growing fruitfully along the trail. Their sweetness was a welcome reward for the summit. I spent just a minute taking in the view at the overlook and peering down at the Stool (the smaller mountain at the south-eastern base of Table Rock). The question most people seem to ask around the summit of Table Rock is, “Did you go all the way to the back?” I have hiked up here twice before, so I was already aware of it. Indeed, the BEST view is through the bushes, over the rock balds, and onto the eastern side of Table Rock to look out upon the reservoir and Caesar’s Head. This is also where those with a keen eye for waterfalls can get the only legal view of Slicking Falls across the reservoir. It was 10:30am.

Me on Governor’s Rock, Pinnacle Mountain behind on the right, Nine Times in the distance on the left.
Slicking Falls. Not bad for a Galaxy S5 through a monocular.
As I sat on a pile of rocks enjoying the view, Bruce and Nicole came out of the woods to enjoy the spot with me. Turns out they are training for a hike to Everest base camp in a couple months, so it was very cool to hear their story. Bruce told me of a previous trip to Nepal and meeting the Rimpoche in one of the monasteries, who would grant you one question to ask of him. I can’t remember what he said he asked him, but the recollection of wrestling with trying to come up with the question was highly interesting. “What is the meaning of life is too generic.” I was personally challenged to think of what my answer would be. Such an answer is not whimsically given on the fly, but takes some pondering. We said our goodbyes and best of lucks, and at 10:45am, I started down the mountain. 
View from the back east side of the Table Rock summit. Slicking Falls towards the left. Caesar’s Head beyond.
On my way out, I noticed some yellow flowers growing low. At closer inspection, unless my eyes deceived me, they were horned bladderworts! I didn’t expect to find those blooming fully on the sun baked rocks. No signs, at least in a quick glance, of any sundews or pitcher plants like we had seen earlier in the year when exploring nearby bogs. As I was about to leave the bald rock of the summit, I noticed a few blueberry bushes growing. A small handful of those, with a couple more small handfuls of blackberries on the way out, and I was given over to the enjoyment of foraging. The wild sweetness of the berries was a treat to lift the spirits for a departing descent.
Horned Bladderworts on the summit of Table Rock
The hike back down the mountain was largely uneventful as I rock hopped along the path, paying attention to where my feet fell while using gravity and momentum to take some of the effort out. I passed a handful of hikers on the way down that I had also passed on the way up. “How much further to the top?” The answers went from “less than half a mile!” to “about 1.3 miles” and the number kept going up. Granted that the temperature was in the 90F’s, but there were a lot of worn out people at less than the halfway point on the trail. Folks were carrying fully loaded backpacks, some had trekking poles. If I had remembered mine, I would have used them.  I had the impression that Table Rock is much more demanding than people suspect it to be. It is a challenge, for sure. Would I say it’s fun? I will let you decide that. Once I heard Carrick Creek rushing, I knew I’d be getting in and taking a long swig with the LifeStraw of that cool mountain water. Really, though, it was hot enough that there was not much coolness to the water. It was cooler, buy not cold by any stretch. I sat back in my car at 12:05pm. 
Total time to hike to the top of Table Rock and back along the red blazed trail: 3 hours 35 minutes. Do not use that as an estimate for you. Remember: I was only carrying a bottle of water, perhaps 5lbs. I was solo. I was also hoofing it to keep a good pace. The only breaks I took were for 15 minutes at the summit to eat a small snack and talk with Bruce and Nicole, and then 15-20 seconds to stand on top of a rock or two take a picture several times along the trail. I barely stopped. Another thing to consider is that I’ve bushwhacked through briers and rhododendron on elevations and terrain worse than that red blazed trail. Though a challenge, I have been in a lot worse. None of that is to brag, but to give you pause while you consider realistically what it will require of you. Bring lots of water (70oz would be good), and like I said before, trekking poles are great. In fact, this was the trail that convinced me to own a pair.
What of the question? If I could ask the Rimpoche one question, what would it be? After considering the question on the hike down, I could only think of one question. One question that makes a world of difference, and the most important question that has ever been posed to me: “Who do you say that I am?

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camping Devil's Fork State Park http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post kayaking South Carolina The SC Project Waterfalls

Kayaking Lake Jocassee – Guest Post by Rick Morris

(Laurel Fork Falls, photo by Rick Morris)
I met Rick Morris last year on our hike to the Lower NC Wall and the Sphinx in the Linville Gorge. We had a great time, and have kept in touch some since that hike. In May 2014, Rick went on a grand hiking, camping, kayaking, and waterfall adventure on Lake Jocassee, putting out from Devil’s Fork State Park. I loved seeing the photos, and I had freshly started focusing more on exploring Upstate SC. This was a unique way to see the area, and Rick was kind to write up a trip report, sharing his thoughts and experiences, to be shared here. Make sure you visit the link to his pictures at the end of this post. A huge thank you to Rick for taking the time to share your travels! So without further delay…


I have always heard stories about Lake Jocassee and the waterfalls the fall into the Lake. So when I heard that Piedmont Environmental Center out of High Point North Carolina was talking a Kayak Trip there, I immediately signed up. We left early on a rainy Thursday morning headed down I-85 towards South Carolina. Just after getting into South Carolina we turned off on HWY 11 or better known as the Cherokee Foothills Parkway. A beautifully designed two lane Scenic Road that travels the Upstate. It lies in the Piedmont Section just South of the Blue Ridge Escarpment with the Foothills Hiking Trail very close by. Cowpens National Battlefield is along HWY 11 that had a decisive win for the Contenental Army against the British in the Revolutionary War. 

