Waterfall Adventures in NC

Lisa and I

February 2, 2018

I have decided to call hiking with Lisa Adventure Hiking.  If i ever thought hiking in mountains was mountain climbing it really isn’t unless you do it Lisa’s way.  She likes to pick places that are basically unknown.  These places are generally un-marked trails but someone wrote and article about them.  We usually never see a soul and today is no different! They are a lot harder but always alot of fun!!

She tried to find Rhapsodie falls a couple weeks ago and didn’t so we are going to try again.   We started out at 7:15 am (cause i was running late).  Its 3 hours away to an area near Lake Toxaway, NC.  We follow the GPS that took us up to a point on US 280.  It said you are here.  We clearly were no where? Why does GPS do that? We re-read that article and he said to go to past a trout farm and turn down an unnamed road that leads down to a camp.  Seriously?  These are the directions?  We never find a trout farm but do find a road named Winding Gap Road with a TC sign on it.  We go past the camp and find a tiny parking area at the trail head.

From the trail head we head down the trail.  Lisa did this trail a few weeks ago and knew right where the first waterfall was.  It is called Aunt Sally’s Falls.  Its a pretty good waterfall.  Right on the trail there is a large camp set up.  There are 4 tents with a tarp across the top, a lean to over the firewood and even a green tall tent which I assume is the bathroom.  It is blocking the trail.  We just walk past to see this waterfall.  There is no one around and we wonder where they are because there were no other cars out there. I keep hearing voices and think we are going to run into someone but it must just be those voices in my head!

We head back down the trail to where we were. The directions we are following say to go to the right.  His directions are completely accurate but we cannot find the trail he talks about taking to the left! Lisa walked 6 miles last time and never found another falls.  He describes it pretty well.  He says “couple of creek crossings”, “large fallen tree over the trail”, “under the power lines”, through a Rhododendron tunnel”, Cross another creek and see a stand of white pines.  Well all this is spot on.  He says the trail splits to the left. He never talks about mileage and we never see a trail to the left.  We walk about a mile or so and keep going over it in our heads.  Last time she was here some guys told her to go to the left. Just below Aunt Sally’s falls the trail splits and we went right.  It doesn’t make sense but we decide to go back there and try that trail.

While walking back and doing our creek crossing I grab onto a tree to steady myself and this tree just falls out of the ground and breaks in half.  The top half missed my head by inches. It was kinda funny so i find another tree about the same size and give it a push.  With no effort it goes down like nothing.  No roots. It’s very weird.  they don’t look dead?

Lisa as always is way ahead of me on the trail.  I am lagging behind but I am also looking for a clearing or a trail on the left.  (now on the right). I see an area that might be what we are looking for and I trample down through some brush to see if i can find a trail.  There is a campsite there just like he described.  I call to Lisa and she walks in diagonally from me right down the trail we have been looking for!  It doesn’t look like a trail because there is a tree down.  She marks it with ribbon and we follow this trail past the campsite and over a creek crossing.  He says this is the west fork of the Broad River.  I have been wondering what creek we have been following. Its a jump from rock to rock creek crossing like all these on this trail. Unmarked trails means no one built a bridge!

We pick up the trail on the other side.  She marks where we crossed with a green tape.  He says the easy part is over.  We follow the trail up a couple hundred yards and we are here.  Dismal Falls.  It is a 20″-30′ waterfall.  We are all excited just to find the damn thing!  We take a bunch of pictures here and re-read his directions.  He says you can go up the left or right side of the falls to get to the next one.

I cross the creek again and look for a trail up the other side.  I think its a trail so across this creek and up we go. This trail is a doosey.  Its nearly straight up.  Lisa of course, has no problem but i’m trying to pull myself up from tree to tree.  Most trees break around here so this isn’t a great way to pull myself up but I’m wishing I had my poles at this point.  It was super hard.  I had to rest more than ones.  My heart was thumping in my chest!

We can hear the waterfall to the left.  We head that way and the trail is non-existant.  We can see the top of the waterfall but there are trees down everywhere and the rest is so overgrown rhododendrons.

We duck and climb under and over trees (mostly Rhododendron) .  If you’ve been through a rhododendron tunnel you know how thick they are.  We had to do this all the while jumping from rock to rock because our pathway was right up the middle of the creek!  It was so worth it.  This one was a beauty!  It must have been 70 ft high.

It had a beautiful spray that had an area behind it.  Of course Lisa wants to get behind this waterfall.  Its 32 degrees out here and I do not want to get wet.  She without hesistation trys to get behind the falls.  She is almost over the creek and her foot lands in the water.  Last hike she got her foot wet because it was my fault but this ones all on her!

With ease she gets behind the falls.  It makes for some cool pics. I’m pretty jealous at this point but I figure the spray from the falls is getting her wet.  Everything at the bottom of the falls is frozen so i’m not so interested in slipping on ice and getting wet. She talks me into it so its my turn.  I’m so glad she did because it was awesome.  Its so deep behind the falls that you do not get wet at all.  I wish I had my camera because its a beautiful cave like area with icicles hanging above.

