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A Sunrise, The Darkside, and a Waterfall – 10-19-2016

With the Fall colors now showing I planned an adventure for my son Tyler and I. This trip would start out a few hours before first light as we would make the drive over to the Grandfather Mountain area and night hike to a point high on Rough Ridge to anxiously await the impending sunrise. From there we would make our way to the ‘Darkside Cliffs’ as I had never been there and it was on our way to our final destination of Harper Falls.


Sunrise as seen from Rough Ridge on Grandfather Mountain


Posted on 13 November '17 by , under RATtreks, Uncategorized. No Comments.

Twisting and Compression Falls – 10-6-2016

With the Fall colors just beginning along with the mild temps and lower water level, I decided it was time for another return trip to one of my favorite locations in the Elk River Gorge which is Twisting and Compression Falls. This would be my son Tyler`s first time to this awe inspiring area and it is always exciting to see the expressions on the faces of first timers especially when they are seeing a place as rugged and special as this one. We would be accompanied by John Forbes who is also no stranger to these parts having been with me on more than one occasion here. Normally we would follow river right along a very hard to find and primitive ninja goat trail that snakes it way along the tops of the many cliffs that line that side of the gorge which does afford a very good high view of Twisting Falls not to mention being able to get down onto the ‘shelf rock‘ just below the base of the falls and then continue on until a super steep descent down the correct off trail route would land us at the base of Compression Falls. Of course here is also ‘the chasm‘ that one can use a rope to climb down to reach the base of Twisting Falls as well, which we did on a previous trip but, since the weather was warmer this time and we were looking for a new adventure here, we decided that we would cross the river and go down river left all the way to Compression Falls and out that way. Our decision was rewarding and paid off with everything we had expected and then some.


Early morning sun making its way down into the Elk River Gorge


Posted on 9 November '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

RAT`s Annual B-Day Hike – 9-8 to 9-10-2016

Almost every year I have tried to take 4 or 5 days off to go hiking around my birth date in September. Although I have missed a few I managed to make it happen in 2016. This one would only be for 3 or 4 days which is the shortest yet but, it is way better than none at all ! I will also add that the location and the unusually hot weather made it seem much longer. For the first time ever and to my delight, I would be joined by my son Tyler Tarpley. Unfortunately though, my usual compadre Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden would be unable to attend. The locations I chose for this event was in the Linville Gorge as Tyler had only been there once before and there was much more I wanted to show him. Day one was spent gathering last minute supplies, packing up and driving over where we stopped at the Gorge Rat`s campsite at the Hawksbill trail head with just enough daylight left to complete the climb to the summit before the sunset.


View from Hawksbill looking towards Table Rock as the sun began to set on our first day.


Posted on 25 October '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Bonas Defeat-ed – 8-20-2016

At the North end of the Panthertown Valley deep into the Big Pisgah (North Carolina)  where few dare to tread due to the seriously rugged terrain, there is a 2 mile long, boulder filled, slot canyon/gorge called ‘Bonas Defeat’. Named after a significant 400 foot cliff within the gorge, the name ‘Bonas Defeat Wall’ interestingly enough comes from an old legend about a man`s dog named ‘Bonas’ who used to chase deer and such off the edge of this cliff. As the story goes, one day a deer outsmarted him and sidestepped causing the hunting dog to run straight off the cliff where he fell the 400 feet to his demise err, defeat.


The Bonas Defeat Wall


Posted on 11 October '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Work Trip on the AT – 8-11-2016

Every year around late June or early August I gather up anyone crazy enough to volunteer to help me on my trail section of the Appalachian Trail that I have been maintaining now for over 26 years as a member of the Carolina Mountain Club. This year those lucky volunteers were my son Tyler ‘Little RAT’ Tarpley and my dear friend Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden. Some major changes have taken place since last year that made things much different for me in that the club decided to shorten all their sections if possible, in an attempt to have them not exceed 2.5 miles in length. Since mine was over 5 miles I was given a choice of taking the upper half from Whistling Gap to the top of Little Bald or the lower half from Spivey Gap to Whistling Gap. I was not in favor of this and I am having a hard time letting go of any of my section to someone else after putting in so much blood sweat and tears not to mention a few years of building new relos on both halves with the Konnarock crews and personally building the rock steps up the backside of High Rocks etc., so it was a very hard decision for me. Being forced to choose I chose the upper half which although is harder, it would give me a key to access through the USFS gate that I have been trying to get for all these years. This allows me to drive in via a 4WD forest road behind an always locked gate all the way to Whistling Gap. The other major change was my good friend and former co-maintainer Doug Corkhill would no longer be able to pick me up at Spivey Gap to ride with him to the summit of Big Bald which has enabled me to walk one way (down hill mostly) to do my section for the past few years,  as he no longer has the section above mine due to being relocated as a result of a job promotion.