What caught my eyes 30 minutes after traveling west was how steep the Mountains just to our north were. The further west we got, the Ruggedness was getting into South Carolina. First Ceasars Head then Table Rock where The Foothills Trail starts. It is an 80 mile Trail with many other connector trails that travels along the Northern Part of Lake Jocassee and ends at Oconee State Park in Northwestern South Carolina bordering Georgia. I did not realize till now how rugged this part of the State is!

Upon Arrival at Devils Fork State Park the skies had darkened again. We went to the Visitors Center which seemed to be relatively new. Very nice facilities with a camp store inside. There is a Boat Launch just north of the visitors center and 3 other ones in the State Park. There are Cabins, RV sites and Primitive sites. The sites we were going to required over a 1 mile paddle to. These sites are boat in only and all the sites are right along the lake. It made them very quiet. The first night there were only 2 other People staying at the Campsites. However by Friday night the sites were full.

It soon cleared up and the views were incredible. We had a beautiful Sunset! The next Morning I woke up before sunrise and walked a quarter of a mile to the other side of the Peninsula to take Sunrise Photos. I enjoy the Splendor of a Sunrise because it is so quiet and it is easier for me to take in the views that God has given us to enjoy! There were Carolina Rhododendron blooming all over the place. After an hour of this peaceful time I decided to go on a hike before breakfast. There are trails behind the campsite and I climbed the first Mountain in a mile and 900 Vertical feet. The trail continued on but I needed to be back to get ready to Kayak that day.

After breakfast we got in our Kayaks and headed West on a peaceful Lake Jocassee. This is a deep lake with quite a few structures that are still on the Lake bottom and are favorites of Scuba Divers. We headed up to where the Whitewater River flowed into the Lake.  The first Waterfall we went to was Lower Whitewater Falls a beautiful Cascade that drops directly into the Lake. The Upper Whitewater Falls are the Highest Waterfalls on the East Coast of the USA that are a few miles upstream. There was another small fall to the left of the Pumping Station that Pumps water into the Bad Creek Lake. We then backtracked a mile and headed up the Thompson River finger of the lake to take a view of the Wright Creek Falls. This is a 3 tiered falls that the last section drops directly into the lake. If it is warm enough for you, you can get your kayak under the last section. As we were at this beautiful Falls the weather turned Sour. The wind Picked up and the rain started. At this time we decided we would head back to camp and live another day. The water was rough on the way back with lots of Whitecaps. We stayed as close to shore as possible. Paddling back we noticed another Waterfall up on the side of a mountain falling at least 100 feet. Total mileage for the day was 9 miles. Soon after we got back to camp and it was very nice to be on dry land after the wind we had been paddling with. It finally cleared up and just in time to have a wonderful dinner. 

After a good nights sleep except to be awakened by some raccoons, it was time to get ready for day 2 of our kayaking. This was going to be our tougher day of paddling. We were headed up the Horsepasture and Toxaway river fingers east from the campsite then turning north. The day started off relatively calm and that fact would change soon enough. The first Falls we came to was Devils Hole Creek Waterfall. A beautiful fall but somewhat obstructed by some tree branches. We headed further up the lake and came to Laurel Creek Waterfalls. This is a multi-tiered waterfall that you have to move around to see all the falls. Total height is maybe 150 feet if you add all sections. The last part drops directly into the lake with a wonderful place for picture opportunities. There are some cliffs here also which we watched some younger folks jumping into the lake @ 25 feet. Nearby we ate lunch where the Foothills Trail makes its way down to the lake. There is a small creek that has some small cascades that drops into the lake here. After lunch it started to rain. The wind was blowing from the south. The way we were headed. It looked like we were going to have a headwind all the way back. I made a side trip after leaving our lunch spot and caught my last waterfall of the day. It was a lot better when I got up close than I thought it may be. After that we paddled into a headwind through Whitecaps most of the way back to our campsite. 12 miles total this day on the lake. After getting back we had a heavy rainstorm and I got in my hammock and took a nap listening to the rain bouncing off my tarp. It cleared off, we had a great dinner and there was a beautiful Sunset.

The next Morning we had to paddle back to our kayak trailers a little over a mile and pack up for our trip home. I feel very fortunate to have been on this trip and from the sights I saw I plan on spending more time in the Upstate of South Carolina. I encourage anyone else who hasn’t to put this on your destination bucket list.

Picture Link:


Rick Morris