Jones Gap to Wolf Rock on the Bartram Trail Near Highlands, NC

It was a beautiful day when nine intrepid hikers started out from the Jones Gap trailhead at FR 4522.  We would be hiking the Bartram Trail to Wolf Rock overlook and back, an approximate distance of 9 miles with side trails included.

Getting here is not hard if you have the right directions. From Highlands (you will be driving right through the main part of town), you go west on Hwy. 64 continuing past Dry Falls. Look for a turn to your left marked Turtle Pond Road. I think it’s just past the sign for Vanhook Glade Campground. DSC05150The direction from Highlands to the campground say 4.1 miles. Make your left on Turtle Pond Road and follow it staying to your right. The pavement ends and you will be driving on dirt roads from here. The first dirt road is rough but once you get to FR4522, the road gets better. Make the left on FR4522 and follow it to the end.

Once we got our gear together, we started off down the trail which starts down what looks like it might have been an old forest road into some open meadow where someone had recently mowed the trail. DSC05104 We stopped to take some photos of the Iris and other flowers before moving on to Jones Knob. DSC05107 The trail to Jones Knob starts just on the other side of the open meadow and cuts off to the left, an approximate .8 mile round trip.  There are several viewpoints on this trail.  DSC05112If you keep walking to the end of the trail, past the first two views, there are some places where you can see more views to your left through the shrubbery, but the ledges are much narrower here.  DSC05116I looked for a possible way back to the Bartram from here hoping for a shortcut but didn’t see anything helpful so we turned around and headed back down to the trail intersection.

Our next nice overlook was near Whiterock Gap where you will see an open bald with a view west to your left.  We stopped here for lunch. I know that seems early in the hike but our drive from Greenville was about 2 hours and it seemed appropriate. DSC05124I ate quickly and wandered around to take a few photos here.  We saw a tree which someone later told us was a fringe tree. DSC05120
After lunch, the group got started again heading towards our next point of interest.

At Whiterock Gap, there was a small camp site and a trail down to a creek for water which we did not go down. DSC05130It was during this interlude between views that I stepped over a young rattlesnake. I didn’t see it but the person behind me did. She thinks she stepped on it but it wasn’t fazed and luckily didn’t bite anyone.  But my fellow hiker was pretty shook up as this was her first one!DSC05131
I felt pretty calm but I’ve seen them before and this one was small by comparison. Still just as dangerous though!

Moving on down the trail we came to the turn to Whiterock Mountain.  We did not know what to expect here but it was a fairly gentle up to very impressive views. We would have loved to stay much longer but we lingered 20 minutes or so and then had to move on down the trail.  This is a destination! DSC05139 I’d like to note here that this is the only place we saw anyone on the trail yesterday.  We met four other hikers here but they were leaving so we basically had the trail all to ourselves yesterday.DSC05133 DSC05145

When we got back down to the Bartram to make our way north, you could tell that most people stopped here and turned back.  But we were heading to Wolf Rock and Fishhawk Mountain and needed to keep our momentum going so off we went into the unknown.

As I recall, there were several views through the trees and off to the left through the bushes on this section of the trail. One required a hop over a gap in between two rocks. DSC05152Not much standing room but we took turns. There was what could be another campsite on this trail but I didn’t see any water, just remnants of a fire ring. I don’t know where you would put a tent here though. Maybe hammocks. Not sure.

The group finally made it to the turn to Fishhawk Mountain at what I’m guessing was about 3.3 miles or so.DSC05162 Don’t quote me! The sign indicated it was 528 feet to the top but it felt longer. Blue blazed, very steep, and not well traveled, we found the dedication marker to William Bartram at the top.DSC05157  I was expecting more of a view here so I went wandering past the bare rock at the top and moved off to the right through the trees where there was a decent view from a small bald. We then made our way back down Fishhawk Mountain back to the Bartram Trail.

This is where the trail starts to descend towards Wolf Rock.  We made it there at 3.9 miles from Jones Gap (without side trails) and stopped for a snack and a rest.  This apparently once had nice views but the trees are now growing too tall to see much here. Definitely not a destination at this point.DSC05163

The Buckeye Creek trailhead can be found at mile 8.5 which would be another 4.6 miles from Wolf Rock. There are apparently some other nice views on this trail as you head that way but we would need to save that for another day. DSC05160 Maybe we will try the hike from there some time and hike to the view near Cedar Cliff and Doubletop Fields.  I’m advised there is a big elevation gain to start off with from that side though at 3 miles and 1000 foot gain. I’ll add that one to my list.

