SOUTH CAROLINA: Chattooga Trail to Ellicott’s Rock

I always remember Ellicott’s Rock because it is the rock I went in search of with my now husband the day after I asked him to marry me. I suspect most women expect to be presented with a different kind of rock in this sort of situation. He still helped me look for it though!

There are two rocks in this location. One is Ellicott’s Rock, which marks Andrew Ellicott’s best survey/guess as to the border between GA and NC back in 1811 when he was trying to determine the boundary between the two states. It is marked with an N-G. Nearby (though no one seems to know exactly where) is Commissioner’s Rock, which marks the boundary where NC and SC meet. It is marked with the inscription “Lat 35 AD 1813 NC + S.C”. Neither are easy to find, nor can they be found when the water is up as the river covers the faint inscriptions. My grandmother, the last member of the family to successfully locate the rocks back in the 80s/prehistory, says the inscriptions are faint and may be near the underside/water line on the rocks themselves and the rocks are IN the river. Needless to say, I have not definitively found these myself yet, and will have to keep trying!


Is it goat approved? I will probably hike the Chattooga Trail with a goat at some point, but not today. There is little goat acceptable forage along the river except for hemlocks (which are near threatened and will probably be endangered in the future – so no eating) and there are tons of highly poisonous mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes around. You would need to bring chaffe hay to feed the goat. Or it will eat the poisonous stuff and croak…

How you get there:  You want to go to the Chattooga Trail Trailhead off Forest Rd. 646 located at34°58’29.3″N 83°06’53.1″W.

Time for the hike:  6.2 mile out and back  from the parking area/trail head to the rocks and back. The hike is mostly along the river and flat or nearly flat ground. I would rate this as family friendly and easy, but you will need balance to cross the water crossing and in wet weather water proof shoes would be a good idea.

***The rocks are not easy to find  and will require bushwhacking to see as the small sign that used to mark their location is gone.***

Best season to do this hike: Straight up winter. No bugs from the muddy sections of the trail, fewer people, and better breezes.


Trails to Take

If you start off at the trail head park on the side of the road, (or go up the road towards Hwy 107 and park at the big parking area) and then hike down the trail. The route is easy, follows the river, and rarely requires any uphill or down hill hiking. There is one significant stream crossing that may be a problem if you have bad balance or do not have water proof shoes about a mile in, just before the turn off to Spoonauger Falls. There used to be a bridge here, but there isn’t anymore.

Fly fisherman on the Chattooga River

The trail continues along the river, beginning to pass rustic campsites (note camping is not allowed anywhere near the trail head or along the river near the road) and eventually terminating in a large open area where the trout fishermen generally camp during the January to February fishing season. Walk straight through this confusing mess, following the Chattooga River and you will see a bridge crossing a significant tributary joining the Chatooga. Cross the bridge, and on the far side signage will indicate you need to go left and hike 1.8 mi to Ellicot’s Rock.

Continue to hike along the river until you reach the location (Google Maps has it marked – 35°00’03.3″N 83°06’30.5″W), then look along the river bank for the rocks as the small sign that used to be there is gone. If you reach the switch backs and start climbing the mountain side you have gone too far. If you pass a large boulder mid stream with a small sapling growing from the top you aren’t there yet. The area to search has several sandy islands in the river.


TRAIL MAP

Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. The river used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. The rocks in question (both Ellicott’s Rock and Commissioner’s Rock) are not visible when the water is up! If you need to see them, you need to come during a dry spell.
  3. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly.
  4. The rocks are hard to find and the inscriptions are faint. You may need water proof shoes and be willing to get muddy to find them.

In sum: 

The interesting bit about all this is because Georgia failed to give Ellicott good survey equipment and failed to contest the mis-survey of the state boundary today Georgia fights with Tennessee over water rights for water in the Tennessee River that it would have had – if it had gotten the survey done correctly!

SOUTH CAROLINA: Chattooga Trail to Spoonauger Falls

This is a nice, super short hike to a large and picturesque falls. If you’re hiking the Chattooga River, or shipwrecked and marooned by one of the many rafting company tours, check it out!


