Hike To The Devil’s Courthouse – Sinfully Beautiful

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It was one of those lazy weeks in late September. A few of us from work had a Wednesday off and no idea how to utilize it. Someone suggested that I take the group hiking to see some waterfalls. I thought this was a splendid idea. I had a course in mind and off we went. The weather was near picture perfect, being a sunny, low humidity day around 70. Our day was spent visiting Looking Glass Falls and Rock, hiking to Skinny Dip Falls, and we did some hiking and exploring in Graveyard Fields. As our day was nearing an end, the last stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway on this day was the Devil’s Courthouse, then we were on our way down the mountain on NC 215 and back to reality!

The Devils Courthouse is a beautiful view right along parkway. With a little imagination, one can just see the image while looking up at the beautiful rock formation. There is a sign that describes this rock profile with a little folklore thrown in for good measure.

“The bare rock profile named Devil’s Courthouse is sinister in appearance and legend. It’s “devilish” look has contributed to the many folk tales surrounding this mountain. Within the mountain is a cave where, legend claims, the devil holds court. In Cherokee lore, this cave is the private dancing chamber and dwelling place of the slant-eyed giant, Judaculla.

Despite its name and reputation, Devil’s Courthouse is home to rare and delicate high-altitude plants. If you walk the one-half-mile route to the summit, please stay on the trail. Rare plants, like the Rock Gnome Lichen and the Spreading Avens, live on Devil’s Courthouse. Some of these alpine species may be remnants from the last glacial period. The panoramic view from the summit includes four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.”

I am not yet sure of the cave, or it being the private dancing chamber of Judaculla, but it is a beautiful place, that does show 4 states. It is 5720 ft in elevation at the top. To get there will require what the sign says is a 20 minute walk. I found that to be about right, and the climb will be about 250 ft. The trail is paved for most of the way, until the MST bears off, then a short ways up on gravel/dirt. Once at the top, get ready for one of the best views along the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a large open rock viewing area, and a nice rock wall all around the edges. This is how an overlook should be.

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Our group at the top!

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As you can see this is a beautiful area and a “must-see” if you are in the area. We had some fun, clowned around a little, then headed back to the real world. The trip down seemed to take about half as long.

Skinny Dip Falls

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Finally! Finally! I have passed this location numerous times, seeing tons of cars parking at a prime Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook location, only to see them walking the “other” direction. Several times I have wanted to park here only to find no space available, still with no one looking at the overlook. The location I am referring to is the Looking Glass Rock Overlook at mile marker 417. It is a beautiful pull out with an excellent view of the very large Looking Glass Rock.

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It is one of the prettier overlooks around, so it surprised me to see the people crossing the road to walk into the woods. I learned after some research, that folks were opting to park here for the 1/2 mile or so hike to one of the parkway’s best kept secrets, Skinny Dp Falls. Or, it use to be one of the best kept secrets. There is no sign along the parkway for this, only a narrow footpath with a sign “to” the “Mountains To Sea” trail. Any one that drives the parkway knows that the MST runs along this for many a mile.

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The hike is fairly short, 1/2 mile or so. It starts off with just a slight ascent, reaches to MST, then bears off to the left. After coming to a bridge over a tiny stream, the trail begins descending. The roaring “Yellowstone Prong of the East Fork Pigeon River”…..what a name for a stream…..can be heard way below. The trail becomes somewhat rocky and rooty, but nothing severe. On this day a swollen stream crossed the trail. We had just had several inches of rain the day prior. It was wet here but totally safe and passable. I can see this drying up in times of drought. Soon, there will be stairs, then the beautiful Skinny Dip Falls.

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Hard to describe, but here it goes. Skinny Dip Falls, is 3 ..10 to 15 foot foot falls with pools in between that are popular swimming holes in summer…..or skinny dipping!! I saw none of that however. It got its name some way!! Lol A half foot bridge assists you over the stream and let the fun begin!!

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Not the biggest waterfall around, but one with lots of character, is what made this one special to me. After the short walk back, it is a mile or so south on the parkway to Graveyard Fields for some more hiking and waterfalls along the Yellowstone Prong.