Upper Relo on the lower realm of Little Bald


Posted on 28 September '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Upper Whitewater River Gorge (NC) Misc. Falls – 7-23-2016

My next adventure would be a group hike organized by my friend Thomas (The Honey Badger) Mabry to one of the many audacious locations found within the wonderful ‘Mr. Badger`s Outdoor Neighborhood’. This adventure would take us to the upper realm of the Whitewater River in Jackson and Transylvania County (the county line runs down the river) located in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest areas. The hike is listed as ‘extremely difficult’ and for most waterfall hikers that would be a true statement however, it would not apply to the ones who were included within this particular group. We would be seeing multiple waterfalls before this day was over starting with the appropriately named ‘Entrance Falls’ which lies at the entrance of what is known as the Upper Whitewater Slot Canyon. Access to these falls can be tricky as the easiest way requires going across a short section of private property within a sort of gated community but, our expert and very knowledgeable leader, the Badger, knew the precise route to follow to avoid any issues and we soon found ourselves on the other side of civilization and following the Upper Whitewater River into the Jocassee Gorge area of North Carolina. (Note: I thought at the time that we were going to the 800+ feet high Whitewater Falls ! I was a bit disappointed when I learned that we were not but, that quickly faded away when I first laid eyes on the Slot Canyon !)


Sculpted Falls (these are halfway through the Upper Whitewater River Slot Canyon just below Entrance falls)


Posted on 12 May '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

‘Up The Gut’ to The Falls of Steels Creek (NC) – 7-13-2016

The last time I visited Steels Creek Falls was on December 19, 2012 and was with my now dearly departed friend, Dave Aldridge and fellow cohort, Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden. We only managed to see the main falls that day so ever since then it has been on my list to return during a warmer season and go ‘up the gut’ of the creek in order to see and experience everything it has to offer, which is a lot. Some 4 years later i was finally able to successfully accomplish this feat. Along with my son Tyler Tarpley, and fellow hiker-trash friends John Forbes and Dan Till, we started at the local swimming hole just above the parking area at the end of the gravel forest service road where instead of taking the side trail to join the Mountains To sea Trail, we opted to go off trail and ‘up the gut’ of the creek to see all it had to offer. This is where the epicity began.


Group shot taken at the lower Steels Creek falls


Posted on 12 April '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

On Top of The Chimneys (Linville Gorge) – 7-10-2016

I have hiked around in the Chimneys area many times over the past few years yet, I had never took the time to climb to the tip top of them despite, this being on my list of things to do ever since I first laid eyes on them. That is, until now. On this trip I would be accompanied with my son Tyler Tarpley (as this would be his first trip to the Linville Gorge) and my friend John Forbes who would be leading us across the top of these majestic high rock towers starting at their beginning by using access via a new and previously undocumented crack that he had found on a recent trip. This would require free climbing up a vertical crack close to 100 feet up to a hidden chamber at the top that would eventually lead us to the tip top of the first rock spire of the Chimneys as you approach them coming from the Table Rock parking lot. This would be an epic experience that I will never forget.


Looking back across our route thus far, looking back towards Table Rock (where we began) from the tip tops of The Chimneys.


Posted on 22 March '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Devils Creek – 6-15-2016

Although I would never need a reason to go back to the Devils Creek area as it is always an awesome place to be, on this trip I did have two particular purposes to make the journey. First being to take my son Tyler who had never been there and second, to swim in the upper splash pool of the twin falls. It was a hot, and very sunny day so getting any fancy pics would not be possible but, it was the perfect time for a swim in the ice cold waters of the Devils Creek Gorge. We made short work of the hike in and found ourselves at the base of the twin falls before the sun had even dried the rocks off. This made it extremely hard to climb up to the upper pool as the rocks were like greased glass yet, somehow we all eventually managed to get there and were soon enjoying the cool, therapeutic waters in the deep splash pool. Along on this adventure besides myself was my son Tyler ‘Little RAT’ Tarpley, Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden, and the one and only John ‘The Gnome’ Forbes who just happened to be the first person ever to document swimming in the upper splash pool only a month or so earlier.


Twin Falls on upper part of Devils Creek


Posted on 17 December '16 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Flint Mountain Cliffs – 4-14-2016

It had been a little over two years since I last stood atop the Flint Mountain Cliffs and during that time I had promised a certain person that I would take them there from the top down. Although it took me over a year to fulfill that promise, it did come to pass and it ended up being another exceptional day on the mountain spent with some remarkable friends and family. On this trip I would be accompanied by my son Tyler, Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden, John ‘Gnome’ Forbes, Thomas ‘Badger’ Mabry, Kitty ‘Rock Sprite’ Myers, and last but not least Amanda ‘NightShift’ Moore. The adventure began around 10:30 am as we all assembled near the Rocky Fork area.


View of Flint Mtn Cliffs as seen from Whitehouse Mountain Cliffs. The Flint Mtn Cliffs are well hidden in the trees.


Posted on 22 June '16 by , under RATtreks. 2 Comments.