The group turned around and made its way back to the trailhead at Jones Gap with a few short water breaks in between.  It had been a long and satisfying day and we topped it off with a little Japanese food when we got back to the Greenville area!

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Hike to Bursted Rock, View of East French Broad River Valley on the Gum Gap Trail

It’s been awhile since I sat down to write about our adventures in the woods.  Even though it’s been a fairly mild winter here in South Carolina, it felt longer to me this year. Ah well.  I have been longing for spring to come along with everybody else and wildflower season for sure.

Our hike to Bursted Rock started by driving into the Watson Cooper Heritage Preserve which is in South Carolina.  This is not an easily found place and you have to get there by going through North Carolina. Who would have thought?  Mr. T and I have actually been on this road before looking for something else and drove down it about halfway.  But at the time it did not seem promising.

In any event, we parked about half a mile to a mile in on the left hand side near what looks like a social trail of sorts.  The last time we were there we parked before the sign to the preserve and walked the whole way to the Gum Gap Trail.  The road has one big dip with a bit of a bare rock in the middle which I didn’t want to drive my car over but I think if you stayed to the right or had a high clearance vehicle you might make it. You can actually drive right to the end of the road to where the trail crosses it.  Try not to block the gates though as there are some houses way back in there and I’m not sure whether people drive in for that reason.

Once you hit the trail, you will be hiking west towards Sassafrass Mountain.  The trail is marked with blue blazes.  DSC04786Be careful and follow the blazes going and coming because the trail splits off in a place or two that can get confusing.  The trail itself was rolling with a few big ups and downs.  Total elevation on this hike (which was an in and out) was about 1900 including the trip up to Bursted Rock.

We decided to go on to the view of the East French Broad River Valley at Dolves Mountain to begin with because that was the end point of our hike.  It is about 1.3 past the social trail to Bursted Rock (which is not marked).  DSC04788That trail would be on your left. I think the view at Dolves Mountain would be a little prettier in a few weeks as soon as more of the leaves are out.DSC04790  DSC04797You could see a little red poking out in the foreground and some evergreens.  No picture can do the valley justice as you can only get slices of it from the rock but the naked eye can appreciate it.

We made our turn back towards Bursted Rock and the trailhead and found it about a half hour to 40 minutes later. Coming back it would be on your right. It feels like it is in something of a dip in the trail as the trail starts immediately back up hill again turning a little to the left.  The social trail goes straight on for a short distance (look for a small rusted sign on a tree in front of you which is some type of boundary sign, watershed maybe? Sorry I didn’t take note of that this time. If you look to your left, you will see some trees marked with red paint) and then you will turn right up what looks like an old road bed. I’m bad at distances but I’d guess about half a mile up or less you will hit Bursted Rock. DSC04802We estimated elevation gain here at about 400.  The trail is not heavily used, nor is it kept up so in summer I expect it would be pretty overgrown. I’m not big on bushwacking but will do it when something interests me. We have lots of snakes around here, not always the benign kind, so I’d avoid it when the weather gets warmer. This photo was taken about half way up the trail to Bursted Rock looking down.

The view from Bursted Rock is of Table Rock off in the distance. DSC04804This is a view that most people never get to see and that’s what makes it special to me. DSC04805 Again because of the time of year, the trees in the valley below were pretty bare but it was nice to sit in the sunshine.  Of course I was not sitting but off in my usual exploratory mode! I would love to come back here and just have a nice lunch and enjoy the view.

We noted the marker on the rock said Bursting Rock but I’ve seen it written up as Bursted Rock.DSC04806 I like the name Bursted Rock which is probably how the locals referred to it. I suspect someone in an official capacity wanted to clean it up so take your pick.

The hike back to the trailhead was pretty uneventful. We did make a wrong turn but caught it quickly. Be sure and watch for the blazes and stay to the right going back uphill.

I noted a trail off to the left at one point with a marker that said Headwaters State Forest. North Carolina is buying up land in this area and hopes to have about 8,000 acres. Of course I was interested in seeing where it went but am saving that for another day!

You can find a description of this section of the Gum Gap Trail in the Foothills Trail Conference book although I don’t recall seeing them talk about Bursted Rock.  I did find a reference to it in the book “Hiking South Carolina.”