Is it goat approved? I will probably hike the Chattooga Trail with a goat at some point, but not today. There is little goat acceptable forage along the river except for hemlocks (which are near threatened and will probably be endangered in the future – so no eating) and there are tons of highly poisonous mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes around. You would need to bring chaffe hay to feed the goat. Or it will eat the poisonous stuff and croak…

How you get there:  You want to go to the Chattooga Trail Trailhead off Forest Rd. 646 located at34°58’29.3″N 83°06’53.1″W.

Time for the hike:  1 mile out and back  from the parking area/trail head to the waterfall and back. The hike is mostly along the river and flat or nearly flat ground, until you turn to go to the falls, then there’s some minor uphill switch backing. I would rate this as family friendly and easy, but you will need balance to cross the water crossing and in wet weather water proof shoes would be a good idea.

Best season to do this hike: Straight up winter. No bugs from the muddy sections of the trail, fewer people, and better breezes.


Trails to Take

If you start off at the trail head park on the side of the road, (or go up the road towards Hwy 107 and park at the big parking area) and then hike down the trail. The route is easy, follows the river, and requires no uphill or down hill hiking. There is one significant stream crossing that may be a problem if you have bad balance or do not have water proof shoes about a mile in, just before the turn off to Spoonauger Falls. The side trail is marked, and goes off to your right up the stream you just crossed. This section IS uphill, along a series of short switch backs, then across to the base of the falls, which requires a minor rock scramble to reach. Easy, kid friendly, and definitely worth a visit.

Chattooga River
Spoonauger Falls

TRAIL MAP

Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. The river used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. The stream crossing on the hike about a mile from Forest Service Rd 646 will require some balance and possibly getting your toes wet. My mother has a bad knee and did not feel comfortable trying to cross this area with non-water proof shoes.
  3. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly.

In sum: 

Why is it that the release of potential energy through gravity assisted water transference is always so totally worth getting muddy, spending gas money, and endangering the cohesive unity of your oil pan for?

SOUTH CAROLINA: Chattooga Trail to the Wahalla State Fish Hatchery

My husband grew up on a fish hatchery in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Since I’m from South Carolina and I am of the opinion that nowhere on the planet is better than South Carolina and we should all take care of South Carolina so it will always be better than everywhere else and how my husband should like the state as much as I do because I am obviously right about everything (and so on and so forth, you get the idea) I took him to see South Carolina’s only cold water fish hatchery.

His impression: “yep, it smells like a fish hatchery.”


Is it goat approved? I will probably hike the Chattooga Trail with a goat at some point, but I would not hike to the fish hatchery with one because the fish hatchery has a lot of people and is surrounded by a fence that you wouldn’t want to take a pack goat inside.

How you get there:  You want to go to the Chattooga Trail Trailhead off Forest Rd. 646 located at34°58’29.3″N 83°06’53.1″W.

Time for the hike:  8 miles out and back  from the parking area/trail head to the fish hatchery and back. The hike is mostly along the river and flat or nearly flat ground, until you turn to go to the hatchery, then there’s a little up and down hill. I would rate this as family friendly and easy, but you will need balance to cross the water crossings and in wet weather water proof shoes would be a good idea.

Best season to do this hike: Straight up winter. No bugs from the muddy sections of the trail, fewer people, and better breezes.


Trails to Take

If you start off at the trail head park on the side of the road, (or go up the road towards Hwy 107 and park at the big parking area) and then hike down the trail. The route is easy, follows the river, and rarely requires any uphill or down hill hiking. There is one significant stream crossing that may be a problem if you have bad balance or do not have water proof shoes about a mile in, just before the turn off to Spoonauger Falls. There used to be a bridge here, but there isn’t anymore.

Trout fisherman on the Chattooga

The trail continues along the river, beginning to pass rustic campsites (note camping is not allowed anywhere near the trail head or along the river near the road) and eventually terminating in a large open area where the trout fishermen generally camp during the January to February fishing season. Walk straight through this confusing mess, following the Chattooga River and you will see a bridge crossing a significant tributary joining the Chatooga. Cross the bridge, and on the far side signage will indicate you need to go right and hike 2.5 miles to the fish hatchery.

