Monday, June 17, 2013

Dismal Falls & Wintergreen Falls Weekend

White squirrel peeping round a tree at Cathy's house.



Dismal Falls Hike & Wintergreen Falls


Dana Koogler & Cathy Howell
Friday June 14 & Saturday June 15, 2013
Western NC Mountains
Dismal Falls 4 miles round trip
Wintergreen Falls 2.64 miles round trip

Pictures are here:
Dismal Falls Pix

Dismal Falls Video

Rhapsody Falls Video

Wintergreen Falls Video

    I had long wanted to do a hike to Dismal Falls in the mountains of western North Carolina.   I had heard how difficult it was from friends who had done it before.
I had read about it in Jim Bob Tinsley's book Land of Waterfalls.  I had read about it on Rich's website ncwaterfalls.com I read it in Kevin Adam's book about waterfalls.  Cathy recently said to me that we needed to do some of the really hard waterfall hikes while we were still physically able to do them.  I agreed and took that
quite seriously.    

       I called her up and planned to come over for a visit two weeks from the last time I was there.  I figured we'd just go ahead and do it now. She had said it could be a really hot hike and that it might be best to wait til September when things cooled down a bit.  Kenny was going to end up working all weekend. We'd had lots 
of rain and unseasonably cool temperatures.  I could see no reason to wait. 
She was agreeable so that was what we planned to do.

     I stopped in Asheville to visit  Jared Thursday morning.   Once he went to work
I finished up what I was doing at his house and set out for Mills River.  I stopped at the Ingles long enough to purchase groceries. I went inside Cathy's house just as the first drops of rain started to fall.    Thankfully we did not get much rain or wind off
the line of storms passing through.   She got home a little after 7 pm and we ate a nice spaghetti dinner and visited.  We  did some planning for the next day.  We read
Kevin Adams book and looked at the map.  We did not look at Rich's website tonight because the computer at Cathy's is kind of slow.  It was a mistake that cost us a lot of trouble. 

        We had to go by Cathy's bank when they opened at 9 a.m.
We finally got on the trail at 10:25 am.   The delay came from trying to find the starting point.   She had done this hike twice before, but not recently.  Kevin Adams
mentions in his directions .. published in 2005 that there was a planned repaving project.  It would obliterate the previous parking area.  One of the descriptors he used to help mark the starting place was the parking area along Hwy 281 being directly across from the gate.  He also used the mileage and the point at which the road went from paved to gravel.   I would highly recommend to anyone planning on doing this hike: USE THE DIRECTIONS GIVEN ON Rich's website which is the most current. Kevin Adams book Waterfalls of North Carolina  has great directions, but the book is eight years old and he mentions himself that it has its limits.
         We floundered around trying to find the starting point.  
We both had serious doubts we'd even be able to find the trail to do this hike today.
The way things were going we were not off to a good start.   Something about a trail sign we'd passed saying "Trails Carolina" kept coming back to mind. I could not recall the significance so it was useless.   We finally decided we'd try to begin the hike, but if we were unsuccessful in finding the starting point we'd go hike Flat Ceek Falls instead.    

     Cathy suggested we just strike out through the woods in the general direction and hope to find the trail.  I agreed, but still had serious doubts.  We were in rhododendron, but it was not that thick.   I looked down and saw a track about six inches wide. It was clearly an animal path, but the only path around.  We followed it.  I soon found myself at the edge of a low bank looking down at an old weedy logging road.  I was encouraged that this was a good sign.  Cathy helped get us going the correct direction on that road and we only walked a few short steps until we saw pavement end and a forestry gate!  I knew this had to be it.  During the road paving they had changed the access to the trail.   Cautiously optimistic we continued down the trail before us.

Nice level trail with soft pine needles underfoot to start the hike.
      
  The forest was beautiful and smelled good. The weather was perfect.  
Sunny, clear and cool.  We had a slight breeze and blue skies.   We hiked 
through a pine forest.    We had the guidebook with us and the map and 
checked the directions against the map and what we were encountering. 
It was lining up and looking right.We came to the first point where we
could turn right.  We could hear the rush of a waterfall not far away.   
I was hopeful this was Aunt Sally's falls!?  I hoped it was because while 
it was not the most spectacular falls it was new to me. It would be a sure sign we were on the correct path.
  
