One of the most popular and one of my favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hiking destinations has to be at milepost 418, Graveyard Fields. Graveyard Fields gets its name from a long time ago when the trees and stumps resembled gravestones in a graveyard. This was all swept away in 1925 by a huge fire.
Staring up the impressive rock cliffs that make up the widely seen Pinnacle or Knob on Pilot Mountain
Well, it is that time of year again at the workplace, where our annual “Live Healthy” campaign begins. This is a program that is sponsored by the company and administered by the HR depts in each location. It is now that the usual morning exercises, fruits and vegetables for snacks, and group offers for local gyms take over. There is usually a weight loss contest which always attracts a select group that thins out as the weeks go by. Each year, usually the same thing in a slightly different presentation, hohum hohum!!
Two years ago, I, being the total anti-gym person that I am (I refuse to pay monthly dues for something I am just not going to use), decided that I was going to not only win the weight loss contest, but be creative and do it in a way that did not include any visits to the gym. Co-workers laughed at me, and said it could not be done. Oh, what motivation that was!!
With a love for the outdoors, moutains and waterfalls in particular, I decided to go hiking. I knew that I had unlimited resources at hand based on where I live. I just had to learn about them and use them to my benefit. Short story is not only did I win the weight loss contest (Yay!!!), I also discovered many great places to hike, met some really cool and interesting people, found a hobby that combined with photography that I truly love (which this year expanded to blogging), and most importantly have been able and successful at inspiring others to try and enjoy this. That last part is a great feeling.
This year, from the get go, I am an integral part of the “Live Healthy” campaign. The weight loss contest has begun, thanks to girl scout cookie season and a terrible love of ice cream, I have put on the pounds over the winter to give me a fighting chance to win this again. I am up against some stiffer competition this year, so I am going to have to be dedicated. With this in mind, we have several hikes planned, some on weekday afternoons and some longer weekend hikes in the planning stages. I have yet to see any gym sign up deal offers this spring. That, to me is having an impact. I could not be happier.
Pilot Mountain Close Up, As Seen From The Little Pinnacle Overlook
Our first hike of the this year’s contest, was an afternoon hike at Pilot Mountain State Park. At about 20 miles away, it is the closest offering for a group in need of some challenge, miles and beautiful scenery. I had a 3 mile track in mind that was nice and short for the first hike, and challenging enough to break a sweat!
Attendance was a problem, with 30 people signing up for the weight loss contest, about 15 confirming to attend the hike, only 4 showed up to actually do the hike, well 5 if you include a spouse from another location of the company. Thank goodness that it is my belief that you only need 1 person, yourself for a great hike. Hopefully the weeks ahead will include more participation, and people will show a greater desire to improve their health. Weather may have been a deterrent, as there were multiple storms in the area, but our hike went on smoothly without a drop. That is not to say that we did not get a storm, because we got a doozy!! When everyone first arrived, a huge storm was right over us, including hail ( for the 5th time on my counts this season). Luckily it was one of those quickies and was gone in ten minutes, and sunshine was abound!
Above is a shot of the 4 extremely driven individuals that showed up! Notice me to the right, being the only one here with any real weight to lose. The others that have some real opportunities had better things to do I guess. I like my chances…lol
Here is a good shot of the ladies that were afraid to get there shoes wet and how they managed to work around the newly created “lake”. We did just have a storm! The men just walked right through!!
In addition to getting a great work-out on the trail, we did take the time to clown around and have some fun! It is great thing spending time outside of work with your co-workers. You see sides of people that you just don’t see at the workplace!!
Here is a shot of Brendie, our marathon runner. She has hiked Yosemite numerous times. By her gestures, she seems to be thinking “You Call This Little Thing a Mountain…HAH”. I love Pilot Mountain but it is no “El Capitan”
The day was not without some wildlife. While there were no deer to be found, this snake, that appears to have just eaten, comes out to say hello to us!!
In closing, this was an excellent hike. We were worried about the weather and getting caught in a storm on the trail, but it did not happen. The 3.1 mile hike that included all of the overlooks on the top, then hikes along the 0.8 mile Jomeokee Trail and the 2.2 Ledge Springs Trail, was particularly challenging along the Ledge Springs Trail. It begins going down hill along the long rock wall that is home to many rock climbers. It has many of rocks to navigate , hopefully without twisting an ankle. There comes a point where the down hill ends and the trail switches back and goes up, which is particularly tiring after the navigation of the rocks going down. We got back to the cars and left the park just in time as more storms moved in!!!
Katie, Brendie, and 2 guys named Chris!! The four leading the charge to get our warehouse back into shape!!