Fish Hatchery shelter for picnics

The trail here follows the tributary (East Fork Chattooga River), climbing along the valley edge, past a rock face and through open and frankly kind of boring wood land. It goes on for a while, then you reach an old and very mossy foot bridge over the tributary, pass through the standing skeletons and carcasses of wooly adelgid killed hundred year old hemlocks, and now you are on fish hatchery property. The trail comes up behind a picturesque parkitecture picnic shelter, joins a board walk, and leads you up to the hatchery proper, which can be toured. There are cool pools full of different life stages of trout. They grow Brook, Brown, and Rainbow trout here for release for sport fishing in the South Carolina mountains.

Trout in fish hatchery ponds
Wahalla State Fish Hatchery

TRAIL MAP

Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. The hatchery used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. The concrete blocks across the stream are not connected to that rock face – and they will tilt and dump you down the mountain.
  3. The hike is is up hill somewhat even though the hatchery, if you’ve driven to it, is in a very obvious valley.
  4. The first stream crossing on the hike about a mile from Forest Service Rd 646 will require some balance and possibly getting your toes wet. My mother has a bad knee and did not feel comfortable trying to cross this area with non-water proof shoes.
  5. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly.
Be careful of the unsecured concrete blocks if you don’t want to be dumped down the mountain!

In sum: 

If they had a trout restaurant just down the trail from the hatchery this place would be paradise. Or maybe a catch and cook your own fish deal…

SOUTH CAROLINA: History Hike to Guignard Brickyard, Congaree Creek Earthworks, Old Fort Congaree, Granby, and Granby Locks on Cayce River Walk and Three Rivers Greenway

History in the low country of South Carolina is as rampant as the kudzu. Columbia, SC, as the capital of the state, is no exception. On this trip to Columbia I explored the Guignard Brick Yard, the forgotten hamlet of Granby and its namesake locks, as well as the Civil War era Congaree Creek Earthworks and the long lost Fort Congaree of the Revolutionary War. For further history this can be combined with Columbia’s wonderfully rebuilt canal walk, which is just upstream of this area.

So take a day out and explore the past in Columbia, SC!


Is it goat friendly: No, but it is dog friendly.

Distance to hike: 6 miles will get you from Granby Landing, around Fort Congaree/Congaree Creek Earthworks and back on the Cayce Riverwalk, plus the mile round trip from Jones Park to Granby/Granby Locks as well as the short walk from parking to the Guignard Brick Works.

Easy paved trails

How to get there: Park at the Thomas Newman Public Boat Landing (33°56’57.3″N 81°01’45.8″W). Go south on the Cayce Riverwalk to visit the Congaree portion of the trip. Then park at Jones Park (33°57’57.3″N 81°02’21.5″W) to go to Granby/Granby Locks. Finally, drive up to the Guignard Brick Works located at 33°59’18.8″N 81°03’01.7″W.


The Guignard Brick Works began in the 1800s utilizing clay from the banks of the Congaree River to make the bricks out of which Columbia and other towns in the South were built. The current kilns were built in the 1920s and the fourth was rebuilt in 1932 when the original beehive kiln on the site burned down. While the current site has lost its picturesque dirt road and surrounding pine trees and has been sandwiched by unsightly apartment complexes, the kilns and their accompanying brick office are so unique they are worth a visit from the Three River’s Greenway that passes just below them along the river.

Guignard Brick Works in use

Granby Marker
Granby Locks

The forgotten hamlet of Granby and its namesake locks, which dwindled into nothing in the early 1800’s as the capital Columbia on the opposite shore of the river drew away it’s people and business, lies just north of the Jones Park on the Three Rivers Greenway. Only a stone marker and an interpretive sign remain sitting in the middle of what was once the high street. This side of the river has a history of being less popular than Columbia proper into the modern day. In the late 20th century, despite being in spiting distance of the state house, this area was essentially rural, hosting blue collar neighborhoods, heavy industry (such as steel works and gold mining), nuclear facilities, and the sewage treatment plant. Though obvious signs of gentrification are over running the area, its nice to remember that the good parts of the past remain with us, even if they are only there in spirit.


Visible remains of earthworks

The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks and Old Fort Congaree are found along the Congaree Creek, a meandering swamp area traversed by the Cayce Riverwalk. The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks have a historical sign, but the eroded remains of the moat and wall surrounding Old Fort Congaree are unplacarded and difficult to distinguish from the later Civil War era workings.

