Hike and Camp to Gregory Bald-Great Smoky Mountains

My friend Brenda and I decided to do our first ever camp out in the Smoky Mountains to be at campsite #12. Well, actually, the original plan was campsite #13 but in true ‘Lori’ fashion we, or I, was running somewhat late the morning we left (only by two hours). I just figured we would figure it all out when we got there ( I would like to insert here that if you are at all a type A person you will hate me). I had already reserved 13 but figured it would be no big deal to change it.

The plan was to camp and then go up to Gregory Bald the next morning. We stopped at the ranger station at Cades Cove and went in to see if we could change our reservations. The ranger had only been on the job two weeks and really could not tell us anything. We were looking for a less worse hike. Meaning, one that would not kill us like the one we had originally planned. He was zero help. But he did direct us to the phone on the porch where we could call the number that handles the reservations and they would be able to help us out. The ranger on the phone was very helpful and said that Campsite 12 would be a little over two miles in and then about 3 1/2 up to the bald. So, on his recommendation, we switched to that campsite.

To get to the trailhead you will need to go half way thru Cades Cove. The road to the trailhead is next to the visitors center. Stop there to do one last restroom stop and well, look around. Cades Cove is a gorgeous drive, but it is a one way road and once you are in it you are in it. If traffic comes to a standstill it is likely because a bear has been spotted and everyone is jumping out of their cars to get a picture.

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The hike in was very nice. They had recently gone through and cut back the rhododendrons and the clippings were laying all over the trail. I bet it would have been nice to walk through the tunnel I am sure they made before being cut. We were on the lookout for bears. The Smokies are filled with them. We saw none but every.single.hiker we met had seen one on trail. Figures. I would like to see one…from a distance and preferably with about 15 other people where I could be securely stuck in the middle of said 15 people.

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Anyways, the trail had three little bridge crossings. The bridges are the ones where a huge log has been cut in half and then a railing added on one side. I don’t know why, but I LOVE these bridges.

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While the hike in was not all that difficult, my hip flexor issue was raring its ugly head and I was even slower than usual. That meant I was hiking just slightly faster than a dead person would have been.  Brenda is a good sport and usually doesn’t get too far ahead. Hence the reason I always get backside shots of her. On occasion I will try to get in front, but most of the time it’s not worth the effort.

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We get to camp and start setting up. I set up in one place and then changed my mind and moved. The trees were a little bit too close together on the first site I chose, which had been closer to Brenda’s tent. Instead, I moved way across from her to some better spaced trees. Now, those who are ground dwellers might be saying ‘see, hammocks are a pain. You have to find the perfect trees to hang from.’ While it is true that the spacing does matter, I will still choose it over tent camping any day. With tents you have to find a smooth, level spot. With hammocks, even if there are no trees I can always go to ground if needed. It is quite easy to sit up my tarp with my trekking poles and sleep that way.

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I store my stuff in the bottom of the bug net. I put my shoes, camera bag and sit pad in there when not needed. My backpack got hung on bear cables.

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This was the first time I had ever hung my entire back pack. I normally do the old fashioned throw a rope over a branch using a rock method and I would ONLY hang my food bag. We decided not to chance anything tearing up our packs and just hung the whole thing using the cable system the park provide. It was so easy to use. We also left our packs here the next morning when we hiked up to the bald using just our day packs.

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Brenda was using her new Big Agnes tent. I don’t know which one this is. It looked very small to me though. I even loaned her a string of lights. I love lights on tents and hammocks. I just think it makes for a really pretty camping scene.

For breakfast I had brought oatmeal. I am sure it would have been delicious had I not kicked it over.

Oh, I want to mention my little stove. I got it at Academy Sports for under $20 and I love it. It’s the Magellan Outdoors Ultralight Backpacking Stove. The propane is sold separately.

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There is a really good water source at campsite 12. However, it is the LAST water source when going up to Gregory Bald. I highly recommend taking at least two large water bottles or at least a 3 liter bladder with you on the hike up. Granted, it was very hot and humid on the day we went. I took two liters and ran out. The hike up is extremely strenuous.