      We walked a couple hundred yards into the woods to the right and there was a pretty waterfall about 25 ft high. It was indeed Aunt Sally's falls!  We had found the right way!  

Aunt Sally's Falls

    The next sticking point along this hike is finding the West Fork of the French Broad River and fording it.    Sounds easy? It sure sounds that way, but when you are crossing stream after stream along the way it is not as easy as it sounds.  Once we found and forded the main stream we knew the next big creek would be Dismal Creek.  We had four more falls to locate along our hike. Once across the West Fork French Broad  the terrain began to steepen.  We came next to an un-named but very pretty falls on Dismal Creek.


Un-named Falls -Waterfall #2 on this hike


      The trail went up and up.  I just had to take my time.  I use the Messner step
when I am on steep uphills or steady uphill climbs.   It is a rest step used by mountaineers.
It helps me to maintain the pace rather than so many outright starts and stops.  It may sound quite silly to some serious mountaineers on something so piddley by comparison.
It doesn't matter to me how it sounds. It works for me. My heart and lungs are small.My legs are short. I will never be able to keep up with the pace, stride and heart-lung capacity of men. The thing I have on my side is dogged determination.  We pushed on and before long swung round a beautiful rock outcrop and I could hear the sound of another large waterfall.   A quick walk to the right and down off the trail and we were at Rhapsody Falls.    It was gorgeous!  It had lots of water coming over the gray, rocky cliffs. Green
leaves on the trees and green plants in the spray zone and sunlight filtering down through
the rivulets of water looked beautiful like a tropical rain forest. 

Rhapsody Falls with beams of God Light shining through it!

     The first time Rich came here he thought this was Dismal Falls.
Standing here now I told Cathy I could easily understand why he thought that.  Our final
destination lay far up the mountain yet, but we spent time resting here and enjoying the view.   The mist and breeze from the falls was cooling and fresh.  I sat down and soaked up the scene and ate a quick snack and took a hydration break.  We had seen three falls thus far and had two major ones to go!

     Back on the trail for more uphill then a small level stretch.   It was a blessed break.
We finally came to an obvious intersection at a big tree.  The trail was marked here with two chunks of survey tape. One lead down and the other up.  I figured the bottom one must be Lower Dismal Falls.  Neither of us had seen that yet so we'd do that first. We turned and headed downward along the ridge.

   We soon came to a point where there was more survey tape and a path to the left indicating we needed to go down.  We could hear the falls below us.   We climbed down
steeply hanging onto saplings, roots and rocks.  Kevin Adams book warns that the climbs involved in this trip will require having both hands free to hang on. I draped my trekkers over my wrists and used them when I could which was not often.  The rest of the time I just let them dangle out in space while I swung like an ape.  The advice was sound, but what are you to do when you've brought them along? I could have left them up top and come back after them I suppose. We never saw another soul today and I know no one would bother them.  I wanted them with me in case I needed them in the creek.
Lower Dismal Falls is not mentioned in the guidebook, but was discovered by Waterfall Guru, Bernie Boyer. 


Great Wall of Dismal also discovered by Bernie.

     We hiked along the great rock wall on the way to Lower Dismal. It is approximately
four hundred feet long and probably 100 feet high. It is beautiful and gloomy dark. Photos cannot do it justice.  It drips water all along it.  Crevices burst forth with every manner of green growing plant.   Near the base of this cliff we also saw a man made wooden structure. No idea what it was. It looked like a box or a step.   The rock wall acts as a parabolic microphone capturing the roar of the falls and making it seem water is rushing off the cliff at you.  It is a phenomena I never quite get used to.  It made me shiver.

      We arrived the end of the great wall and before me I could barely see a glimpse of
Lower Dismal Falls around it. The cliff walls encroached and forced us into the stream over boulders and up through them to access the falls. We had to get in the stream as there
was no way around.  We climbed rocks and slippery logs to reach the falls. It was treachery.   We risked not death here, but injury a long ,long way from help.  Climb the rocks and logs or get in the cascades and climb them.  The flow of water was intense enough it would have meant a certain fall.   The squeezed in area of cascades was quite pretty itself, but I was unconcerned with picture taking and all about making it up to the big falls.   We got there and by then I was nervous.