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Cascade Falls

After visiting Laurel Ridge this morning, I decided to spend the afternoon exploring the northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. My main goal was to see Cascade Falls, but I knew that would only take a short while. I went as far north as the Cumberland Knob, which is just south of the Virginia state line then turned back south and exited at US 421. As expected, the highlight of the drive had to be the Cascade Falls as it was by far the prettiest scene on this trip. The NC section of the Blue Ridge Parkway seems to be divided close to the 421 intersection. South of 421 seems to be the attractions that are 4000 feet and higher in elevation, while north seems to be the 4000 feet and lower, which seems to lead to less dramatic waterfalls and views in my opinion. With this said, it is still very beautiful up here, I would rather be exploring up here than working any day of the week.

Cumberland Knob is the northern most attraction in NC. It has the distinction of being the very first recreation area built on the BRP back in 1937. That being said, it is really nothing more than a very nice picnic area that will support many picnics and parties. There are some open fields for the kids to run and play in. After taking this in, I decided to take the short hike to the Cumberland Knob. It is a very short hike with only a short distance going up hill. Once there, all there is waiting for you a very old shelter with fireplace and a small open field. There were no views of any kind of here. I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed. There was the option of hiking back or continue on down into the Gully Creek Gorge, an additional 2 mile hike. Since I knew nothing about the Gully Creek Gorge, I decided to head back and work my way towards Cascade Falls. There is an overlook just down the road from Cumberland Knob that the name of something to do with Fox Hunting. It had an excellent view and even a good view of distant Pilot Mountain. It was far too hazy to get a picture of that on this day. There is also a short 250 foot trail leading to another view point that is even better, probably the best in this area.

Here above, is what awaits you on the Cumberland Knob

After Cumberland, the parkway winds and goes as it does for about 12 miles or so with not much to see, then it skirts the outside of Stone Mountain State Park. The only access to Stone Mountain State Park is down US 21 from the parkway and there are no signs saying that you are here or how to get inside. I think that this could be done better as Stone Mountain is an excellent state park and one of my favorite places to visit. It has some great hiking up the 600 foot dome, and a number of waterfalls including the 200 foot Stone Mountain Falls. Since the BRP runs along the edge of the park for a good number of miles, and provides several overlooks that show the rock dome below, I would think there would be some signs of how to get inside the park, maybe just an oversight….

Immediately as you exit Stone Mountain State Park, you will enter Doughton Park. This is an excellent area to spend a lot of time. There is the Brinegar Cabin, Bluff Mountain, a large trail system that includes a 20 mile loop that one could spend several days hiking. Down the mountains along the trails are other cabins, smaller waterfalls, and great chances to see wildlife. The Mountains to Sea Trail runs right through this area but stays mainly on the mountain tops. There is a Bluff Mountain Lodge, Bluff Mountain Coffee Shop and Restaurant and Gift Store available. They have all been closed now for 2 years but word is they re-open in 2013. I hope this is true as the best fried chicken the world is served at this restaurant. The Parkway has to make its way through a dramatic part of Bluff Mountain where there is a steep rock cliff to the one side and a steep fall off with a beautiful mountain lake way at the bottom. In the winter, the springs will freeze all over the rocks for an impressive view, sometimes even a small waterfall appears. All is dry in the hot summer months though.

After Doughton, The Northwest Trading Post will be available soon, which is a very unusual and nice Parkway store that has a lot of good to offer. Local products, art and tons of parkway memorabilia are offered here.

The last stop on my trip was EB Jeffress Park. It is about 5 miles from the US 421 intersection at mile marker 272. It is here that the 1/2 mile trail to Cascade Falls begins. The MST runs through here as well. After a short walk with self guided information signs about the plants, the trail begins to drop. It will cross the creek and continue to run along it. There will be an overlook soon, looking straight down it from the very top, a very cool view. The better view though is just down the path, down some steep rock steps that puts you looking up at the falls and down at the falls. This is where you really appreciate the beauty of Cascade Falls as you have great views up the falls and down the falls as it just seems to fall endlessly. The water level was very good on this day as some storms had gone through the night before. I could see this almost drying up in periods of drought though. I was very surprised by this waterfall and enjoyed it tremendously. It is definitely one of the top attractions on the northern NC sector of the BRP.

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Clingman’s Dome

Clingman's Dome by waterfallshiker
Clingman’s Dome, a photo by waterfallshiker on Flickr.

