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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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hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post North Carolina Panthertown Valley planning South Carolina TheSCProject

Ideas for Adventures in 2015

December is here, and my big hikes have come to a close for the year. Raven Cliff Falls was a nice way to go out with a bang, though! I have a few ambitions in mind for 2015. A few items from the last couple years I still haven’t done. That unfinished business is just gonna get filed away on the back burner. Maybe those trips will materialize, maybe they wont.
Last year I said a word or two about anticipated difficulty. This year, I’ll do a basic difficulty rating which breaks down like this:

Easy: I would take first time hikers. Less than 3 miles
Normal: There will be typical difficulties associated with moving in the outdoors, and some of it could be pretty tiring. On-trail from 3 to 7 miles.
Difficult: To include hiking on and off-trail and likely scrambling on rock. Bushwhacking and feelings of disorientation. Distances from 7-12 miles.
Ambitious: Difficult terrain with the inclusion of distances over 12 miles.
So, Lord willing and providing that my body and health do not fail me, some of the paths I’d like to turn my feet towards are…

1) Horsepasture Rd
Anticipated Difficulty: normal
In my starting The SC Project in 2014, many of the destinations off Horsepasture Rd in Rocky Bottom, SC have been places I’d love to visit. Eastatoe Narrows, Virginia Hawkins Falls, Jumping Off Rock. Stuff like that.

2) Lake Conestee Nature Park
Anticipated Difficulty: Easy
We started visiting LCNP late this fall and have loved it. My wife loves it. My kids love it. I love it. It’s easy terrain, and extremely scenic. It’s also a wildlife and bird sanctuary. Free admission. Located right in Greenville, near Mauldin. I figure we will probably spend a fair amount of time there this coming year.

3) Linville Gorge – Big Miles
Anticipated Difficulty: Ambitious
There’s plenty of places I’ve been in Linville Gorge, and even more I have not. What I’d like to do, instead of drill down into one area (metaphorically speaking, of course), is to try and see the area in a new way. I want to see it in a big picture. How the Gorge changes visually from differing perspectives. While there are some specific drill downs I’d like to explore, I think covering big miles is really how I’d like to see the Gorge this year. The terrain will not make those miles easy.

4) Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area
Anticipated Difficulty: Normal to Ambitious
Probably, these will mostly be normal. MBWA includes Jones Gap to Caesar’s Head, and the surrounding areas. This is the closest access for some good rugged hiking areas to me. A return to Rainbow Falls would be great, and I want to finally hike Rim of the Gap. I’ve been familiarizing myself with the area this year already, but I still have a long ways to go.

5) Foothills Trail
Anticipated Difficulty: Ambitious
I’m not thinking of hiking the whole 77 miles in one shot, but I’d like to do some section hikes and maybe a backpacking trip. Ambitious for distance. I’d plan to stay on trail.

6) Congaree National Park
Anticipated Difficulty: Difficult
Seeing some of the marshy swamp lands in Lake Conestee has really instigated my wanting to see that kind of environment on a much larger scale. Still have to do some research on the routes. Difficult for mileage, I think around 10.

7) Panthertown Big Hike Refined
Anticipated difficulty: Ambitious
So in April 2014, Luke Wilson and I hiked somewhere around 20 miles in Panthertown, seeing all kinds of waterfalls and overlooks. It was the biggest hike I’d ever done by a long shot (previous record was around 11 miles). I’d like to refine that hike to make it more scenic, more efficient, and all around better. Fat Man’s Misery will get scratched off the agenda.

8) Lower North Carolina Wall and the Sphinx
Anticipated Difficulty: Difficult
I’ve done it twice, with two different routes to the Sphinx. The route finding aspect would be nearly taken out, though the Ampitheater has always proved challenging to get on the trail that leads to the gulley. Some guys have asked me about doing it again, and it’s a classic adventure. This hike requires a posse.

9) Shortoff with the Singles
Anticipated difficulty: Normal
A friend asked me about planning a hike for the singles in church. Shortoff seems a perfect choice. It’s the easiest and closest access to Linville Gorge from Greenville. The biggest challenge is at the beginning, hiking up Shortoff, but then it levels out. The views are amazing, and should any or all of the group want to kick it up a notch, there are many notches and nooks and crannies to dive into that will give them a hike to remember.
Beyond that, there are a few pockets of South Carolina I’d like to get into, as well as spend more time on my bike. Maybe even get into some dirt with it. The Smokies have been on my radar for a while, as well as Shining Rock, Green River Gorge, and Bonas Defeat Gorge. Also, I hardly did any hammock camping this year. In fact, I’m not sure I did any.
The real thing I hope to do is spend more time with my family and friends outside. Some friends I haven’t seen in over a year. The Gorge Rat Gathering may be a destination for me. Hopefully.
Hiking. Exploring. Good times. Maybe I’ll see you out there, or better yet, we make a plan to share the trails.
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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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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.