Camp Creek Falls – March 7, 2015

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.

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Camp Creek Falls

It was a chilly yet sunny afternoon around 3:30 pm when I arrived at the camp and my first stop was the Dining Hall where I knew there would be two things: 1. Nice ladies and 2. Food. I found the first one but, I was too early for any food as it was not prepared yet. One of the younger gals called the caretaker, Troy Craddock who arrived two minutes later in a John Deer Gator. Very nice man who after I told him what I was wanting to do advised me that since my last visit they had built a nice trail around the private land which he invited me to see via a ride in the Gator. We proceeded to the end of the camp road to their last wilderness cabin where hidden behind it was an opening that led behind a no trespassing sign to a really nice trail complete with signs leading to the Camp Creek Trail and the falls. This was some very welcome information and I was happy I had taken the time to drive down a day before the planned hike to sort this all out. Troy proceeded to show me all the trails that lead off the main road that I was not to take (as they all lead into the forbidden zone) before taking me back to my car. We talked for a long while after that before I headed back home. On the way I decided to drive around the local areas and get a few photos with my pocket cam of the local churches and mountains:

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Greene Mountain as it sits behind the Joshua Camp

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Greene Mountain

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Greene Mountain. (the falls are in that deep dark chasm on far left of pic)

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Stone church in Camp Creek

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Camp Creek community and Greene Mountain

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Camp Creek Bald Mountain

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Church near Middle Creek in Greene County with Coldspring Mountain in background

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Greene Ridge Church in Horse Creek with Coldspring Mountain in background

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Bald Mountains (with Coldspring Mtn) and part of Greene Mtn to far right

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Bald Mountains – and on right side you can see how Greene Mountain sits in front of them

The next morning there was a meeting of assorted hikers and some local legends at Hairnt Quarters around 10 am that consisted of Larry Jarret (the Roan Mountain Jedi), John Forbes (legend in his own mind), Derrick Hamrick (photojournalist), and Jeff Dean (local musician and hiker trash friend). Local mountaineer and trail legend Bol’Dar called and said he got up late and might not be able to attend. I told him to meet us down there and catch up later but, he was not sure if he could find it. After a 40 minute drive we arrived at the camp and was gearing up to hike when Bol’Dar called for last minute directions. This made what was starting out to be a grand day and even better one.

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Me , John Forbes and Larry Jarret getting ready to begin the journey. (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Trail Head – (left to right) Jeff Dean – Derrick Hamrick – RAT – Larry Jarret (Photo by John Forbes)

The new trail is very nice to start out with as it goes out of the way to get around the 30 acres of private land there at Norton Springs and eventually once past it there is a turn to the right which will follow beside it towards the falls or you can go straight to reach the Camp Creel Trail. There is a sign there. From there the trail is still nice and goes for quite a ways and you will notice there is never a real creek to be found. This is because Camp Creek completely disappears in its entirety into the ground just as it reaches the upper end of the private property. The nice trail does the same thing, disappears just past the property boundary where you then hear the creek and end up basically in it. There are a few orange flagging tapes that you can follow all the way to the turn off to the falls if you look closely.

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Sign

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Start of the hike (notice everyone is clean !) (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Photojournalist Derrick Hamrick trying to zoom in on a Bigfoot

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Me and Larry turning right on to the trail to the falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

It is not that bad as you make you way up the creek finding the path of least resistance but, it does deteriorate the farther you go. There is a small stretch of laurels but, they are not hard to get through at all. Not far beyond that it does get rougher and rougher until finally you come to where Camp Creek splits. The main creek continues straight but, an unnamed tributary comes in from the right. To reach the falls you will need to make this right hand turn which is easier said than done as there is a large pile of large downed trees and flood damage with no trail. Both sides are very steep and covered with nearly impassable growth so you have no choice but to go right up the creek once you crawl over and around the obstacles at the turn. It is short and sweet and once past the downed trees going up the creek is not so bad and it is actually the best way except on this day we would reach the frozen zone at this point making it very slick. The sun does not shine much into this hollow and the temperature drops dramatically as soon as you step into the shade. Just as I got past the turn and began my ascent my phone rang and it was Dave Aldridge asking where I was ! Of course when I told him, he promptly called me a liar ! This blog will prove I was telling the truth ! He had been to Little Stony in Virginia and found the road washed out and impassable due to recent flooding there.

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Following the trail the camp built around the private property (Photo by John Forbes)

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Now past the private property and hearing a creek below us, John is about to find the end of the developed trail

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First creek crossing

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One of the creek crossings on the way to the falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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It did not take long to reach the snow line and the trees all frozen with rime ice

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Derrick making his way up the trail-less valley following a few orange flags !