After a bit we head down the trail we came up on.  If it was steep going up its just as steep going down.  I’m still hanging on trees trying to stay steady!  Where has my balance gone. We cross this creek at the base of the other falls and make our way down the trail over the next creek, past the campsite and back on the original trail.   We go to the fork that we thought was our turn since we couldn’t find that trail.  We follow it a ways and it ends up at a big parking lot.  We have no idea where we are.  Maybe another trailhead?  There is a group of backpackers coming towards us single file.  I say where are you going?  The front girl says “that way”.  The Girl at the end of the line stops to talk to us.  Turns out we are in the Trails Carolina Camp’s driveway. They are the people who set up camp by Aunt Sally’s.  They are headed there.  We decide to walk up the driveway to our car instead of following them up.  We pass a little farm and get to the road and find our car. Turns out Trail Carolinas is a place for troubled youth. They use wilderness schools to help them learn teamwork and self esteem and fix families. Pretty cool.

Now that i am writing this I have re-read that guys directions.  Turns out we didn’t finish.  That second falls wasn’t dismal falls.  It was the lower Dismal Falls. Dismal Falls is a 150 ft water fall above Rhapsodie Falls!  We completely missed it and the large rock wall!  Guess we will go back another day!

Its pretty early and we’ve only gone about 6 miles or so so we decide to find another hiking spot before we leave this area.  When we finally get internet I google and find there are a bunch of waterfalls within 5 miles of us at Gorges State Park.  Actually this area seams to have an endless supply of waterfalls! We follow our GPS right to the park.  The trailhead is way past the visitors center all the way to the end of the road.  We park there and get ready to head down the trail.  Lisa has a waterfalls book so i take a pic of the pages about these falls and we are off.

This starts off with big wide trails.  It’s 1.5 miles to Rainbow Falls.  We go about a mile and there is a fork in the road with no signs of course.  We are discussing what to do and 4 older people come up the trail to the right.  He says he doesn’t know whats left but there are 3 waterfalls to the right.  Ok we go right.  Shortly we see a sign that says leaving Gorges State Park and entering Pisgah Forest.

Now the trails are no longer marked and not so well maintained.  Its ok because its a straight shot to the first falls.  Rainbow falls is huge and amazing. It’s the Horsepasture River that goes over these falls. It’s a national scenic and wild river that ends in Lake Jocassee.

Of course Lisa wants to climb down close to the falls.  She goes around the wooden fence and heads down.  This falls is so fierce she doesn’t try to hard.  We walk down the trail a little more and there is a trail down toward the falls with an observation deck built.  A tree has crashed on it and the spray from the falls has this wet as rain.  We go down a few feet and get some great pics of the falls!

It’s called Rainbow Falls because of the way the light hits the water it produces rainbows.

We get back on the trail and head to the next falls.

This one is called Turtleback falls.  It has a bunch of great big rocks around it.  Perfect to climb on and get some great pics.

There is a pair of hiking boots by one big rock but no one around.  I keep expecting to see someone but no one is around.  Anywhere you might fall in this water and you would just get swept away.  This whole area is not the type of river you would not wade in.  Its a lot of power.

We get back on the trail and start to head up the trail.  It winds around the side of Turtleback falls. It’s a great view of the rushing water. I don’t know what’s way up stream but this is some powerful water! I told her I’m not fishing you out of there! This is mean water! And yes she could of ended up downstream had she let go!

We start back up the trail. We have probably done about 8 hardish miles at this point and i’m getting tired.  I drop by backpack by the side of the trail and continue up without it.  AHHH!

The next one is called Drift falls.  Its not much farther.  We follow the trail to a dead end. There is a sign saying it private property and you can view the falls back down the trail.

We surely don’t care and follow the fence down to the falls.  By the time I take my camera out lisa has already jumped the rocks to get to the front of the falls.  She didn’t see it but there is also a no trespassing sign on the rocks!  I make sure to get a picture of her trespassing.

We take some pics of this falls. I’m wondering who’s private property this is? How awesome would that be!

Its starting to get late so we start back toward the parking lot.  I pick my pack back up where I left it and wish i didn’t have to carry it.  She is booking down the trail and i’m just moseying along.  I’m tired.  Today is the day I decide to hike in my Keens instead of my trail runners. These things are the devil. My feet hurt and i know that’s why I’m so tired. There is a trail saying “a pound on the feet is 5 pounds on the back”. We get back to that fork I mentioned and look at the directions and it says there is another falls down there.  We start down this trail and its pretty steep.  I am not sure I want to go but I keep going to the river where there is a nice camp area.  The falls is down the trail farther and we go along the river down, down, down.  It gets extremely steep and I tell her that i’ll just wait here I don’t want to climb back up!  Of course my competitive side comes out again so I drop my pack (again) and climb down to the bottom.  I am so glad.  Its a beautiful falls called Staircase falls.  It tiers about 4 times and is just beautiful.

Now though I have to climb back up that dreaded trail.

For my benefit she is faking this climb but it is steep! Mike wants to hike tomorrow and I’m beat. I’m gonna show him this so he will understand! 😜

I have to stop a couple times but its not as bad as it was in my head!  It is getting late so we head back to the car.  That was 7 waterfalls in one day.

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We did 12 miles today.  I am both tired and hungry.  We are going to stop and eat on the way home.  We actually don’t stop until Gaffney SC, which is almost home anyway.  I was good.  I ordered a blackend chicken salad at Zaxby’s.  Hiking makes me so hungry the next day i’ll pay for only eating that Salad!

Another Great Day!

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