My best fall outing in 2016 came on October 20. The season had been a let down for the most part due to the extremely warm and dry conditions most of the summer and fall. I had an aggressive plan this year primarily based on the dates of some of my favorite photos from years past. This…..was a strategical error on my part. October 1 came with primarily green dominated landscapes. Finally on the second half of October, color began to really pour in. On Thursday 10/20, weather was an issue as it was to be the last day of temps in the 70s before the first real cool blast came in, dropping temps into the 40’s in the mountains for that Friday and Saturday. I chose Upper Creek Falls, because, well most others didn’t. I would also need to ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, through the Linn Cove Viaduct to get there. After 2 failed attempts t see color in the Grandfather area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, maybe this day would be better. Read more
2016 has been the year of Kevin Adams, here in our NC Mountains! He has released a new, much anticipated and updated edition of his iconic “North Carolina Waterfalls” book. He has spent a good part of his summer making appearances at various western NC locations promoting his book and giving his waterfall and photography presentation. He has made waterfallers out of many of us common folks who once upon a time, had absolutely no clue of what wonderful treasures our hills were hiding. So in October .. when Kevin came out with a post on his North Carolina Waterfall Facebook page that listed the 11 top waterfalls for Autumn photography, I read with great interest. Number one on his list was Upper Sols Creek Falls. This is one that I had not previously visited. I had already seen some wonderful photos of this by some fellow waterfallers, and with the beginning of autumn here upon us, I headed out to see this one for myself.
This one seems like it would be easy enough to find. The general location is along NC Highway 281, several miles south of Tuckaseegee at the 281 / 107 split. It is described to park just up the road from where NC 281 crosses Sols Creek. The first problem I ran into, was finding Sols Creek. I kept looking for a bridge to cross Sols Creek. I finally found the spot where it “should be” on the cell phone map and parked for a closer inspection. The way NC highway 281 is developed through here, there is very little indication that there is even a creek here. Only by stopping, checking GPS, and backtracking to where the road dipped to its lowest point before climbing back uphill, was I able to locate Sols Creek.
I parked up the road a bit at what was a wide pull out on NC 281. I walked back to where the highway crossed Sols Creek. They have constructed it nicely, channeling the creek under the highway through pipes instead of a more obvious bridge. The trees are so thick heading upstream that the creek can not be seen from a car view. There is a gated road looking upstream on the left with No Trespassing signs. I was like “Uh-Oh”. However, I trusted what books and my other resources said….that the Creek and Falls were on national forest property. I avoided the road and crossed the guardrail into the woods, bushwhacking my way down to Sols Creek. The vegetation was thick at first, but I was able to pick up a faint trail and followed it. A creek crossing came soon where the remains of an old bridge and road remain. The forest has done an excellent job of reclaiming this land. The large concrete structures are all that give it away. From here it is simply 1/2 mile up the creek, not a simple hike though. The trail will cross many times here. Keeping your feet dry is simply not an option. This is where my Keen water shoes came in very handy. For those with little creek walking experience, this is a good stretch for Creek Walking 101. It’s fairly safe, and much easier than trying to keep your feet dry.
There will be a section or two where a trail picks back up, then back to creek walking. You may even see the remains of a bridge, which just shows the power this water has when it gets high. Once the creekbed turns to bedrock and starts climbing, the water gets noisier and Upper Sols Falls is near. Just a little further and there it was:
It was a beautiful waterfall, just nowhere close to optimal photo conditions though. Most of the shots here all came from a cell phone. The sun was too bright and the shadows were too harsh when trying to capture the whole scene. I climbed on the rocks some to get some closer shots and get the sun only shots, but just wasn’t the day. The leaves on the trees hadn’t even begun to change even though is was the 1st weekend in October.
This is a good hike to either have some water shoes, or wear some that you don’t care to get wet. Once that issue is taken care of, it’s a pretty easy, short hike. I found it to be about 3/4 mile one way from where I had the car parked on NC 281. This would be a nice hike to go along with some other waterfalls closely including Paradise Falls, many of those in Panthertown Valley to make a nice day trip out of it.