The hike from the campsite to the top of the bald is 3.6 miles. That is 3.6 HARD miles with the last .6 being the most difficult. I believe the ranger said the elevation gain is about 750 feet per mile or something like that. When we started out the next morning my hip flexor was really hurting. About ten minutes in I told Brenda I didn’t think I could do it. I was in more pain than I had ever been in while hiking. I was almost in tears. She looked so disappointed. So, I took 3 extra strength ibuprofen and told her I would try for another thirty minutes, but if that did not help the pain I was going to have to turn back. Remember, the hike out from the campsite is two miles. I was sensing that if I tried to continue on in that much pain I was going to do some serious damage to that muscle. She agreed and on we went. It was a much slower go than I normally move. Hills and I have a hate hate relationship. There is nothing about a hill I like. However, the meds kicked in and the pain went away so on we went.  I started doing the ‘rest step’ on the way up and it really did seem to make it easier. Well, actually less worse.

Here is a good video demonstrating the Rest Step.

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It really is impossible to show the steepness in a photo.

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On the way up we got a couple of views thru the trees.

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Once we made it to the top the trail forks. You can go left or right. We went right. I have to say that, while it is beautiful, I was not wow’d by it. It could be that my pain was back and I was also concerned with the time. I had an almost 4 hour drive home and work the next morning. We walked up and chatted with a couple of hikers who were resting. They had come up from campsite 13 and said it was a really hard hike. The ranger had told me that it was more difficult than coming from campsite 12 so I was glad that I switched sites. The blueberries were all just about gone and there zero flowers. We hiked over to where the marker was and sat down to rest and eat a bite.

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Where we rested was a small grove of trees. I hoped up after a few and went in to look around. It was pretty neat. There was bear scat and holes where they had been digging.  I have never seen branches like this.

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The views were as expected. We did not explore as much as we would have wanted to. We were both pretty tired and it was one of the hottest days of the year.

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I popped three more ibuprofen and we headed back down after about 30 minutes on the bald. The hike down went considerably faster than going up.

Day one consisted of a 2.3 mile hike. My Alltrails recording is here.

Day two was 9.9. It was from the campsite to the bald and then back to the car. My Alltrails recording is here.

Other than the limitations of my own body, it was a very nice trip. I can’t say enough good about the Smokies and the rangers there. They are very helpful and the area is just beautiful.  Brenda and I enjoyed it so much that we are going to attempt to be part of the 900 miler club. It will take me eons to accomplish this since I live 4 hours away, but it’s still good to have goals and well, why not just try it?

And that’s it.

Happy Hiking!

Lori

Hike to Buzzard Point

Date of Hike: November 11, 2017
Length: Total 10 miles (out and back–not a loop)
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous (in certain areas but mostly due to length)

The intention was to hike to Snow Falls. It changed midway when another hiker told us to skip the falls and head to Buzzard Point.

Laurel-Snow is absolutely gorgeous. I have hiked to Laurel Falls on two other occasions so I was a little familiar with the area. The hike starts out on the Richland Creek trail and you follow it just like you would if you were going to Laurel Falls.

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Just follow the trail and look for the marker that leads you up the hill on the right. Continue on that trail until you come to the washed out bridge. Yep, you read it right. The bridge that was placed there in 1976 is long gone. They completely removed it a couple of years ago. Now, there is only a log and it’s a little sketchy getting across. I think it’s about a mile and a half in that you will come to this. (UPDATE: The bridge has been restored!! No more climbing over a log!)

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I am sure these scoutmasters would be thrilled to know I captured this lovely picture. There are a couple of ways you can do this (oh, and no need to look upstream or downstream for an easier way…there isn’t one). The log is it. You can walk on across it if you are stable enough. I was not. I actually sat side saddle on it and just scooted myself over it. It was very easy to do it that way. Much easier than any other way I could see. It was a little difficult on the way back since the tree was slanted on the way back. Always be sure to unsnap your backpack when doing any type of fording. Your backpack can pull you right under the water. If it’s loosened you can get out of it if needed.

