On April 4, 2015 I was fortunate enough to be included on a trip to visit the privately owned Russell Creek Falls in Virginia. These falls are very large and tall and require permission for access to hike to however, they are accessible by rafting along the Clinch River. Also be advised that a few have died here, one as recent as 2013 when a 22 year old boy fell to his death by underestimating the terrain around the top of the falls. Please be very careful if you do visit these falls !!! My new friend Joe Brickey obtained permission for the group to hike to them on this day which included not only Joe and myself but, John Forbes, Derrick Hamrick, Jeff Dean, Thomas Mabry, Dan Till, Mark Lackey, Kenny Jenkins, and Gary Conquest . We all met in Weber City and followed Joe to the St. Paul area where we parked at the property owners house to begin the hike.
It had been since December 2011 since my last visit to the Devil Creek watershed area when my friend Bol’Dar and I took our friend Dave Aldridge to see these hidden beauties so, I thought it was time for another trip there to share with some other worthy friends that I knew would appreciate them. This trek would be a larger group which I normally do not do but, an exception was made and besides myself, the following like-minded outdoor enthusiasts were in attendance: John Forbes, Larry Jarrett, Ken Woody, Dan Till, Derrick Hamrick, and Jeff Dean. After meeting at Hairnt-Quarters, we all carpooled up and proceeded to the trail-head where the first two miles or so would be along the railroad tracks. Disclaimer: This is dangerous and not legal so I can not suggest or condone going there so you should do so at your own risk. There are other ways to get in to the Devil Creek Valley however, it adds considerable miles and some very rugged territory. It was a beautiful morning for a hike but, we knew the bright sun would ruin any chances of acquiring any good waterfall pics.
Every year in early Spring I do a walk-through of my Appalachian Trail section to assess any downed trees that will require a saw crew to remove and do whatever maintenance and clean up of the Winter damage that I can while I am there in order to get the trail ready for the onslaught of thru-hikers that will soon be heading North from Georgia in hopes of making it all the way to Maine. I am lucky to have my good friend, former thru-hiker, and fellow maintainer, Doug Corkhill to pick me up at Spivey Gap and provide a ride for me to the summit of Big Bald where we have access to a key to the gate that allows me to hike from there back down to Spivey one way eliminating a five mile uphill climb only to have to turn around and go back down for a long hard ten mile day. I do have to hike an extra 2+ miles along Doug`s section to get to the summit of Little Bald where my section ends making my total close to 8 miles but, it is mostly downhill all day which makes a huge difference plus, we get the pleasure of each others company as we hike all of Doug`s section and have our lunch together on the top of Little Bald before going our separate ways in opposite directions. This trip would be no exception however, we were in constant 20 to 30 mph winds all day with threatening skies and chilly temps. Otherwise it was a nice day to be in the high country. After accessing the pink blazed locked gate, we started our hike at the base of Big Bald as we hiked up and over Big Stamp going North towards the shelter and Little Bald.
Next on ‘the list’ was Painter Creek Falls (200+ feet) as these also require permission to gain access across private property so they are not visited often. it also requires a tough hike off trail through some rough territory. On my last trip here it was cold and the falls were frozen so I did not get any good pics so I have been hoping to get back here since 2011. Another reason this trip was planned is because several friends have not ever been there and my friends Bol’Dar ,Dave Aldridge, and Lou, who were with me on my last trip did not get to see the South Branch Painter Creek Falls so I went through the proper channels to get permission and this trip came to fruition. Unfortunately Dave was unable to go on this day however, the following did attend this epic journey: Bol’Dar, John Forbes, Larry Jarret, Jeff Dean, Derrick Hamrick, and myself. After meeting at Hairnt-Quarters around 9am, we made it to the gated private property and were hiking before 10am.