I recently made a change to my job that allows for some periodic traveling. One of the huge benefits to this has been the opportunity to see waterfalls outside of my home region. My recent trip over the last week in August took me to New Jersey. The first thing that comes to most people’s mind when they hear New Jersey isn’t ….Waterfalls. Read more
King Creek Falls was the main waterfall I was here to see on this late February afternoon. I made a full day of it though, stopping along the way at White Owl Falls, and Spoonauger Falls. Both Falls had impressive waterflows. It was a dreary, cloudy day. It had all the makings of an epic waterfall journey. After visiting Spoonager Falls for the first time, it was a short ride back up Burrells Ford Rd to the parking area for King Creek Falls. After the unexpected trees and fallen Rhodo that made the last 0.1 mile of Spoonauger Falls much more challenging, I was wondering what this 0.9 mile trek had in store for me. My answer came sooner than expected. There was a large truck parked near me with 2 older gentleman. They had been along the trail maintaining it and were putting chainsaws away. This was an interesting sign. I had a quick chat with them and they mentioned that it was pretty passable. After hiking it, I was so, so thankful for their efforts. The first half of this trail would have been much more difficult without them.
Those Pine trees just don’t seem to hold up well to late winter, early spring storms. There was much more downfall on this trail than the one on Spoonauger just down the road. The main difference, the trail maintainers had already been here. There had also been some fresh trail sign painting, marking the Foothills Trail and King Creek Trail.
After the bridge crosses King Creek, this was where my luck ran out. There were still some fallen rhodos to work my way up and over, under, in and around. The trail was so narrow here, rising quickly on one side, and dropping steeply on the other. I had no choice but to work through it, camera gear and all. I made my way on to King Creek Falls and it was impressive. Gone was the half sun half shade of the first visit. I had a much better waterflow, and I had it all to myself.
The best views require crossing the creek, which was somewhat tricky in higher water. The tree crossing it was not as sturdy as I remember it though. I have a feeling the rotting tree will be gone some day and this will be a wet crossing. That would be ok, it’s worth it! Here is a short video of King Creek Falls:
I first visited Spoonauger Falls in late February 2016. It was an overcast day, with lots of rain falling in the days prior to my hike. I was in this area to make a return visit to King Creek Falls. My 1st visit was over 2 years ago, and I wanted to return under better conditions than what a typical hot and dry late August afternoon can provide. Before I did this though, my first stop was to a waterfall that I overlooked on my first visit. Once I learned how close I was to Spoonauger Falls, and that I didn’t check it out….I could have kicked myself. That’s ok, I made it on this day and it was a beauty!
From NC, I came down NC 281 and crossed into South Carolina where the highway changes to SC 130. On the way down, I passed right by Whte Owl Falls on the Thompson River and had a feeling it would looking good. I was soooo not wrong. I even took a side path to view it from the top, it was ok, no where near as good as the view from the base. It was gonna be a good day. I got back on the road, into SC, and took the sign “To 107”. I turned left to head south for a few miles and took a right on Burrels Ford Road. To get to Spoonauger Falls, meant driving past the King Creek Falls parking area for a short ways. I initially passed right by it , crossed the bridge over the Chatooga River, and boom, I was in Georgia. Georgia wasn’t even on my mine…but Spoonaguer is right at the Chatooga which happens to be the northern border between these two states.
I pulled into this parking lot above, turned around as parked just off the road where the access was to the Chatooga Trail. This waterfall starts off with an easy hike along the Chatooga River upstream from the road. After a crossing of Spoonauger Creek, the trail for Spoonauger Falls heads right or upstream.
As you can see by the sign, it is a short 0.1 miles upstream. It was difficult on this day in February anyway. A number of large Rhododendrons , much taller than my 6 foot frame had toppled over and were covering the narrow, wet and muddy trail. I slowly worked my way over and under and around the storm-fallen plants and was treated to a beautiful 50 foot waterfall.
I was able to make it out into the middle and down a few tiers for an exceptional view. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see at Spoonauger Falls but it wasn’t this. I was very pleased. I made it back to the car, then it was off to King Creek.
