Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Camping and Waterfall Hunting on a Rainy Weekend in Western North Carolina

Rose Pinks on the bank near the campground. 

Camping and Waterfall Hunting in the Rain in Western North Carolina
Thursday July 17- Sunday July 20, 2014

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Pictures are here: Waterfall Hunting Pix

   Last Monday July 14, 2014 I quit my job  where I had worked the past eleven years .    
I left with a mixture of sadness and relief.  I had known for nearly a year that I needed to quit
 for personal and professional reasons.   I was very burned out.   I had the full support of my 
family and the understanding of most of my co-workers.   It was not long before
any sense of regret was replaced completely by a sense of great relief and WHY didn't I do this sooner?    It was a prayed over decision. I had to get out while the spirit was moving me to listen! We had been planning trips for weeks that just kept crashing and burning for one reason or another.     We decided to celebrate by FINALLY taking that Summer camping trip we'd been planning for more than a month.   

       Kenny came back from Baton Rouge first of the week. He worked a normal week. 
I did things around home and prepared for us to leave.  We headed out a little before six pm on 
Thursday. I had called to let Cathy know we'd be in the area, but  she had to work this weekend.
We had both worked every other weekend for many years. I had made sure to be off the same weekend as her.   Now we were off kilter.    I had called Dale at Adventure Village to make us
a reservation.   He was pleasant as always and helpful.  We arrived about 8:30 p.m. and set up
camp.  It was probably 10 pm before things were settled in to suit Kenny.  We planned to hike the next day despite the forecast for rain, rain and more rain this weekend.   I was weary and went to bed before eleven.    I had left the flannel sheets on the bed from back in Spring.  It was forecast
to be unseasonably cool and it ended up being a real good thing to have!  I love my spouse and our
little home away from home.   I melted into that soft comfy bed to the sound of the rain beginning to fall. The room was cool and the sheets warm.   

      Next morning we had a nice hot breakfast of pancakes and bacon with hot coffee.
We packed lunches and rain gear and set out in the drizzle.    We hiked to find High Falls on the Thompson River and Waterfall on Reid Branch.   We have done lots of hikes in this area and seen 
oodles of waterfalls here in the Lake Toxaway area.    We were the only fools at the trail head in the rain.  Koogler man was not thrilled, but he was trying to go along and get along.  He knew I wanted very badly to finish some of the falls on my Carolina Mountain Club Waterfall Challenge
I had twenty three to go and I wanted to finish four this weekend.   

     The trail to Thompson River is rugged, but pretty. We had Rich's fantastic directions.
I spotted the turn for Waterfall on Reid Branch, but Kenny disputed me that it was just a drainage ditch.   We agreed we'd get to High Falls first then come back and investigate the other, smaller falls.     It was raining in earnest and seemed settled in.   We missed the right turn and made it only as far as the first big switchback when we both got that feeling something was wrong.  We re-read the directions and realized the right turn was missed and went back to correct course.  It was not a hard hike.  We found the rest of the trail easy to follow.  It seemed like no time at all we were 
there at the river.   We could hear the falls, but there is a bluff in the way of viewing it. Even 
climbing down to the river won't afford you a look at it. You have to cross the river to see it.
Kenny was sure he could get across dry footed and did. I donned my water shoes and waded.
It was not bad even with all the rain.  The first look at the falls was amazing! It is a powerful waterfall especially after the rain.  The sandy bank on the other side was carpeted in deep green moss, littered with  bright red magnolia cones. Tiny yellow flowers of fringed loosestrife dotted
much of the point of land we stood on.   The rain came down steadily,but we were prepared. Kenny held the umbrella over me to get some photos and video footage.  We spent a little while just taking it in.  We both enjoyed this beautiful spot and could not help wondering why we had not come here sooner?

High Falls on the Thompson River.  

     We made our way back across the stream and this time Kenny ended up with a wet foot and boot!  He then laughed at me because so much rain had fallen in my boots under the shrubs that my boots and socks were almost as wet as if I had just waded the river in them!   The rain eased up a little. We headed back to check out Waterfall on Reid Branch.  It was also very pretty and it 
pleased me to know that I had found the correct side path for it.  The red dirt ditch was it after all!
It was another super easy side trip. The total mileage to see these two is 3 miles round trip!
Sweet!  Here is a look at Waterfall on Reid Branch.
Getting to this falls was a short and tricky bushwhack.  The last bit is a through a tangle of rhodo limbs.   I noticed on the hike back I was having a strange experience.  I could taste and smell the color green.  I had heard of synesthesia, but I had never experienced it until today.  I later tasted and smelled the colors pink, purple, brown and gray.   It was very odd and a harbinger of sorts.

