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Todd Ransom on Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’ve been looking to visit Panthertown Valley in Western North Carolina, there is a new guidebook on the market by Asheville photographer Todd Ransom, “Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley.”
When visiting Panthertown, the trail network is complex, so it’s crucial to the enjoyment of your time there to go in with a map or guide. Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley gives you both, and covers the main southern valley of Panthertown. The guide even ventures into the more wild Big Pisgah area to the northeast. 
The guide opens up with a simple and easy to follow map for three main parking areas: Cold Mountain Gap, Salt Rock Gap, and Big Pisgah. What follows is topo maps with tracks and waypoints mapped by Todd Ransom himself.
What stands out immediately to me from these maps is locations of campsites. In the times I have visited Panthertown, trying to plan a backpacking trip has been difficult due to the lack of published resources designating campsite locations. This will be a great aid for any backpackers looking for more than a dayhike.
Beyond just being a guide to the valley, the author also gives the reader important sections on skills of navigation and staying found, as well as Leave No Trace principles. While this may seem redundant to some, the education is vitally important to be in the hands of would-be adventurers. Lack of knowledge is how campfires become wildfires, and how the over ambitious get lost and need Search and Rescue to find them. There is also a section on what kind of wildlife you may come across while in Panthertown, what to look for, and even notes on how to tie up a bear bag.
Throughout the guide you’ll find beautiful photographs of Panthertown and it’s waterfalls, all taken by Todd Ransom. The meat of the guide is divided into three sections: Devil’s Elbow area, Big Green Mountain area, and Big Pisgah Mountain area. Within each of these, the waterfalls each have their own guide (note their locations on the included maps for planning your own hikes). Each waterfall is given distance, estimated time, difficulty (with elevation ascent and descent), and the description of the falls and how to get there. The waterfalls you’ll find in the valley will range from the easy access and iconic Schoolhouse Falls, to the river wading Lichen Falls, to the wild and remote Dismal Falls and Panthertown Creek Falls. You will really find an amazing variety of waterfalls in this very compact area.
As a bonus, the author includes some non-waterfalls destinations such as Tranquility Point, Laurel Knob, and the Great Wall of Panthertown.
I mentioned previously using the maps to plan your own hikes. If that kind of planning isn’t for you, there are also several suggested hikes in the guide, ranging from relaxed atmosphere to the go-getter.
Closing out the Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley guide is one of my favorite parts, history of the valley. While I’m hiking, I love to know some of the happenings that have gone on before me, who has blazed and cut the trails, and stories of those who have lived in the valley and features and landmarks were named after.
To finalize the book, there’s a checklist index for you to keep track of your ramblings in the valley. At the time of my writing this, I have visited about half of the destinations. I’ll be using this guide myself for my upcoming plans in Panthertown.
Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley belongs in the library of any explorer. The beautiful photography inspires you to use the guide and get out there and see those waterfalls for yourself! For anyone who wants to do more than scratch the surface of Panthertown, I highly recommend Waterfalls of Panthertown Valley to you. It will be a benefit to multi-day backpackers and family day hikers all the same. 
To purchase your copy of the guide, please visit http://flickinamazing.com/panthertown