      Lower Dismal Falls is beautiful in its own right.  It is 50 t0 60 feet high and
today it was flowing powerfully.   It drops sheer and flows down to one side.  From there is ends in a series of cascades through boulders.  The stream contains mica as do many
others in the area.   One chunk of mica had us thinking someone dropped a dime in the creek!  It was round and perfect and silvery.    We stood taking in the falls. It was hard
to get back far enough to get a good photo.  The base of the falls is choked with sticks and logs in one big debris mat.    I dreaded climbing back down out from this spot.
I also dreaded climbing back up the mountain!

Lower Dismal Falls. The rock here is striped dark and light similar to that of
Raven Rock Falls.
 
 Top of Lower Dismal in the sunshine. So pretty!

       We worked our way carefully back out of this spot. Back along the rock wall.
We began our climb up the bank hand over hand.  It was not possible to see the top of the climb from the bottom.  It was a longer climb than some.   We got back to the top
and to the intersection.   Lots of huffing and puffing and more uphill to come!

      The fifth and final falls lay up the mountain on Dismal Creek.  The last quarter mile
hike to Dismal Falls is brutally steep.   I did not like it, but  my knees liked it a lot less coming down than I did going up!  I don't have any lasting knee problems, but today I felt something straining in my left knee.  The only thing that was going to get us there was lots of Knees to the Shoulders!  We pressed ahead. The climb was tough, but finally I began to see a glimmer of hope.  We were running out of mountain so we could not have far to go!
Sure enough the climb leveled off and then it was time for another wicked down climb.

     We hung on tight and climbed down the steep mountain side hanging on to more rhododendron shrubs, roots and rocks.  The climb was long enough and layered enough that we could hear the falls, but it was a soft sound for a huge 150 ft falls.   It still sounded off in the distance.   We slipped and slid. We sent our trekking poles skidding down the mountain ahead of us in places to have hands free.  Finally I could see the creek and began to really be able to hear it.   We spotted two survey tape flagged routes to different vantage points of the falls.   I just picked the lower one first and went ahead. Finally before me was the legend.. Dismal Falls in its glory.  

150 ft high Dismal Falls

    I was not disappointed!  We did some victory whoops and hollers.  We made it!
I could not believe I was finally standing here! I was elated.  I was also very sweaty, tired, and hungry.  We had waited to eat lunch til we were at the main falls.  We sat down and soaked up the sight of the massive waterfall while we ate our sammidges and chips.
Cathy remarked she had not seen this much water on the falls on previous trips. 
I knew just from checking out Rich's photos it was high flow by comparison.
Cathy found a cap at the falls on that log. Rich, did you leave one behind? If so Cathy has it and regardless where it came from.. she wore it!  She was trying to show that unlike you she is not a germphobe! She put it right on her head!  I had mixed feelings about that.
I wished I knew for sure if it was yours or not. I also wondered if you'd wear it again after
it got left there in the weather? It had a few pine needles on it.  


Closer view of the top portion of Dismal Falls

      We left the falls around 3 pm and began our trip back.   The climb up and out was tough, but we made it safely. I swallowed a bug of some kind. Cathy got me to laughing
and wanted me to make chimpanzee noises as I climbed.  I was happy to oblige but then the laughing started! We had to be giddy by now.   The hike out was rough on the downhill part, but leveled off finally.  I sat down and put on dry socks which helped my sore toes feel better.

      We had the last bit of trouble when we got back to our starting point.  She preferred the idea of just going back the way we came. She picked the shorter, steeper route back to the vehicle versus a longer, more gradual path.   I was ok with that, but she then took us back up the logging road.  I had thought she meant go back the same way.  No.. a different way.  It took us through briars which had me cursing. I got stabbed in the knee by a stick.   We finally came  out at a thicket of rhodo far worse than the first one we'd faced.  I knew the road was below us somewhere but could not see it.  It sounded far off.
I had no desire to get clawed up more. I also refused to risk the climb down not knowing
where we were in relation to the vehicle.  I had the sense that our luck was about to run out with the snake population.  Evening is when snakes crawl out to bask and move.
I told her I was turning around and heading back and going to walk the road back to the car.   I was in a foul mood from being tired and in pain. I had scratches upon scratches.
My legs were bleeding and bruised.

