After going to Harper Falls last week, my friend Dave and I only had one more falls to see to complete all of those within the Harper Creek Valley and that was Bard Falls. This was finalized on Aug. 1, 2012. Starting at the trail head located on FR #464 where the Mountains To See Trail joins the road from Harper Creek (signage displays ‘N. Harper Shortcut’ #266 A but some maps will show this as #440) we went downhill on the MTS/ 266A Trail for about one mile to reach the Valley floor below. This was a red blazed trail along with the white circle blazes of the MTS Trail. The first thing we encountered before even out of sight of the vehicle was a yellow jacket nest in the ground that had been dug out by a bear or raccoon. It was still active so we wasted no time there. This is a very well maintained trail, gradual in its descent, passing by a few water sources as it makes its way down to the Harper Creek. Just before reaching the bottom there was some really nice ferns growing that were a pleasure to hike through. The trail leads down to Trail #266 which is the main trail beside Harper Creek. Taking a left there we followed that trail downstream towards the falls. This will be a blue-blazed trail with white dots. One of the blue-blazes we found on the return trip was very different !
There are some large campsites near where the trails intersect beside the creek. It is apparent that lots of people do camp here. The trail beside the creek is very nice and after a short ways you will have to cross the creek. Although there was decent water flowing we did not have to get wet to cross it but during high water periods I can see how it would require knee deep wading to get across as it is a very wide crossing. From this point the trail continues on the right side of the creek as it continues towards the falls. We could hear and see glimpses of what we knew were small falls and cascades below us but, we would wait to look into those on the way back. It is about a half mile or maybe even three quarters a mile to the falls. You will pass by some rather large rock formations on your right just before reaching the falls. The first thing you will see is the top of the falls on your left with a short side trail that requires going down a small drop off to get to. This is not hard to do and is worth the effort to not only get the view from the top of the falls, but to see the potholes that are on the side of the falls.
There is one large pothole that is holding water at the very top of the falls, and then another much larger one just below that goes all the way through the large rock on the side of the falls. There is yet a third one that is even more spectacular that you can not see from the top but is visible from below that not only goes all the way through the rock, but, also shows daylight beneath it and comes out at the base of the falls. You could actually go through it and come out at the water at the bottom of the falls ! This is the best feature of these falls. It is amazing how the water has cut through the rock to make these fascinating formations. I would later climb over to this intriguing hole and have a look down into it for myself ! After checking out the top of the falls, I then went back to the trail to continue to the base. It is possible on a dry day to carefully butt slide down the long, slanted rock from the top but, don`t do this, it is much safer to take the trail down. You will fins the first way down where there is a small rope tied to aid in your descent or you can continue a little ways further and follow a small spring bed down or yet another steep trail down just beyond that. Once at the bottom you will find a campsite and fire pit with a nice view of the falls.
There is not much of a comfortable place to stand when you are up close to the bottom of the falls so, we perched ourselves precariously on a wedge-shaped spine of rock that is located at the very bottom of the falls, and got what pictures we could before moving further back to get some different angles. It was a bright, sunny day with hardly any clouds so getting any good pictures would not be possible but that is how it goes. I climbed up on the left side of the falls along the steep, slanted rock to get a closer view of the pothole and attempted to get a photo looking down into it before crossing the creek below the falls to get a broader perspective of the entire area around the falls.
Dave soon joined me there and we did finally get a small cloud or two before we had to leave which helped to get one or two usable pics. It was getting to be afternoon and we wanted to check out some of the smaller falls and cascades we had heard and seen on our way in plus, as usual we had BBQ on our minds so we climbed back to the trail and started our hike back the way we came. Since Dave did not go out on the top of the falls on the way in, we stopped back there for a few minutes.
The first thing we came to on the way back was what I could see was a large pool down below us and I could water coming in the upper end of it. Dave waited while I climbed down to investigate and what I found there was awesome so I called to Dave to join me. It was a very photogenic pool with a very nice cascade at the far end of it. I only wish there would have been more clouds. We hung out there for awhile and then on our way back across the creek Dave slipped and took a nasty spill when climbing over the slick, moss covered boulder garden there, resulting in some ugly and bloody injuries to his shins. Luckily he did not break anything and only earned some merit badges and was able to continue hiking.
The next thing we came to was a small falls that I climbed down and snapped a couple quick shots of while Dave waited above. After this was the creek crossing and in no time we were back at the red and white dot blazed trail 266 A on our right that we took back the way we had came from the top. Due to the easy grade it did not take long to make the mile or so back to the car. Dave`s shin was swollen and turning blue and had some cuts but he was still feeling good and we were anxious to feel some AC and eat some BBQ. We did stop once on FR 464 so I could get a pic of a small part of the Little Lost Cove Cliffs that you can see sticking up from way above as you pass under them in between the two trail heads for the route that takes you up to them. I can`t wait to go back there again in the Fall.
It was another great day in the woods (despite Dave`s injury) and we were both happy to have now completed and seen all the majorly awesome waterfalls of the Harper Creek Valley. I am not sure where our next adventure will be, but I am sure it will be somewhere near this area. Stay tuned,,,,,
To see these and more pics of the Bard Falls, please visit our Photo Gallery here.