I had the chance to visit Clingman’s Dome twice this Memorial Day Weekend. On Saturday, with sunshine all through the area, I was disappointed to find the 6643 feet elevated Clingman’s Dome socked in with clouds and fog. Luckily I had one more chance to check it out on Memorial day, only to find some very beautiful, blue skies. The views up here are 360, and incredible. The lookout tower is very cool, an almost spaceship looking tower that stands 45 feet high. Now I can see why this is the top attraction in the Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail to the dome is a half mile one way, paved and fairly steep. The reward is certainly worth it!! Plan for cooler weather as temps on both days were in the mid 60’s on top, while the close by but much lower Pigeon Forge was baking in the low 90’s. The cool air was very refreshing!!
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains, and in Tennessee. It is third in the eastern US, only behind nearby Mt Mitchell, and Mt Craig, both in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. All three peaks are in the 6600 feet range.
I was blessed this weekend at this location!! I saw my first black bear in the wild, as a mother and two cubs were about 20 feet below the trail in some tall brush. I have hiked actively for 4 years and never seen one. It was a special moment and one that will make Clingman’s Dome a special place to be forever.
Clingman’s Dome is also right along the Appalachian Trail and is the starting point for the Mountains To Sea Trail! The road to the trailhead is the 7 mile Clingman’s Dome Rd off of US 441. It is closed from Dec 1 – March 31, while Clingman’s Dome is open year round. This means if you want to see this beauty if February, count on a much longer and surely a steep hike!

Waterfall Daytrip – Graveyard Fields, Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, and Sliding Rock!

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.

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The Harpers!! North Harper Creek Falls & Harper Creek Falls

Today, I took the opportunity to visit two of my favorite waterfalls in the Wilson Creek Wilderness: North Harper Creek Falls, and Harper Creek Falls. Similar names, but different waterfalls on different creeks. The weather for this spring day hike was fantastic, deep blue sky and temps about 60. It was a perfect day to hike. My decision for hiking to The Harpers was made due to a very special young lady named Harper Grace turning 1 today. I could not make it to Atlanta for her party, but I can hike to 2 waterfalls that could be…..named after her. (Lol) Happy Birthday Harper!!!

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Moore’s Knob Loop

Sitting just north of Winston-Salem, are the Sauratown Mountains. This small, ancient chain was once a part of the much bigger blue ridge chain that sits just to the west. Moore’s Knob is the highest peak in this chain at 2579 ft. It sits in the popular Hanging Rock State Park, and is one of my favorite weekday hikes. The closeness to home, difficulty of this hike, and views it offers make it hard to beat.

The view above  is the popular Hanging Rock, for which the park is named after. This is about as close as I would get to this on this day.   It is a great hike reaching the top of this and one I will feature at a later date. This park is actually home to several great hikes.  Cook’s Wall, House Rock, Wolf Rock, Hanging Rock, Tory’s Den are all popular destinations.   The Park also has 5 waterfalls,  Upper Cascades, Lower Cascades, Tory’s Falls, Hidden Falls, and Window Falls.  They are all fairly small and can dry up to a trickle in the hotter dryer summer months.  The Mountains To Sea trail also runs through the park and is on a good part of the Moore’s Knob hike today.

The Moore’s Knob hike begins at the very top parking lot in the park. Driving to the top, you will pass the entrance to the visitor center and opt for the lake parking area. The trail begins here at at old rock picnic shelter/swim center besides the lake.   This area is packed in the summer months withs kids swimming in the cool spring fed mountain lake waters.  For the first mile of this hike, it is relatively flat. It is really just a nice walk through the the woods as you walk along the lake to start.  After about 1/4 mile, the trail  enters the forest on a series of long wood-planked boardwalks put there to help protect the environment.  The trail runs along the lake and the stream that feeds it and there are spots that can be marshy.   After a mile you will come to a sign and trail junction. Going left heads to Cooks Wall (another day for sure), and going right heads to Moore’s Knob and Tory’s Den. It is about here that things get real. The incline starts mildly then steadily gets steeper and steeper. I think one of the things that  makes this trail somewhat challenging for me is that it changes its texture here and becomes somewhat of a dry creek bed full of larger rocks and stones. Footing can be tricky, as ankles can get twisted when trying to make good time on terrain like this.  Once you reach the top of the ridge, you will know you have done some climbing. Moore’s Knob is still nearly a mile away down the ridge.