      We walked the road and it turned out to be Trails Carolina property.
We should have parked here and walked. It would have simplified things greatly.
We had a hot road walk back but it was shaded and very little traffic.  We had a little breeze.   Any future trips we'll know. It all made sense now.  Trails Carolina meant something to me and I had been correct, but it was all for nothing now.

I should have spoken up sooner.  Hind sight is always 20/20.


  Back at Cathy's home we ate dinner and were ready for bed by 9:15 pm.
We did not set alarms for the next day.  We slept in and each got 10 1/2 hours of much needed rest! We were both stiff sore wimmens that night.  Next day we were fine.

We had some breakfast and went for a nice EASY hike today.  Wintergreen Falls in DuPont State Forest. It was the last waterfall to see for us there.  It was a super easy hike and very pretty. It was another bluebird day.  I feel fortunate indeed to have a best friend like Cathy to have these adventures with!



Wintergreen Falls in DuPont State Forest is about 25 ft high.


**Edited to add: Dismal Falls is a part of the Carolina Mountain Club's Waterfall 100.
I mention this because the entire route was flagged with survey tape and appears to be traveled more than in the past.  The days of trying to locate this falls and the accompanying difficulties are greatly reduced because it is now a better known hike.
While screwing up directions on parking areas and access were a P-I-T-A... it was probably the only navigational challenge left associated with the hike.  Kevin Adams, Rich Stevenson, Harry Jones,Kelvin Taylor, Cathy Howell, Bernie Boyer, Jim Bob Tinsley and past hikers
who braved this trip before it was well known are trail blazers.  Those of us who visit the falls now will never experience the trip in quite the way they did.
 Props to these brave souls!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Panthertown Backpacking Trip

Native azalea blooming in Panthertown


Panthertown Wilderness Backpack Trip

May 31, June 1, 2013

Dana Koogler & Cathy Howell

Pictures are here: 

Videos are here:

Greenland Creek Falls

Raven Rock Falls

Hidden Falls

Halfway Falls

Un-named Falls on Greenland Creek

Carlton's Falls



   I left home Thursday morning and headed to Asheville for a dual purpose trip.
My son's birthday was Friday May 31st.  I wanted to visit with him and do some nice things for him. I got to see his new living arrangements.  Nice little house in a pretty, quiet neighborhood in Asheville.   Great yard with a creek flowing by and trees!  We had lunch. 
We went shopping. We sat around and talked and caught up.  I helped him with a few chores.    He had to leave for work at 3:15 so I kissed him good-bye and we parted ways.

    I drove down to my friend Cathy's place in Mills River to wait til she got off work.
We were leaving out in the morning to go on a long planned backpack trip.   I was really looking forward to seeing my friend and spending time with her in the woods. Doing what we both love!  Hiking and hunting waterfalls and seeing beautiful things is a really good bonding experience. Especially when it involves the task of route finding and bushwhacking on sketchy or non-existent trails.  

     I unpacked and rested some and fixed dinner for us.  We had a nice hot meal of tenderloin, baked potatoes, salad and cantaloupe.  I forgot she does not like melon.
Later that evening we had the entire living room piled up with gear from one end to the other.   We even put up my tent in the living room. It is a pain in the ass to put up.
I was glad I brought the new tent.  We put the Eureka tent away and got out the old stand by.. my new tent.  It is brand new, but it is a duplicate of the one I had before the Eureka. I wore the other one slap out! We put that thing up in the dark outside in five minutes! 



New tent at our camp site in Panthertown.

      We finally got things packed up most of the way and realized how late it had gotten.
We turned in just after 11:00 pm and agreed we'd start when we started the next day. No alarms on days off from work!  Very liberating!  I don't like pressure and deadlines every single trip.  I am the worst about putting pressure on myself.

      We arrived at Panthertown and once we put on our packs we headed down Greenland Creek Trail.  Neither of us had ever hiked this trail before or seen the waterfalls down there.  We have parked in this lot at this entrance and hiked to Schoolhouse Falls and others.   Greenland Creek Trail was quite pretty.  Lush growth of ferns and a sweet smelling forest were all around. Spring wildflowers are nearly all gone, but now and then we'd see a deep fuschia colored catesby's trillium.  They were so pretty!  The color looked almost fake it was so unusual for a trillium.    We went nearly all down hill on the way in.

