Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dismal Falls

Coming from Brevard head west on Highway 64 and get on N 281.  After you pass Slick Fisher Rd. on your left take the next left on to Winding Gap Rd.  It is about 6 miles and there was a small sign that said Trails at the turn. Next take the gravel road that forks right.  Drive to the end of the road and park.  The trail begins behind the gate.  Dismal Falls is 150 ft. tall and a 4.3 mile out and back hike.

Dismal Falls had been on my to-do list for probably five or six years.  Though it felt like anything I read about the hike was filled with warnings and words like danger, dangerous, and more danger. Things such as: the trail is impossible to follow so you will get lost forever, the climb is extremely steep so you're going to fall, and don't fall because no one can get there to help you.  Anyways, I may be embellishing a bit, but I pretty much read enough to convince me that hiking it with my wife meant our children would become orphans.  Figuring my kids at least needed a mother, I needed to look for someone else to plunge to my death with.  So finally, when the annual family vacation ended up in Brevard, I decided my brothers would make perfect victims.  So now after many years the day was actually here.  It was time for the long awaited hike to Dismal Falls.

But first, let me just add one more thing.  Unfortunately, during my visit this region was in a severe drought.  As it is very evident in all the pictures that I took.  To see these waterfalls at their best you need look elsewhere.  And though this really bummed me out, it was still a fun hike, neat area, and great experience.  So anyways, we arrived at the trail around 9 am, I parked the car and we headed on our way.

Not long into our journey, we were accosted by two large and angry wild dogs.  Barking, growling, teeth showing, their game of intimidation was working.  We stopped dead in our tracks and I pondered what to do.  Here I was, eager and excited to do this hike.  Patiently waiting as the years rolled by for this one moment.  All my hopes and dreams blocked by two dogs.  Two dogs standing just up ahead actually blocking the trail.  And just as my hope was fading, from a distance I hear the voices of two young ladies calling and yelling the dogs' names.  They quickly scampered away and we were on our way.

Following the path, at just around a half mile there is a small spur trail heading to the right.  This short path takes you to Aunt Sally's Falls.  It's about 25-30 ft. tall and not very impressive.  And on a day like today it wasn't even worth the stop except for checking it off my list.  Nevertheless here's a pic of Aunt Sally Fall's that day:

The trail continues with creek crossings, under the power lines, through the white pines to a split (where you go left), through a campsite, and to the ascent of a very steep ridge.  I won't even try to give detailed directions to the waterfalls.  I had enough trouble myself, but thankfully I was saved by wonderful flagging tape.  And as long as it is still there you should be okay.  But I would plan on having great directions just in case.

Continuing on the trail, just before the treacherous ridge climb you will come to an unnamed waterfall seen here:

Even further up the ridge a small side trail heads right and leads you to the beautiful 70 foot Rhapsodie Falls.  The area kind of feels like you climbed down into a rainforest with its lush green glow totally surrounding you.  I stayed here quite awhile taking in the scenery, though I was mostly waiting on a cloud, any cloud, to hide the sun for just one quick moment.  But it never came and atlas I never quite got that picture I hoped for.  I reluctantly gave up and we headed back up to the main trail.

Rhapsodie Falls

From everything I had ever read describing this trail and everything that ever made me think twice about this hike; now was what they were talking about.  This was the point they were referring to. The last 0.25 miles of the hike.  It sounds short, it sounds quick, but you will never forget it.  The trail up the ridge becomes extremely steep.  Up and up it goes to the very top.  And once you cant go any higher, a faint, impossible to see path heads left down the gorge.  Thankfully there was flagging tape marking the spot.

When I say heading down the gorge I mean heading straight down.  It is steeper than steep and you need ropes to even make it down. Luckily there just so happens to be ropes tied to the trees to help with the descent.  And when there isn't a rope you are hugging trees to keep from toppling over.  And though it is extremely hard to even stand up, before you know it you are popping through the trees and standing at the bottom of a magnificent waterfall.

Staring up at Dismal Falls, the 150 ft. waterfall is massive.  The depth of the waterfall really gets lost in the pictures though.  It is a beautiful, it is secluded, and if only it had more water then it would be on my list of top waterfalls seen. I'm still a little bummed about this drought. But the area is really cool and you can even hike up the side of the falls to reach to top section.