Mileage: About 10

Elevation Gain: 1900

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions:  Check out this link for directions.

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Hiking Best Practices

1.  Be sure and bring a map when hiking. Don’t just rely on a GPS.

2.  Dress in layers when you hike and avoid cotton as it doesn’t breathe.

3.  Carry a first aid kit with you when you hike.

4.  Bring plenty of water with youDSCN1233 when you hike or be prepared to purify.

5. Wear appropriate hiking shoes or boots. If you think flip flops are appropriate, we need to talk.

6.  Don’t kill the snakes. Avoid them. You aren’t food so they aren’t interested in you.

7.  Watch where you sit or put your hands when hiking. You don’t want any nasty surprises!

8.  Always carry extra food on a day hike. You never know when you are going to get held over.

9.  Hike your hike. Not the guy’s in front of you.

10.  Add some duct tape to your hiking pole.  It’s great to fix lots of things in a pinch!

11. Don’t overestimate your hiking abilities. Know your limits and start slow and easy.

12. Stay off waterfalls and the streams above them. No exceptions! None of them are safe.

13. Carry the phone number of the closest ranger station in case of emergency.

14. Don’t panic if you get lost. Most lost hikers are typically found within 3 days.

15. Learn some survival skills just in case.

16. Take a first aid class. Hopefully you’ll never need it when you hike but better to be prepared.

17. Trust your instincts if a stranger on the trail is making you feel uncomfortable. Don’t let politeness get in the way of your own safety!

18. Always carry a pocket knife and at least one kerchief when hiking.

19. Keep an eye on the trail and watch your footing when you hike. Falls kill!

20. Stop at all turns and make sure you have everybody before you move on.

21. At every turn, check where you are on the map (even if you think you know).

22. TBD

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Paynes Creek Trail, Hartwell, Georgia

Yesterday we hiked with Upstate Hiking at Paynes Creek Trail in Georgia.  This is a biking/hiking trail that follows Lake Hartwell for much of its length.  The trail was engineered mainly for biking but is a great trail for hiking as well. 20150228_124408 Mileage for this hike was about 7 miles with what we think may be an additional 2 or 3 miles on a trail called Heartbreak Ridge. We did not do the extra miles as we had only planned to do 7 but know it’s an option for another day.

We saw a few bike riders yesterday, one runner, and several locals who were clearing off a large tree that had fallen across the trail but other than that the trail was not heavily used when we were there.20150228_113409

The trail itself weaves through the woods with what I would describe as moderate amounts of elevation gain.  I would call it a moderate hike overall, not very technical. I did note that some of the biking descriptions called it a “good ride” and “fun.”

There were several small beaches off the trail to stop and enjoy the views of the water and to have lunch.  This is probably not a great place to hike in the summer as it can get warm here. 20150228_120802

In addition to hiking, there is a boat ramp and a great parking lot with lots of parking. The site is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and has a campground which was closed when we were there.

If you are coming from South Carolina, it’s not too far from the state line off I-85.20150228_104421

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It’s Good to Have a Dream

I know I’m supposed to be talking about hiking but sometimes it is good to talk about something else.

As we get older, we start to experience death in the generation before us.  We even start to experience it in our generation.  Hopefully this makes us thoughtful.  Specifically in my case it makes me think about how short life really is and how much of it we spend being afraid.  We all have fears but I have come to realize that we need to push past those fears because we really have nothing to lose when the end result is the same for all of us.  If we let fear hold us back from accomplishment, then we have failed to live fully the one life that is given to us.

20150221_113557I’ve also learned too that it is good to have a dream, of something we want to be or something we want to accomplish. Whether or not we actually attain our dream is something else but if we strive for it, we will be a lot closer to it than if we never started.

I can’t tell you how to live but I can tell you not to wait to start examining your life and your fears and find the courage to face them and take the next step. Live your life fully and happily unencumbered by the regret of not having tried to go after what you want.

And if you fail, so what?  Pick yourself up and find yourself a new dream and keep moving forward. You only have one life! This is it.

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Chattooga River Trail (Georgia): Dicks Creek Falls to Hippie Beach and Back

Yesterday we hiked with Upstate Hiking on the Chattooga River.  We parked right before the ford on Sandy Ford Road and hiked in on the trail that heads south towards the river. Much of this trail follows Dicks Creek and had lots of greenery on its banks even though it is still winter in Georgia.  This trail comes out right at the Chattooga Trail and there is signage here.  If you continue on straight downhill, you will run into Dicks Creek Falls and Ledge.DSC04635  This is a beautiful spot on the river with a nice view of the ledge from the top of the waterfall.DSC04641

DSC04642Take great care if you stop here as these spots are always dangerous.

