As I made my long drive into the southwest corner of NC in search of beautiful, soul soothing, picturesque waterfalls, I was soon reminded of a very dark reality. Waterfalls are dangerous places!!!
As I headed southwest on US 19, just past the Blue Ridge Parkway is Soco Falls. In the middle of a curvy, hilly section of US 19, is a parking lot with room for 6-8 cars or so, and a blue sign indicating Soco Falls. Today it was filled with emergency rescue vehicles. There was no car accident to be seen. From what I remember about the short, steep trek to Soco Falls, I pretty much had a good idea what had happened. As it turns out, a lady, visiting there with her husband had fallen off the trail. As the trail starts off, it goes down a few steps or so, then it sharply turns to the right down the hill to the viewing platform. It seems that she did not make the right turn in time. Maybe the momentum gained going down the steps got her too close to the edge, where a steep drop off awaits. The rescue crew got in there quickly, set up a rope pulley system, got the stretcher down the steep & treacherous terrain, and pulled her out to safety. I have no idea of the extent of her injuries, but she was awake and I had the feel that she would be OK. Here is place it happened. It is a grim reminder to be safe, slow, take one step at a time, and watch your footing at all times in these tricky spots.
After the sharp turn right, the trail will take you down hill to a very nice, well built, wooden viewing deck. This is really about as far as most people should go. The only problem for me is there are two beautiful creeks falling below over the same ledge, meeting to form one, larger Soco Creek in search of the Oconaluftee River way down the mountain. This view that is offered, really only gives you the view of one…the larger Soco Creek. With the new thick, green foliage of spring, even that view is obscured.
To get to the real views below, it gets tricky from here. The trail ends at the viewing deck. It is a “make your own way” to the base from here. Lucky for me, and others, people have tied up a lot of rope, to aid in the safe descent down and to the right to get to the base. Even with this rope, it is touch and go. Most of the ground here is a wet, slippery hard packed mud. One slip, and a cast is likely in your future, maybe worse. It is not a long ways to the bottom here, just enough to get hurt bad if you fall. This short distance helps to bring people down here, simply because the viewing deck view just isn’t adequate. The bottom line is, be very carful, do not get into a rush, use the rope all the way to the bottom, and a beautiful, more open and safe view awaits. Here are some scenes of this double waterfall as I set up and moved slowly downstream.
After enjoying the fruits of my labor, I saw a couple working their way down the hill, stretching out as far as they could, trying to get a good “Selfie”. I told them that I would get their “Selfie” for them, and to just smile for me. I would get a photo for them that showed the true size of the waterfalls compared to them, and emailed it to them.
Getting back up the tricky, mud-packed hill is somewhat of a task as well. Taking careful steps, using the rope as a safety catch while relying on more solid objects for leverage will get you back up quickly and safely. The rescue squad was excellent today, but then again I can see why they would be. A place like this is sure to keep them busy. Thank goodness it is a roadside waterfall!
Here is a short video of Soco Falls, enjoy!