Dupont Forest is to me what is best described as “NC Land of the Waterfalls 101”. I am often asked by friends, co-workers, and family/extended family members where a good place would be to go see some waterfalls. My answer is almost always Dupont Forest. I have seen quite a few waterfalls in NC. No other place combines the perfect combination of large, unique waterfalls (3 of them all within 1.5 miles of eachother) , and close proximity to a town (Brevard), along with what is very easy hiking conditions for the mountains. These river waterfalls here are the type that one can get up close and personal with. While there are 3 waterfalls within a close range, there is a 4th one about 2 miles or so up stream from High Falls. All 4 can be accessed all the way up to the base. There are a few other waterfalls on a tributary stream, known as Grassy Creek Falls and Wintergreen Falls but I was not able to get to those on this hike. This hike was inspired by the way by recently watching “The Hunger Games”. It turns out that this film was filmed largely in North Carolina, including Dupont Forest. I was able to recognize Bridal Veil Falls and Triple Falls in the movie. Thank goodness there were no canon BOOMS during our hike. We also did not run into any tracker jackers. If ya want to know what that means, see the flick!!
All the other numerous times I have been here, I always parked at the Hooker Falls Parking area. This area allows a short 0.3 flat hike to Hooker Falls, then after crossing the road, a 0.5 mile hike to Triple Falls, and another 0.6 miles to High Falls. This time, I parked in a new parking area, the Buck Forest Road parking area. This area actually has restrooms, and puts your access to the Little River at the Covered Bridge on top of High Falls. From here you can go left to see High, Triple and Hooker Falls, or cross the bridge, turn right to see Bridal Veil Falls. 1st stop today was Bridal Veil….
A look to the right shows how large of an area this slide covers. This rock out on this waterfall just may be one of my favorite places on earth. It is easy to sit down, look around, enjoy the sound and before you know it, an hour has passed by. After awhile it is time to head up, this waterfall has more to offer. In normal conditions, the left side of the river has a large dry exposed rock face. It is usually safe to walk up this, be careful of the trickles of water in places, slippery rocks can be treacherous. Once up the hill, the river will runs along the bedrock for a short ways, then up to the upper part of the falls, a 10 foot freefall.
This waterfall has a special little treat waiting behind it. In the 1990’s, “Last of The Mohicans” was filmed here and featured extensive scenes of this waterfall, including walking behind it. If you enter on the left side, you will get a tad wet going in, but you will be able to walk under the falls to the other side. Be extremely careful up here. Please do not attempt to cross the river any place up here other than behind the falls. The swift current will sweep you right away. Once on the other side, you have some other cool views.
Eventually I will learn how to use my camera and get this shot right……
After this , it is time to head back towards the covered bridge. Once back, there is an important decision to make. Are you tired and ready to go home? Or do you have 2-3 miles left in you? If so, take an immediate right after crossing the bridge towards the High Falls veiwing area. This will be above the river, but a very nice and direct shot.
This is easily a 125 foot waterfall. It is very impressive. Look at the people way down there at the base, it helps show the size of this beauty. There was a side trail last year that led to the base, where the view is incredible. This year, it is closed off and you have to walk much further to get to the bottom, not on this day though. From here it is about 0.5 mile down to Triple Falls.
Triple Falls, is just like it the name says, three falls in one. Two that are 25 feet or so and the bottom one is a tad larger at 45 feet. There is a nice viewing area along the path for these falls, also there are steps that lead down to the middle waterfall. Here, there is a lot of dry rock to walk around on and get up close with this gem.
As you leave Triple Falls, the trail drops sharply for a short distance, then flattens out and heads for the Hooker Falls parking area. After crossing Staton Road and walking through the parking lot, the short and flat trail to Hooker Falls begins. It follows on the right side of the Little River for about 0.3 miles, then opens up to what has to be one of the most beautiful 10 foot waterfalls around.
Here is Hooker Falls from the side, the first view seen. After this view, the trail goes down, and circles back to the falls and large swimming hole.
Hooker Falls was also featured in “Last of The Mohicans”. In the movie, the groups take canoes over the falls. That had to be something.
This large pool is a popular swimming hole in the summer. After Hooker Falls, the river makes its way into Cascade Lake and the waterfall tour of the Little River is over. After returning to the Hooker Fall parking area, you can either head back up trail to the covered bridge, or you can also walk up Staton Road about 1/2 mile. You can also do what I did, have your girlfriend, who loves Bridal Veil Falls, take the car back to Hooker Falls and meet you there.
I ended up hiking 7.3 miles on this day, and totally enjoyed the four waterfalls. I spent less time on High and Triple falls, as I have focused on those more in the past. They are all special and totally different from eachother. After bringing people here, I find great pleasure just watching how much people like it. It is only the tip of the iceberg out here as there are many more waiting. There are waterfalls out here bigger and better than the ones here , but few will be in such a concentrated area, with such easy hiking conditions.
In the slideshow below are the photos above and some others taken along the Hike. The lake photo is of Lake Julia.