Happy New Year ! My first hike of the brand new year would be to a triple set of waterfalls discovered by my hiking friend Tommy (Bol’Dar) Warden. We had the pleasure of documenting these falls and naming them to be listed on the TN Landforms Waterfalls website a few years ago. They are phenomenal falls with the middle set being some 150 feet tall. I would be accompanied on this trip with fellow waterfall enthusiasts Kenneth Woody and John Forbes. They picked me up at Hairnt-quarters around 10am and we were at the Longarm Branch trail head by 10:45 after a quick stop at the ‘Hitchin` Post’ so John could get his breakfast grub on.
On this adventure my friend Dave Aldridge and I would be attempting to see the Upper Dismal Falls and as many others as we could in the process. After a sausage biscuit from Clarence`s in Unicoi and the long drive down, we would begin this journey not at the traditional parking area as seen on the map but, instead we got permission to park at the nearby outdoor therapeutical camp for boys (formerly called Camp Winding Gap but, is now called Trails Carolina) where there is a little known shortcut trail that leads into the main trail. It was a beautiful day for hiking but, too sunny for taking pictures which seems to be the norm for me. Only minutes from the car we found ourselves at the side trail to Aunt Sally Falls (or so we thought) which we decided to skip on the way in as we had bigger fish to fry and a limited amount of daylight to accomplish it in.
On a chilly yet very sunny Thursday in mid December I joined an extraordinary group of hikers to explore the Little Stony Creek Gorge in Southwest Virginia. We would start this quest from the lower end at the Hanging Rock Picnic Area with hopes of making it all the way to the upper Little Stony Falls and back. In between we would take a lot of time to explore as much as we possibly could including unnamed waterfalls found by bushwhacking up some side streams. In this elite group would be myself, Jason Horton, John Forbes, and the Honey Badger himself, Thomas Mabry who would travel all the way from Waynesville, NC to join us. Parking at the picnic area we began our journey going upstream into the gorge where our first stop would be a rather large rocky area where some old coal mines are located. Their openings have been blocked by welded steel structures to prevent human entrance and to also protect the endangered brown bat populations.
For as long as I can remember I have seen the bare spots on one particular slope on the Tennessee side of Unaka Mountain. These are most prominent when there is a dusting of snow on them which allows the areas to stand out from the rest of the terrain there. It has only been in recent years that I have looked more closely at these areas and realized that they consist of broken rock that form enormous football field sized boulder gardens that lie on the steep slopes. Having looked at these rock piles from various locations as well as looking down on the upper one from the road that runs across the top, I never really gave much thought to several things like how large they really were, what they were made of, what made them and just how steep it actually is. About a year or so ago a hiking friend of mine asked about them and it made me realize that although I knew they were there, that I really did not know that much about them. That person became very interested in them and vowed to go there and stand on them as soon as possible. Since this had tweaked my own interest in them, I advised as to where they were exactly and what routes one would have to take to get to them, whether it be from bottom or top, and vowed that I would be there before them ! On Dec. 3, 2014 I made that a true statement.
Since discovering the wonders of the Panthertown Valley in North Carolina, it has became a quest to see all of the many waterfalls there. On this trip I would be going with Dave Aldridge and would be accompanied by my good friends Tommy (Bol’Dar) Warden and Derrick Hamrick. Our plan was to start at the Cold Mountain Gap Trail head and attempt to see at least 6 major waterfalls including Carlton`s Falls, Halfway Falls, Greenland Creek Falls, Mac`s Falls, Pothole Falls and if we had time, Schoolhouse Falls. Not leaving before 8am burns a lot of daylight as it is nearly a 3 hour drive one way to get there and with the short light of the Falls season, I knew we would end up walking out in the dark ! We were on the Mac`s Gap Trail around 11 am which leads down to Greenland Creek and Trail that we would follow upstream to Greenland Creek Falls. The sun was already on the top of them so as usual I would not be getting any quality pics but, luckily we had Derrick with us so I knew he would be getting some keepers.
