Buncombe Horse Trail, Newberry County, South Carolina

Today we hiked on the Buncombe Horse Trail at the suggestion of our friend Alan.  We had reports that the Palmetto Trail in that section was not in the best of shape as we originally had planned to do the part closer to I-26. Starting off on what I thought was the correct road (it turned out to be FS358) we passed a trailhead on our left, continued on past the Brickhouse campground, and ended up at a dead end. The Brickhouse campground is actually very nice, costs $5 a night, has outhouses, and running water.

Pulling my map out, I realized we were on the wrong road so we decided to bushwhack through the woods to the Buncombe Horse Trail.  Believe it or not, we did make it to the trail after crossing Headleys Creek and continued on through a forest of pine.  We came up on another creek crossing on Headleys Creek which was marked off by pink tape.  A sign was taped to a tree advising horse riders (and hikers) that the area ahead was closed due to a prescribed burn.

Not wanting to chance getting caught in a fire, we spotted a trail that turned back away from the river and up a hill so we decided to take it. We had a map so we were not worried about getting lost.  The five of us just continued on what we later figured out was part of the Bumcombe Horse Trail system and came to a place in the trail with a T.  One way took you on the blue/yellow section and the other one purple/yellow.  We opted for blue/yellow to head back towards the Brickhouse and started off.

It was a beautiful day and the birds were singing sporadically around us.  At one point, we stopped for lunch on a fallen tree off the trail.  A father and daughter riding horses came along and we had a nice conversation talking about the twenty miles of trail over at Woods Ferry in the Sumter Forest which we decided we need to check out some day.  Lunch ended and we continued on, the trail gently undulating through the woods.

Occasionally a tree frog would make a sound in the woods and we would stop to listen knowing that spring was coming soon.  We spotted a tree with little red shoots coming out but these were the only spots of bright color among the browns and evergreens. Finally, we found ourselves behind the campground where we decided to take a little break at a concrete picnic table.

Moving on we came to FS358 again and crossed on the Buncombe Horse Trail and hiked on to FS356. Thinking there was a small pond to the left, we made a turn.  We did not find the pond but we did find the remnants of an old stone building dug very deeply into the ground.  Several of us sifted through the woods looking for artifacts.  The garbage pile was quite near this building. Old burned cans, broken glass, and some intact bottles were piled here. Approximately 25 feet away we found an old iron bed propped against a tree.  Moving closer towards the road, in the brush, we found the remnants of what appeared to be a substantial home which had two chimneys.  Bricks were scattered in the brush and foundation was laying scattered about.  Miss K was looking for clues while I was keeping an eye out for snakes! None seen but can’t hurt to be careful.  It was about 73 today.

We decided to continue up the road and do a loop back to the parking lot.  This took us by what they call the Brickhouse right off highway 66.  This is private property so it is probably not a good idea to wander around but we couldn’t resist the call of this old house. This house was built in the early 1800s by a doctor and passed through several hands. It is believed that Jefferson Davis stopped to water his horse there in April of 1865.  It may have once been used as a stagecoach stop and it was once a working plantation before the Civil War.

The group headed back down the road across from the Brickhouse to the parking lot and off to a nice early dinner at O’Charleys!

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Sid Falls/Possum Creek Falls, Oconeee County, SC

It was a small group of six adventuresome hikers from Upstate Hiking that started out on an exploratory trek to Sid Falls in Oconee County, South Carolina last Sunday.  It was a beautiful day, in the 50s, for hiking.  After a fairly short drive from Greenville, with a quick stop in Clemson to pick up Captain Morgan, we passed the Long Creek General Store and started looking for our turn to the left on Damascus Church.  We passed the Chattooga Belle Farm on our right which has a lovely vineyard, a spectacular mountain view, and caters weddings and other events on a lovely rock patio.  They also serve lunch but you need to check their times.  This is not a plug per se but we had stopped there before and they let me take some photos off their patio so I’m returning the favor.

We kept to our right on Battle Creek Road and followed it around for a few miles until we finally found the old forest service road on the right we were looking for. It had a big red gate so it was pretty noticeable.

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The group piled out of the cars, packed up our gear, and headed down the forest road chatting amiably as we went along.  We walked for close to a mile before hitting the woods at the end and started on what seemed like a faint trail at the time but actually came to a dead end at the top of a hill covered in trees and brush.  We turned around and I took the lead for a short time.  I quickly spotted what looked like a faint trail to the left.  I could hear the water in front of me.  Scout took the lead again as the group headed down hill.  It became steeper and we grabbed on to the numerous tree holds available until we reached the creek below us with only a few minor spills on the way down.  This will sound funny but sometimes I thank the trees as I go. I know they don’t hear me but maybe they still know.