The group spent about 15 minutes here taking pictures and wandering around.  I continued down the trail and around the corner by the river as I wanted to see where it went.  Just more river there but you never know. It was a very sunny day and hard to take good photos but we did get a few.

We returned back up the trail to meet up with the Chattooga River Trail and headed west towards Hippie Beach.  It is approximately 3.9 miles from this intersection.  The trail was rolling as I’ve come to find out it is for much of its distance.  We intersected Sandy Ford Road again on the trail and at that point we took a detour down the road to the River. If you hike with me, you know I am all into exploratory. I figure we may never get back! There is a parking lot for several cars there, a nice sandy beach, and a place in the river they call “Double Drop.” DSC04652 We wandered down the river trying to see if there was any trail to the Narrows but nothing promising. DSC04656A few people found some rocks to stand on in middle of the river.

Someone spotted what they thought was a trail that went uphill but it wasn’t. Miss D volunteered to see if she could find a trail and headed up. It turned out to be an old forest road so the rest of the group followed her uphill, and we took it back to Sandy Ford Road which was a very short distance away.

Continuing uphill on the dirt road, we returned to the intersection of the road and trail and headed west.  Some way down the trail, I could hear what I think was the Narrows which we have visited before from the South Carolina side but there was no visible way to get down there from the trail.DSC04659  At one point, I spotted a small waterfall on a feeder stream and took this photo. DSC04654

The group finally stopped about 1:30 p.m. for lunch.  We are not positive that what we found was Hippie Beach but there were two nice campsites divided by a small stream with a bridge crossing. It’s called Hippie Beach because it is said a group of hippies lived here at one time. You could get several small tents on each site and a few hammocks but that’s about it. DSC04661What might have once been a beach was overgrown. Several of us decided to sit on the river on some rocks for lunch. After lunch, a few of us wandered across the bridge just to check it out.  This was our turn around point.

The group returned back the way we came. At one point, we met some hikers from the Charleston meetup and had a nice conversation about their upcoming backpacking trip to the area.  DSC04666We did see another small group of hikers earlier in the day, and 2 other hikers. That was like running into a crowd on this trail.  The few other times we have hiked it we have had it mostly to ourselves with a few exceptions.DSC04664DSC04655

It’s a pretty hike and about 8.8 miles approximately not including the detour.

Hike:  In and Out

Difficulty :  Difficult due to mileage

Mileage:  About 9.6 miles (including detours)

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Timms Mill, Pendleton, SC

Mr. T and I decided to take a ride in the country last Saturday. It was supposed to be a not so nice day but it turned out to be very sunny and beautiful here in South Carolina. I love to combine history and hiking when I can and am always looking for places that might be interesting.  A Google search turned up a place called Timms Mill which is a restored working gristmill out in Pendleton, SC so we got in the car and headed out.


The mill itself is located on Timms Creek which when we arrived was actually a pretty decent size creek with a steady flow of water.  I understand that in the summer it can get pretty dry but in January it was flowing very well.

The water to power the mill is actually pumped under the road and down a wooden sluice where it hits a bright green water wheel to power the grinding and sorting machines inside.DSC04601 Dave (the owner) was very friendly and invited us in. Dave very patiently explained how the machines work and let us wander around. DSC04596They only grind corn on Saturday and sell grits and corn meal to small, local stores that carry food products.  There are still a few locals that bring their corn to the mill to grind.  As you can imagine, there was a lot of dust from the corn grinding so I mostly kept my camera covered while I was inside.

Bill, a friend of Dave’s, who also helped with the mill restoration, shared stories about the mill with us making this a very nice experience.DSC04594DSC04592

They tell me that the first Saturday in December they have an open house where they have a bluegrass band and sell cider and corn products. DSC04600Lots of people come for the music and to buy grits to put in their Christmas gifts!

We sure will plan to try and stop by in December and maybe sooner if we can get a hike together over in that area.

We topped the day off with a stop at the Pendleton bakery and small cafe next door.  The food was great. There is also an artist co-op right next door with some very nice art work. A great place to take a ride in the country!

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