      We only passed one group of hikers and they were on their way out.
We knew nothing about the area and had set our tent up at the first likely place we came to.   It was level and shady.  It had access to the creek.  We were certainly not going to try to bushwhack to waterfalls with heavy overnight packs on.  We were trying to lighten our load for that as soon as possible.  A few steps further down the trail and we came to the most marvelous campsite.  Twenty feet away was a site carpeted in pine needles under tall pines.  It was perfect. We pulled up the tent stakes, lifted the tent carefully and moved it!
Minutes later we had the best campsite ever!

          We didn't have to hike far until we arrived at Greenland Creek Falls.
The Panthertown Map shows that the brown dashed trails are the 'official" maintained trails.  The real trail ends here at this waterfall.  Anything from here on out today was on the red dotted trails which are unofficial trails or manways.  They are harder to follow and a bit more extreme.  We enjoyed Greenland Creek Falls and ate our lunch here as it was already 3 pm!
Greenland Creek Falls was really impressive!


    We did not tarry too long at Greenland Creek Falls once we finished lunch. I did take time to filter some water.  We headed on upstream to the rest of the falls we had yet to see.   The map listed a "Halfway Falls" and "Carlton's Falls".   I knew from descriptions of friends previous trips it was supposed to be a difficult hike to Carlton's Falls.  We found out right quick what the trouble was.  It is no time after you leave Greenland Creek Falls until you are climbing straight up a steep bank hanging on to trees and roots and rocks.
We made it up there and finally the trail leveled off.  We went to the brink of Greenland Creek Falls to check it out from up high.   We then re-entered the woods and pressed forward.   The trail or manway is not hard to find compared to other trips we've done, but Cathy had her misgivings a couple times and later we did miss one turn.

     We arrived at a low sliding falls that was very attractive.  We both thought we'd arrived at "Halfway Falls".  Turned out it was not right. It was simply an un-named falls that was not even mentioned. Greenland Creek has wide flat spots on it, but it also has quite a few scenic cascades over the course of the trip.



Un-named low, sliding cascade on Greenland Creek.


Greenland Creek flowing off into the distance.


Halfway Falls.  We hiked on a bit further and arrived at this beauty! It is not real tall, but very picturesque.

     The thing that seemed to bother Cathy was when the trail would veer away from the stream and head in the opposite direction while going up the mountain.  I could understand why, but I had been paying close attention and there was no place we could have missed the trail or what there was of a trail on the way up.  I took a look at the map with her and
showed her where I believed we were.  We were in the area on the map where the trail bends out away from the stream then turns back just prior to Carlton's Falls.  I just said we'd keep going a little further and if the trail didn't turn back toward the stream we'd head back by 5 pm.   Looking around the terrain it was clear we couldn't gain much more elevation and looking a flat creek , growing smaller in the headwaters of a mountain it is easy enough to doubt you'll find a waterfall.

     We soon rounded a bend and headed  down toward the creek.  It was no time until we could hear the loud roar of the falls. Next I could glimpse it through the trees.
Down to the creek bank and out on the rocks and we were there.  It did not look like much at first, but as we crossed the creek on the rocks the rest of the falls came into view.
It was actually a big waterfall with multiple levels! 
Carlton's Falls from the base



Carlton Falls from the middle.

      We climbed all the way to the top of the falls here because the men we associate with
have done so and we weren't to be outdone.  I did my usual hooting and hollering celebration.  Why not celebrate a successful waterfall finding trip with some chest beating?
We had such perfect weather so far this trip. Blue skies. Sunshine. Light breeze. A few puffy clouds.  Temperature right at 80 degrees. All was going well.

    We turned and began our hike back at 5:10 pm.  We were tired and hot and sweaty.
I was not looking forward to climbing back down that steep slope, but we made it just fine.  The only wrong turn we took today was on the return trip we took a side path out through the woods for about 25 yards before we realized we had messed up.  We turned
and went back toward the stream and there was the trouble. The path here continued over rocks at the base of the falls for a short distance before resuming the path through the woods.   No more missteps after that one.  It was not long til we arrived back in camp.
It felt good to take off the backpack and stretch.  I got some toiletries and went down to the creek to wash up and I was soon feeling fresher.

