It's kind of amazing how the spring, although it's one of the best times to go hiking, can leave one with so little time to do so. Between the weather, social obligations, and illness, it's been a struggle to find time to get myself out into the wild. As a result, my posts have been few and far between.
Quercus Ilicifolia Blog
Not long after one of our southern snowfalls this winter, I set out upon the Falls Creek Falls trail, a challenging 1.5 mile hike up to an amazing waterfall. This hike is in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of South Carolina. The recent snowfall was still in evidence on the waterfall itself, providing a unique view of the cascade.
Early in 2014, I paid a return visit to the Mountain Creek Trail in Paris Mountain State Park. Last time I was there, it was summer and the place was very green. This time, it was deep winter, and definitely not as lush. However, just as I've noted elsewhere, winter treks can be just as beautiful.
The Stumphouse Tunnel is part of the Blue Ridge Railroad, a project started in 1852 to connect Charleston and Knoxville. It was never finished due to lack of funds, but three of the tunnels still remain standing in various states of incompletion. I visited two of the others on the Blue Ridge Railroad Historical Trail, but did not visit the largest of these, Stumphouse. During the Christmas break, my wife and I went with her uncle to see the sights in the mountains, and Stumphouse Tunnel was one of the places we visited. I wouldn't classify this as a hike, but we at least viewed the tunnel itself, and Issaqueena Falls just nearby.
In the middle of December, as things were winding down for the holidays, I took a quick hike over at Table Rock State Park. I had taken the Carrick Creek Loop Trail a few times before, because it is a good overall hike, especially if time is limited. It is about 2 miles (1.8 miles according to guide books) and for the most part it is easy to moderate, with a few stretches of elevation change that ensure that one gets a workout. The recent rains allowed the many cascades and rapids to shine and I decided to render the images in black and white, to emphasize the textures of the subjects.
In late fall of 2013, I opted to try the Winding Stairs Trail, a 3.5-mile one-way trail in upstate SC. The trailhead I started from is just north of Walhalla, near the Cherry Hill Recreation Area. There is a small parking area there, and it appeared that I was the first to embark on the trail from that end when I got started. I was in search of two falls, Miuka Falls, and the lesser-known Secret Falls. I found at least one of these two.
So, here it was the middle of autumn, and I very much wanted to get up into the mountains to see the colors of the leaves, which were certainly at their height. I was concerned that if I didn't get up there sometime soon, I'd miss my chance. To that end, I looked around at different trail descriptions, trying to decide on an apt location for leaf-watching. I found a likely candidate in the Hospital Rock trail, a 2.2-mile round trip trail in Jones Gap State Park.
I opted to return to the Great Smoky Mountains for this hike, since I had some time for a mid-week trip. It's a bit farther than I normally go, since it's a few hours to the park, but when my wife and I had done some hiking in the Smokies during our vacation, I developed an interest in exploring the park further. Thus, I decided to try the Deep Creek Loop Trail.
For a number of years now, as I've been living in the upstate South Carolina area, I had seen signs for "Chau-Ram". I kind of vaguely wondered what it was, perhaps thinking it had something to do with the Chauga River. But I never pursued it, until I read a write-up on the hiking trails available there. Turns out, Chau-Ram is a nice-sized park near the confluence of the Chauga River and Ramsey Creek; hence, Chau-Ram.
In late summer, I got a new hiking book, Explorer's Guide 50 Hikes in South Carolina: Walks, Hikes & Backpacking Trips from the Lowcountry Shores to the Midlands to the Mountains & Rivers of the Upstate, and the author spoke of a waterfall called Station Cove Falls that can be reached by way of the Oconee Station Historic Site. This area, located in upstate South Carolina, not far from my home, is one of the oldest frontier stations in the mountains.