The Old Fort Congaree was on the edge of the Saxe Gotha Township, an area of land grants provided to Swiss immigrants in the 1700s when the area was still under British control. Fort Congaree was an indian trading post that was abandoned after its small garrison left it to join George Washington and fight the Revolutionary War. Afterwards as white settlement encroached upon it, the Native Americans died out from war and disease, and as Indian trading moved further into the interior of South Carolina it was left to be flooded and eventually sedimented into oblivion by the yearly bank overtopping of the adjacent Congaree River. Flooding was once a very common occurrence on the Congaree River before modern flood control methods were introduced. The remains of the fort weren’t rediscovered until 1989, at which point archaeological investigations found the remains of pottery, glassware, tobacco pipes, and construction materials.

The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks were built by conscripted black labor including free blacks to defend Columbia from the approach of General Sherman’s Union troops. A battle between Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers occurred at the hastily constructed earthworks on February 15th, 1865. Modern archaeological digging has uncovered fired bullets and shell fragments from the battle and the earth works themselves are still easily visible from the trail.


Trail Map

Full greenway map

BEWARE

  1. Alligators supposedly live along Congaree Creek. Don’t go play in the water. These are relatively recent immigrants – alligators were not in Congaree in my mother’s generation (before the 1990s).
  2. The Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve Parking area is closed for some reason…just park at the boat landing instead.
  3. While all sites listed can be reached from a greenway, not all sites can be reached from the same greenway.
  4. Parking is very limited at the Brickworks.

In Sum:

The banks may change, but the river keeps flowing to the sea, just as it did in the 1700s. Though back then they didn’t have the hideous green frog trashcans…

SOUTH CAROLINA: Licklog and Pigpen Waterfalls

A beautiful and easy stretch of trail takes you down to two nice waterfalls after a hike surrounded by rhododendrons and streams. You can park at the trail head or hike in on the Foothills Trail from Highway 107.

Is it goat approved? Not a great one for goats.

How you get there: Okay, first you turn down a gravel road. Then your gravel road crosses two creek crossings, (at the time of this writing in Jan. 2019 they could easily be crossed by sedans and small cars and were well maintained). Eventually you come up to the end of a small lake and the way ahead is marked as a private road. Follow the skinnier and less well maintained gravel road headed off to your right. This section is rougher than the preceding road and is ONE car only. If you meet anyone you may have to back the 600ft or so out. The road dead ends into a very small parking lot – make sure you park so you won’t be blocked in. The trail leaves from the small parking lot behind the trail kiosk.

Time for hike: Wagon Train trail and the mini falls is visible on Google. To the mini falls is about 0.9mi one way to the farthest fall or about 2 miles round trip. 

Miles on the Foothills Trail to various points of interest from the Licklog and Pigpen Falls parking lot

Best season to do this hike: Winter – you can see more of the falls with leafless trees.


Trails to Take

From the parking lot the trail heads out behind the trail kiosk. It winds among several streams. You will pass a wide trail heading off to the left up hill. Ignore this, the main trail goes straight ahead. Cross several foot bridges as you wind among the mountain laurel and rhododendron until you reach a trail intersection marked by the usual Forestry Service brown trail markers. Turn down hill to your left, (NOT straight) and you will immediately arrive at Pigpen Falls. The trail crosses the stream via a footbridge and continues on the other side. Walk another football field length or so and you will reach Licklog Falls. Then turn around and come back out the way you came.

Checking out the trail kiosk with the mini-polar bear
Pigpen Falls (it does have a smaller cascade to the side too)
Licklog Falls (courtesy of the web as I had a camera malfunction on this one!)

TRAIL MAP

Crude, but surprisingly helpful trail map

BE WARNED

  1. The parking area is very small.
  2. Part of the road on the way in is one car width only.
  3. There are 2 car creek crossings, though even after lots of rain I could cross them in a low ground clearance car.

In sum: 

You might want your sticks for this if you have a heavy pack or usually hike with them – it’s not as flat and bottom land-ish as it appears!

SOUTH CAROLINA: Miuka Falls

This one is a nice beginner hike with some opportunities to bushwhack and increase the level of difficulty if you get bored easily. However, I would suggest no super small kids, gravity prone dogs, or lazy people. Also, ignore what the internet tells you – there is only 1 waterfall on this trail you don’t have to bushwhack (read: go off trail) to find, and it is not super spectacular!