      We had a hearty supper.  I had slivered two New York strip steaks and marinated them then froze them in the marinade.  I diced red peppers and sweet onions and froze them in olive oil.  I cooked fajita flavored rice and froze that.  We sat down in camp and
using two stoves cooked up dinner.   Cathy is just learning to use her stove and she picked out a nice one. She used it like she'd been cooking on it for a long time.  The food was satisfying and delicious.  She washed up dishes while I got the fire started and stoked.
It was a good camp fire.  We were both very tired and when dark came we were ready for sleep.  The little tent turned out to be just right. 

Roaring Fire.

       The forecast called for rain on Sunday, but during the middle of the night I woke to rain.   I got up and turned on my head lamp and jumped out of the tent to throw a tarp over it as an extra measure of protection.   It was just beginning to drizzle.  It rained for awhile, but all it did was help put me back to sleep listening to it hit the tarp.  I think I slept better after it rained!  It was about sixty degrees that night and I was comfortable.
Our tent was on a little bit of a down slope.  We had known this but put our heads to the top.  It was Hanging Rock State Park all over again.  Slide down to the bottom. Scoot back to the top. I remember waking once during the night and feeling boots and things outside the tent wall touching my toes. I knew I'd slid as far as I could go and I just stayed there. I was not going to fight it anymore.

        Morning came and the rain had stopped. It appeared the day was going to clear up.
Sure enough the sun came out.  It didn't rain hard and the camp was barely damp.
We had some coffee and hot chocolate and cereal bars for breakfast.  We packed up and headed out.   We had planned to go past two other waterfalls on our return trip.
We disagreed on the route that would take us back past them.  I could not get it across
what we needed to do so I chose being happy over being right.  I had a heavy pack on and long as we made it back to the car ok I did not care. What I did not want was to wander around aimlessly with that load on my back.  Either route back took us to the same parking area.  Cathy felt we needed to stay straight on Mac's Gap trail so that is what we did.  It was a new trail for us.  I was in favor of new scenery.

     Mac's Gap Trail turned out to be have several advantages over Greenland Creek Trail.
It was shorter, easier and a far more gentle grade on the way out.  Before I realized it we popped out at the parking area about 100 yards down from the vehicle.  Cathy was put out a little because we missed the falls.  I showed her the map again and explained and this time it sunk in.  Mac's Gap trail is the furthest one out to the boundary. It has no water along it except one nasty black pond.  Greenland Creek is the stream those two wateralls are on.  We had to go back up that trail the way we came in then take a slight detour left and down on a manway to reach those falls.  I told her we'd just hit those another trip.
I was tickled at an easy walk back to the car with a heavy pack and not at all disappointed.

     We discussed what we'd do next.  We planned on hiking to a waterfall we had not been to before.  Hidden Falls was shown on the map in the vicinity of Flat Creek Falls.  On the way out we stopped and hiked to Raven Rock Falls. I had been there before, but only once and that was years ago.  It was well worth the stop to visit today. It was flowing well
and the green trees really framed it spectacularly.  I had visited there in Autumn the first time with a group of hikers.  The falls here was far more impressive than the ones we missed at Panthertown on our trip out.  Raven Rock Falls is about 50 ft high and
the stone is striped beautifully. We passed two other small flow falls on the way in and
got to cross the Bridge of Death once more. 
Rich's "Bridge of Death" where you have a choice as to how  you die.
Slip and fall over the edge. Bridge collapse and plunge to your death.
Bash head on low hanging rocks at end of bridge and die of head trauma.
 But we cheated death once more today!

    We arrived at Raven Rock Falls and could hear it long before we got to it.
It was really something to see today.  All that silky flowing water coming down over the cliff face with blue skies and green trees.  

Raven Rock Falls

  The hike back was easy.  We saw some flame azalea in the forest. The only flowers blooming were some Solomon's plume and Clinton's lillies.  We saw remnants of a trail including markers for it.  I later read on www.ncwaterfalls.com that this is the old Toxaway Trail.  I want to come back and explore downstream to Fisher Falls sometime.
Kenny has not seen any of this or at least he says he has not.