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After the trail ends you must find the path of least resistance ! (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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RAT Rocks ! (Photo by John Forbes)

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Here I am leading the way up the open valley towards the falls (Photo by John Forbes)

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There are some very short sections of old log roads remaining but they lead into laurel thickets

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A frozen world

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Trees frozen in rime ice which was melting all day in the bright sun causing havoc on camera lenses

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One of the laurel hells just before the split.

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The massive destruction at the split. it is here where a right turn has to be made and several huge trees just beyond must be crossed to continue

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Standing in the split looking into the right turn towards the falls. Those downed trees are much larger than they appear here as you will see in the next picture

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Jeff Dean crossing one of the down trees at the split (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

It does not take long to make your way up the creek (about two tenths to the falls) and you will immediately see the falls towering high above you at the end of the steep draw there. You can find at least two decent vantage points to climb up to on the right side in order to get some decent angles for pics then I recommend going back down to the creek and over to the left side to proceed to the base of the lower part of the falls for the best overall view there is. I had no sooner got to the first vantage point on the right side when I looked down and saw Bol’Dar standing below me! This was a welcome sight as now the whole gang was there !

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Derrick, Jeff and I climbing up the creek towards the falls (Photo by John Forbes)

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(left to right) Derrick, Jeff, and me climbing up the creek towards the falls (Photo by John Forbes)

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Climbing up the creek to reach the falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Larry and John getting their first real view of the falls and the route they must take to reach them

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Jeff and I coming up the gut of the creek to reach the falls (Photo by John Forbes)

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Looking back I can see Derrick in the shadows and I knew he was taking some really good pics of our assault on the falls

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John in ‘mesmerized’ mode staring up at the steep sides of the creek before continuing towards the falls

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Ice bunny ? OR upside down hand with broken fingers ?

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Large downed tree in the creek

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John and Jeff going under the huge tree on the way to the base of the falls

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I took this pic of Jeff Dean as I stood beneath the huge downed tree

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John Forbes looking and feeling small in the large world of Camp Creek Falls

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Slowly getting closer to the falls

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Large ice collection on the right side bank near the first vantage point

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A speechless Jeff as we leave the first vantage point to make our way to the second point

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Jeff taking pics from the first vantage point and Larry who is crawling under the tree to join John ahead at the second vantage point being the old stump

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As I stand at the first vantage point, I can see Larry and John ahead at the second vantage point

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My view of the falls from the second vantage point

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After hearing the hardest way to the top of the falls was up the right side and then seeing the vertical cliffs that reside up there, John was gone like a bullet up the steep and very slick right side !

After spending some time at all those locations and watching John Forbes climb the insanely steep right side to the cliffs above where he proceeded to traverse the edge of them and down to the base of the highest drop of the falls, I was able to get some shots of him there before I began my ascent up the left side which is also just as steep but, shorter than the right side and far less obstacles. I spent some time trying to get good pics from the lowest base yet, due to the melting rime ice it was nearly impossible to keep my lens clear so it ruined about all my shots.

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Derrick holding on to keep from sliding out of control as he leave the high perch of the second vantage point at the old stump to reach the creek so he can continue towards the falls

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Looking back from the second vantage point at what I had to come through to get there

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My view of the falls from the second vantage point (stump). You can see Larry at the bottom left side and John high on the right side

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My view of the falls from the old stump. You can see Larry and John which shows that these are indeed 150 feet + high

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After sliding down from the old stump into the creek, this is my view of the falls. Derrick and Jeff are up ahead near the base

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Looking up at Bol’Dar who has taken my place at the second vantage point (the old stump)

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Looking back at Bol’Dar who is still at the old stump as I make my way higher and closer to the base of the falls

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Looking up on the right side at the cliffs that tower high above me. John is up there somewhere

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Panning slightly left from the last picture, looking up at the cliffs on the right side of the falls. John Forbes is in the laurels on top of that rick spine in this picture somewhere as I seen him when I took it yet I can not find him by looking at it !

John had came back down the left side before I even finished there but, he did accompany me back up to the top where we ended up spending a lot of time enjoying the top plunge of the falls area up close and personal.

