Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Cascades Waterfall - Go Hokies!

The Cascades With My Daughter, Pembroke, VA – 4/13/14 – 4 miles

An Appalachian Trail hike on Friday, the Virginia Tech 5K with my husband and my daughter on Saturday, and a wonderful Sunday to wrap up my birthday weekend:  a hike with Laura to the Cascades. 

A half-hour drive west of Blacksburg, VA, the Cascades Recreation Area is part of Jefferson National Forest.  It is a very popular picnic area, has a native trout stream, and its star feature is The Cascades, a 69-foot waterfall with a massive plunge pool.  A $3 fee per vehicle is required for this day use area. 

The hike to the falls is an easy-to-moderate 4 mile round trip with a couple of uphills requiring a bit more effort.  A trail map can be downloaded here.  There is also a map board at the parking area but I didn’t see a place to pick up a paper map, so bring your own.   A short distance from the parking lot the trail splits and Laura and I crossed Little Stony Creek on a tall wooden bridge to take the Creekside Trail. 

Little Stony Creek is one of the most beautiful creeks I’ve ever seen, robust with dozens of miniatures cascades and spillways, bubbling at every bend with very few calm spaces.  Since I’m not a good water photographer, I didn’t waste much time trying to capture the flow, just enjoyed the surprises with every step. 

This boiler was used to power a sawmill when the area was heavily logged in the 1920’s and 1930’s.   Aparently Sarah and Noel were here two days ago.  Why do people feel the need to leave their names on things in public spaces?

Following Laura up the trail

Wildflowers emerging:  Dutchman’s breeches




The trail climbs more steeply on masterfully built stone steps, winding in and out of boulders very close to the creek.  At about one mile we crossed Little Stony Creek again on a second wooden bridge.

Laura peeking around a boulder

As we closed in on the second mile, we were teased by the sound of the waterfall long before we could see it.  The Creekside Trail joined the Woodland Trail as we carefully picked our way around more boulders.

And then there it was:  The Cascades

On this chilly day we had no inclination to soak our feet in the water, but during hot weather this is a busy swimming hole.  There were a couple dozen folks there so we all took turns for our photo ops.  A set of steps and a wooden railing climbs up around the left side of the basin to get closer to the top of the falls, although not too close.  

We chose the Woodland Trail for our return to the parking area, an easier grade and a wider track.  The attraction for this trail is the perspective looking down on Little Stony Creek.  Laura and I enjoyed a lovely mother-daughter walk in the woods before we headed our separate ways, me back to Charlotte and her to the great city of Baltimore.  What a gift to get to spend time with her!

Check out this website to see photos and read a story hiking to the frozen Cascades in wintertime.  This is on my list for someday!

Hiking to the Cascades is an activity that nearly every Virginia Tech student experiences during his/her time in Blacksburg.  This link is an inspiring YouTube video of Hokies who made the trip possible for a paraplegic student/friend. This 3:30 video will absolutely make your day!

Ut Prosim:  That I May Serve  ~Virginia Tech motto

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