Sunday, June 5, 2016

Starting the New Year Right: Waterfall Hikes

Greenville SC & Waterfall Hikes – 1/2/16 & 1/3/16 – 5 Miles

New Year’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.  I spread out my calendars, some hiking guidebooks and outdoor challenge lists, and look briefly back at the past and then eagerly forward to the possibilities ahead.  What did I do last year?  What did I miss?  Where do I want to go this year?  I don’t spend time regretting unrealized resolutions – after all, I had many opportunities that were never on a list.  Instead, I feel energized at the wide open yet-to-be.

So an early start, no waiting! Jim and I practiced our nearly-perfected overnight getaway strategy and headed for Greenville, SC, a town we have managed to miss as its popularity has recently exploded among the hip and happening. We wandered around the bustling downtown, checked out Pedal Chic, a women's bicycle shop, and ate a very healthy lunch at Green Lettuce Restaurant.

We road our hipster bikes out and back on the greenway Swamp Rabbit Trail from Swamp Rabbit Green to Hincapie Path.

Every town is better when a river runs through it
Falls Park on the Reedy

We raised a glass at Upstate Craft Brewpub, which opened earlier the same week. The young'uns sitting at our table were impressed that we have been married longer than they have been living.  We enjoyed a late supper of too much Belgian food and beer at The Trappe Door.  I kind of hated myself as I face-planted at the hotel, hoping I would be able to get up for an early start on our waterfall hunting day.

Working on the Carolina Mountain Club’s “Waterfalls 100 Challenge” has taken Jim and me down some very picturesque and remote country roads.  Today we explored three of South Carolina’s gems.  This website is my go-to resource for directions and maps to SC waterfalls.  Also, this website is excellent for hike descriptions and photos

Station Cove Falls is in Oconee State Park.  The 1.25-mile round trip easy hike leads to this 60-foot stepped waterfall that we had to ourselves.  We started our walk from a small parking pull-off but there is also access from the state park headquarters to make a longer hike.

This seems to be happening a lot lately: dog escorts on the trail.  This beautiful girl was the size of a small bear.  She knew the path well.

Our second waterfall was Lee Falls on Tamassee Creek, also in Oconee County. Descriptions of locating the trailhead and the 3-mile round trip hike itself made me cautious about going alone, thus I had waited for Jim to join me.  “Although once voted Oconee County’s most scenic waterfall, this 75-foot high falls has no official trail, but hikers have been making the difficult, 1.5-hour trip here for 170 years, surely making it easier to follow over time.” 

Well, there is a nice discernible trail through four long grassy fields

But numerous creek crossings were challenging.  Some were rock hops but others required creative solutions or wading. 

If you can look up from your feet for a moment, you might see something interesting.  A spring?  A root cellar?  Now a home for critters?

For the last half-mile the trail turns gnarly, climbing steeply and less discernibly over large boulders and fallen trees.  Are you sure this is still the trail?  Keep listening for the waterfall.  At last we were rewarded.

We passed at least a half dozen people as we backtracked from the waterfall, including a dad with his young son, and now I would feel very comfortable returning alone or leading others on this hike.  But don’t be complacent because it’s a short distance.  It would be all too easy to turn an ankle in that last stretch going up or down, and a rescue would not be quick. (The Waterfalls Hiker gives a great hike report of this destination, including his wrong turn.)

The third waterfall was on our drive back to NC, Twin Falls on Reedy Cove Creek in Pickens County.  The short .5-mile round trip doesn’t really qualify as a hike, but the waterfall certainly qualifies as a worthy visit.  (How often have people asked me, “Is the walk to the waterfall worth it?”  The answer is always “yes!”)  There is a large wooden platform built over what obviously used to be a rough trail, and it could be tempting to hop over the railing to get closer to the falls, but resist it.  The viewing station is in full view and safety concerns are what prompted its installation. 

Three waterfalls in one day – a great start to 2016!

"Life is like a waterfall; it is always moving and there is always an uneven flow to it." ~Unknown

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