Is it goat approved? Actually, I am thinking yes, and will be going back with a goat in the near future.

How you get there: Park at Cherry Hill Recreation Area (34.941790, -83.087822) and the trail head is inside the camping area and is well marked. There is also a trail head at the roadside.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 7 mi out and back total if you go down to Winding Stair Campground, but to the falls it’s only about 2 miles out and backThe trail stays a continual moderate incline down a series of well made switchbacks on what was once an old gravel road bed. Very easy hiking for the terrain it covers!

Best season to do this hike: Advertised as a beginner trail, this one may be busy in summer. Winter and late Fall however, are very pleasant times to visit. Winter particularly would make the view of Miuka Falls a lot more impressive because the leaves won’t be blocking the water.


Trails to Take

The trail starts off at the Cherry Hill Recreation Area. You can park in the entrance to this campground during the off season (November till Spring) or if you come during the camping season at the trail head access just off the road. This access is just south of the entrance to the rec area.

The trail head and a part of the trail are visible on google maps as dotted lines – this can be helpful in figuring out where the trailhead is inside the camping area if you get turned around. The only area shown on google is the trail section down to Miuka Falls, NOT the full trail, which does in fact go down to Winding Stairs Rd/Winding Stairs Campground (3.5 miles one way from Cherry Rec to Winding Stairs Campground).

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Miuka Falls (the bottom can be reached by bushwhacking)

Anyway, once you find the trail its easy, obvious, and follows the old road bed down the mountain in a series of very manageable switch backs. When you start hearing water at about 1 mile in look for a left hand side trail leading off. This takes you out to an overlook of Miuka Falls – the only waterfall easily accessed from the trail.

If you decide to continue the trail continues at the same easy grade. When the switchbacks end listen for water – there are waterfalls off to the right hand side of the trail if you are willing to bushwhack to them (google has Cane Creek Falls actually marked for you!). As you continue the hike if you have time spend some of it buckwhacking out to each spot of loud water – there are numerous little cascades and falls out here, but no others will be easy access from the trail or without the usual perils of buckwhacking, like falling to your death or getting eaten by bears :).

Anyway, have fun, and don’t get eaten by bears!

SIDE NOTE: If you go slightly north of Cherry Hill Recreation Area on Hwy 107 you will see Moody Spring, which my family always said George Washington drank at (who knows if it is true). You can drink at it yourself, it’s right off the highway, but make sure the warning signs aren’t up. They put up signs if the spring tests as unsafe with too much bacteria.


TRAIL MAP

BE WARNED

  1. Not a lot of parking.
  2. Trail head is at a campground with camper septic service – could get crowded in the summer. Trail ends at another campground!
  3. Saw a kind of strange dude going up and down the trail. Not sure what was up with that. Might not be a great place to join up with strangers to hike.

In sum: 

Hiking with dogs is a great way to get pushed off rocks to your death. Hiking with goats isn’t much better.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The Paris Mountain 10 Mile

Paris Mountain is a small park near Greenville, SC that contains some day worthy mileage. Originally the site of the water reservoirs that fed Greenville in the 1800s, during the Depression the lower reservoir was converted into a swimming hole and the surrounding acreage into a state park. The park contains plenty of picture worthy Civilian Conservation Corps “parktecture” along with the ruins of a fire tower watch station and the original dam and workings of the 1800s water supply system. All of which is fully explorable and enjoyable.

Is it goat approved? No, but it is dog approved.

How you get there: Google Paris Mountain State Park. To do the 10 mile hike you need to park at the very first parking area you come to, just past the entrance gate on your right above the first lake. There is a $5 entry fee per person to the park, cash only if you come early.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 10 miles round trip in a loop. The trail varies from flat to moderately steep inclines.

Best season to do this hike: Year around. I did this hike in 94f and wasn’t super uncomfortable. For a relaxing weekend overnight, consider getting one of the primitive hike in only campsites on Reservoir #3.


Trails to Take

Start off in the first parking area you reach on your right after you pass the entry gate. This parking area is in front of a big picnic area above Lake Placid. Go down the hill from the parking area to the pedestrian bridge in the woods. This puts you on Lake Placid Trail. From here, follow the trail through a series of picnic areas to the main park office and swimming beach.

