A day out enjoying God’s creation with the man I married is just what I needed. I had tried to go see a Sunburst Falls while hubby was at his yearly golf weekend but things just didn’t work out. I really wanted to see it but he really preferred I not go alone and said we could go when he got back even though he is extremely busy right now. Boy, am I glad I waited.
I prayed nothing unexpected would happen with Tyler while we were gone and we took off for the day to see a list of six waterfalls I picked out. Finding them along with my shoulder issues were both greatly helped by my husband. All of them had mileage from an intersection but I wanted to see Sunburst Falls first so he had to add and subtract mileage to find where to park for the next waterfalls on the list. Plus he was better at maneuvering my low sitting car around the uneven ground and even thru water.
Ryan Watts took this drone photo that really shows the waterfall well from above and below the road, and this one (bottom photo) by Rich Stevenson of NCWaterfalls.com shows what I would’ve seen if I’d gone just a little farther across the water.
Upper Sunburst Falls above Hwy 215, over a picturesque 1930’s High Arch stone bridge was plenty viewable from standing beside the guardrail at the road. The falls were so beautiful and loud. Hubby went down on the big pot holed boulders (pic at top) and said it was a lot louder, and at 4160 elevation it felt nice and cool. The West Fork Pigeon River, had quite a bit of water, even though we are a few weeks past getting a record-breaking 22″+ rainfall in May.
Lower Sunburst was harder to get to, even harder to get to where I wanted to take my photo from and made even more difficult by needing the full use of my right arm for the bank descend and balance among the rocks. The bank wasn’t even that terrible high, just steep. Even when I sat on a rock for my foot to reach the next rock, I couldn’t put my weight on my hands and scoot my butt over. My awesome, non-photographer husband, went down first to see the best access route, the accessible view, and to check for snakes. I don’t know what I’d have done had he needed my help as we didn’t have cell service most of the day. When we got to the base of the bank, I needed to get to the center of the water to get the photo I had in my mind. I can’t rock hop, even back when I was in better shape and my dominate arm worked better than it is now. Hubby went out by rock hopping, I took my boots off, rolled up my jeans and waded out in the cold water using a walking stick for balance and just taking my time. I set up my tripod in the water and shot a few, leaned backwards over a boulder and hand held for a few, enjoyed the view and walked back to the bank on numb feet. In hindsight I see that I should have put on my grad ND turned toward the right side of the water on lower part. I just read while typing out the elevation and info for this post that the falls are near the tow of Sunburst, NC, and old logging town, that is mostly under the waters of Lake Logan today. I should really read all the details when we get to each falls!
Next up was Little Bird Falls, elevation 3820, rated at a difficulty 5. The only semi-difficult part was the short bank to start and finish the trail, and if I could’ve used my arm like normal to hold trees it really wasn’t strenuous. In fact, I looked back at my book to make sure we’d made it all the way to the falls instead of just a cascade. To start the trail, I didn’t really see where we supposed to go up the bank to the logging grade. I was also wishing I’d read what “river right or river left” meant. We saw an area a little more beat down and picked it. My arm slowed me down enough I saw snails. I had on my new glasses without the nose piece that I could push up on top of my head. I pushed them up in my hair, took out my camera and snapped a few pics of the snails. When I leaned my head down to put my camera back in my bag, my glasses fell off the top of my head down the muddy bank. With my brown glasses and eyesight being what it is, I couldn’t even see them. Hubby could see them from the top of the bank and came down to get them so I didn’t step on them trying to retrieve them. Back to the logging grade, that looked like a not well defined walking trail, we walked the short distance to the beautiful moss covered rocks, cascades, and trillium that had already bloomed. What a beautiful place. Made me wonder how all these wonderful places are even discovered. When I got back to the car I put my strap on my glasses. We didn’t see any of the rusty steel cables there.
We left there and went toward Little Beartrap Falls, crossing over the road that goes thru the water and arrived at a closed gate. I now have “over the river and thru the woods” running in my mind. In Kevin Adams book it is rated as a 2-10 in difficulty. Since I was really feeling how out of shape I have gotten, and we had other falls to see, we decided to catch that one another time when the extra 3 miles of walking wasn’t as big of a deal.