There was very little actual standing room at Sid Falls and what there was is slippery and wet.  Nevertheless, we gingerly made our way up the side of the creek to see if we could get a few good photographs of the falls.  I’ve seen it called Sid Falls or Sid’s Falls. It was named after a local schoolteacher called Sid Ballenger. This is the best shot I got of the falls that day.  After about 10 to 15 minutes, the group headed back up the road and got back in the cars for the next part of our adventure.

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I managed to talk Scout into driving further down the road here just to see where it goes.  This is exploratory, right? We intially went straight until the maintained road ended and made a turn around.  Noticing a really nice barn off the side of the road, I hopped out to take a quick photo.

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We then went off down the road again and took the road to the left towards Lake Tugaloo to check it out and with the hopes of finding a place to sit down for lunch. On our way there, we noted all the logging going on in this area.  The forest, instead of just being denuded of leaves was shockingly denuded of trees which was very sad. Anyway the lake was very pretty and there is a good place to put in a boat/kayak but no place to sit that wasn’t in the shade.  So we made our way back up to the main road and making a turn towards the forest road to Possum Creek Falls.  This falls is also known as Opossum Creek Falls but the locals prefer Possum.  The trail to this falls was much easier to navigate and to follow but it is a constant down to the Chattooga River.  The afternoon was sunny and warm and we had a nice chat until we reached the river.  Most of the woods were denuded of leaves as it is early winter in South Carolina.  No flowers to speak of but still lots of green rhododendron and ferns.

Once we reached the river, we decided to head upstream towards a rock to hang out for a little while, take photos, eat a snack, etc.

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Pulling out the map, we determined we were at a place in the river called Quaalude.  The river was running very fast and was full of water.  Saturday we had a lot of rain and presumably that contributed a great deal to the flow. Just as we were about to leave to start our short hike up to the falls, a group of kayakers came downriver and started their run through Quaalude.  What a treat! I started just taking random photos, hoping to get one or two shots that would be worthwhile to post.

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Our trip to the falls was short and uneventful.  Possum Creek Falls is very tall and really quite beautiful but a little hard to photograph in its entirety.  I made a stab at it anyway and also took a nice group photo.

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The sun was starting to sink a little lower in the sky indicating it was probably time to start our uphill trek back up towards the cars.  I was sweeping as usual and making a little slower time so the group stopped to wait for me from time to time.  It was all good.

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Once back at the cars we made our way back towards Greenville contemplating our next adventure in the South Carolina woods.

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Long Creek Falls Exploratory/Chattooga River

It was a small group of four as Scout and I decided to hike at the last minute and thought some company would be nice.  Making a couple stops to pick up our crew to make 4 (Tippy and Captain Morgan), we made our way towards Westminster in western South Carolina and headed up towards FS755.

FS755 is a gravel and dirt road in very good shape in the Sumter National Forest.  There are at least 2 waterfalls that I know of along it, one being Opossum Falls and the other Long Creek Falls.  I had been to Opossum Falls on another occasion and  we had decided to save that for last.  I was driving and we were following the directions we got from the SCtrails.net web site which turned out to not be very good.

We arrived at the apparent end of the road at what appeared to be a parking lot which didn’t mesh with the directions so we turned around and went back up the road to check out one of the side gates we saw. Image

After hiking down it for about a half mile, we came to a dead end and decided it had to be where we first thought to stop.  So we traipsed back up the old road, got back in the car, and returned to the spot we initially thought we’d stop at.  Putting on our backpacks, we headed off on the smaller side road to the right of the parking lot traveling deeper into the woods. This road was not in nearly the good shape as the main part of the road was in but we did see a black jeep drive down it as we left later in the day.

We started to recognize some side roads as they were marked so we were starting to feel we were on the right path. The road eventually become a real trail and we followed it for a bit. The directions stated that we needed to be listening for the falls near a bend in the trail.  We came to a bend, looked to our left and noted a faint path going downhill.  We also heard what appeared to be a lot of rushing water, and so with the hope we had found the way to Long Creek Falls we made our way downhill.  Image

Our travels started off fairly benignly but soon we were scrambling down the side of the hill towards the river, grabbing tree limbs, roots and rocks as we went.  After a short but dicey 15 minutes, we made it to the Chattooga  River at a beautiful spot we came to later learn was called Raven Chute.Image

