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:

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