Saturday, June 17, 2017

Grandfather Mountain Camping Trip 2017--Waterfall 100 Challenge Work

Looking into the throat of a Gray's Lily bloom.

Grandfather Mountain Camping -Waterfall 100 List Work

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Wally Storey
Nanette White & Andrew Houde

Friday June 9 through Sunday June 11, 2017

  Back when I began keeping a blog  I did it as a way of  journaling my experiences for my own benefit.  I sometimes go back and read them for pleasure to re-live the trip. I also rely upon the 
blog entries to help me keep up with particular details of how to get to a place. How difficult it was.
I never imagined what else would come of it.   One of the things that has happened is that it helped
make me a friend.  I had a fellow email me with an introduction of himself and his hobbies which 
lined up with mine very closely.   He had seen a link to my Cumberland Gal blog on Rich Stevenson's
NC  .  He had asked me for some advice on a couple falls since we were both working
He saw that I had completed some he needed more recently.   It took awhile of hit and miss planning, but we finally got together to meet face to face instead of just phone and emails.  I made a great new friend and so did Kenny in Mr. Wally Storey. He is a very nice gentleman who has so much in common with me and Kenny.     I also hope to become friends with Mrs. Storey. 

Wally Storey-- my new waterfalling pal. I guess I'll have to share him with Kenny. :-D
I took this photo because there is a tiny blue periwinkle butterfly hitching a ride atop Wally's hat!

    We set a date and planned to meet up and camp at Grandfather Mountain Campground. 
Wally had some difficulty reaching Burnthouse Branch Falls and I still needed that one on my list.
I figured we could benefit from one another's experience and have fun and finally get to meet.
It worked out fine.  We arrived at the campground a few hours ahead of him. We got set up and rested and had lunch.  He arrived we made introductions. It seemed very quickly like we had known him for a long time.  He is an easy going guy.  He got his tent site ready and we decided we'd all go out for a half day of hiking.  We ended up seeing Otter Falls which is in a nearby newly created park. It is located in Seven Devils.  It was an easy, short and worthwhile visit.  The falls has an observation platform . steps to get you to the base. It has well constructed trails and conveniently placed benches for sitting.  It is in a lush green setting with lots of shade.   It would be a nice place to go any time.

Best view of Otter  Falls.  

           We hiked back to the parking area and continued toward our next destinations. 
We wanted to visit some of the falls that were short hikes in the Harpers Creek area.  We stopped
by Thorps Creek Falls which while very small is pretty and a super easy hike.  It is only 0.4 miles one way.  I had never been here so I was pleased to see something else new. 

Thorps Creek Falls

      Once done there we went a little further and arrived at the main parking area for Harper Creek Falls.  I wanted to hike this over and the men agreed to humor me.  I had not made it to the base last time thanks to the frayed rope threatening at any moment to break.   We brought our own today, but ended up not having to use it.  Since that time the rope has been replaced with new, stout rope in great condition.   We hiked steeply up and then leveled off and pressed on toward Harper Creek Falls.  
We saw a fair number of other hikers, but not nearly so many as last time.   We ended up having the falls to ourselves for a brief period. The shadows were growing long as the daylight passed into the golden glow of evening.    We stood down next to the clear waters of Harper Creek with the falls before us.  It was a beautiful setting.  I was really happy to have gotten to the bottom today.  I can tell that my balance and vision and depth perception have all improved since last time.  That is an excellent feeling,,, believe me.   

 Lower drops of Harper Creek Falls
Lovely plunge pool at the base
On the return hike we saw two cool things. One was a tiny baby ring neck snake.  I did not get a photo of him since he was very speedy. I did see a spreading pogonia along the path.  It was my first one this season.  I have seen these many times before.  

         Back at the car we realized it was very late. We were hot, tired, sweaty and hungry. We had planned to cook out steaks and such for dinner.  We opted instead to stop on the way back and grab something to eat.  Dirty as we were the Peddlin' Pig still let us in.  They fed us and boy were we glad.
Pulled Pork Barbecue with an assortment of sauces. Hush puppies freshly made.  Sweet tea. Kenny had a beer.   It was great.  We went back to the camper and Wally his tent. We said our good nights and  tired as I was.. I made myself get a shower before turning in.   I was filthy. 
We slept well and woke refreshed the next day ready for adventure.   We had no idea what this was going to turn out like.   Jason Horton had told me on Thursday regarding Burnthouse Branch Falls..." I can't wait for y'all to see it."  Those words would come ringing back to me later.

