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Big Brevard Camping Trip

posted Jul 9, 2012, 12:15 PM by Justin P
Friday, we headed out for our big annual Brevard Camping Trip. Heather's car was still in the shop so we had to wait until after lunch to pick it up, then Heather, Danny, and I made the trip out. With a late start, we didn't get to the Kuykendall campsite until about 830. There was just enough daylight left to get out tents set up and then join the group around the campfire a bit before calling it a night. Tomorrow was going to be a big day, so I needed a good night's rest for hiking, swimming, and waterfalls.

In the morning, we woke up, ate breakfast, and left camp to head for Gorges State Park.  We parked at the end and headed down the Rainbow Falls Trail.  Before reaching the namesake waterfall, we took a spur trail to the left leading down to Horsepasture River and stop to see Stairway Falls.  Due to the high temperatures and low rainfall, this waterfall wasn't as heavy as normal as so it didn't look as much like stairs as it does during heavier flow.  After a few minutes, we made our way back to the trail and continued on past Rainbow Falls to Turtleback Falls.  Unfortunately, it was very crowded here, with many families and groups enjoying the falls and swimming.  Of course we had to do a few slides over the falls, but didn't stay too long as we had many more falls to visit today.  We backtracked to Rainbow Falls and had lunch, then took a dip in the basin.  Although it wasn't as hot here in the mountains as it was in the Triangle, it was very humid, so the cold mountain water was very refreshing.  After Rainbow Falls, we headed back to the car and left the park.  Turning left on NC-281, we went just a couple miles then pulled off on Brewer Road, where the unmarked trailhead is for Thompson River.  The main trail here is an old logging road and pretty easy to follow.  After about a mile, we took a smaller trail to the right that led to High Falls, with another great swimming hole.  A few of our group decided they had had enough and headed back after this waterfall, while the rest of us continued along the Thompson River trail.  Shortly, there was a fairly deep stream crossing.  Rather than wade through, we bushwhacked up river a bit and found a better spot to rock-hop across the river and then continued for another two miles or so, before taking the trail down to Big Falls.  Although the trail was easy to follow, it was not well maintained and required ducking and climbing over rhododendron that had grown over the trail.  These were not the Catawba rhododendron that I am used to seeing, with pink flowers.  These rhododendron had white flowers, Rosebay rhododendron, I think.  This trail down to the falls is extremely steep and difficult.  At first, its not too bad, but quickly gets steeper and steeper.  Towards then end, the descent required the use of ropes and climbing on tree branches, very challenging.  But we all made it safely.  And after the strenuous climb down, a dip in the water was needed and a few slides down falls.  As I went to put my clothes back on, I realized a swarm of bees were on my pants and boots!  I don't know whether they were attracted to the sweat, or maybe pollen from the rhododendron had rubbed off, but they weren't very aggressive.  With a little help, I was able to get them off and get my clothes back on before making the steep climb back up.  Although the climb up was more strenuous than coming down, it seemed easier in a way.  I didn't fear for my life with each step, like going down, anyway.  It was starting to get dark, so we took the trail back to the car and headed into town for dinner before making our way back to camp.  By this point, I was so tired and went straight back to my tent and passed out.

In the morning, we broke camp and headed to the Lake Toxaway area for one last waterfall of the weekend.  We took NC-281 into Jackson County and parked along the road for Paradise Falls.  This waterfall is on Wolfe Creek Lake and the flow of water is dependent on the dam.  Today, the dam was closed, so the flow was light.  We headed down the short, but steep trail to the base of the waterfall and of course had to take a dip in the falls.  A rope just at the base provides a way to get up to the middle part of the falls.  I was still tired and sore from the day before, so I decided not to go up.  Then we headed back to the car and start the trip back.  We stopped in Brevard on the way for BBQ for lunch then made the long drive back to Raleigh.