Near the top of Dismal Falls.  Unfortunately, you can notice the low amount of water flow. 

Now as fun as it is hiking straight down a gorge, imagine how easy and non-tiring it is trying to get back up.  My body was not prepared for the trek back up.  I probably would have to go back to high school for that to be the case.  But since that's not possible, today it was exhausting, draining, leg killing, and not enjoyable at all.  The only good news is though it feels never ending, it is actually pretty short.  And once you do reach the top, hiking back to the car is a breeze.  

This trail was a lot of fun.  The entire area just feels so secluded and remote.  And though we did meet up with the young ladies and their now friendly dogs at the base of Dismal Falls, we didn't see any other hikers that day.

Another thing is there is supposed to be a trail to a waterfall below Dismal Falls but I totally missed it.  That was my biggest problem with the area, not the steepness at the end, but trying to figure out where I was going.  It was tricky and I know I wouldn't have made it without the flagging tape hung throughout the trail.  This made the hike a little uneasy but still a great time.

Here are a few more pics from the hike:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

If I was going to describe Rocky Mountain National Park in one word I think it would be breathtaking.  Except, I'm not sure I have actually ever used that word.  In fact, I can't recall any instance where I have actually said it aloud.  But that is exactly what Rocky Mountain National Park is, breathtaking.

It's a place where whenever you look up you stop and stare in disbelief.  Everything you see is amazing and unbelievable. Beautiful, huge mountains up above and all around.  The most incredible and pristine lakes you can imagine.  The greenest, tallest, most perfectly straight trees that grow to the sky.  Beauty all the way up to the truly unique alpine tundra where plant life just disappears.  Astonishing sights you never want to take your eyes off.

By now you probably get the point, the place is gorgeous.  So I will stop telling you how aesthetically pleasing it is and just post a little bit about how I spent my way too short two days there plus a bunch of pictures. Mostly just pictures.

And just know that now whenever i hear the word breathtaking, I will think back to Rocky Mountain National Park. Fondly reminiscing those wonderful views as I strolled through the park.  Or I may think about the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is smitten after the doctor calls her breathtaking, then troubled when he later calls the ugly baby breathtaking too.  Either way I will never forget those beautiful views.

Day 1:

We arrived at the Bear Lake trailhead just before 7 am.  I had spent a ton of time reading and pondering my options. And since we only had two days in the park, I really wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  I eventually settled on a hike referred to as The Four Lakes Loop.  It started at Bear Lake, went to Nymph and Dream Lake, next to Hiayha Lake and then on to Alberta Falls.  Lastly, from the falls the path connected back up to Bear Lake. And as a bonus stop, Emerald Lake could be seen with an extra 1.3 mile hike, bringing the total hike to a little over 7 miles.

Heading up the trail I was a little nervous.  My friend had warned me about altitude sickness, so naturally I spent a good chunk of time checking out the numerous horror stories on the internet. While also reading many stories from people that never even noticed it.  Having no idea where I would fall on the spectrum, I naturally assumed the worse. I had already played out numerous worst case scenarios in my head.  Ones that led me to the hospital, which then led to the discovery of deadly diseases, then ultimately my demise.

Shortly into the hike I did feel a slight shortness of breath come over me.  But soon after slowing my pace down it disappeared and I felt great.  So great that I was zipping up and down the trails, hopping up and down the rocks, trekking all around, and even exploring some inviting areas off the trail.  I was no longer worried about altitude sickness, feeling fine, as I joyfully skipped down the beautiful trails.

On and On we hiked.  Walking from lake to lake in complete awe of the surroundings. Gorgeous lakes with perfect picturesque mountain backdrops, numerous small waterfalls and cascades, deer and elk that were plentiful, and awesome views in every direction.  Everything was so beautiful and every step so exciting.

Going into hour 6 of our 8 hour hike is when the altitude finally really hit me.  It started as a migraine and then it kept getting worse and worse.  By the time we got close to Alberta Falls I was completely miserable.  I couldn't remember my head ever hurting that bad as the pain became almost unbearable. I just wanted to be lying in bed with my eyes closed and my body absolutely still.  I wanted to be anywhere but walking on this trail.