One thing that is constant with the Moore’s Loop is that there are just not many good wide open views.   This trail runs for a mile atop this mountain.  Even once the top of the ridge has been reached, every side path that would seem to be a nice wide open view is just a partially obstructed one at best. Right now with the lack of leaves, I was able to get a nice view of Pilot Mountain through the trees.

While hiking this ridge, the trail does a number of switch backs going up and down.  While the views are obstructed at best,  there are  some pretty cool rock formations along the way.  After about 3.1 miles, waalaa!! ……destination reached, Moore’s Knob and the Lookout Tower that sits on top of it. The following shots were taken while on the knob…..

This Lookout Tower sits atop Moore’s Knob at 2579 feet, the highest elevation in the Sauratown’s.

Once you have reached this peak, it becomes clear that all of the huffing, puffing, and sweat are worth it 100 times over. This is clearly the best view in the park, with full 360 degrees is available. There are things to be seen in each direction, from Pilot Mountain and Sauratown Mountain to the west-southwest, the Blue Ridge escarpment to the west-northwest, the Hanging Rock and Visitor Center to the north, The beautiful shot of the lake way below to the east, and to the south, the entire ridgelines of Moore’s Knob and Cook’s Wall. The rolling hills below and surrounding farmlands help to make the experience complete. There is also a very large rock to walk around at the top with places to sit and enjoy the view. It does not get much better than this.

Pilot Mountain & Sauratown Mountain

Hanging Rock Lake & Swimhouse

Hanging Rock Visitor Center & Parking Lot

Hanging Rock Lake

Finally, here is a guy that I ran into that knows how to spend a beautiful afternoon at Moore’s Knob, relaxing in the portable hammock while sitting on top of the world!!

From the tower back to the parking area, it is downhill all the way.  The trail is rock step, trail, rock step for the 1.2 miles which can be difficult on my old man knees.  A campground with a small amphitheater will come into play, and the only real creek crossing will occur just before the trail rejoins itself just past the lake to complete the loop.  In summary, this hike comes in at just under 5 miles. It earns every bit of the strenuous rating that it has been given. Some other trails in the park offer more numerous views and points of interest than this one, but none are any better.

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Stone Mountain State Park Winter Hike

Well, if the recent 60’s weren’t enough, today we hit the low 70’s, in February…Crazy! There was no way that I was not going to find a way to get out and enjoy this. My choice today was Stone Mountain State Park. Stone Mountain State Park is one of my favorite places to hike, especially during the week. The location is very close to the triad where I live. The park sits just at the edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment. The elevation at the summit is only 2305, the temperatures here while a a tad cooler than the triad, tend to be similar to that of lower elevations, which makes it a prime hiking spot in the winter. This park was one of the original places that I began hiking so it holds a special place with me. I can not think of another hike that offers more variety in it!

This park has waterfalls, 4 named ones, Stone Mountain Falls, Widow Creek Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls. I would say that only Stone Mountain Falls and Widow Creek Falls are the must see ones. Stone Mountain Falls lies on the loop trail, while Widows Creek Falls is located deeper into the park with its on trail. My trip here usually begins with the drive to the back side of the park to see Widows Creek Falls. It is only a short distance from the road, and a gorgeous 25 footer. It is on a small creek and dry weather, especially in summer can almost dry this up.

The walk here is short, but the best shots require a creek crossing, which can be tricky. The bedrock up here when wet, can be as slippery as ice. Be careful.

The next waterfall is seen while hiking the 4.3 mile Stone Mountain Loop Trail. This waterfall is a 200 foot waterfall, and has taken a number of lives. Fences are up, signs are up to stay off, but for some reason, people continue to fall over. The best place to view this waterfall, is at the bottom, of a 298 step stairway. Yes, 298, a lot of steps, especially if going up.

The other two waterfalls are further downstream from Stone Mountain Falls, and really are hardly worth mentioning. They are good to see once and can be done so by taking a one way spur trail that leads off the Stone Mountain Loop Trail about halfway between the Homestead and Stone Mountain Falls.