    We motored on toward Rock Bridge Road to find Hidden Falls.  I remarked to Cathy
that "Watch. Once we get there you'll remember you've already seen this falls!"  She doubted that.  We enjoyed the pretty drive on Hwy 281 and Rock Bridge Road.
We have both hiked to Flat Creek Falls in the past and that access is back at the same trailhead as this Hidden Falls.  Once we parked we got out and fixed a hot lunch by the creek.   We had chicken breast and fire roasted tomato sauce over noodles. It was even better than the pepper steak!  We lightened up the packs for use today and set out.
We crossed the logs over the stream and then came a partial epiphany.  Cathy's memory began to clear and she remembered she HAD been to this falls before with Mr. Bernie.
She knew generally how to get there, but that was it.   The area was a maze of trails and old logging roads going every which way.   The map indicated we needed to pick up a path going opposite of Flat Creek Falls and beyond that it was hard to say.

       First we tried going out the trail as if we were going to begin the hike to Flat Creek Falls. She then said no, that was not right we needed to go back and pick up a left turn much earlier.  We saw a nice black snake on the way.  She was not a fan of the snake or
my wanting to take pictures of him. 

Black Snake. Once I put the camera away he did some tricks! He climbed up a log.

  We went back past a campsite and took a left turn on another trail closer to the stream.
According to the map if this was the correct trail we should have one more left turn off this trail and that would put us at the falls.  I estimated the distance to be about 3/4 mile one way.   We had one more snafu on the trail as to where we were on the trail. I think
I figured out the root cause of the difficulties we'd experienced with route finding and Cathy's new found inability to cipher where we were according to a topo map. At some point along this leg of the journey she tried to show me .. prove to me that we needed to be near the creek. I did not dispute that. But what she showed me as a stream on the map was not a stream. It was just a contour line.  Someone has arrived at that point of needing reading glasses like the rest of us middle aged folks! It was an Ah Ha! moment and explained a lot.

       We hiked along through a rhododendron tunnel deep and dark.  It was nice and shady today. We saw either the same black snake or one just like him.  Later I picked up a tiny garter snake from trail and held him up to show Cathy what she'd stepped over. She never did warm up to the idea of No Feet. They're all bad!   Along our journey I spied the only thing that looked like a spot to make a left turn and we dropped down toward the direction of the stream.   We began to see water and the flow grew more and more as we went on.
One more spot where the trail bent down to the left and toward the creek and we began to hear a rumble of falling water.

       We finally arrived at a dead end and there was a gleaming pool of water at an opening in the rhodo.   The rhododendron encroached and the only way to see the falls was to wade out into the creek.  Here is what the first glimpse of Hidden Falls was like.



Lowest level of Hidden Falls.

   It is quite pretty, but after that effort to hunt it up some would find just that disappointing.  The stream was beautiful and like many creeks in the mountains of Western North Carolina contained flecks of mica.. a glittering gold mineral.  It makes a
wade in the creek or a swim like bathing in fairy glamor. 
Glittery gold stream.

    I waded out into the creek and finally could see a glimpse that there was more
to see upstream!  I waded over to rocks and waited on Cathy.  We worked our way around a massive boulder with a tree growing atop it.  Beyond that lay a birch tree growing on stilts.   We were able to see the full beauty of Hidden Falls. It was about sixty feet high and had such a pretty shape.  My photo does not show the rim stone at the top.
Formed from erosion and mineral deposition both.   It was very impressive and well worth all the effort to hunt.    We enjoyed wading the creek up and down. We spent some time soaking up the view here before we headed back.

Cathy bushwhacking back toward the trail

     We wrapped up our days hike by timing our progress back to the trail head.
The hike is about 1.5 miles round trip and once you know the proper turns was not that bad. Navigating here to get started was the hardest part.  We're a good team.

Back home we went for showers and unpacking. We got clean and rested.  We had stopped by the book store for an updated Panthertown map for me.  We went out for dinner at Hawg Wild BBQ and icecream for dessert.  We spent time reminiscing over old photos and checking out routes for Flat Creek and discussing future plans.
We have really done a LOT of hiking and seen lots of waterfalls over the years.
We slept well and woke the next day to pouring rain.   Glad we came on in or we'd have been packing up in a heavy thunderstorm.

        We said our goodbyes on Sunday morning and I headed home in the rain.
What a great trip and I so look forward to next time! I need to do more of this with my long time friend.


*edited to add: Bernie Boyer found "Hidden Falls" and opened the trail to it. He named it "Nellie's Falls" and that is what it is known as on ncwaterfalls.com. That would have been what he introduced Cathy to it as.  That was part of the confusion as to whether she had been there before.   It was called by a different name.