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As you can tell this is a rugged trail. There are a lot of rocks and roots. It beautiful but it will be slow going.

You will come to this cute little water feature where someone has painted crosses on the rock.

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And you will see this sign:

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To get to Buzzard Point just follow the Snow Falls sign. If I’m not mistaken this is the last sign you will see indicating you are going towards snow falls and you will see none that say anything about Buzzard Point (at least none that I saw). I had no idea we were going anywhere near Buzzard (it has been on my list for a few years). We had walked for a good while when a couple told us to skip the falls and head to BP. So, that’s what we did.

After walking for a while we finally came to the metal bridges. I knew there were suppose to be some I just wasn’t sure where they were. Once you head down the hill towards a HUGE rock you might get confused on how to get to the bridge.

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You will need to walk up on the side of the rock. Look closely and you can see the rusted, metal posts sticking up from the rock.

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Just keep following around and then hold your breath when you see it.

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See what I mean? I could have stayed here all day taking pictures. The view from it was amazing.

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The rest of the hike was full of awe at how spectacular the area was.

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Finally, we got to the trail leading between the two rocks (again no sign saying anything about where we were). The only sign was one that pointed us back to the parking area. Say wha? Yeah, made zero sense.

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Once you get to the top of the rocks there will be what looks to be an old logging road. To get to Buzzard Point take a left and walk until you can’t. There were several groups up there when were there. Lots of scouts and hiking groups were checking it out.

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Stunning Views! I want to go back and camp this fall so I can get a sunrise and sunset.

Once you are up there you never see a sign pointing you to Snow Falls. We didn’t even try to find it since we had to get back before dark. All and all it was a beautiful hike. I just wish the trail had been marked better. Once you leave the turn off point where you can take the trail to Laurel or Snow there is nothing else telling you where you are in the process. No mile markers or anything but the occasional ‘main trail’ sign and an arrow here or there.

If you go just give yourself plenty of time (it will take longer than you think). Take plenty of water and snacks.

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Happy Hiking!

Ice Hiking Greeter and Foster Falls

The crazy low temperatures we have had for the last several days have made for some spectacular Instagram posts for frozen waterfalls and icicles.  And, as I am prone to do, I waited until the very last day that low temperatures were forecasted to go out and find me some frozen water.

I gathered together my closest hiking buddies (for the record, I have the BEST group of gals to hike with) and the four of us headed off into the cold, dreary Saturday morning in search of beauty and fellowship. We found it.

I have to admit I was taken aback by the number of cars that were in Greeter Falls parking lot when we pulled in. I mean, who is crazy enough to get out early with degrees in the teens and go hiking? Oh, wait!!! Nevermind.  I had really hoped that the hoopla was done and that I was the last person to decide to venture out and do this. I was so very wrong.  It was packed.  Packed with lots of people with cameras and equipment far better than mine. I suffer from LE aka. lens envy. I look at everyone else and figure why should I bother.

But I still do…..

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Not sure how I captured a pink sun flare. I did not add that in post.

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We stopped at Upper Greeter Falls first and were blown away.

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After seeing this we couldn’t wait to get down to the lower falls. The spiral staircase was clear of almost all ice. There was a huge frozen ice mass right next to them.

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Down the spiral and then down the long staircase to the base. It was ALL clear.

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treesccThere was even a husky running around. He was thrilled with the cold temperatures. His tag reads ‘Winter’. How cool is that?

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After Greeter we trekked on over to Foster Falls. I have to admit Foster is my favorite waterfall. However, my picutres did not do it justice. Unlike Greeter it was actually flowing quite well. I had accidentally left my neutral density filters at home ( I know, made me sick too). I was not able to catch the soft flowing water without them.

The hike down to Foster is very steep. It is not a long hike at all, just very, very steep. There is a little cave house right at the beginning of the descend and the ice was absolutely beautiful.

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Foster was creating a bowl at the base where the water had frozen when it splashed up.

It really was something to see.

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A little further up on the rock climbers trail there was a huge, frozen fall on the rock face. It was stunning.