One of the treats I get to see most of the time when I come here is deer. For some reason, I see more here than any other place. It is rare that I do not see them. On this day, I was able to count 17 deer in 6 different locations. Usually, they are seen eating the grass along the roadways through the park, but I have been startled a few times on the trail. They tend to not fear humans much which could be a bad thing is they ever got tired of this area and left the protection that the state park offers them.

Now on to the hike, the 4.3 mile loop trail really offers a little bit of everything. There is a summit climb to 2305 ft which can be climbed by a longer, more moderate climb, or a short but steep one. When I began hiking, I used the moderate longer route, I almost always opt for the short and steep one now though. There are two separate access points with large parking lots, restrooms and drinking water sources. There is a long walk through a thick rhododendron forest that comes out at the Hutchinson Homestead. The Homestead is a restored farmsite from the 1800’s that includes the house and a number of barns, blacksmith shop, tobacco barn, meat cooler, laundry site, and spring box. The buildings are open to tour on weekends. All of this sits in the valley with the huge Stone Mountain Dome just in the background. It is quite picturesque, especially when leaves have bright color and they sky is deep blue with a few white puffy clouds. On this day however, all the trees are bare and the sky was more of a haze. No complaints though, it is February and 72 degrees.

After the Homestead, the trail returns to the forest. For the next mile or so, the trail will wander through more rhododendron, cross a small creek a number of times and eventually meet up with Big Sandy Creek. You will know when you reach this stream as it is loud, lots of small cascades and rapids as it rushes its way down the mountain. This reaches a climax at Stone Mountain Falls, a 200 foot waterfall. From there, 298 wooden steps must be climbed. You might be inclined to curse them, but just imagine the climb to the top if they were not there. After a little more uphill past Stone Mountain Falls, an old standing stone chimney sits. This is also the meeting place for the Loop Trail and the upper spur.

It should also be noted, that, just in case 5 miles is not long enough, this hike can be extended to around 8 miles by taking a side trail called Wolf Rock Trail. It will climb a mountain adjacent to Stone Mountain, offer some sensational views, from Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock. It will connect with the Black Jack Ridge Trail and eventually circle back around to the Loop Trail at the Homestead.

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BRP-294 A Visit To Moses Cone Memorial Park

Today I begin a new section of my blog, giving some recognition to probably the most important highway in the Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway or BRP for short.  As I hike different sections of this monumental highway, I will simply begin the titles as BRP followed by the number representing the mile marker of the location of interest.  The Blue Ridge Parkway winds 469 miles from Waynesboro, VA, to Cherokee, NC.  At 45 mph, and even 35 in spots, it is not made to be a travel route for speed, but one to just get out and enjoy the views.  It winds mainly along the ridge lines with a few peaks and valleys here and there.  The mountains it spans always seem to be gentler on the vehicles than the roads and highways that intersect it.  This is a national park, and aside from some specialty shops, cozy restaurants/coffee shots, and dated mountain lodges  managed by park service, you will not find commercial signs or gas stations.  It is best to have a map or gps, know where the next highway crossing will be and not let your fuel go too far below 1/4 tank.  The Parkway is a haven of outlooks that are designed to pull off the road and get out to view.  Some require a small hike up or down and most are well worth the time, but many are simply roadside spectacular views to get out and see and stretch the legs.  Expect to come across deer, wild turkeys, beavers, foxes, raccoons, and possibly even a rare black bear siting.  Living just an hour away from it, I have found over the years to enjoy bits and pieces of it, but have never made the entire trip.  There is just too much to see and do.  While this is a great adventure in the car, I find the true treasures that are along it, must me reached by hiking!

First off, I should not be allowed to travel freely on the BRP in late January.  Being a National Park and not a highway, it does not get plowed in winter and should be snow/ ice covered and closed in many sections.  Some  places up here receive up to 100 inches of snow in a typical winter.  This is not the case this year in 2012, the winter that wasn’t.  It is a toasty 60 degrees up here in the delightful mountain resort town of Blowing Rock, NC.  I am going to visit the Moses H Cone Memorial Park at BRP Post 294.  This is marked by a sign as you leave Blowing Rock and enter the mini-park area.  It is a vast 3600 acres covering both sides of the Parkway.  Today, I stayed on the side with the Cone Manor.