The next wonderful thing to come were the people.  The people were everywhere as apparently being one of the shortest hikes in the park, it makes sense that Alberta Falls is also one of the most popular. Seven miles in and I was starting to believe dying may be a better option than finishing this hike. So you can imagine how joyous and inspirational it was to see all the smiling, laughing, non perspiring, flip flop wearing, only walked a half mile from my car people breezing by me.  Each one shunning me to the side as if I were holding up their precious lives.

Then things got even worse as next came the nausea and dizziness. I was done.  I could no longer enjoy this place, no longer appreciate the great beauty.  I just wanted to get off this trail now.  Though unfortunately, I still had 0.7 miles to the car.  An even better it was entirely uphill.  At this point I felt like death, complete misery. Then came the rain.

I'm still not sure how, but I did make it back to the car that day.  At that point I felt so bad everything was kind of a blur.  One thing I do remember and will never forget is my friend suggesting some protein would help me.  Luckily he had a nice bag of turkey jerky too.  I wont describe what happened when I took a huge mouthful (I'm getting sick just typing about it) but lets just say I haven't had turkey jerky since and I have no desire to ever eat it again.  And who knows it may have been really great turkey jerky but that feeling my body had when i began chewing it shall forever haunt me.

After getting back to the hotel and laying down a few hours I felt so much better.  Really tired, but back to normal and ready for tomorrow.  Though I was kind of bummed I missed Bear Lake which is probably the easiest hike in the park.  I had originally planned to see it on the way out, but with the way I felt at the time, I wanted no part of Bear Lake.  However, sickness aside, it was an awesome day with many great sights.

Nymph Lake
Dream Lake

Emerald Lake

Lake Haiyaha
Alberta Falls

Day 2:

For my second day I had the grandest of plans.  Get up extra super early and head up Trail Ridge Road, hike a bunch of miles to a mountain's summit, back down, then finish driving Trail Ridge Road while stopping and seeing all the sights along the way.

It was a great plan indeed.  One I even spent many hours perfecting and rehearsing.  And yet it would never come to fruition.  But honestly, I knew the night before it had no chance.  Looking at my friend that evening, I don't even think I can describe how tired he looked.  I didn't  know it was possible for a face to look that exhausted.  So when he went to bed around 7 pm, I had my doubts about day 2.  In fact, that morning around 5 am when my alarm went off, I could see and hear that I had no shot at waking him up.  So I decided to let him sleep.  And when I almost couldn't take being in the hotel any longer, thankfully he decided 15 hours of sleep was enough.  So we finally headed out, grabbed something to eat, and made our way back to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Now at this point any summit hike was out of the question.  As you have to do them really early because you don't want to be caught on top of a mountain when the afternoon storms roll through and no shelter is to be found.  So we skipped the hike and went on to the other part of my plan, Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, almost 48 miles long, and world famous.  It reaches 12,000 feet at its highest point with 11 miles above the treeline.  So I assumed on one's first visit to Rocky Mountain National Park you must drive it.

Starting on the Estes Park side we drove Trail Ridge Road until it ends at Grand Lake.  Stopping at each and every pullout along the way I tried my best to capture the beautiful scenes.  But with the cloudy skies and changing weather I had a difficult time.  In fact, I wasn't very happy with any photos on day 2.  Nevertheless, here are some below.

Photos aside, it was still a pretty good second day.  And while I still feel Trail Ridge Road is a must do on your first visit,  I much prefer hiking to driving.  I enjoyed all the sights along the way but it was too much in and out of the car for me.  I would take hours of wandering through trails any day.  All together, a fun trip full of some of the most beautiful sights I've ever laid eyes on.  Just way, way too short.

Adam's Falls (main drop). 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Brush Creek Falls, WV

 There seems to be a few ways to get to Brush Creek Falls but the waterfall is located just off I-77 on Brush Creek Falls Rd in Princeton.  We were headed north on I-77 and took exit 14 to Spanishburg-Athens Rd.  Made a right and then the first left onto Eads Mills Rd.  In 3.4 miles you will turn right on Brush Creek Falls Rd.  Then it is about 2.2 miles to the parking area.  From there it is just a short walk to the nearly 30 foot high falls.