    We climbed back up the dirt ditch to the trail and soon made it back to the parking area.
We saw the only other hiker we'd encounter all day. He was a tall fellow out ready to start this hike.  Kenny stopped and spoke to him before I got there.  We met Bob Marshall from Spartanburg, SC.   We didn't have to talk to him long before we realized he was a handful on purpose.  We made a friend on a rainy day!  He is a serious waterfall hiker, hunter, bushwhacker!
We right on the spot traded information and hugs.  We all wished we'd run into one another at the start of this and could have gone together.   We are now connected on Facebook and I see many fun times in the future hunting waterfalls together! He is one of our pack for sure. 

      We dried off in the truck and ate a quick bite.  Kenny was about over it for the day.
It was raining again and we were both damp.    He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him

since I was wet already I'd just as soon go on and do one other short hike to knock a falls off my list.   We headed to hike to Waterfall on Long Branch. It was perhaps 1.5 miles round trip.
It was over in the area of Pisgah Forest so back to Brevard we went.  We have hiked to several 
waterfalls in the area off FR 475. We had passed right by this little, insignificant appearing gated 
forest service road many times never knowing a beautiful falls lay up there.  
It is the nature of Western North Carolina in general and this area of Transylvania County in particular.    A waterfall in an area of the forest is no more than a pip ginny to them on account of
there being so very many!   The sides of this road were lined with crimson bee balm, black eyed susans, purple headed sneeze weed, and rosebay rhododendron.   

     We hiked the old forest service road through mud and weeds on an easy grade.
Ferns were growing thickly on the left heading in  as well as some species of pycnanthemum.
We did not have to go far until we came to the sound of a stream gushing.   We found the side path and climbed up to see waterfall on Long Branch. 
The hike to this is supposed to be easy on the way, but the last bit a bushwhack. There is open trail the entire way now.  Someone is keeping it maintained.  More brush on the forest service road than up through the woods!  We enjoyed the falls for awhile then headed back to the truck.
We were cold, wet and dirty and ready to wrap it up for the day.  Back at the truck we agreed that if the weather report missed and it was not rainy on Saturday we'd hike.  If it was rainy we'd go 
do something non-hiking related.  We agreed we'd go visit the Western North Carolina Farmers Market in Asheville.   We stopped by Red Box in Brevard to pick up movies just in case.

   We arrived back at the camper and I had the moment that defined pretty much the whole weekend.    I opened the truck door to get out.  We were camped by a creek.  A family of ten 
ducks trotted past me quacking and got in the creek and down the creek they swam! That is all this weather is good for... ducks!  I grinned just thinking of it. They weren't the only ones going to find a way to have a good time. We were determined not to let it get us down.     
We had nice hot showers and got clean and dry.  We kept hoping against hope and checking the radar. Huge bands of green with some yellow, orange and red flowed across the screen.  We watched a movie and fixed a good dinner.    I went to bed to read and fell asleep with the rain pouring down in buckets outside. 

         We slept in on Saturday since it was nasty as promised.  It was raining more intensely
and it seemed settled in.   The radar showed more rain behind this cloud mass.    We had looked thoroughly hoping we'd find a way to go further south to avoid being stuck indoors today.  
Alas, it was not in the cards.   We ate a good breakfast and headed to Asheville to shop.  
We took umbrellas and raincoats.    We took Cathy's computer along.  I had taken it home with me and gotten Don Lewis of Etherion to fix it.   I was bringing it home to her to hook it back up.
We hoped we'd get to at least visit with her and perhaps take her out to dinner later.



     Top and Middle: Delicious produce at the WNC Farmers Market
Bottom: Pretty flowering plants at Jesse Israel & Son's Garden Center also in the WNC Farmers Market.  

     We bought cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and fresh blackberries.
We went to the garden center in the market and Kenny bought me a piece of art I'd wanted for over a year.  I had wanted a red clay and rusted metal Elizabeth Keith wall hanging. 
It is made in Cary, NC.    

   Next we went to Northern Tool and Equipment for Kenny to look around and shop for  things men like. He came out with a disc grinder or some other tool he had wanted.    I read while he shopped.The rain continued to pour down.  We got some lunch in Brevard and went back to the camper.I took a nap and we watched movies.  It was a restful weekend.   I put a call in to Cathy close to time for her to get off work.  We met her at home and hooked her computer up and made certain it was working.   We went out to Cracker Barrell to eat dinner which was great.