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And, just like that, it was time to head back up the hill.

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Did I mention it was steep?

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And now, for the important part. I want to give a shout out to this awesome restaurant.

The post-hike meal. I mean, that IS why we hike isn’t it?

Whenever, and I mean with.out.fail, I am in the Savage Gulf area we stop and eat at Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse. I would describe it as Cracker Barrel’s redneck cousin. Their food is the best. I always get the bbq. They have a buffet as well that usually sports a gigantic iron skillet with bread budding. They have bbq sauce called “Blazin’ Rectum” and also have coffee and peach flavored sauces. You HAVE to stop there.  insert blurry iphone pic.

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That’s it!

Happy Hiking!

Hiking Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens and the Cloudland Hotel Trails

Date of hike: June 18, 2017, Solo

The original plan was for a friend of mine and me to take a trip to the Rhododendron festival in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. It’s something I have wanted to do for the last several years and I usually remember a month after bloom season. However, this year something popped up on Instagram and it reminded me of it. So, I set out to make plans to go. My friend dropped out about two weeks before the trip. Now, what to do? So, I decided to just go ahead and go…solo. My husband started a new job recently and was unable to take the time off.

As the weekend got closer I was a little anxious. I have hiked dozens of places around here by myself. As a matter of fact, that’s just about the way it always is. However, I haven’t gone that far and done anything like this before. I would have loved to have camped but I have not gotten my single person tent and pad yet and my hammock is not one of the better ones with all the accessories needed to do that comfortably. So, I decided on a hotel in a nearby city and off I went.

I left on Sunday morning and headed straight for the trail head. The drive was beautiful up the mountain.  The weather was threatening rain the whole time and the clouds were heavy. By the time I got to the parking lot I was squarely in the clouds. It was eerie and beautiful all at the same time.

The fog was so thick when I parked that I could barely see the restroom building. I was determined, however, to hike around this area and see what I could find. There were several people there, which was surprising considering how bad the fog was. I jumped out of my car and hit the trail. The main ‘trail’ is paved throughout the area. However, there are little dirt spur trails everywhere. Guess which ones I took. Yep, the dirt ones. I was so glad for the fog. It was absolutely magical.

flowers1signEvery trail led to another and then another. Pretty soon I was completely turned around. I could not stop exploring. It wasn’t long before I realized that just about everyone else had left and I was alone.

rockdarktrailAs someone who just about never leaves home without my camera, I was in heaven.

flowerAfter I was through with this section I walked over to take a look at the Cloudland Hotel area. Actually, it’s the front posts of what is left of the hotel. Seriously, that’s all that’s there. However, the Appalachian Trail runs through this area. I had wandered into a patch of trees and felt like I had entered into something in the Lord of the Rings. The area had such a strange feeling. I know it had to be all the fog.

whiteblazeWhen I first walked in I got so excited. It was so pretty. I started taking a lot of pictures and then I looked to my left and realized I was standing right next to somebody’s tent. So, I walked over to the opposite side and took some pics of the tent.

tent2There were suppose to have been some views. I’m sure they would have been beautiful, but I was pretty much socked in by the fog.

yellowThe whole area is absolutely beautiful and I have got to go back and stay longer and camp.

Overall this was a very easy hike…more like a stroll. Just about anyone should be able to do this. Be sure to bring a camera and slow down and really see the area. Plan on a couple of hours.

That’s it!

 

 

Hike to Busby Falls

Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, Tn is, most notably, home to Machine Falls. It is the main destination for most people. However, the area has so much more to offer than just Machine Falls.

I have been to the area on numerous occasions and have photographed Machine Falls every time I have gone.  However, today I had another destination in mind. I wanted to hike back to Busby Falls. There is an overlook trail that takes you to a neat little area that overlooks (hence the name) upper Busby Falls. I have been to this overlook several times and have always wanted to see the falls from below.

The trail is quite tricky to navigate and there are no signs even indicating that you can get there the way I went. So, listen closely, and you can also trek to this little, hidden gem that I assure you few people would try to get to. Keep in mind I did this solo. So, you can do it too.