Recently I have been compiling a list of waterfalls to visit that although I have seen them before, they are ones that I have not been to more than one or two times and ones that are not known to have a high water flow most of the time as well as ones that are not easy to get to due to private property or rough terrain. The reason for the list is the recent change in water levels as it has been pretty dry in East TN for the past couple of years which has changed due to increased levels of snow and rainfall along with the fact that several of my new hiking friends have not ever seen these falls before. The first falls that came to my mind was Camp Creek Falls. I have only seen them twice in my life. The first time required obtaining permission from the property owner at the end of the road at the Joshua Camp Retreat which he did give but, politely told my friend Dave Aldridge and myself not to come back. Of course Dave did go back the following day to deliver him a jar of homemade apple butter however that did not sweeten the tough exterior of this guy so further permission was not given. The second time was from the top of Camp Creek Bald mountain via the Greene Mountain Trail down the Camp Creek Trail where my friend Bol’Dar and I got a birds eye view of the falls from that ridge high above. That was an awesome angle but, we had to zoom in to see them and could only see the top part. Since that time I have been meaning to go back to the camp and speak with them and find a way around the private property in order to reach the falls. I finally got around to this on March 6, 2015.
As a last minute plan was developed at 4 pm on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, to pick up John Forbes at his house to join Michael Taylor, Colby Williams, and myself for a quick spur of the moment trip to Round Bald on Roan Mountain, we hastily drove as fast as we could to get this accomplished. We had heard through the hiker trash grapevine that the legendary Roan Mountain man Larry Jarret himself would be there so, we made haste to get there before the sun set. Luckily we had enough time to spare to get parked and make the trek up to the summit of the bald and get setup before the show began. We were lucky in the fact that the clouds had broken off the mountain and were setting up nicely for what we hoped would be a spectacular sunset.
Despite many maps and most of the information found on the internet, these are two very separate waterfalls about a quarter mile or so apart on the Elk River. Twisting Falls is located above Compression Falls and is NR (Not Runnable) for kayaks whereas many have taken their boats over other falls on this river such as Elk Falls and Compression Falls which is actually how Compression Falls got their name when one such boater compressed his spine in doing so. The rafters portage around Twisting Falls across a very narrow ledge using ropes to lower the boats down to their base where they continue down river to Compression Falls. Both are popular swimming holes and each have their own degrees of danger. Ever since my last trip to Twisting Falls when I discovered a very obscure ninja goat trail to a cliff just below them where a good view of the entire falls was possible, I have wanted to come back and go down what I named ‘the chasm’ in order to reach the base of the falls to get a picture from water level. Having only seen one picture from that angle ever that I found on the internet, I knew this would be a difficult task and would require a rope but, it has been on my list and caused me several sleepless nights ever since that trip. Finally that dream has came true.
It is not often that one can see five waterfalls in one day but, with proper planning and the right locations it is possible to see five or even twenty five for that matter. It was my pleasure to join fellow waterfall lovers Michael Taylor and Ken Woody on this adventure that would lead us to see these beautiful falls all located close to the place we call home. I was picked up at Hairnt Quarters around 9:30 am and before 10 am we were at the first falls of the day, Millstone Falls. These are located on private property not far from my house and are a lovely falls close to the road beside Nolichucky River.
A short, mid week hike with my friend Ken Woody to an area where one would not expect to see many creeks and waterfalls at was had this past week. Ken who lives in the Kingsport area has been visiting these locations for a while now and since we only had a few hours to spare it was decided that he would show some of them to me. The first stop would be an obscure part of Warriors Path State Park on a little known creek that flows into the opposite side of the South Fork of the Holston River. Although unnamed on any maps, the signs say it is called Fall Creek and the trail is the D. Backbone trail (Devils Backbone) It was only a mile or so round trip on the section of the trail we chose (D. Backbone) but, the trail was very nice with multiple cascades and small falls along with a side trip to an abandoned old house that looks to date back well over 100 years. There is also remains of an old blast furnace (or grist mill ?) which is most likely over 200 years old. It was an intensely bright sunny day so I did not even get my big camera out on this first leg of the journey.
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.