We discussed a potential camping trip to Grandfather Mountain.  We said our good-byes and
headed home for the night. Lots of hoping and praying and checking the weather radar for the rain
to be out of there by morning.   It was looking more promising. Before we went to bed Saturday night a blessed quiet overtook us.  No more rain falling!  The frogs were out and chirping. 

     Sunday morning dawned still overcast, but no longer raining.   We ate breakfast and
headed out to hike.  We decided on Paradise Falls today followed by Raven Rock Falls.
We thought if we were really feeling frisky we'd try to hunt up Fisher Falls.  
Paradise Falls turned out to be a terrible experience for me.   I was no longer tasting and smelling 
colors, but I had a sinus headache. I took something for it.  I could tell my balance was off.
We struggled at first to find Paradise Falls trail. We picked the one that went down in the middle
of the parking area.  We came back to the truck and regrouped with better, clearer directions.
We found it quickly that time and set off again.   I was feeling my sinuses improve, but my balance
was still not right.   I struggled the entire way with the trip down that steep bank. It scared me so bad in my current state that I was sweating big drops and having trouble controlling my emotions.
Kenny was wonderfully supportive.   We made it down to see the falls. It was pretty and impressive, but I was not enjoying myself.   I was upset that my brain bucket was still messed up.
We saw a man at the top of the falls. I don't know what he was doing, but he was not real smart.

      See him up there? He was waving and carrying on.   

     The climb back up was not great, but a little easier on me.  I tried Jenny's tips for changing my perspective from what is NOT there to what IS there both on the way down and on the way up.
She is a good friend and I appreciated her advice so much. It did help some.   Between that and Lamaze breathing I got through it.    I can only explain what is going on with me by likening it to 
something else.  Only country folk or farmers may understand this.  A grated cattle guard works
because of the way the cow's perceive it.   They view it as a terrible obstacle to their safely crossing an area like a drive way.  They see the slats as a deep depression their hooves and legs may sink into up to their knees thus trapping them or breaking a leg.   They will avoid crossing it.
They may JUMP  it to avoid walking over it.  The cattle guard may be so old and filled with so much dirt there is no way they'd fall in.   It still works. Its all about perception.   My damaged brain perceives a visual stimulus like a steep cliff or bluff to climb down as WAY worse than it is.
I am a person though and my higher brain functions permit me to reason with myself and get
through an experience like creek crossings, climbing down a cliff or bluff.  It still feels horrible to me.  It is something I have no control over.  It is a reflex.  I had thought I was over all or most of that, but it was back today with a vengeance.   Kenny was tender with me and were it not for him I don't think I'd have managed.    I had two crying bouts on the trail. Very brief, but I was out of control of my emotions.   I was never so glad to see the truck and get out of a place.

    We headed back toward the camper at Cherryfield.  I calmed down.  I cooled off.
Kenny talked me into stopping at Raven Rock Falls and that was the right thing to do.  I had a great hike there and was fine.   My sinus pressure and the weird tasting colors, smelling colors was gone.  My balance was improved. I have to wonder how all this is interconnected?
We saw three gorgeous falls at Raven Rock.  Kenny was thrilled to see it for the first time.
We met a nice young couple who gave us some tips on better ways to find Fisher Falls. I had correctly identified the trail to it, but they told us a better, easier way.   Their easier way was from a place I don't think we'd be welcomed. We found a compromise for another time.
We were going to be late leaving the campground already.  We did not want to press our luck.
We stay there often and don't want to make enemies.   


Top: First falls along the hike to Raven Rock Falls. It was running well today thanks to all that rain.   
Bottom: The trail to Raven Rock falls at a spot where it is a rhododendron tunnel.

        Top: Bridge of Death Falls
Bottom: Raven Rock Falls flowing better than I'd ever seen it!

   On the way back to the campground we saw this hog trotting all around the sides of the road.  It was curious about us, but not scared of us.  Not sure if it is someone's pet. It is odd looking. It  had a white splotch in the center of its forehead and white hocks on the back.    Funny critter. We also saw a doe and twin fawns.    The sun was out and shining.   I felt better. I was at peace.  
I had completed three waterfalls off my list with the help of my husband.  I asked Kenny if he thought I would ever get 100% back to normal?  He says yes.    I certainly hope so.   I feel like we did our best to enjoy our time together and outdoors on a yucky, rainy weekend.   I've endured some rainy times in my life and I'm looking for the sun!


Below is a short video of Raven Rock Falls.
For some unknown reason.. the thumbnail at the start is turned horizontal.
I have edited the footage to flip it and it plays normally.  The thumbnail won't turn! 

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