Friday, April 28, 2017

Blue Ridge Mountain Waterfalls

Oconee State Park

We drove a short 60 miles to this great state park in South Carolina. It has been fun spending time at a place and driving a shorter distance to the next. It has been raining on us a bit every day for a while but pretty heavy the past two days. We still get out in our rain gear.
The lake is peaceful now in the shoulder season but has to be crazy with families in the swimming areas and boats that can be rented in the summer are many cabins for rent and over 140 campsites. Right now, there are less than 20 sites in use.

I love the fog over the lake in the morning. South Carolina has quite a number of state parks in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  1. 1930s CCC flag. Of course, they were involved in building this park too.

The park has several places with internet. Saturdays in the summer, they have square dancing lessons.

Old water wheel

Many miles of hiking trails from the campground.

 The 1,617 foot long Stumphouse Tunnel is an oddity. Started in 1852 to connect the railways from Charleston to Knoxville and on to Cincinnati, the Civil War—and lack of funds—brought construction to a halt. There were various efforts by the Blue Ridge Railroad to revive the tunnel, none of them came to pass and it stands today as a monument to the efforts of pre-Civil War engineering

In 1951, Clemson University bought the tunnel and used it to cure the South's first blue cheese with its constant temp of 50 degrees and humidity of 85%.

Many tunnels we have been in have been damp but this one was really wet.

Around the corner from the tunnel and over the bridge was a trail to the falls.

Issaqueena Falls

Legend has it that the falls is named for an Indian maiden, Issaqueena, who warning the white settlers of an Indian attack, was then chased by Indians and she appeared to jump over the falls. By actually hiding behind the falls (or some legend-tellers say she hid behind a stump, hence Stumphouse Tunnel), she tricked her pursuers and survived.

Oconee Station

Originally a military compound and later a trading post,

Mountain Laurel lining the trails

Station Cove Falls
 A 50-foot high ledge at the end of a .7 mile trail in Oconee Station State Park near Walhalla, SC. It's an easy and peaceful 20-minute hike on a wide, rolling trail after walking along the pond.

Walhalla, SC

 After our morning of sightseeing, we found a place that served home cooking. An older lady sitting next to us made some suggestions as to what to order. Once our meals came, the waitress asked if we needed vinegar or butter for my turnip greens and cornbread. I said that I was fine. The lady next to us said "She's not a Southerner". I then told the waitress I would take some vinegar and butter after all. The lady gave me her Pepper Sauce and told me to try it. I felt obligated to try it and liked it. This little lady eating alone made our day. She was a hoot as she told us her stories.

Hidden Falls on the Foothills Trail

There are so many waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We set out to see more and this time it wasn't raining. But all that rain made for some nice falls even if it makes me sweat something fierce.

The forest was such a pretty color of green.
We made it.
 This trip continues to provide so many varied experiences with interesting people. No wonder we need a nap at times. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Georgia on our minds

We wanted to do some hiking in the north mountains of Georgia. Mike looked on Passport America's site and found a cute campground by Lake Chatuge. It was celebrating its reopening and would have been half price ($17.00) even without PA this week. The Appalachian Trail is less than 10 miles away and other trails nearby.

I was glad that the drive was only 100 miles and Mike could handle that alone. The winding road along the Ocoee River without a shoulder would  have made us both tense. Him from worrying about my driving and me due to his worrying.

We made several stops along the river and came upon a Georgia State Butterfly (Tiger Swallowtail) hatch. There were so many flying all around us as we walked.

Ocoee River
Another beautiful stop  was at the site of the1996 Olympics whitewater kayaking park with plenty of hiking trails to keep a person busy for quite sometime.
The TVA runs the dams to provide electricity to the community. They have scheduled water releases for the kayakers and rafters. A portion of their fees are returned to the TVA for compensation of the loss of energy they would have generated.

Fire lookout

Hiawassee, GA 

Our great site on the hill.
Who knew it would be reopening weekend? Music in the barn and hot dogs, hamburgers and soda for the guests and people from town.

 To read about the interesting  history of this campground click here.

The Music Barn
They plan to have Saturday concerts this summer.

Reopening Ribbon Cutting
 Some Bluegrass with fun story telling

Barbershop quartet

We drove to Dick's Creek Gap for our day hike which was steep up one mile down, a half then back up and so on for 5 miles. We ran into quite a few through hikers and those out for sections. One couple, starting in North Carolina, were trying to get 17 miles in for the day to make it to Springer by the end of the week.

We were told that many people find this part of the AT pretty tough because of all of the ups and downs. One lady said her knees were giving her a hard time.  70 miles with that big pack could be wearing on knees.

In the evening back at our campground, a community campfire was lit as the sun went down. Several people staying at Mountain View Campground gathered around to visit and look at the stars. We learned about the Star Walk app that we downloaded on our smartphone from the owner of the campground Damien.  We point it at the sky and it tells us the stars, planets and constellations we are looking at

For the next day's hike, we chose High Shoals Falls. Thank goodness for smart phones. We found what we thought was the trailhead. According to the phone, there would be a green markers to show us the way to the right since there was also a trail to the left.  Shortly down the hill, there was a sign to tell us this was the right way.

The High Shoals Falls Trail travels through a lush, mossy creek valley to two beautiful waterfalls. And on the way, the hike passes some prime backpacking campsites and visits the equally beautiful (but smaller) Blue Hole Falls, a single-drop waterfall with a deep, turquoise pool below.

The hike crossed the wooden bridges and passed several trailside campsites along the creek. The trail winds through canopies of rhododendron as it descends to High Shoal Falls.

As we walked along the lush trail, there were many different very small flowers lining the path. At times, the mountain laurel had fallen on the trail making it look like a wedding had just happened.
A tiny wild iris
After our hike to High Shoals Falls, we headed over to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia and just down the road from our hike.

Brasstown Bald, GA, rising 4,784 feet above sea level, is Georgia’s tallest mountain. Its incredible 360 degree view allows we to see Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina on a clear day.

The north Georgia Mountains turned out to be a real treasure. The people have a real sense of community. As the days came to an end, we weren't sure we were ready to pack up but were so glad that we found ourselves here.

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