The day started out with rain. It was expected so I wasn’t too concerned and I made sure I brought along a big umbrella. I know most hikers use ponchos. I would if I did not have glasses.  Poncho’s don’t keep the rain off your face and that drives me nuts. The umbrella works fine for me.

In your GPS just put in Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, Tn. You will park at a large water tower. They have recently actually made an officially paved parking area.  It had been just a gravel pull off.  You will park, and then cross the street to start the trail.

I would encourage you to go to the Busby Falls overlook trail first. It’s a nice little hike and will give you an idea of where you will be hiking up to.  The trail goes on over a bridge but, the last time I was there it just went onto a small loop trail that brought you right back to the bridge and there really wasn’t much to see on the loop.  But, by all means, check it out if you want.

Since I did not go to the overlook on this trip I cannot remember if the trail takes you back to the Machine Falls loop or not. So, if there are no signs pointing you to Machine Falls come back to the trail head and take the Machine Falls Trail. Stay on the main trail. You will eventually come to the part of the trail that you can tell is getting a little more rugged.  You will descend down a very steep area with some wooden steps. Go all the way to the bottom. You will see a sign pointing you to Machine Falls (don’t go over the bridge)  to the right and the Wildflower Trail to the left.  Even though this post is about Busby Falls PLEASE DO GO check out Machine Falls. It’s RIGHT THERE and it’s stunning.

To get to Busby Falls take the Wildflower Loop trail and go counter clockwise (mainly because the clockwise way was very overgrown).  You will follow the loop right to the point where it would be looping to come back to the beginning. You will see a small trail that goes straight to the right (it’s right at the center of the loop).

This is where it gets fun. In a sort of weird, hiker fun kinda way. Normal people will not think this is fun.

Now, when I say ‘trail to Busby Falls’ I use this term ‘trail’ lightly. What little actual trail there is comes and goes and has been closed off by various blow downs. Basically, you will be in a very rocky creek bed that you will follow all the way to the falls. The good thing is you can’t really get lost since it just takes you one place…the falls.  You will, however, get wet. Your feet will, more than likely, be completely submerged in water or muck at some point on this little jaunt. So, take either water shoes or a change of socks and shoes with you.  As always I do not recommend flip flops or sandals.

This is what you will be walking through. I am not sure about the mileage. I don’t think it is all that far. Maybe, at most a half mile, but I doubt it’s even that far. It was just so slow going that it seemed that far.

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Along the way, there were several smaller falls coming off the sides of the hills on either side as you walk down the creek bed.  I only stopped and took pictures of one.  Can you tell why? (cough, cough) No, I did not make this Cairn, but I love it!!

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Tons of photo ops on this trail from water features to cairns, to mountain laurel that was falling from the trees above the falls.

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bf9The pollen was really bad. I didn’t realize that my lens was covered when I took this picture. I still like it though. I was constantly wiping my lens off.

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Pretty much the whole way you can hear the falls. Just keep following the creek bed and the sound and you will eventually get there.

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This area was so beautiful that three hours passed before I knew it. I had literally stayed three hours here taking pictures.  I climbed over more stuff and walked through more stinky mud than I have in a long time to get some of these pictures. And I absolutely loved every minute of it. Well, except for the mosquitos. They were BAD.

So, there you have it. A beautiful, hard hike that I would do again in a second.  Take your time. Oh, and watch out for snakes. Surprisingly I did not see a single one, but I know they had to be there.

Here are some need to knows before you go:

  • Bug Spray.  A LOT of bug spray. In fact, don’t just spray it on. Soak in a vat of Deet from head to toe.  I used skin so soft which usually does the trick. Well, not with these mosquitos. They must be terminator mosquitos. I have over 50 bites to prove it.  As a matter of fact, they are why I left and didn’t go back to the overlook.
  • Good Shoes/water shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy
  • Extra shoes to change back into and socks as well
  • Water. It was 89% humidity yesterday and I felt every bit of it.  Take more than you think you will drink.
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Neutral Density Filter if a sunny day. You could get by without one if it’s very overcast.
  • Tripod

 

Winding Stairs

A quick text from my nephew came in the other day to tell me about a park in Lafayette, Tn in Macon county. He asked if I had ever been to this park. Nope. It was a new one to me, but I could not wait to check it out. There was very little online about it, but I did manage to find a few YouTube videos and a couple of news articles talking about the city acquiring the land.