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Pedestrian Bridge

Past the park office join up with Mountain Creek Trail (orange blaze), crossing a bridge that goes over a picturesque swamp at the end of Lake Placid. Beyond the bridge lies an old amphitheater where Strom Thurmond (if you are from South Carolina you will know the name) did speeches in the 1950s. Continue on Mountain Creek Trail for 1.3 miles until it intersects with Sulphur Springs.

Stay on Sulphur Springs for about a mile, climbing up a pine tree covered and very hot hillside. The trail levels at the top, then descends down to the park road and a small parking area perched on a ridge line. This downhill is a good spot to find half-dead mountain bikers pushing their steel steeds uphill  in a Sisyphis-like attempt to reach the far side. At the parking lot you want to go straight ahead on Brissy Ridge Trail, NOT down to the right of the parking lot. Brissy Ridge wanders off through some not particularly exciting woodland, eventually meeting up with Pipsissewa Trail.

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Reservoir 3

Pipsissewa Trail is a bit misleading because it descends BELOW the actual level of Reservoir 3, then climbs back up to it, terminating at North Lake Trail. Go left on North Lake Trail to enjoy pictureseque and peaceful views of Reservoir 3, until you meet up with Kanuga Trail.

Kanuga Trail climbs up another hot, dry series of hillsides, twisting and turning past small springs, until it reaches the appropriate elevation, at which point it flattens out and runs along till you reach a well marked short cut trail that cuts across to Firetower Trail.

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Firetower Station Ruins

Firetower Trail does NOT have a fire tower at the end of it. It does have the building foundations of an old fire station where rangers watching for fires lived. To complete the full 10 miles of this hike you need to hike out to this station, (it’s only about 0.5 mile one way), and then come back and continue straight ahead onto Sulphur Springs (Hikers Only).

20180624_125653
Mountain Lake

Sulphur Springs (Hiker’s Only) is a steep downhill and contains the largest extant ruins and most picturesque scenery in the park per mile. The trail descends down and through a creek feeding into Mountain Lake, the original 1800s reservoir for Greenville. The path itself runs along what appears to be part of an original access road to the lake and the fire tower station. The downhill is steep, but the views at Mountain Lake and the large stone workings that form the dam of the lake are well worth the trip. At the lake dam you need to go DOWNHILL towards the interpretive sign and the stone cylinder to continue on the trail, not on the more obvious and wide road bed on the uphill side.

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Mountain Lake Dam

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Water Supply Ruins at Mountain Lake

Sulphur Springs passes an isolated gazebo in the woods, then terminates in a parking area. To return to your long lost car, cross the road on Sulphur Springs, make a right onto Mountain Creek, and follow it back out to the ranger station and along Lake Placid to the end of a great day of death marching.

 


TRAIL MAP

trail map

 

BE WARNED

  1. If you are planning to mountain bike this one be aware that trails do NOT allow mountain bikes on Saturdays and that during the remainder of the week some trails still do not allow biking. Mostly these sections are very prone to erosion or would be excessively challenging for bikers.
  2. The fire tower is not a fire tower – it is the house foundations of a keepers house, not the tower itself.

In sum: 

If you like to eat out this is the perfect hike. After 10 miles of sweat, tears, and possibly blood, you can go eat sushi, mexican, ice cream, or all 3 in Greenville in a matter of minutes.

 

 

SOUTH CAROLINA: Yellow Creek Falls

Yellow Creek Falls is a short, easy hike starting at a picnic shelter off Hwy 28 near Wahalla, SC. This is a great one for kids and fat dogs because the trail is mostly flat, it ends in a spectacular fall, and it is out and back. So let the kids run on ahead! Let the fat dog lay in the creek for a while! And take it easy on this 1.5 mile round trip hike.

Is it goat approved? No, but it is dog approved.

How you get there: Parking entrance  is at 34.804926, -83.127007 OR you can google “Yellow Fall’s Trail”. Parking is free here, unlike at the nearby Stumphouse Tunnel.

20180520_125758
WARNING: Parking area is smaller than it appears!

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 3 miles out and back. The trail is pretty easy, with a few minor creek crossings. It ends at the falls.