Moses H Cone, a man that lived a relatively brief 51 years, was a giant in the textile industry, especially denim.  His name is large in the triad town of Greensboro NC, having the Hospital and numerous medical facilities named after him, due to his large donations to his communty .  I have also read that Mr Cone’s donations were also instrumental in founding Watauga Academy, or what is known today as Appalachian State University….Go Mountaineers!!  Somewhere about age of 40, he and his entourage, made their way to the NC mountains and had this incredibly impressive, large, and beautiful mansion built on top of a mountain near Blowing Rock.  It goes by Moses Cone Manor, or Flat Top Manor.  It’s impressive beauty and size stand out way below looking up.  Today it is a craft center and receives 250,000 visitors a year.  Another interest Mr Cone had was building “Carriage Roads” or trails wide enough and level enough for the horse and carriage to comfortably pass.  There is a network of 25 plus miles of these carriage roads that today make for some of the easiest hiking in our mountains.

After taking some photos and just conversing with a few other hikers, I started my journey along the “Figure 8” trail, which is just a little side trail next to the manor.  It is short, with numerous info stations about the plant life that resides here.  After this short trek, I began the journey down to “Bass Lake” which can be seen way below from the manor.  The trail, or dirt road is nice enough and wide enough for a car, but it is strictly for hikers and horses.  It conquers the elevation change by long, and level switchbacks.   At about 2.2 miles, I reached the lake, and was amazed by the view from the lake of  the mansion way…above it.  It was a pretty day, and the blue sky made the scenery even nicer.  There is a side trail that goes all around the lake, I did this of course and enjoyed every minute of it, I will note that it was some 10-15 degrees cooler down here surrounded by the cool icy waters.  When I came to the point where the main creek enters the lake, I witnessed some very nice Beaver action, viewed a perfectly made Beaver Dam,  it was very cool.  It was now time to tackle the unavoidable, the hike back up… There were 2 ways back up, one that went through a 2.3 mile crazy route called “The Maze”, and a more direct route.  With my hike approaching the 5 mile mark, I decided today to take the more direct option, but I will be back at a later date to tackle “The Maze”.  There was one last stop on the way back at the large building known as the “Apple Barn”.  While Moses Cone was here, he grew over 75 varieties of apples.  Looking at all of the accomplishments this man had, he must have had an incredible “vision”.  As I reached the top, I kept thinking, wow that was mild.  His Carriage Roads were designed so well that there was never really a spot where it got steep, just a constant slightly uphill climb. It went almost unnoticed. At the end of the mild climb, the famous “Mountains To Sea” Trail joins in the finish the day.

This was a nice break from the trails I have been used to, the ones that are much more narrow, with roots, rocks and tight spaces to navigate.  I can see why this place gets so many visitors, which is another reason I have to visit it on a week day in January to really enjoy it, it is just too crowded.  Check out my slide show below for some of the photos of the day….

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Wilson Creek Short Hike

Wilson Creek Short Hike

Ahh, another January day where the temps are pushing 60, and I had the day off of work, what to do, what to do. With some recent rains, the answer was clear, hike to see some waterfalls.Being January, I wanted to stay in the lower elevations, by that I mean 3000 feet or less. It seemed a fine day to do some hiking in Wilson Creek.I decided to hike the Harper Creek Trail which follows Harper Creek, a
major tributary to Wilson Creek, to view and photograph Harper Creek Falls. The last time I visited this place, there were at least 30 people in my picture, I was hoping this time it would just be the waterfall and I. The trail to the waterfall is roughly 1.7 miles one way with a steep climb right out of the parking lot. It levels out at about the 0.3 mark and is mainly level with few minor hills afterwards.When I arrived at the waterfall, I was in luck, it was cloudy and I was all by myself. It was the perfect chance to get a picture of a waterfall that stays jam packed all summer long. I had one slight problem though. The only way down into the gorge to get the picture is by rope, which is down some very steep rock. I navigated this last summer, but today the rope was cut, in pretty bad shape, and the rock was soaking wet from the earlier rains. It was a recipe for disaster. A younger, dumber me would have gone down it without a second thought. Instead, I did the smart thing, got the best picture I could get and got out of there. Being the only person there made it a bad day for a serious injury. Hopefully my next trip here will provide better conditions. Here are a few photos from my short hike at Wilson and Harper creeks.