It seems every time I go to West Virginia somehow, someway I end up lost on a mountain.  Driving down a single dirt lane road with no signs of life or hope.  Where even the GPS voice just gives up and tells me, "you are lost, we have no idea where you are" and of course my phone has no signal either.  Then whenever I do pass a house, they always own a pack of mountain dogs.  Dogs that patiently wait in the yard just for that moment when I drive by.  And before you can even blink, like being shot out of a cannon, they charge.  Chasing and harassing my car just to get their kicks.  And on the slight chance I would see any human life, they just stare at me with big eyes and hanging jaws like I'm the first sign of life they've seen in years.

Well, not this time. This time was much different.  This time we stuck to the interstates and highways and civilization. And this time, for the first time, I wouldn't get lost at all.  This time we would be living it up at a resort just off the main road.

A resort so fancy it even had a phone hanging beside the toilet.  You know you are living the life when you have a toilet phone; you know you've arrived.  In fact, it now baffles me that anyone could live without one.  And after living as one of the elite, although briefly, I'm not sure how I can be expected to return to my life of mere peasantry. Though by the end of the week, as wonderful as it was, I would loathe that phone.  Every single time the kids used the toilet they had to mess with that damn phone.  Banging it, dropping it, pressing buttons, and probably calling God only knows who.  As much as I fussed or yelled about it, I couldn’t blame them though.  It was right there, begging them to mess with, calling to their idle hands.

This time the trip would be mostly laid back and as much I hated doing it, I let my kids do the stuff they wanted to do.  I really didn't plan out anything, which came as a shock to my wife.  So with the kids leading the way it was lots of pool time and playgrounds and then more pool time.  But we did get in one hike to Brush Creek Falls which was pretty close by.  Then on our last day we drove over to Lost World Caverns since the kids had never been to any caverns.

Brush Creek Falls is a quick 1/4 mile hike down an old road.  The trail begins just to the right of the shelter and picnic tables.  The trail takes you right up to the edge at the top of the falls and then continues a short distance further to the base.

The creek is nice and wide at the base and I liked how open the area was.  The creek is littered with rocks near the base of the falls, which the kids enjoyed hopping around on.  You can make your way right up to the falls if you choose or even carefully walk around the ledge up top.  I did see some videos online of people jumping off the top, but that idea always scares me.

While not very high, Brush Creek Falls is pretty wide.  It is also a very scenic waterfall which unfortunately is kind of hard to tell looking at my pictures.  I had a brutal time battling the sun and spray.  I knew my pictures would be bad, and they were bad; every single one I took.  Still, a very beautiful waterfall with a trail so short the kids didn't even have time to complain.

Big Walker Lookout 

On the drive up to West Virginia I began searching google for any interesting stops along our route.  I quickly came across one in Wytheville, Va.  Big Walker Lookout, a 100 foot climbable tower that showcases views of the mountains in all directions. Plus there is a large country store, ice cream, and some sitting areas.  It sounded interesting enough so we pulled in, paid the not too much but still not worth the price of admission fee and began our climb to the top.

The looks from the top of the tower were nice and beautiful.  The hike up was windy and scary.  And although the views were definitely worth the hike up, I would never do it again.  The tower looked old and broken.  It really felt like it could tumble over at any minute.  Plus the increasing wind and swaying of the tower as you headed to the top only added to my uneasiness.  In fact, by the time my kids made it to the top they were so frightened they immediately headed down.

Luckily we had our own guide dog leading us up the tower and assuring us it was all fine.  He led us almost the entire way to the top.  But, unfortunately he wasn't as helpful on the climb down. On the way down he began nipping at my 4 year old’s ankles.  Doing this with every step she took and she was freaked out.  Hearing this take place, as I was still taking pictures at the top, I raced down to meet them.  I called the dog to follow me as I climbed down the stairs ahead of everyone.  And lucky me, every step I took, that dog bit my calves.  Even knowing this was the dog's play bite, it still stung so I could see why my kid was so upset.  Plus it was annoying as hell.  In fact, the entire time on the property it seemed like this dog was always in our way.  I love dogs, I have a dog, but I wouldn't come back with that dog around.  Well, honestly I wouldn't come back anyways.