We had made it all in one piece with only minor bleeding, dirty pants, and no broken bones!  It was picture taking and lunch time so we all pursued our various desires and spent a pleasant half hour hanging out and posing for and taking some photos.  DSC00261There was a waterfall at this spot but not being very impressed with it (Pinckney Branch but at the time we thought it was Long Creek Falls) we made our way gingerly and carefully back up the hill towards the main trail.  We headed back out towards our car with the idea of heading back to hike to Opossum Falls when we came across a man and his 3 frisky dogs.  One of the dogs greeted us as we came up the trail, another looked at us somewhat suspiciously, and the third stayed close to her owner.  The man, who we later learned was a botanist, was carrying his camera and a rope and was heading for the same spot we came up from. After getting over our exuberance, and maybe gaining a smidgen of respect for us after he took in we had braved and completed the trip to Raven Chute, he indicated that the spot we had gone to was Raven Chute and that Long Creek Falls was in fact past it and not hard to find.  We decided that we would head back down the trail so we were now 5 for a short time plus 3 dogs.

Our botanist was extremely kind and gave us a copy of the disk he was carrying with him that contained a book of all the local Chattooga hikes along with some pdfs of animals and plant life in the area.  I felt like Christmas had come; I was just that excited!!

Our botanist (with dogs) left us at the turn and headed down towards the rushing water of Raven Chute. At least he was smart enough to bring a rope. He would need it. We continued on down the trail and after a short time the trail turned downhill and we made our way to the base of Long Creek Falls.  As we looked up the river, a group of kayakers could be seen in the distance making their way towards us as they traveled downstream. Image Image

After a few pictures of the falls, we made our way back up the trail and towards the car.

It was still early yet but too late to start down the next trail towards Opossum Falls so we decided to make a stop at Brasstown Falls which is really a series of four falls, all of which have to be viewed separately.  The footing at Brasstown Falls is very treacherous and we had to carefully pick our way downstream to see 3 of the 4.  Scout was the only one of us who decided to brave the logs to cross and see the upper falls.  Tippy and I crawled and scrunched (me) our way across a log to the other side of the stream but we couldn’t make our way to a better view of the upper falls without getting our feet wet and we hadn’t brought our water shoes from the car so we decided to let it go for the time being. Another day on that one.Image

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After a very satisfying trip to view the balance of the falls, we made our way to the car once again and headed off to Clemson to have dinner at the local Thai restaurant!

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Big Bend Trail to Big Bend Falls, Oconee County, South Carolina

On Saturday, we hiked with our Upstate Hiking friends on the Big Bend Trail.  In the back of my mind, I had always intended to look for the falls but I knew there had been a landslide in that area and that the trail had been rerouted. DSCN8270 Our meetup organizer had indicated that she had previously looked for the social trail down to the falls but didn’t find it.  Perhaps it was the wrong season.  I hadn’t mentioned it until hike day as I didn’t want anyone to be disappointed if we didn’t find it.

In any event, the group started down the trail from Route 107 near the Cherry Hill Campground.  That campground had been closed a few years due to bear activity but I’m not sure what its status is right now. We parked across the street from the trailhead close to the Winding Stairs trail. We all begun to spread out as we hiked and I could hear the comforting sounding of chatting ahead of me.  Several of us in the back got our cameras out and started taking pictures and making photo talk. DSCN8256  Thinking about planning a short photo hike so we can stop and spend more time shooting interesting things on the trail.

As we hiked, I spotted several social trails and yelled up to the Scout to see if we could make some short exploratory detours and he yelled back we could catch it on the way back so I was satisfied.  The trail was covered with leaves as we hiked and footing was made difficult by this. DSCN8261 Sometimes the trail was hard to follow and I had to blow my whistle once to make sure we were still with the group.DSC00127

Leaf season is just about over although we saw some leaves still clinging to the trees.   Ever green rhododendron was everywhere so we were not without our green. DSCN8259 After several miles of hiking, we made it to the Chattooga River. You could hear it in the distance but not see much at this point.

Instead of crossing the bridge to our right, we continued to our left on the trail as it made its way above the river.DSC00139  My recollection was that several years ago the trail went much closer to the river but that the trail was narrow and crumbling in spots.  The trail undulated up and down slightly and then made a steep drop towards the river on wooden riser stairsteps. DSCN8269 C-3P-O (her trail name) and I were in the back at that point and had been listening for the sound of the falls.  DSC00132The group had stopped at a small rapid on the river to take some photos and enjoy the beauty of the river.