I typed in Winding Stairs Park into google and off I went. As usually happens with new areas google took me past the clearly marked park entrance down a road that dead ended at a family cemetery.  I decided to just see where google would take me. I thought maybe it knows better. Obviously, not. So, I backtracked and went back to the sign. If you put in Hearthstone Inn in Lafayette it will take you right to the entrance. It’s next door to the little motel. There is a long gravel road you will go down passing a small fishing pond. Parking for the pond is across from it on the driveway. Keep going and you will see a pavilion with parking.

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The park is so new, in fact,  that there are no printed maps. I took a picture of the hand drawn map that was stuck at the pavilion.

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The area is quite pretty but the falls are a little difficult to see in the summer months. I expect it to be much better viewing in the fall and winter. There are several trails that lead all around this large basin where you can hear water and you know there is a waterfall, but it’s just difficult to see and almost impossible to get a good picture. Some of the trails lead you to the bottom but then are roped off indicating, I guess, that they don’t want you going beyond that point.

There is a short paved trail that is wheelchair accessible that leads to a nice overlook area. But again, because it’s summer, there just isn’t anything to see once you get there.

The easiest trail to the cascades is the Red Oak Trail. Both Jacob’s Ladder and the Cascades Trail are very steep and, if it has rained, very muddy.  A lady I ran into showed me how to get down to smaller falls via the Red Oak Trail and said that it was the easiest one. Now, easiest is relative to your own hiking experiences. I would call this trail moderate. Jacobs Ladder is strenuous. I actually came back up from the cascades via JL. I did not do the whole cascades trail. I only went by what the lady told me as to the difficulty of it.

These are some of the trails down towards the falls in the basin. As you can see very steep.

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When you are in the parking lot standing at the kiosk. Do not take the trail straight ahead. Instead, take the trail that is to the left of the kiosk. It will take you down to the Red Oak Trail.  The sign is across the creek and you have to look for it. Sort of like if it were a snake it would have bit you.

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Before heading up the Red Oak Trail stop at the creek and walk down a bit and you can climb down to these. It is VERY SLICK. I had to scoot on my butt to get down there to these. The map is very accurate. If you look at it this spot is right after the blue line crosses over the creek.

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There were several little moles running around down there. So, if you have a backpack make sure to keep it on. I had dropped my pack but decided to put it back on. I didn’t want one of the little critters getting in and scaring me later in the car.  Here is a little video I took of a suicidal mole.

After that, I went on up the Red Oak Trail and followed the little map to the cascade waterfalls. The trail was very dense and so green. I mean REALLY green. I am certain that in the fall this will be a gorgeous little hike. So, follow the map and go past Jacobs Ladder and follow on up to the cascades. There are two sets. The one on the left looks like it will be really pretty once all the brush is cleared away from it. Right now you can barely see the water peeking through all the blow down that is across it. The one that you can see though is very nice.

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On the way back up I took Jacobs Ladder. I wanted to see if it was as hard as the woman made it sound. Well, yes it was. If I had not had my trekking poles there would have been and ‘incident’ no doubt.

(This was at the top of the hill)

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This is on the way up and this wasn’t even the steepest part.

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Once at the top, you are standing in front of the 100-year-old oak tree and there is the most beautiful bench you will ever see. I was so happy to see it.

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After making sure I wasn’t having a stroke I took the trail that is back to the left of the bench. It’s a short walk back to the car from that point. Technically you could more quickly get down to the cascades by going down Jacobs Ladder. Just know that it is incredibly steep and you really do need trekking poles or, at the very least, sturdy sticks.

Now for my soap box.

