Following the Falls

Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
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Trip End Feb 14, 2011


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Where I stayed
Wal-Mart (Seneca, SC)

Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Friday, March 19, 2010

I spent all of today visiting a few of the countless waterfalls that are near the area where South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina meet.

My first was Yellow Branch Falls.  From the picnic area there was a trail that wound through the woods, over and around the hills, and hopped across streams by way of some conveniently placed stones.  Even through the majority of trees haven't sprouted any new growth there was still a lot of green around the area, and the air was spiced with the strong scent of cedar and pine.  It was pretty easy to tell when the end of the trail was coming as I could hear the unmistakable sound of crashing water up ahead.  Around a couple more bends and I could see the massive falls through the trees; soon enough I was directly in front of them.  The Yellow Branch Falls were very impressive.  One large overhanging rock at the top spilled over with water that then cascaded down the wide front of the rocky granite face.  This is one of the falls that will reduce to barely a trickle if there isn't enough rain or melting snow to feed it, but I got lucky because the falls seemed to be very active as the water took multiple paths to reach the bottom.  There also happened to be a series of conveniently placed large boulders that made it possible to get across to the other side, and after scampering up another larger boulder in front of the falls I took some photos and rested a while.  On my way back along the trail from the falls I noticed an animal of some sort ahead on the path and snapped a couple distant photos, but I really couldn't say what it was with any amount of certainty.  My best guess is that it was a wood-chuck (groundhog). 

The next falls on my list, Isaqueena Falls, were right across the street.  These falls didn't require any long distance hiking, and the first viewing platform to see the falls from the top was actually just a couple hundred feet from the parking area.  To get down to the bottom of the falls it was a fairly short, but very steep and mucky climb.  I was amazed to see a couple that was trying to climb down with two very young girls.  Once at the bottom I hopped to a rock in the middle of the stream and balanced my tripod between the rock I was standing on and a log that was in the water nearby.  The tripod seemed to have an easier time staying balanced than I did on my small purchase in the river.  After taking my shots, I worked my way back up to the top and took a few photos from the upper platform.  Unfortunately, when I passed it by the first time there was a great rainbow across the falls, but a large crowd of people were all pressed very intently against the railing and there was nowhere to squeeze in to set up my camera.  So, I didn't get a rainbow...or...fallbow, I guess, at this particular waterfall.  After leaving the falls I went to investigate the Stumphouse Tunnel, a very long railroad tunnel through a mountain that was started before the Civil War, but never finished due to a lack of funds and having to stop for the war.  For some reason, only the first section of the tunnel was open that day, so I didn't get to explore all of the way back.

The last falls I visited for the day were a chosen for proximity to the first two and the fact that it had a short hike to get there.  Some other falls were in the area that would have been more impressive, but it would have been dark by the time I hiked all of the way to them.  So, last was Spoonauger Falls.  After quite a bit of driving through mountain highways, I parked at a bridge over the Chatooga River where a large number of people were fishing.  A fairly short and easy twenty minute hike upstream along the riverbank led me to a steeper set of switchback trails that took me to the falls.  There wasn't much room to move around or try to find a better angle to photograph these falls, so I did the best I could and watched the falls for a while until I figured I had better get back so I would still have some sun left to drive with.

After backtracking a bit to a larger highway, I made my way up to Sylva, North Carolina in preparation to visit the Great Smokey Mountain National Park the next day.   
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