My archenemy for the day (well, a couple hours).

Heading up the tower:

View from the top:

We managed to stop at the nearby Grandview National Park in Beaver, WV.  Here are a couple pics from the main overlook:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Little Bradley Falls, NC

Parking is near 5436 Holbert Cove Rd., Saluda, NC 28773.  It is just by the bridge that crosses Cove Creek.  The big parking area is for the Bradley Falls trails and the smaller parking area just across the street is the Little Bradley trail. The trail is around 2 miles round trip to the almost 50 foot tall falls.

Starting out on the hike you immediately come to the first fork.  Take the left trail away from the creek and in about 3 minutes you will come to the second and last fork.  This time take the trail heading down to the right.  The trees were marked with red blazes and simple to follow.

The hike was very easy but on a not so well maintained trail.  I do remember scrambling over some rocks in a few spots and some nice scenery on Bradley Creek but overall the trail seemed mostly uneventful.  However, it is quick and leads to a beautiful (and very popular) waterfall.

Now getting to the picture above.  The first thing you probably noticed in the picture is the wonderful rope dangling beside the falls.  I can usually find something to complain about in anything I do, and this rope soon became my main frustration of the day.

Racing thru the woods I was determined to get to the falls before the sun.  As soon the sun would be high above in the cloudless sky, beaming down on to the waterfall below, ruining my mood and my pictures.  So I quickly made my way to the base of the falls and to my relief the sun was still tucked behind the trees high above.  Plus as a bonus we were the only ones around.

I quickly set up my camera and tripod.  Messed with the settings.  Went to snap the first pick and that is when it happened.  A rope flung down from high above, hanging there front and center, taunting my every move and every picture.  Next the climbing expedition began.  One after another people kept coming and coming as they rappelled down the rope.

First came one of the instructors  flipping, turning, sliding and posing his way down the rope like an exotic dancer working the pole.  It kind of felt like he was showing off, either way it was a enough for me to decide I hated the guy. Next came the girls, One by one they laughed and screamed as they awkwardly slid down the rope.  I figured it would end soon, but the women just kept coming and coming down the rope.  One after another they kept magically appearing from the trees above as they made there way down to the rope  Finally it did end as the other instructor made his way down for the grand finale.  Unfortunately, by now the very sun I had quickly raced to the falls, beamed down all over the falls casting shadows everywhere.  Then to top it off many more people had arrived and begun to climb up, over, and all around the falls.

As I waited a woman approached.  "That's my husband," she proclaimed as she pointed to the man frolicking in the falls.  I glanced at him and half nodded.  "Did you get any good pictures of him?" she asked.  Ah, good pictures of him, I thought.  Good pictures of him, the man I have been yelling at and cursing at in my head for thirty minutes. Pleading and begging him to move out of my way, asking him to leave, yelling at him to go away.  Asking him for one picture without his large, wearing a way too small water-shirt, belly splashing around in the background. Negotiating with him in my head.  Just move for 2 minutes.  No, 1 minute.  No, just one picture.  Just give me one measly picture. That's all I am asking.   Move, please just move.  Move!  That guy?  "Maybe," I said.  "He's so silly," she remarked as she turned and headed away.

At this point it was pretty much a wrap anyways.  The sun was too much of a battle and the place was packed with people now.  So when I did start taking pictures they were pretty bad.  Which is why, unfortunately, I have a picture at the top of the page with a rope hanging down the middle of it.

After we got back to the car, we decided to hike to the Bradley Falls overlook and then call it a day. The last time I was here I hiked to the bottom of Bradley Falls with my brothers but didn't have time to do Little Bradley. So I was happy to get back and see Little Bradley Falls.  Pictures aside, it did not disappoint.  The trail was short and easy but enjoyable (minus the people).  The three tiered waterfall waiting at the end was beautiful and well worth the trip. Plus the fact that another great waterfall trail is just across the street makes it even better.

