Catawba Falls

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
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Trip End Dec 30, 2013


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What I did
Catawba Falls

Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday morning, we packed up camp and started making our way back to the Triangle area.  On the way out of Nantahala National Forest, we stopped briefly at Patton's Run Overlook, where Shung had lost a bag a few weeks ago.  No luck finding it.  But I did take the opportunity to see the rapid from dry land.  The ride home is a pretty long drive, so we broke up the trip by making a stop at Catawba Falls along the way.  Catawba Falls is located near the town of Old Fort at exit 73 on I-40, right after coming down the Blue Ridge Escarpment along the highway.  The falls are located in Pisgah National Forest, but until recently, there was no public access to the falls, which were surrounded on three sides by private property and by I-40 on the fourth.  Fortunately, land providing public access had been given to the Forest Service in 2010.  But the bridge leading to the public parking area was closed and we had to park along the side of the road.  And we weren't the only people who were visiting Catawba Falls on Memorial Day.  Many parked cars were lined up on both sides of the street before the closed bridge.  We hiked in, almost immediately crossing a stream and then following the river upstream.  There were quite a few cascades and small waterfalls along the trail as it got steeper and steeper.  There was another stream crossing at Clover Patch Branch and then an unnamed waterfall that flows over an old dam.  This once generated power for the town of Old Fort.  Shortly after the dam, we came to Catawba Falls.  It's an impressive series of cascades falling hundreds of feet, impossible to see the entire thing from only one place.  I took off my boots and socks and got in the water to get shots at different angles.  But there's no way to get the whole thing.  Next to the falls is a steep trail that leads up to Upper Catawba Falls.  There are a few views of the upper portion of the lower falls and then a particularly steep section with an old piece of rope to assist with the climb.  The rope helped, but I wouldn't put all my weight on it.  A little ways further there was another rope for assistance and then the trail flattened off as it approached Upper Catawba Falls.  This is another really beautiful waterfall, with a large freefall, followed by some cascades.  I sat here for a few moments enjoying the view while another hiker was swimming in the pool below the falls.  He was probably as hot as I was making that steep climb up, but I didn't want to get completely wet, so I just dipped my head in the chilly water.  I realized no one else had followed me to the Upper Falls, so I headed back down.  Chih-Wei had started following then stopped.  I showed him some pictures from the Upper Falls and he decided it was worth it.  So while he went up, the rest of us stayed down at the lower falls.  No one else wanted to make the climb up.  When everyone was finished, we made our way back to the car and started heading home.  We stopped in Morganton for dinner at Las Salsas, my favorite Mexican restaurant.
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