We pulled in to a large gravel rut filled parking area, opened the trunk sat on the edge to eat our sandwiches before walking some of the MST, Mountain-to-Sea Trail. Several sections of the trail looked more like a stream bed to see Mount Hardy Falls. Elevation 5560, difficulty level 5, with surprisingly little water coming over the falls. I still forgot to look up what river left meant but based on what it said and what it looked like on the last few, I assumed that if you face the way the water is flowing downstream, then you stay on your left or right after you’re facing the same way the water is flowing. We passed lots of old steel cable and a railroad iron. I had thought we’d do the view from the trail instead of the base, but I was reading the directions from a picture I took of the book page and we followed the directions for the trail to the right that involved light bushwhacking to the base of the falls. Especially at the base of the falls on the rocks, in my opinion, this was trickier than the difficulty 5 of the last trail. Again, I didn’t read first or thorough to look for the tall red spruce at the base. When you’re at the base you are basically looking straight up at this 100′ tall waterfall. At this point, I was wishing I had told my best friend which waterfalls we were going to see instead of just “we’re going waterfalling”. I think this was the longest walk of the day at 2.3 miles so I elected to not take my tripod so no long exposure shots at this one, but I did put my grad ND on. I really liked the forest views. There were more areas with tall pines without the clutter of thick underbrush that was just scenic. Had we taken the trail to the left we should have been able to see the falls from above and if we continued on the trail we may have been able to see Wildcat Falls across the gorge. On the way back I suggested seeing it from the left trail but hubby, whos hips had caught and started hurting while walking, didn’t really see the point since we’d already seen it at its full glory looking straight up from the bottom. I like Kevin Adams photo from the trail better than mine from the bottom so when we go back someday I’ll have to see that view too.
Wearing down we decided to see Bubbling Spring Branch Cascades (The Potholes) from the pull off instead of the difficulty 7 with creek wade. I’m guessing you can see more of this from the pull off in winter than in summer. This shot was with me holding my camera above my head.
I had Wild Cat Falls second to last on my list, but I hadn’t gotten to the part about how bad the pull off to the parking area was when I blurted out, “there take that left”, and we did, then a truck came speeding down thru the curve so we had to speed up our turn to discover that it was quite the drop off. Wildcat is 200′ waterfall, at elevation 5360 and is a hike difficulty 3. There were two other trucks in the limited parking area. We meant to put on more bug spray and I meant to carry my full size tripod but we just got out and started walking. We got to the little stream, that I guess it Bubbling Spring Branch, and this was the first time all day I actually had a pain shoot thru my shoulder instead of just the ache of things I couldn’t do with it. I am right handed but had been carrying my tripod or walking stick in my left hand so if I stuck it out for balance I wouldn’t be jamming my shoulder. Hubby crossed the log. I decided to cross the rocks because if I did fall it was less distance before I hit the ground. I was using my walking stick with both hands to start off, then absentmindedly switched to just my right hand. When I needed it for balance right at the end I stabbed it into the ground and it hurt for a good 5 minutes, but let up with no lingering problem 🙂 We were obviously following a horse, based on the hook prints and poo.
We got to a little twin falls on the right that I didn’t remember reading about, and don’t’ know the name of. We kept walking and got to a concrete bridge in the middle of the trail. The edges of concrete were hanging out over air but I guessed the edges would break off way before the whole thing ever fell, and hey a horse or two had just crossed so we sat out on the raised edge and looked above and below Wild Cat Falls. Maybe someday if we are riding with another car, we’ll do the shuttle thing and continue past the bridge on Flat Laurel Creek / Sam Knob trail.
On the way back to the car my husband told me that he thought people were getting softer with each generation and I agree. He also said it was his great or great great grandad who used to use a drag pan pulled by mules to help cut in roads. Which of course I had to Google what one of those looked like. That brought me back to wondering how Indians, settlers and those who came before us found all these wonderful waterfalls. Did they just find water and go upstream to the source? Even if you go back to people like Kevin Adams whos books we follow. It pretty much sounds like he’s been to all the falls in his book. I didn’t test out every cat product in my books, and even if I had, that is a lot easier than finding over 1000 waterfalls. Then we thought about the workers who put in the railways, the person who discovered that you could basically take substance from the earth to make steel that was stronger than wood, or the surveyors with Gunter chains instead of transits who surveyed the land. Then even to his grandad who used to hoe corn for 10 hours a day for a dollar. I’ve never hoed corn but I can’t see me being able to do it for an hour, much less 10 day after day. His grandad built houses with a hand saw and hammer. We had electric tools, and a nailgun. The long days we put in working on this last house was trying enough. Part of me is grateful to live in the era that we do but I’m really happy we didn’t grow up with social media, cell phones, and basically a slew of online friends sans personal friends you actually participated in life with. My best friend that I went to school with, has kids that will graduate from high school in the next few years and I can’t even imagine how different their generation is to ours much less the one before ours.
It was wonderful to be in the woods seeing what we saw together and guess what….Tyler was fine. I am pretty shocked by how fast I fell back out of shape – even my leg muscles were sore. I’ve got to get back to walking! I may look into getting a fit bit if they don’t rely on GPS or wi-fi if they can tell me when I’ve walked milage instead of just steps to make it a tad easier to find side trails we’re supposed to follow. With all the ticks warnings this year I was kinda surprised that neither of us found one on us. Hope we didn’t just miss it!
As always these scenes are far more beautiful in person than anything I can capture. Here is video (and pics) from the 3 I remembered to video. https://youtu.be/THF7SKaajR4
We had planned to stop at Skinny Dip Falls but decided to save it for another day. Graveyard Fields lot was packed when we passed it, and it was before school would be out at 3. Maybe we can go to another Parkway sunrise, see Skinny Dip and then maybe Pink Beds.