Spider on the trail

Visiting Asheville for a few days and not wanting to spend a lot of time driving around is why I settled on Little Bradley Falls.  It was about 40 minutes from our hotel, and despite a few of my frustrations brought on by others it was a great choice.  During our remaining time in Asheville, searching for another close hike to squeeze in, I came across Lookout Mountain in Montreat, NC.  So the next morning we had breakfast then headed over to Montreat.

Lookout Mountain:

The climb up felt long and treacherous.  It was a little over a half mile to the top with a very significant incline that wore me out. I kept telling myself I was just tired from hiking 6 hours yesterday and swimming that night. Finally, after huffing and puffing my way up and up I could see the top. The next thing I could see was a 3 year old running around and laughing followed by a pregnant woman strolling down the mountain.  My excuses were now no longer reassuring. That was the worst sight to see as I leaned over, struggling to catch my breath, hoping not to keel over. Now it was officially confirmed, I was out of shape.

The views from the top were pretty good.  Any view from the top of a mountain will be wonderful but I cant remember anything special or memorable.  All I can really remember is just how exhausted I was.  But in shape or not I don't think I would hike this trail again.

Lastly, while in Asheville we had time to stop by and check out Sierra Nevada.  I hadn't been back since it opened so I was excited to see it.  We did the tour, walked around a little after, then sat outside and sipped on a Barrel-Aged Bigfoot. A really big and neat place and as always a fun trip to Asheville.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blackwater Falls State Park, WV

Blackwater Falls State Park is located in the northeaster part of the state near Davis, WV.  The address is 1584 Blackwater Lodge Rd, Davis, WV 26260.  A short hike takes you down near the base.  The falls is around 60 feet tall.

Blackwater Falls State Park is the home of West Virginia's most famous waterfall, which is of course Blackwater Falls.  Growing up in North Carolina while having lots of family in Ohio, I took many rides through West Virginia. This waterfall has always been etched in my mind.  I still remember all the Blackwater Falls postcards and pictures in the little gift shop areas at every rest stop.  So after many years of bathroom breaks these pictures had built up a wonderful image inside my head.  I was beyond excited to finally see it in person.

First off the drive there took forever.  We went through dirt roads and gravel roads and up and down mountains. Came to dead ends and roads that somehow didn't even exist.  It shouldn't have been this difficult as I was following my parents.  But for some reason every time my GPS said go right, they went left. Whenever it said turn left, they went right.  It became comical as they were also following their own GPS.  Eventually though it did lead us to the park, just much later and darker than expected.  While Blackwater Falls would have to wait till tomorrow at this point I was just happy to finally be there.

The next day we drove over to the falls and parked at the west side trail next to the trading post.  There is also another trail, The Gentle Trail, that comes in from the east side..  The western side is the way to go, as a fairly short trail and some steps take you down to the two viewing platforms close the falls. The Gentle Trail offers a view high above that was less impressive and probably could be skipped.  That day I couldn't actually get as close as intended since the lowest viewing platform was closed due to ice. Nevertheless, I still had the great view in the picture above.

Later that day we took the kids on a short hike to Lindy Point.  It was just under a mile round trip and pretty level, so I figured the kids wouldn't whine too much.  The trail was easy but very muddy from recent snow that had melted. Once reaching the end of the trail we arrived at a viewing platform that offered a spectacular look into Blackwater Canyon.  A spectacular and very windy view.  It was crazy how windy it was.  It felt like it was going to knock you over.  So while the kids were still too young to appreciate the great view, they did love the wind.  I hated the wind, but the loved the gorgeous view.

Lindy Point

Elakala Falls:

Early the next morning my parents agreed to watch the kids so my wife and I could try to do a quick hike to Elakala Falls.  Elakala Falls is the first of a series of four waterfalls on Shays Run that empties into the Blackwater River. The trail is just to the left of the lodge and takes you to a small footbridge over the first waterfall. After that the trail winds away from the creek with no official way down to the next three falls.  It is pretty much a very steep bushwack downstream with each section of falls around 0.1 miles from the previous.