     Burnthouse Branch Falls Hike 

         I knew from reading the trip reports of others that this hike was not the easiest.  The mileage is
deceptive. It is only  six miles round trip.  We have hiked way worse than that.  Kevin Adam's directions state that the trail is cliff hugging and exceedingly steep up and down in places. He hit the nail on the head.  We came prepared.  We got an early start.  We brought rope.  Wally's previous two unsuccessful attempts went something like this.  He came to hike it only to find one of the roads gated off thus making the hike a good two miles longer than necessary.  Not enough daylight to get that distance covered.  Second time he and a buddy went and decided to try to come in from Mountains to Sea Trail which leads in from the opposite direction.  The problem they encountered today was that in order to reach Burnthouse Branch Falls you must ford Upper Creek. The trail continues right to the base of it, but it is on the far side from where you started.   Upper Creek was far too deep to safely ford this time.  Today we came in knowing that Jason had visited only a week earlier.  Road was open.  No downed trees across the road itself.  Recent rains should have the falls flowing really nicely.  It would be worth the trip. I noticed Jason did not bother going to nearby Ravencliff Falls which is so unlike him.  That should have been a red flag.   We told ourselves we'd save that for the hike back out. 

         Below is a photo of the first rocky place above Upper Creek we stopped. I took very few photos today.  It was a tough one.

    The hike starts out harmless enough.  A wide, fairly level logging road which dwindles down to a true forest path.  It winds along on the right of Upper Creek heading upstream. Upper Creek is an almost continuous series of pools, cascades, slides and falls.   It is one of the all time prettiest streams because there is something to see nearly the entire way.   The trail then begins to climb and edges nearer the brink of the bluff.   It is very narrow.  Part of the challenge in keeping up with it is negotiating the narrow, cliff hugging trail up and down over rocky patches and boulders.  We took our time and were very careful.   Jason had also told me the trail got harder to distinguish in the last half mile before the falls. He couldn't have said it any better.  We had no real trouble following it until we got to that last stretch.   Kenny was scouting at this point. The trail appeared to go down the bluff toward the river.  According to the map and Kevin's directions that should be right. We did tie off a piece of static line to help with the steep slope. It was muddy and filled with chunks of branches.
We made it down that part and encountered a blow down. The lap of a tree was before us.  Kenny told us to stay put while he tried to figure what came next. The trail seemed to go down here but 
one barely discernible track lead up through some brush.  He hollered for us soon and said to come on up so we headed his way. It was a steep climb without any trail.  We didn't go far though til we could barely see and hear the falls.     Kenny insisted there was a way down here.  

      We headed toward him and the falls. Sure enough there was a way to climb down.  It was not easy, but doable.   It brought us out right by the falls. No need for climbing up.  We checked out the pretty waterfall. We were tired and hot. Thirsty. Hungry.  We sat down to rest and eat lunch.  We'd worry about what came next after we fueled back up.   
 First look at Burnthouse Branch Falls

Kenny sits down to eat. 

  We sat and relaxed and chatted.  Once we had rested and eaten we felt a lot better.  We took photos and video.  We climbed down to the base of the falls very carefully. We got in the water to cool off.  
It was such a nice setting.  I love the deep green leafy feel of Summer.  Today was rather hot and humid.    I had remarked on the hike in that I doubted we'd see another soul all day.  I got the feeling this hike was to a falls not heavily visited.   We stood enjoying the falls I looked around and saw and heard something. People!  Dogs and people!  Here came a man, woman and three dogs!  We had just been discussing how we wished we had realized how much simpler it would be to have come in off MST. We wished we had a vehicle out there that we could just continue and do a shuttle.  We were dreading going back the way we came.  We all had  misgivings about going back down over some of the rocky portions we had come up. Wally has rheumatoid arthritis and my balance is better, but it is not good as it once was.  I decided I was going to talk to those folks and find out where they came from.  If I could enlist them to help us...... I was sure going to try!
 Burnthouse Branch Falls lower portion
I've got a blow out in Damper Three... Pitch is out I can't hold altitude.Flightcom, I can't hold it.. she's breaking up, she's breaking up......... It is a rough ass hike when you blow out one side of your bra!

Think this is shuttleworth's ginger. Seen along MST on the hike out.  

