Throwback Thursday – Remembering The Beautiful, Brutal Harper Creek – Raider Camp Trails Loop

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Today is Throwback Thursday.  I am reminiscing a trip I did just over 3 years ago,  on July 30, 2011.  I was a much less experienced hiker.  I really hadn’t got too much into photography just yet, just my cell phone at the time, and a cheap point and shoot camera.  Speaking of cell phones, I used the state of the art Apple Iphone 4 at the time.  I was using an app called Everytrail to map my route, record my mileage, and record photos.  It also had a place for a story on the trip.  It was here that I began blogging, which led me later to WordPress.

I had quite a hike that day, on a very hot summer afternoon which resulted in me experiencing heat exhaustion for the first and only time.  I learned a lot about myself on this day and my limits.  I had plenty of water to drink, but learned I truly was not Superman! Lol

Here is the interesting Everytrail write up from that long, hot day over 3 years ago now.

“Wilson Creek is a beautiful creek/river. It is just way too big to be called a creek. The waterfalls I seek here however are not on Wilson Creek, but its tributaries. Harper Creek is certainly one of the largest streams here and is home to at least 2 super waterfalls. Prepare yourself, this is not like Dupont, where all the waterfalls are within a 1.2 mile stretch on a trail wide enough for vehicles.

I have already done 2 hikes to North Harper Creek Falls, which is fabulous. Today’s hike was to see Harper Creek Falls , and South Harper Creek Falls. I navigated what I believed to be a reasonable loop by connecting 2 trails, the Harper Creek Trail 260 and the Raider Camp Trail 277. The lady in the visitor center told me this was a popular hike and would be about 7 miles. I was good with that and off I went. The parking area for the trailhead 260 is just up the the road from the visitor center on the left.

This hike starts off climbing immediately, for the first .3 miles, straight up. It does level off, and is a decent hike for the next 1.4 miles with a few eroded places to work around. Harper Creek Falls will be at about the 1.8 mile mark from the trail head. You have to take a separate spur trail off the main one to get to the waterfall. Take it to the left , it is very worth it. Be VERY careful approaching the waterfall and leaving it. It is very steep and you will have to use rope. There are several already set up, that were in pretty good shape. One rope leads into the middle part of the falls and is straight down a steep, and usually wet rock face. It is certainly not for everyone. There is an easier path down to the base that still requires rope, but just more to assist really, instead of life support like the one that goes into the middle falls. Whichever path or rope you decide to take, please be careful and enjoy this waterfall. My next trip here will probably just be to this waterfall to swim and enjoy this and head back. With its 3 falls and large deep pools, it truly is a summer paradise.

Once back on the main trail, it begins to get tricky. The trail does more climbing, gets much more narrow, and becomes hard to follow in places. From this point forward, it is not marked very well at all I believe. HAVE A MAP & GPS. For the next 4 miles or so you will walk along Harper Creek and cross it numerous times. The crossings will not be dry ones either. Harper Creek is a wide and deep creek.  Rock hopping is just not an option. In some places, where the trail leads to the creek, it is hard to know whether to cross the creek or simply to walk along the side, due to poor, worn out trail blazes.

So here I am, now 6 miles into the trip, looking at my Everytrail.com app and realizing that this was not going to be a 7 mile trip as the lady told me. I was nearing the furthest point from the trailhead, and I come to South Harper Creek Falls. This is a steep, tall and beautiful waterfall. It was probably 200 feet, that requires lots of climbing. About 3/4 of the way up is when I begin to feel signs of heat exhaustion. I had never experienced this before. It was 95 degrees up here and I was climbing steeply to reach mile 7 afterall. This made the rest of my journey miserable. I thought I would never reach the top of this thing. Once I was there, to see South Harper Creek Falls, I would have to go down a spur trail and back up to get some good photos. I passed….. I never do that. It is hard to describe how bad I felt at that moment. I will try this again soon from a different trailhead that only takes 1.88 miles to reach.

Luckily, I made it to the top. The Harper Creek Trail meets the Raider Camp Trail 277 here. I took a left and switched back towards the car to create the loop. This trail was better, as it widened out, and was 95% downhill. It was also much straighter than the Harper Creek trail. So it got me back much quicker. This trail would be difficult going the other direction, 2.5 miles of straight uphill. I eventually made it back to the confluence of the two trails, and hiked the last 1.4 miles of the Harper Creek Trail 260 back to the car. I was never happier to see it.

Looking back, if the lady had told me I would be hiking 11.5 miles, and crossing Harper Creek 12 times, I seriously would have chosen another route. The hike to and from Harper Creek Falls would be just less than 4 miles. I then I could have driven to another trailhead and done another 3.5 to 4 miles to see South Harper Creek Falls, and ended up with the 7.5 miles I am usually comfortable with. This one I took was pretty extreme and just about the limit for what should be attempted on a day hike. This would make a much better backpacking 2 day trip.”

Please check out my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/WaterfallsHiker

To see more details on my unforgettable 2011 hike, click below to go into my Everytrail page. Thank you for looking!

Wilson Creek 7/30/11 – Harper Creek & Raider Camp Creek Trails

EveryTrail – Find the best Hiking in North Carolina

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