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but may be excessively busy during the summer and other serious tourist seasons.


Trails to Take

From the central parking area, (which lies at the main large picnic shelters and has the pit toilet), the trail runs off to your left. It is the only trail leading away from the parking area. The path crosses several pretty creek crossings, peppered with dog hobble and foam flowers. Then it descends down a series of hills, following the curve of the slope  None of the route is very challenging. The final reveal is the 3 story tall Yellow Creek Falls at the terminus of the trail. For those wanting more excitement to their day than 3 miles the nearby Issaquena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel offer further exploration opportunities, though you will have to pay to park there.

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Yellow Creek Falls

 


TRAIL MAP

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BE WARNED

  1. Okay, there really isn’t much to warn you about this one. Except the picnic area is a little overgrown and the parking area is kind of small for the number of visitors.

In sum: 

A good trail can be judged by the number picturesque creek crossings you can find on it. This one has about 5 plus  a waterfall. It is a pretty darn good trail.

 

 

SOUTH CAROLINA: Pinnacle Mountain Trail at Table Rock State Park

Pinnacle Mountain Trail was the trail feared by all the kiddies that went on my mother’s obsessive camping trips when I was a kid. Table Rock Trail? Carrick’s Creek? That loop around the lake nobody ever finished? No big deal. Mention Pinnacle though, (and it was never the full name, like how Hitler is always just Hitler), and suddenly everyone wanted to make smores or go swimming.

Twenty years ago, (or however long its been…), Pinnacle Trail was a vertical hands and knees kind of trail that washed out even more every time it rained. Today, well, it ain’t downhill out and back because the Park Service hasn’t learned how to break the laws of physics, but it is a continued and mostly stable incline.  It is listed as strenuous, but won’t you accept a little strenuous for about a 1/4 the traffic that it’s twin trail, Table Rock Trail, gets?

Is it goat approved? Nope. Not a good option for goats…way too busy.

How you get there: Google Table Rock Park. It’s off Highway 11 in South Carolina.

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Table Rock in the distance from Hwy 11

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 8.4 miles out and back. The going is up the whole way, and it is slightly longer than its twin, Table Rock Trail. There are a lot fewer stairs though. The overlook for the trail is at Bald Knob. The actual summit of Pinnacle Mountain is about a 1/4 mile straight up hill past the Knob. There is absolutely no overlook, the hike up to the summit is miserable, and therefore…we skipped summiting this trip. I have summited in the summer, and seen a profusion of Indian Pinks and Fire Pinks in bloom along the trail, making the hike worth it at this time of the year.

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Indian Pinks (background) and Fire Pink (foreground)

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but not in the dead of summer as the humidity and lack of a breeze make this hike extra special miserable.


Trails to Take

You start off at the trail head, which lies behind a nice ranger station…complete with rangers. They like you to register and be off the trail by 4:30pm. Seriously. They fine you if you don’t.

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Water along the start of the trail

Anyway, the trail starts across the boardwalk. Then it goes up a paved section, across a bridge, and just follow the signs. You start off on Carrick’s Creek Trail, and then turn on to Pinnacle Trail. The trail begins to head up hill, ascending up a prolonged ramp that runs along the sides of the mountain. Below you a creek runs, but it’s too far away to enjoy. A series of wooden bridges, a couple of small creek crossings, and the ascent becomes steeper.

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Rock overhangs – popular with kids

The trail goes on for quite a while through uninteresting woods on a steep-ish incline. Bring someone interesting to talk to. Eventually it passes under a series of stone ledges, some of which have water dripping from the top. This is a good spot to wait out rain, or eat lunch. Tends to be almost infuriatingly popular with kids, who would rather play on the rocks than finish the trail.

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Table Rock viewed from Pinnacle Mountain

Once you have dislodged your minions from the stones, the trail continues up, turns, and now the forest becomes burnt and blackened. There’s a stream crossing or two, the final crossing is a fairly large body of water. The trail turns right, and continues up, now passing among forest burnt hard enough the ground litter has been disturbed, and the white bones of the mountain show through strangely and in unexpected places. The burn is harsh enough that not a lot of plant life seems to be coming back, and the trail is fragile and eroded.