This was an enjoyable hike. It was very crowded. What I saw were a lot of folks that had absolutely no clue what they were in for on these trails. I saw lots of cute sandals and flip flops, lots of kids being carried by their parents and lots of hands carrying no water. I have hiked a lot. All of these could be issues in the right conditions. Granted, it’s not a long hike as far as hiking goes. It is, however, strenuous and in hot months you can become dehydrated very quickly. Carrying small children up something like Jacobs Ladder is an accident waiting to happen. If I were with the city I would be sure to post something about carrying water and wearing proper footwear. There was a sign giving the usual warnings about not playing on the rocks etc, but nothing about water or footwear.

What to know:

  • Good Shoes (no flip flops)
  • Water
  • Trekking Poles or sturdy sticks
  • Don’t carry your kids
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Neutral Density Filter for waterfall photography
  • Take a photo of the map

Hike To Laurel Snow Waterfall

April 1, 2017

The morning drive to Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness started out with drizzling rain and very cool temperatures.  There were four of us on this trip. My nephew and his girlfriend and a good friend of mine from work. None of them had been there before and I was excited to show them the area.

When we arrived the parking lot already had several cars and, because the day was to clear up and be nice, I knew there would be a lot more people showing up.

We started out for the stroll on the Richland Creek Part of the trail. This section is easy. Anyone who is a budding photographer or limited in their ability to hike long distances will love this section. You could just stay on this part all day and not run out of photo ops. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

There is an entrance to the old mine that websites say you are not to go in. Well, I don’t know how serious they are about that since it’s wide open and clearly, everyone who does this hike goes into the mine.  If they are serious about that then it needs a gate.  It’s very dark so if you really want to see anything be sure to have a flashlight handy.

Once you are past that, the trail will turn sharply to the right. I actually missed the turn and kept going straight until I realized something was wrong. I saw the ‘main trail’ sign when I turned around.

So now, the ascent begins. It is steady going up and loaded with switchbacks and ‘short cuts’ leading straight up. I may do a couple of short cuts here and there, but for the most part, I stay on the regular trail.

There was a long 150′ foot bridge that had been there since 1976. However, several years ago it was damaged during a storm.  Up until sometime recently it was still there and was a mangled mess. It was there the first time I went but has since been removed. Now there is no man-made crossing. You have to use fallen trees.  We watched some other hikers and decided what they were doing was the easiest and it was. We got over the creek with no problem at all.

The difficulty in the trail picks up a bit once you cross the creek. There are several rock fields you have to go through and it’s very easy to slip and roll and ankle. It’s a steady climb up the trail. At one point, where the tiny falls where the crosses are painted on the rock, you will have to climb through a small tunnel to get to the other side of the trail. This area is very pretty and there are several smaller falls making for some great photo ops.

After stopping for a few minutes for lunch on the trail we were back at it and got to the falls within just a few minutes. The falls are very impressive. It’s 80 feet tall and, if the rains have been good, will be flowing well enough to get some good long exposure pictures. I don’t know how well it would be flowing in the dryer summer months. So, if you go in the summer just make sure it’s after a rain. It would be a huge disappointment to go all that way for it to be a trickle.

You can climb up on the rocks to get a closer view of the falls. I did not do that on this trip. To be honest, I was tired and just wanted to sit and look up at them for awhile before heading back down.

When we got back down to the Richland Creek trail we saw some people practicing rock climbing. We met a girl carrying a mattress type thing on her back. It was really funny. She had a very determined look on her face. I turned around once she passed and snapped a picture. When we got back to the trailhead I was shocked at how many cars there were. I had never seen it that crowded before. So, just be sure if you go on the weekend to get there early to beat the crowds.

Need to know:

  • Hard Hike
  • Depending on what website you look at you will see various mileage reports. The Fitbit said it was just under 7 miles (round trip)Some sites say 4. Who knows? Just plan on about 4-5 hours (breaks and picture time added in)
  • Good shoes!!
  • Trekking poles ( I NEVER hike without them)
  • Snacks/Water
  • Camera/tripod/neutral density filters for long exposture water flowing pictures