Here is a short video of Spoonauger Falls:
It was a family Sunday in early July. One of Kristin’s favorite areas in the Blue Ridge Mountains is in southern Virginia. Following the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Fancy Gap area to some attractions near Meadows of Dan, Va always makes a nice half day trip. It’s a short drive for us, and a quick way to escape a 93 degree hot & humid day in exchange for a nice 78 degree day with a nice breeze. After a nice lunch at the Groundhog Mountain picnic area, we made the short ride north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mabry Mill at milepost 176
Mabry Mill is a beautifully restored and preserved working mill right off the Parkway. It is certainly one of the BRP’s top attractions. It has a nice restaurant and gift shop, that among other typical parkway souvenirs,sells stone ground cornmeal, grits and buckwheat flour all ground at the mill. The whole area is very picturesque. Some very iconic photos have been made here with the beautiful small pond, and mill combination. The best photos here seem to come in the fall. It’s a nice place to visit in summer as well. Come on a weekend day, they may have the mill open for touring. Expect crowds though, this place is popular. For more info on the beautiful Mabry Mill, please click here.
I’ve wanted to visit Blackwater Falls….for years now. The problem is that it has always been “just out of reach”. I reside in central NC, and I make trips into central and southern West Virginia several times a year. Northern West Virginia doubles the 2 1/2 hour ride I normally set aside for West Virginia explorations. The main reason I was headed to West Virginia in the first place was to find water. Western NC, SC and eastern TN have been suffering abnormally dry starts to the summer of 2016, but not the Virginias. Facebook photos of favorite NC waterfalls were displaying pitifully low waterflows, rendering rivers into trickling creeks. On the Saturday of my departure, WV had just suffered 8-10 inches of rain in places two days prior, and there were reports of flooding in areas. This was where I would find water. Read more
I haven’t been to DuPont State Forest in several years now. It is a great place, with some wonderful waterfalls. These waterfalls are some of the very early ones visited that really planted the “Waterfall Chasing” seed in me. However, due to its ease of access, numerous trails, numerous waterfalls varying in size and shape, and exposure in movies like “The Last Mohican”, and “Hunger Games”, ithas become insanely popular. Large new gravel parking lots have been constructed to handle the increase in visitors. The sides of Staton Rd could no longer hold the overflow parking from the Hooker Falls parking area. Tours of the waterfalls of DuPont are now shuttled in and out by school buses at select times of the year. DuPont State Forest truly has become one of North Carolina’s top attractions. While I am glad to see this location get the love it truly deserves, there is a part of me left sad. Sad that I can no longer visit this place without hundreds of others. That is just not what it’s about for me. I have for the most part just focused on other waterfalls, leaving these for the masses.
Blackwater Falls was my main destination when traveling into northern West Virginia in June. I had ideas further south, closer to home, but due to the devastating floods that central West Virginia was suffering, I had to either alter my destination or go home. I had no idea how serious the floods were until I was actually in West Virginia, listening to the special news reports on the radio. It all happened so fast, and the rapidly rising waters unfortunately caught many by surprise. My heart truly goes out for the all those affected by this tragedy. It was said that 8-10 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. This was a text book flash flood of historical proportions. With many roads washed out, traffic at a standstill backed up for hours, and rescue & recover operations still in place, I decided to remain on the main highways and travel out of the area into northern West Virginia. I could tell by the lower levels of the streams up here that although the rains were still torrential, they were not as bad.
I have been wanting to come to this region for several years now and see the crown jewel Blackwater Falls. I’ve always considered it a tad to far, certainly for a day trip. After my first initial visit to Blackwater Falls, along with 100-200 others, I decided to stay right in the park at the very nice Blackwater Falls Lodge. This place was quite a nice surprise for me. Along with being a nice place to stay, with a nice restaurant, gift shop, conference center, right along the Blackwater Canyon, it has another waterfall trail to some waterfalls along Shays Run that begins right in the parking lot…I love this place! Read more
Douglas Falls was just supposed to be a side trip. I had already came to see the great and mighty Blackwater Falls in a very healthy water-flowing situation. I had spent time there in the afternoon while it was packed with tourists and just before dark when I had it all to myself. I also got to spend some quality time the day before as well as Elakala Falls. I had spent the night in the nearby Blackwater Falls Lodge and was heading back to my home 2 states away on this late Sunday in June. I knew Douglas Falls was close by and was one of the “elite” waterfalls in West Virginia. So before breakfast, at 6:30 am, I set off to find it. Read more