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Bald Knob view in early winter mid-morning with fog just beginning burn off

The last bit before the Bald Knob overlook is straight up a washed out trail among burnt trees. When you reach the top two main rock faces, one after the other, provide spectacular views of the Hwy 11 area. Thank Naturaland Trust and the Park Service for the view. No really. Donate here to Naturaland Trust:

http://www.naturalandtrust.org/donate/

Anyway, this open rock face area is Bald Knob. At the far end of the rock faces the trail turns and goes up really steeply for about a 1/4 of a mile to Pinnacle Mountain’s summit. Not worth the trip except in spring, when wildflowers may sometimes be viewed along the trail.

 

 

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Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. Rangers will fine you for getting off the trail late (4:30pm or later) AND for hiking off the trail. For reals.
  2. There isn’t a lot of parking here, and only 2 bathrooms. For a lot of people.
  3. It costs $5 a head for adults and $3 per head for kids to get in. Plan accordingly. 
  4. Don’t go up to the summit, (past Bald Knob Overlook), in winter – no view, and the trip up is miserable.

 

In sum: 

Life gets you down. The mountains, by virtue of geography, get you up again.

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SOUTH CAROLINA: Table Rock Trail at Table Rock State Park

An uninsured deer hit my long suffering truck while a 1000lb round bale was strapped to the back. Therefore, there’s going to be a few more human only hikes until the goat mobile has been resurrected by the miracle working necromancers at the local auto body shop.

On the plus side, it means I get better pictures because I’m bringing the artistic husband along. Particularly on this on this trip, which if you don’t pass out from the never ending stairs, has great views from Table and Governor’s Rock.

Is it goat approved? Nope. Not a good option for goats…way too busy.

How you get there: Google Table Rock Park. It’s off Highway 11 in South Carolina.

Table Rock
Table Rock in the distance from Hwy 11

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 7.2 miles out and back. The going is up the whole way, along a series of soul sucking stone stairs. The last mile or so is across the ridge line, which is down hill-ish to a series of overlooks on top of Table Rock.

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but winter is lower traffic and easier parking.


Trails to Take

You start off at the trail head, which lies behind a nice ranger station…complete with rangers. They like you to register and be off the trail by 4:30pm. Seriously. They fine you if you don’t.

 

Anyway, the trail starts across the boardwalk. Then it goes up a paved section, across a bridge, and just follow the signs. You start off on Carrick’s Creek Trail, and then smoothly transition to Table Rock Trail. The trail begins to head up hill, crossing and following the creek as it climbs. Then the stairs start.And really they never stop till you get to the top. It just keeps going. The stairs go up and up and up, eventually devolving into rock cut foot holds chipped out of  boulders.

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Fire blackened forest near summit

The tops of the mountains here are fire blackened, and the forest is a graveyard of burned out mountain laurel and regrowing scrub. About 2/3rds of the way up the trail there used to be this gorgeous trail shelter with a roof and benches and about thirty years or more worth of pocket knife cut graffiti. Some of the young couples featured probably have kids in college now. Sadly, this romantically scarred shelter is no more, a victim of last summer’s hurricane by the looks of it. The stone platform remains, and is a good overlook. There is a rock face nearby too to stop for a snack if you want.

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Governor’s Rock

When the trail finally levels out you are nearing the overlooks. The first is an open rock face, which is NOT Table Rock. This is Governors Rock. They have a sign and everything, but people still think its Table Rock, turn around here, and miss the big Kahuna of an overlook further on.

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Table Rock

Keep going, the trail continues down hill, past several more overlooks. The actual end is across another open rock face, then downhill once more to a final massive stone monolith. Beneath you the stone drops away to the lake far below. To the right another towering rock face rises, and to the left, in the distance, a waterfall falls down, and is visible with binoculars. This is Table Rock.

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Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. Rangers will fine you for getting off the trail late (4:30pm or later) AND for hiking off the trail. For reals.

  2. There isn’t a lot of parking here, and only 2 bathrooms. For a lot of people.

  3. It costs $5 a head for adults and $3 per head for kids to get in. Plan accordingly. 

  4. If you hate stairs you need to pick another trail.

 

In sum: 

Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, over the crag of doom, wade the river of despair and scramble up a few rock faces of frustration, though art with me, so I know I will make to the overlook. Eventually