Well my hike already began on a bad note.  After a quick drive to the lodge and a nice stroll to the first waterfall, I set up my tripod and waited for the clouds to cover the sun that was staring me in the face.  Then as soon as I went to snap my first pic up popped a message on the camera: no memory.  I foolishly had taken out the memory card last night and left it in my laptop.  I had already started the hike much later than I had planned and now I had to go back to the cabin.  So I packed up, drove back to the cabin, grabbed the memory card and headed back to the trail.  

After a quick walk to the first falls again and a few photos that turned out very badly , I began the climb down to the second falls.  Each section got harder and steeper.  The biggest problem was finding a way down.  Everywhere I looked there was a fallen tree, and if there wasn't a tree there was a sheet of ice.  The entire hike was spent climbing through trees and carefully shuffling over icy, slick rocks. Everything I read had warned me that this hike was difficult as you bushwhacked down the steep creek.  But I think without the ice it would have been pretty manageable.

Arriving at the second falls it was the least impressive of the four.  It was impossible to find a good and safe angle to shoot from so I took a few pictures and began trying to plan a path down to the third falls.  At this point the hike was becoming much steeper and more difficult to find a way down.  You pretty much had to pick any spot you saw without ice and try to head that way.

When I reached the third waterfall I was right on top of it.  Way too close to get any kind of decent pictures and with the fallen trees and ice everywhere, very limited on my options.  I snapped a few pictures and continued my climb down.  Hopefully, I would have better luck with the fourth falls. It looked to be the most impressive and the one I was most excited to see.

So I climbed and scrambled my way down the least covered path I could see.  Looking for any available ground, maneuvering through the trees and over the ice.  As I approached an edge, I peered over.  There it was.  The jump. The jump that would change my entire life.  The jump that would change the world.  The jump that never was. Actually it was probably just a three foot jump that you wouldn't even think twice about making.  But today you would.  The small area of rock was completely covered in ice and surrounded by ledges on three sides.  A steep ledge that dropped down very far and a fall certainly meant death.

Jumping down to that rock any other day, no problem.  It looked liked such an easy and quick jump down.  But, I just wasn't sure what would happen when I landed on that ice.  However, I did know what would happen if I landed and slid over the edge.  So I debated it, and tried to convince myself because I really wanted to see that last waterfall. Maybe if I was alone, but my wife wasn't going to let me try it anyways.

At that point I knew today was a bust.  I really could not find any other way down.  I tried to swing out in all directions and make my way down.  I tried to find any other way but it was a brutal bushwhack and just kept leading nowhere. Reluctantly,  I accepted my fate and turned around and headed back.

Back at the car and now lunch time, today had not started off very well.  I was really looking forward to this hike but it felt very unsuccessful and unsatisfying. And from a picture stand point, the same.  I couldn't get one shot I actually liked at the first falls and on the second and third I had trouble getting any good angles.  Plus all the ice had knocked down so many trees that they littered the bases of the falls. After seeing so many beautiful pictures of Elakala Falls, it was disappointing thinking of what would become of mine.  The whole morning sucked; forgetting my memory card, ice and fallen trees everywhere, bad pictures, and not even making it to the last waterfall.  Another day it may have been an awesome time and great experience.  If I ever get back I will have to try again.

Third Falls on Shays Run

Some pics to show just how enjoyable the hike down really was:


Although Elakala Falls didn't turn out as I hoped or expected, I had a great first visit to Blackwater Falls State Park. Two days of 60 degree weather (though it was snowing the morning we left) spent venturing around this beautiful, uncrowded park.  See the 54 room lodge and restaurant were closed for renovations leaving only the cabins and campgrounds open.  The place was a ghost town and it was great.  We even had the indoor pool to ourselves every night.  This all made me feel very lucky because you could tell this place can and will be jammed packed with people very soon as they seemed to offer countless outdoor activities.

Our visit was unfortunately brief, but very beautiful.  Lindy Point offered an amazing view of the canyon and Blackwater Falls was magnificent and powerful.  It even lived up to all the hype the many beautiful photos helped create in my mind.  I have really enjoyed the state parks and beautiful scenery all around West Virginia.  In fact, on the drive home we passed a really neat looking place I hope to one day visit called Seneca Rocks.