   We met Andrew and Nanette the man and woman. We met Petey,  Harper, and Kaiyah the dogs.
They were very nice people and avid hikers and athletes who lived in the area.  The dogs were very cute and entertaining.  I made introductions and asked them where the came in from? Next I asked them what they drove?  I went on to explain our predicament to them. Being the excellent human beings they are they quickly agreed to help us out.  We'd hike out with them and they'd take us round to our truck. It was not out of their way as they had to go back past our truck on their way home. 
I was so relieved.  The plus of this was making wonderful new friends, seeing new sights, learning another way to access this falls, and knowing while this would not be easy it would be safer.

          Fording Upper Creek today was tricky but refreshing.  The scenery on the hike out was great.
The conversation with Andrew and Nanette was interesting.  We made fast friends with these two fun people!  Wally and I were far slower than Andrew, Nanette or Kenny.  Wally suggested that they go on and hike out with Kenny and me and we could come back and pick him up.  He would have to go at his own pace. His R.A. gets him fatigued as the day progresses.  I thought it a great idea , but begged to be allowed to walk out with Wally at my slower pace.  It all worked out fine.  They got the truck and car. We trudged out slowly uphill to Barkhouse Branch trailhead.   We had about ten minutes to sit and wait on them til they arrived.  We traded phone numbers so we can keep up with one another. I hope the opportunity presents itself to visit them again. I also hope we get to do them a good turn in the future.  
       Sitting waiting on Kenny to pull up with the truck Jason's words regarding Burnthouse Branch Falls came back to me.  " I can't wait for y'all to see it.".  It hit me funny and I started to laugh. I thought about his sense of humor. I thought about the postings by women he hikes with on Facebook. "I hate you." and Amber's expressions of exasperation and fatigue at some of the stuff he gets her into.  I bet you couldn't wait for us to see it buddy boy.  Yeah.  You knew we were going to get our asses kicked.    I sacrificed my rope to hike out another way, but I didn't care.  I loved this section of the Mountains to Sea Trail and would like very much to come back here and hike it again.  It is a stand alone destination in my opinion.  We passed Ripshin Falls on the way out.  That alone would be worth the hike.  

            We sat around and visited outside on a perfect evening. Sunny, but cool with a nice breeze.
I had put steaks in to marinate that morning.  I put potatoes in the oven to bake. I boiled us up some fresh corn on the cob. Sliced up nectarines.  Made a big bowl of salad with homemade dressing.
We ate outside and visited.  Wally had a meeting the next morning in preparation for a mission trip.
He had to get going so he could be there the following day. We hated to see him go, but look forward to getting up with him again for more waterfall adventures.  We were blessed to meet him, spend time with him and be there with him as he finished number ninety-nine of his Waterfall 100. That leaves me with eight more.  Feels good to have knocked off a tough one.  I told them I was glad I had not
done Burnthouse Branch first because I'd have said NO WAY to the waterfall challenge! ha!
I'm down to needing these eight: 

  • Shuck Ridge Creek Falls --Brevard

  • Upper Falls-Shining Rock

  • Hilliard Falls --Lake Toxaway

  • Moonshine Falls--Greenville Co SC 

  • Lee Falls Oconee Co SC 
  • Long Creek Falls Oconee Co SC 

  • Rileymoore Falls Oconee Co. SC 

  • High Shoals Falls--Morganton


  We had plans for many things Sunday morning.  What we did not plan on was waking up feeling like we were wrung out and ready for the nursing home.  We had planned to go do some short hike in the area and then stop by Roan Mountain on the way home.   We woke up weary and our greatest ambition getting home at a decent hour.   We fixed a nice breakfast. We went and returned a movie to Lowes at the Red Box.  We went for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I spotted some beautiful grays lilies on the way.  We stopped and hiked at Beacon Heights. We both wondered how we had missed seeing Beacon Heights in all our previous trips?  It is so nice.

 Grays lilies really are that red.

Better view of the throats of the lilies.  Saw these in a couple different spots.

Turkey Beard blooming by the parkway. This was a first time sighting for me!

View from Beacon Heights.. one of two overlooks
Nye Simmons states that one overlook favors dawn photos while the other favors sunset.

Catawba rhodos up on the parkway

very coppery gold tone of flame azalea blooms along the parkway.

Below is a video of the view from Beacon Heights

lastly a video of the infamous Burnthouse Branch Falls. Worth it in the end, but ouch.

**Edited to Add** Notes to Self.
Remember to come back and hike to Burnthouse Branch Falls by way of MST when the water levels are just right.

Also remember to hike to Ravencliff Falls on the Greentown Trail as an out and back.

Remember to buy a 40 ft length of static line.

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