We continued on in the back and came to a set of carved out stairs in rock.DSCN8268 This is where I spotted a social trail to the right which I decided to explore.  C-3P-O waited while I carefully picked my way down the hill towards the sound of rushing water which turned out to be Big Bend Falls.DSCN8267  I turned around to make my way back uphill.  By that time, the group had turned around after having made an attempt a little farther up the trail to get down to the water.  We decided to stop and have lunch here so they all made their way downhill towards the sound of the water.

There are some flat rocks above the falls to sit on albeit wet but we all sat down to enjoy the soothing sound of the water as we lunched.  This falls is supposed to be the largest on the Chattooga which I’ve read is a 35 foot drop. Not impressive in size but still very pretty.  I took a few photos with both my cameras and then settled down to eat and drink a light meal as we were having early Thanksgiving back at Oconee State Park and I didn’t want to get too filled up.DSC00141

After finishing up with lunch, the group started the return trip back to the trailhead following the same route.  We did make several side trips, the first one at an obvious place in the trail. We chose the uphill portion here and made our way up about ten minutes timewise.  The trail “ended” at what appeared to be Big Bend Road which is just above the trailhead we started at.  It looked like camping was allowed but there is no water source here so if you wanted to camp you’d have to bring your water with you.  We made our way back down to the trail, picked up the few hikers who had remained behind, and continued on.  Our next stop was at another obvious crosstrail (unmarked as such) and a few of us made our way downhill to see where it went.  We did not go far but decided that someday we would have an exploratory to see where it goes.DSCN8272

The hike back otherwise was unexceptional except for me taking a little fall on the leaves.  I only banged my shin so no worries. I’ve come to accept that this is part of the hiking experience.  As careful as you try to be, there is always going to be some rock or root waiting to trip you up! Anyway, we all made it back in good shape and drove off to a Thanksgiving feast that couldn’t be beat!!

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Fall at Table Rock State Park SC

What do you like about the Fall? I like the…

…colors, red, yellow, and orange.

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..the crispness of the air and the way the trees frame the waterfalls with color.

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…views through the leafless trees of Table Rock in the distance.

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… Drawbar Cliffs on the Foothills Trail.

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… light peeking through the clouds at Governors Rock.

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Lake Conestee Nature Park, SC

What is it about nature that we find so appealing?

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Time to contemplate.

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Time to breathe.

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Time to hang out with your buds.

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Time to listen.

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Time to be.

http://lakeconesteenaturepark.com

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Mt. Pisgah and the Buck Spring Trail

I surely have been quite a poke writing up my hikes lately.  Saturday we had a great day out starting at the Mt. Pisgah trailhead where we met up with a friend.  The cars had to be shuttled so the drivers rode off down the road while the balance of us settled down on the grass and the curb for a chat until they came back.  Once all eighteen of us were together again, Mr. T started us up the mountain.  I thought the trail was fairly easy as such things go but probably not.  Been doing this too long to have a good perspective on it. Image

The trail was pretty technical being well-traveled and strewn with rocks.  Mt. Pisgah has a tower at the top as well as a viewing platform and the hiking party gathered on the platform.  I, on the other hand, decided to make the acquaintance of several friendly dogs.  Once we had taken our group photo of the day, the crew turned around and headed back down the mountain. ImageImage There seemed to be a lot of tourists on this trail as well as dogs of all sizes.

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We continued on past the parking lot following the Mountain to Sea trail towards the Pisgah Inn where we made one wrong turn.  In actuality, the MST continues behind the restaurant down a set of stairs.  No worries as we were on our way again.  The trail starts off very domesticated, wide and mowed with some nice views off to the left but it soon narrows out and becomes much more overgrown. Image We weaved our way back and forth down hill finally getting turned in the correct direction towards where we parked our cars about 6 miles away.Image

The group had quite the chatty day and I could hear them from my vantage point as the sweep off in the distance.  Typically the hike breaks into at least two groups with me taking up the end.  Not always the best spot when the yellow jackets come up but Saturday we were yellow jack free!  Yoohoo. The highlight of my hike was the spotting/photo of the monotropa, a relative of Indian Pipe, which is a plant.  I had never seen this before and so I was extremely thrilled by the discovery.Image

Once in awhile I would stop and check the map to make sure we were on course.  This is extremely important when you are  unfamiliar with the trail.  There was a least one tricky spot at the end as it did not really match the map but all was well. ImageThe hike continued on over hill and dale, crossing many small creeks until we found ourselves back at the cars.  The group opted for supper at a local Asian buffet where we dined on fried frog legs, shrimp, and a curried Thai dish. Yum.

Another wonderful day in the woods with lots of great friends.

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