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Larry Jarret stands at the base of the 150′ falls

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Larry and John doing the hillbilly waterfall dance at Camp Creek Falls

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Camp Creek Falls (Larry is still at the base)

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Zoomed shot of Derrick and Larry at the base of the falls

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Camp Creek Falls (Derrick and Larry at base)

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Camp Creek Falls

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John Forbes stands at the base of the upper plunge of the falls

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John Forbes at the base of the top part of the falls

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John`s view from his vantage point high above us at the top part of the falls. You can see all us pictured here below (Photo by John Forbes)

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Top plunge of Camp Creek Falls

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Top part of Camp Creek Falls

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Derrick at the base of the falls while John is at the top

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Pic of John Forbes at the base of the upper part of the falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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John getting up close with the top part of the falls

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John nestled at the base of the upper part of the falls

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My view from the base of the falls

The climb is incredibly steep and on this day would prove even more challenging due to the ice and snow. There is a small water source coming in from the left of the falls which has to be crossed right at a small cliff near the top which was very dangerous as everything was solid ice. I managed to bridge the gap there and claw my way over and up to the top of the falls where I found myself in a winter wonderland of falling ice and spray coming off this highest vertical drop of the falls. It was breathtaking to say the least.

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Climbing the falls you can see the small water source coming in from the left that has to be crossed.

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Me climbing to the top part of the falls (Photo by John Forbes)

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Me climbing the falls (Photo by John Forbes)

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Looking down at John and Derrick as I climb the falls

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Almost ready to cross the small frozen feeder stream

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Me at the base of the top part of Camp Creek Falls

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Me at the top part of the falls (Photo by John Forbes)

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John and myself happy as a couple of Vegas Showgirls at the top part of the falls

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Top part of the falls

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Looking down from the base of the top part of the falls (find Bol’Dar)

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View of the valley from the top part of the falls

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Top part of the falls

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Top part of the falls

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I would have to climb this to get to the left side and cross it to get to the right side. It was extremely slick as everything was solid ice.

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View from the left side of the falls

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Looking up from the left side of the falls

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Looking up at the right side of the falls

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Looking over at the cliffs on the right side of the falls that had been John`s playground earlier. I would soon be over there.

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Frozen splash pool before I found my across

It was even harder getting any good shots here by not only the melting rime ice falling from the trees but, because of the heavy spray off the falls. The most difficult part of all though would be crossing the frozen creek to reach the right side of the falls to get some shots from that angle and check out the cliffs on that side. One slip here would mean a fast track to the bottom some 100 feet below. Having been in the cold for quite some time now, my hands and feet were starting to feel it yet the adrenaline rushing through my body kept me warm and I spent a considerable amount of time at the top of the falls before descending back down the tedious route to join Larry who had already decided to find a sunny spot to warm his bones and have a snack. Derrick and Bol’Dar soon joined us at the top and took their turns getting some pics as well.

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Figure of a human in the ice as I cross the top of the falls

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Looking down at Derrick who is standing at the base of the upper portion of the falls

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After climbing up on the left side of the upper part of the falls, Derrick got this pic of John and I climbing the right side which in my opinion is the best pic of the day ! (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Looking up from the right side of the upper part of the falls

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Looking up at the upper part of the falls from the right side. Perhaps the best pic I took all day.

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Upper part of Camp Creek Falls

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Cool looking ice found on high right side of the falls area

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John hanging out in the gnome habitat area at the top part of the falls

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Another shot of John in a gnome hole beside the top part of the falls

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It is all I can do to sit here without sliding down to the falls. This high on the right side (Photo by John Forbes)

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Derrick about to cross the frozen creek just below the frozen splash pool of the upper drop of the falls. That crossing was treacherous !

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Derrick using his knees to get more traction when crossing the falls below the upper drop (Photo by John Forbes)

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Bol’Dar coming up the steep left side of the falls to join us at the top part of the falls

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Bol’Dar stands at the base of the upper drop of Camp Creek Falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Derrick on the right side at the base of the upper part of the falls

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Looking up at the top part of the falls

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Upper drop of Camp Creek Falls (Find Derrick!)

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This is one of the pictures Derrick took while sitting in the small cavern beneath the upper part5 of the falls ! (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

We all eventually ended up down at the sunny spot to collect our thoughts and warm our hands and feet before continuing onward. On the way down I spied someone coming up the creek way down below us and I made the comment jokingly that it might be Chris Bishop and low and behold it was ! We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that local mountaineer Ben Gentry was not too far behind him as well.

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Coming down from the upper part of the falls. Here I am shouting down to what would turn out to be Chris Bishop and you can see Bol’Dar higher above me in the background (Photo by John Forbes)

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HUGE growth on a tree

We all decided to take the high ridge from the top of the falls back down to the main creek but, not before taking a much needed break in the warm sun there. Once rejuvenated we began the STEEP descent down to the main creek which bypasses all the gnarly blow-downs at the turn off. Plus, I wanted to go up that creek to check the falls there. There would be a few slides and falls but, no one was injured and it was actually quite fun.

