Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfall Trip

On June 14 & 15 I embarked on a journey on my VFR to visit some waterfalls that I had not yet seen. I sat down Saturday night and decided where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see and then headed out Sunday morning. I headed up I-26 and US276 toward Caesar's Head and stopped to visit Wildcat Falls near where US276 and SC11 split. The lower falls is visible from the road, so I've seen it many times, but I recently learned that there is a much larger waterfall just a bit upstream, so this time I stopped and headed up the half-mile trail to see it. The trail leads past the remains of an old CCC house:

Here is the upper falls:

And the lower falls visible from the road; smaller, but prettier:

Next stop was Raven Cliff Falls, near Caesar's Head; there is a parking area a mile north of the visitor's center, and a 2.2-mile trail beginning across the street leads to an observation area. It was a fairly easy hike and was very nice and relaxing.

A couple of shots from the trail:

I saw a white squirrel along the way. I've read about these in the area, but this is the first time I've ever seen one in person; he didn't stick around long, so I got only one blurry shot of him.

At around 400 feet in height, Raven Cliff Falls is quite majestic.

I continued up 276 towards Brevard and stopped to visit Connestee Falls and Baston Creek Falls, which are about halfway between the state line and Brevard; they are accessible via a short trail that starts at the Top of the Falls Realty office. The observation area is at the top of Connestee Falls, and you look across at Batson Creek Falls.

Looking down Connestee Falls:

Batson Creek Falls:

I continued into Brevard and stopped for lunch at a favorite restaurant of mine, Quotations Cafe, where I had my usual meal of vegetable quiche, salad, and coffee. Very fine meal and relaxing stop.

I then continued up 276 to the Blue Ridge Parkway and went south on it a short distance to view Yellowstone Falls, which is visible from the Parkway.

Cool shot along the Parkway:

I then retraced my steps and headed north a few miles to the Mt. Pisgah Campground where I pitched my tent for the evening. It's a very nice campground with good facilities at a very fair price; I'll have to camp there again.

Once I had my tent up and had put my feet up for a bit and re-energized, I was ready to embark on a hike, and at the recommendation of the ranger I headed up the Frying Pan Firetower trail. It was a decent uphill hike covering around a mile and a half. At the top is the firetower that is open to climb, so I did that and was treated to an incredible 360-degree panoramic view.

Here's the tower as seen from the road level, from where I started my hike.

After getting back to my bike I rode out and back about 20 miles on the Parkway; this is the tunnel-rich section, so I went through around 10 tunnels on the way out, went through them again on the way back, and then one more time the next morning when I left, so around 30 tunnel passings total.

Finally back at the campground for the evening following a very full day, I got in some reading while munching on fruit and granola bars. Once it got dark around 9:00 I listened to a bit of NPR in my tent, catching interesting interviews with the inventor of Tetris (who admits he's not terribly good at the game) and a guy who heads a group of folks who pore over satellite imagery of North Korea looking for items of interest (though Kim Jong Il is an avid and talented golfer, they have found only one golf course in the country) and then drifted off to sleep with little effort.

Monday morning I awoke around 7:00 and broke camp and packed up. A nice thing about camping at that campground is that right across the Parkway is the Mt. Pisgah Inn and restaurant, so I went over there and enjoyed a very good and fairly-priced breakfast before hitting the road.

I rode about 100 miles on the Parkway and stopped at Little Switzerland to visit Grassy Creek Falls (very easy to find; exit the parkway, drive underneath it, and take the first right, a well-packed gravel road - you can either drive down it 3/10mi and park or just park right off the main road if you don't feel like messing with the gravel and walk a bit further.) It was a nice 1-mile hike down to the waterfall, following the water for a while. The waterfall turned out to a really nice one, my favorite one of the trip, actually.

Just as I was about to start heading back to my bike, rain started falling. It wasn't too bad at first but quickly became a heavy downpour. I briefly contemplated seeking shelter and waiting it out, but I figured it may last for quite a while, and honestly, with the temperature where it was, the thought of riding soaked wasn't too unappealing, so I soldiered on. The hike back to my bike was uphill (I alway prefer to get the work done initially so I can then have an easier return, but that's often not the case) but at least the rain cooled me a bit. Fortunately I keep a Ziploc bag in my camera case, so putting it in there kept it nice and dry. Got back to my bike to find my jacket and gloves and helmet soaked, as was the rest of me, but I just suited up and headed on. A couple of bikers seeking shelter under the Parkway overpass watched me the whole time; they probably thought (rightly so) that I was a nut.

I continued down the Parkway toward my next planned destination, Linville Falls and Linville Caverns. Rain fell the whole way, plus I encountered some fog, so visibility was not very good at all, but I kept my speed down and made it OK. It was a good test of the anti-fogging abilities of my new helmet, and it performed very well.

It was still raining when I got to Linville, so I passed on by; that'll have to wait for another day. This is the second time I had to abort that visit; a couple of years ago I had planned on visiting there following the anuual Virginia Highlands camping trip, but heavy fog on the Parkway changed my mind. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

Shortly after getting off the Parkway the rain came to an end, and I enjoyed some good dry riding down 221 to I-40; right before getting on I-40 I passed through Old Fort and saw a sign for the Andrews Geyser, so I detoured a bit to check it out; it was built in 1885 and is powered by water delivered via gravity from a lake 2 miles away; it shoots 80 feet into the air.

From there I rode NC9 to Bat Cave (a favorite twisty road of mine.) In Bat Cave I got on US74, another fun twisty road, and rode up to I-40 and back, and then rode US64 to Hendersonville, where I stopped for a much-needed break and meal and coffee.

Not 5 minutes after getting back on the road, rain started again. I'd already survived one soaking for the day, so I just carried on and got soaked again. The rain lasted about an hour, leaving the final hour or so of my journey dry and sunny, and by the time I got home I was pretty well dried out.

This turned out to be a great trip that was devised rather last-minute. I saw 6 waterfalls that I had not seen before plus an old favorite again (getting my total number of falls visited to 45), plus a geiser, and I got in some great riding and around 12 miles of hiking.


At Sunday, August 02, 2009 1:09:00 AM, Blogger Dave and Brigette at the Inn on Mill Creek said...

Enjoyed discovering your blog. Beautiful photos! Cheers, Brigette

At Thursday, February 18, 2010 6:09:00 PM, Blogger Eddie said...

Nice trip, Payne. I haven't been to Caesar's Head since I was a teenager. You REALLY need to visit Linville Caverns.

At Thursday, January 20, 2011 12:43:00 PM, Blogger joe said...

These are great photos of (God's Country)! I have spend alot of my time in the area visiting my Grandparents. You really know how to travel well!


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