After my last trip to the newly discovered falls of upper upper dick creek on 11-8-2014 where we fell considerably short of reaching the uppermost falls at the head of the valley, I was determined to come back and get to those elusive falls. After consulting with my friend Larry Jarret who was the one who discovered the four new falls that reside above the known Upper Dick Creek Falls earlier this year, it was agreed that due to the distance and extremely rugged terrain, that it would be best to do this trek from top down going one way. Another factor would be the decreased amount of daylight hours since it now gets dark by 5:30pm. Even during Summer where the days are long, I would not advise going there due to the large number of venomous snakes that thrive in this area that is not visited by humans ever. It was a cold day with temps right at freezing all day so there would be no danger of seeing any reptiles on this adventure. We began our quest by dropping a vehicle near where Dick Creek empties into the North Indian Creek near Limestone Cove and proceeding to take a second vehicle to near the top of Unaka Mountain (Photo by Bol’Dar) stopping only to pick up Bol’Dar at the Rocky Branch trail head parking lot.
I was recently bestowed the privilege and honor of planning a hike location for my good friend John Forbes to celebrate his #100 day of hiking in 2014. This was a goal he set for himself at the start of the year and it was quite an accomplishment so it was only fitting that the hike for that day be equally as impressive. Knowing that John prefers hikes that are not for the average hiker but, instead would be considered more extreme, sometimes bordering on insane, this hike would have to be of epic proportions. It was for this reason that I chose to lead us to the summit of Whitehouse Mountain, then down the incredibly steep off trail ridge that leads down to the top of the cliffs there that I aptly named ‘Stonehenge’ some 30 years ago. (You must see them from the ‘High Road‘ to understand why I chose that name) Of course the journey would not end there but, rather just be getting started as I would continue to escort everyone in the group across the top of the cliffs and then down to the base and walk across the foot of the mighty monoliths to beyond the other side to experience the full effect this area has to offer. The descent down from there is also a hike within itself. This is the prodigious story of that unforgettable day,,,,,
I have been going to Dick Creek and the lower falls there for over 30 years now having camped and hiked there many times in my lifetime but, it has only been in the last decade that I have become a waterfall-aholic and learned that there was an Upper Dick Creek Falls which I have since visited often. I have always suspected that there would be more falls above the upper falls but, I was yet to get the time needed to explore that region. I had been planning to get to that sometime this year however, the legendary backwoods explorer, Larry Jarret beat me to it as he spent a lot of time this year deep in the bowels of the Unaka Mountain area where just one of his many discoveries was at least four major waterfalls that lie deep within the rugged and remote area of the upper Dick Creek valley. On this hike I would see almost all of them for my first time along with my fellow mountain adventurers John Forbes and Kenneth Woody. We would also have the pleasure of being accompanied to the upper Dick Creek Falls with Michael Taylor, my brother from another mother.
I recently had the chance to go to the Flat Laurel Creek area with my hiking friends Dave and Lou. This area is near Sam Knob, Little Sam Knob, and Black Balsam Knob. It is not far from Graveyard Fields. We went in around Logan Lake and stopped along the West Fork Pigeon River to see the lower Flat Laurel Creek Falls from the road before driving just up the road to the trail head which would lead us up by many feeder streams, each with its own set of waterfalls until it reaches the main creek which eventually becomes the river and flows to Lake Logan. Lou opted to go back before that and take the car around to the other side of Sam Knob to a parking lot there so we could walk straight through to it. You can see the high knob and its rocky outcroppings from many places on this trail and it was calling to me.
After hearing about the channels for years and seeing recent pictures of this amazing place, I finally got the chance to go there. Thanks to my friend Jason Horton who organized a trip there which I was able to attend. The only bad part of it all was that Jason got sick at the last minute and was unable to go ! There were many that attended including John Forbes, Shane Estep, Jeff Forrester and family, and a few others that I can`t remember their names (sorry). The Channels are located on the Southern slope of the Clinch Mountain with parking locations along the Brumley Gap Road and from Hayters Gap which is where we started from. The Channels State Forest is 4,836-acres and within 721 acres of that area is dedicated to the Channels Natural Area Preserve under the provisions of the Natural Area Preserve Act of 1989 to be managed by the Department of Forestry in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation.