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Big Brevard 2013

posted Aug 1, 2013, 1:38 PM by Justin P   [ updated Aug 19, 2013, 4:10 PM ]

This past weekend was our annual Big Brevard trip for waterfalls, waterfalls, and more waterfalls!  Sandy had gotten a new car, a 2013 RAV4, and so we were eager to try out the new car on a trip.  We set out on Friday morning and drove out to the Brevard area and made our way to Kuykendall Group Camp in Pisgah National Forest.  On the way, we stopped at the rest area in Davie County and saw a large number of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths on the butterfly bushes growing outside the rest area.  We arrived at camp a little bit after lunchtime and set up our tents.  Once we were ready, we headed out to the Highlands area to see some waterfalls.  On the way, we stopped at a Subway in Cashiers for a quick lunch and then continued onto Highlands.  By the time we reached Highlands, the weather had made a turn for the worse and was starting to rain, but that wasn't going to stop us.  From downtown, we turned onto Horse Cove Road and drove down this windy road, making a right onto Walking Stick Road.  We followed this gravel road for a couple of miles to a fork onto a forest road and stopped at the gate for Big Shoals Trail.  By now, it was raining pretty hard, but we were determined to continue on and see our first waterfall of the trip, Secret Falls on Big Creek.  We hiked about a half-mile or so on the Big Shoals Trail to the falls.  It was rainy and the trail was very muddy.  Since we had planned on swimming at this waterfall, we hiked in our bathing suits and water shoes, so we weren't too bothered by the rain.  By the time we got to the falls, the rain had mostly subsided.  But the water was cold, at least too cold for me to swim.  Only Casey was brave enough to take a swim below the falls.  I did wade out into shallow basin for some shots of the falls and we also walked up on the ledge just to the left of the falls to see it from the side.  There is even a nice sandy beach area right next to the falls.  After a bit, we headed back to the cars, but when we got there, we realized we had dropped the new car key!  Sandy and I ran back to the falls and luckily found the key right at the edge of the pool and grabbed it before it washed into the creek.  So back to the cars and headed off for a few more waterfalls in the Cullasaja River Gorge

By this time, the rain had totally tapered off and the evening sun was poking through the clouds.  Taking US-64 west from Highlands, the highway leads through the gorge with four roadside waterfalls within a stretch of ten miles or so.  Our first stop was Bridal Veil Falls.  This waterfall is notable because you can actually drive behind the waterfall.  Normally, it's barely a trickle, but due to the heavy rains this summer, it was much more powerful than normal.  And of course we had to take the new car under the waterfall to officially christen it!  Our next stop was Dry Falls, less than a mile up the road.  This one is a much bigger waterfall that you can walk behind.  We parked in the Forest Service parking area and made the short hike down to the falls.  The waterfall is named Dry Falls, because normally you can walk behind it and stay dry.  Not so much today with all the recent rain.  We walked around the falls taking pictures from different angles and then headed back up to the parking lot and continued on.  Our next stop was Cullasaja Falls at the end of the gorge.  This one is a little treacherous.  There is only a small pulloff on the side of the road, right in the middle of a narrow curve in the highway.  If a driver coming from the other direction is distracted and veers a little off the road, there could be a serious accident.  But we took our chances and stopped briefly to get a couple of pictures.  There is a very steep trail leading to the base of the falls, but we decided it would be very unsafe given how wet everything was.  From here, we turned around and headed back for the last  waterfall, Quarry Falls, which is between Dry Falls and Cullasaja Falls.  This is a smaller cascade named for a quarry that used to be here.  This is a popular swim hole and people slide down the falls into the pool below.  But it was getting late and we didn't have time to stay long.  By the time we had taken a few pictures and got back on the road, it was starting to get dark.  So we made our way back to camp, stopping on the way again in Cashiers for a bite to eat and to get some beer and ice at the grocery store.  Driving back to camp, it began to rain heavily.  By the time we reached the camp, it had lightened, although the creek crossing to get into the camp was higher than it was earlier in the day.  But it continued raining all night, heavy for a while and then light for a while.  When it was heavy, it actually woke me a up a few times in the night with the heavy beating on the tent's rainfly.

Driving Under Bridal Veil Falls

In the morning, the rain had finally stopped, but the campground was thoroughly soaked.  Luckily, our tent had remained dry through the night though.  We had breakfast and arranged the day's adventures - a trip to see Flat Creek Falls and then Panthertown Valley.  From the campsite, we took US-64 west to NC-281 north and drove for about five miles or so to Rock Bridge Road in the Little Canada area of Jackson County.  It's about four miles to the end of Rock Bridge Road, but this is a narrow windy gravel road that turns into a forest road some ways in, so it seems to take forever.  Fortunately, this road gets very little traffic so no worries about oncoming traffic.  We parked at the end of the road near Flat Creek and set off on our hike.  There is an immediate stream crossing over Flat Creek.  I chose to keep my boots off and wade across the creek, but its also possible to cross on some old logs across the creek.  From here there is a big camping spot and then the trail crosses some old jeep mounds and follows a very overgrown logging road for a ways.  I had been here in March and it was amazing how much different it looked with all the foliage and growth.  Soon the logging road became less and less a trail and more of a bushwhack until it came out on another old logging road.  We marked the spot with some flagging tape to ensure we would see the barely visible turn on our way back and then headed down the old logging road.  This trail continues for a while across a ridge and then switchbacks down to Flat Creek downstream of the waterfall.  It becomes more of a trail at this point and there are two stream crossings close together.  After the second stream crossing the trail continues, but some flagging tape indicated the route went into the woods.  We followed the flagging tape and bushwhacked most of the rest of the way to Flat Creek Falls until finally making it.  Success!  We made it this time.  And what a beautiful waterfall it is.  From where we were, we couldn't actually see the whole thing.  There is a free-fall of about 70 feet with some massive cascades.  There are more cascades above the freefall section, but no way to see them from where we were.  We stopped here and ate lunch and enjoyed the view.  It wasn't raining, but the force of the waterfall was creating a lot wind and drizzle that made it hard to get really good pictures.  On the way back, we took the trail all the way back to avoid the bushwhacking.  The marking tape is misleading as getting off the trail after the second stream crossing only made things difficult.  We made our way back up the ridge and back towards the car.  When we were almost all the way back, we tried to find Nellie's Falls, a mostly unknown falls that's supposed to be right off the trail.   However, we couldn't find the other logging road that leads to the fall and so gave up and headed to Pathertown Valley.

On the way to Panthertown Valley, we were able to see Shower Falls along the side of Cold Mountain Road.  This waterfall rarely had enough water to even be worth looking at, but today it actually had some flow.  After stopping for a minute, we drove to the Cold Mountain Road entrance of Panthertown Valley and started our hike.  We started out on the Panthertown Valley Trail (474) leading towards Schoolhouse Falls.  Starting on the trail, we could here music and finally found a speaker in the woods.  Not what you expect to find in a backcountry area.  But I think it was from the Canaan Valley community.  Shortly after seeing the speaker, we took a short unmarked trail that led down to Schoolhouse Falls and then waded across to the main viewing area.  We stopped here for a bit to take some pictures and I headed over to the side of the falls to get some shots from another angle.  Then we continued on an unmarked trail that led upstream along Greenland Creek.  We saw a couple of smaller waterfalls along the trail, including Mac's Falls, before meeting up with Greenland Creek Trail (488) and followed this to Greenland Creek Falls.  We stopped to enjoy the waterfall for a bit, then headed back up Greenland Creek Trail to Mac's Gap Trail (482) back to the parking lot.  It was starting to get late and we started making our way back to camp, but shortly past the parking area on Cold Mountain Road, I saw John pull over.  Initially, I thought he was having car trouble, but instead was stopping for one more waterfall.  We made the short hike to see Raven Rock Falls, a very impressive waterfall with a tall 20- or 30-foot free fall and then cascades over several "stairs" in the rock.  Along the way, there were a couple of smaller waterfalls that were probably only really noticeable because of the high water levels as well as a rather scary-looking bridge to cross under one of them.  When we were done here, we made our way into Brevard and had dinner before making our way back to camp.

Schoolhouse Falls

On Sunday, we had planned to go to Gorges State Park and hike to the Horsepasture River and enjoy swimming and sliding on Turtleback Falls.  Unfortunately, the water level was way too high to safely swim there this year.  At least one person had died there in the past couple of weeks, so instead we headed to DuPont State Forest.  On the way out of camp, Sandy and I swung by Catheys Creek Falls, just up the forest road from the entrance to Kuykendall.  It's a nice waterfall and Sandy had never seen it before, so we swung by since it was so close and easy to visit.  After that, we finished packing up and met everyone at the Advanced Auto Parts in Brevard.  Brit's alternator had died but luckily for her, Cotton was able to install a new one right in the parking lot for her.  Always good to have someone handy with cars around!  When he was finished, we all headed to DuPont and parked at the High Falls Access area.  We headed out on Buck Forest Road across the covered bridge above High Falls and then turned right on Conservation Road and hiked down to Bridal Veil Falls Road.  Like the other waterfalls we've seen this weekend, it was much higher than usual.  It was a bit harder to get out on the bedrock slope and much of it was covered in water.  But there were enough dry sections that we made it to near the top.  However, at this point there was no going further.  The water was fast-flowing and covered the entire width of the bedrock just below the "bridal veil".  It might have been possible to bushwhack a little through the woods and get behind the falls, but we decided against it.  We just hung out here for a while, had a snack and enjoyed the view before making our way back.  Justine and the others continued on to see High Falls and Triple Falls, but Sandy and I were getting tired and had already seen these falls so we decided to make our way back home after another waterfall-tastic weekend.

Lower Section of Bridal Veil Falls