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Taking a break in the warm sun on the steep high ridge above the creek just below the falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Another angle of the rest break in the sun on the high ridge (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Descending down to the main creek (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Descending down the steep ridge to reach the main creek below (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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More of the descent down tot he main creek (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Bol’Dar slips during the descent but saves himself by grabbing onto a large vine ! (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Bol’Dar using yet another vine to keep from sliding down the steep slope (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

Once we reached the bottom I headed up the main creek to check out some small falls located there as there was barely any water when I was there last. John and I checked out the small falls while Larry explored the upper realm to see what if anything would be hiding up in there. There is a nice small falls with a small gnome habitat where John and I hung out for awhile but, the sun was too bright for any usable pics. Larry reported the creek above it becomes a steep V of solid rock with lots of blow-downs crisscrossed over it and no falls. We would soon join the others back at the turn off.

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This ice is along the main Camp Creek that continues straight at the split. Notice the ice cream cone shaped ice on left side of pic

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John Forbes getting some pics of the small falls found along the main part of Camp Creek (not the one that leads to the falls)

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Small falls along the main part of Camp Creek

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Small falls along main part of Camp Creek

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This is me in the gnome habitat on the main branch of camp creek where I took the next two pics of the small falls found there (Photo by John Forbes)

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Me hanging out in the gnome habitat getting some pics of the brightly exposed falls on the main branch of Camp Creek (Photo by John Forbes)

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The light was way too bright to get any good shots of these really nice falls on the main part of camp creek

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Another shot of the small falls along main part of Camp Creek

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Larry coming back on the high road after exploring the upper realm of the main branch of camp creek to see if any falls were there (Photo by John Forbes)

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Bol’Dar and I coming back down the main branch of Camp Creek after seeing the small falls up there (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Going down the right side of the main Camp Creek to come back out at the split as seen below in this shot

It was there that we were joined by Ben Gentry where it was a pleasure to finally meet him in person and enjoy some fine conversation before we had to continue the return trip back to our vehicle as it was getting late evening and the sun would soon be setting. Chris was high above the falls at that time getting some pics so we did not get to speak to him.

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Ben Gentry standing with us above the split with Camp Creek Falls in the far background

Going back was easier than coming in as it is mostly downhill and after getting a few shots of some small falls and cascades that it was too bright to photograph on the way in.
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Yeah, it`s what we do ! (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Series of small falls and cascades along Camp Creek on the way out

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Making my way out of the Camp Creek Valley. I am trying to imagine how much flood water it would take to do this kind of damage seen behind me ! (Photo by John Forbes)

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Larry, me, and John traversing some of the terrain on our way out. (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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John and I taking pics on our way out (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Small falls along Camp Creek

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Small falls along Camp Creek

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Making haste to get back to the vehicles with post hike grub on our minds (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Small falls along Camp Creek

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Camp Creek

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Derrick almost fell in front of me and I found the rock that caused it ! Of course I fell,,, (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Camp Creek

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Larry making his way out the camp creek valley (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Camp Creek

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Small twin falls along Camp Creek with John Forbes

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Small twin falls along Camp Creek

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Bol’Dar and I doing the Rock Hop Dance ! (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Finally back to a real trail again where we can now make good time back to the cars.

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This is the lower end of the ridge that borders Camp Creek and is where the Camp Creek Trail is that leads up to the top of Greene Mountain and the Greene Mountain Trail.

We soon found ourselves back at the vehicles discussing where the post hike grub out would take place. I mentioned a small cafe I have been noticing lately at the four way stop on 351 called Gathering Place Cafe. We met there and were lucky to get the only table in the house. Soon after there were many waiting outside to get in. Turns out this place is amazing. The food is extraordinary, the service is great, and all located in the middle of nowhere. I seen what was the prettiest (and largest) slice of Prime Rib ever, and John got a rib eye steak that would rival any I have seen and it was cooked to perfection. I got steak and gravy because it was on special and also because it was actual top round steak centers pressure cooked in gravy. I was so hungry and it was so good that I had it all eaten before I thought to take a picture of it ! The rolls and cornbread were all homemade and were awesome. Only open Wed. through Sat and I am sure I will be coming back here again in the near future. What a perfect day it had been. I am already looking forward to the next journey. Until then,,,,,

Posted on 14 March '15 by , under RATtreks.

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