Naturaland Trust Trail and Moonshine Falls

Caroline Trinkley:

Last Sunday we hiked to Moonshine Falls on the Naturaland Trust Trail as an in and out. You can no longer reach it via the Dismal Trail because of landslide damage on that trail. You can reach it by hiking from the Ranger Station at the top of Ceasar’s Head and working your way down to the Naturaland Trust Trail below. Mileage is somewhat less that 8 miles and I would rate this hike very strenuous. The trail is very technical with lots of rocks, roots, and a few rock-strewn streams to cross over. It is mostly uphill on the way back. As of Sunday, the trail to Moonshine Falls was marked with a big cairn of rocks and goes off to your left. Just a few yards down this trail to the right, you will see an old sign board. This is how you will know you are on the right trail.  I would estimate that in less than 15 minutes you will reach another smaller cairn of rocks off this old forest road which takes you downhill to your right. These are not official trails so take great care here as they are not maintained. Once you make the turn to Moonshine Falls, you will quickly reach the trail to the overhang underneath it to your left.

Here’s a link to the elevation profile from Brenda Wiley’s website:

Posting a few photos from that hike:

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Originally posted on Hiking the Carolinas:

Yesterday was a beautiful day in South Carolina.  We hiked to Moonshine Falls via the Raven Cliff Falls parking lot and did a loop with a shuttle in between.  The end of the hike was the Ranger Station at Caesars Head.  We hiked to the Raven Cliff Falls viewing platform and from there headed down the Dismal Trail to the valley below. The Naturaland Trust Trail is pretty rugged and has quite a big up once you pass the Moonshine Falls turnoff.  The trail down to Moonshine Falls is pretty easy until you get right up to the falls and then it is a short, steep down. This part of the hike is not on the map.  This hike took us about 6 to 7 hours as we had a few slower hikers with us but a stronger hiker could do it more quickly.  It is well marked and easy…

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Headwaters State Forest, North Carolina

A new state forest is ‘under construction’ in Western North Carolina. Much of the land is still being acquired and it is expected to open in a few years!! This is very exciting.  There are apparently 25 waterfalls in the tract. Here are a few links on the topic:

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My Mini-Summer in The Sierra: Yosemite

It’s been about a month now since we came back from The Sierra in California and I’m finally getting around to writing my last entry on this trip.  Maybe it’s a good thing to take time to digest what I saw and felt about being there.  DSCN0218

We mainly stayed in Yosemite Valley and hiked the Valley Floor Trail.  We also hiked up to Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls and came down the other side.  The hike up to Vernal Falls was very crowded but it thinned out as we continued up to Nevada Falls. I did not want to hike back down from Vernal Falls because of the crowds and the steep, rocky trail so elected to continue up. Most of the other waterfalls in the valley were dry so we did not visit them.20150828_111236

I have some regrets about not hiking outside the valley as I understand the trails are less crowded (in places). That was not apparent on our drive as we headed out of the park towards Reno as all the trailheads we saw had full parking lots and cars parked on the side of the road.  And this was not the busy season. 20150829_154351 If I had it to do over again, I personally would probably pick some trails off the beaten path and avoid the crowds. But when you are only in a place for a short time, you probably need to see the highlights first.

This begs the question “can some places be loved too much?” Just asking. I wonder how John Muir would view the changes here and how he would feel about the loss of solitude in the valley, at least in the summer months.  DSCN0221We’ve saved it from the farmers and the developers, and the challenge is to continue to save it from ourselves.

Another question that comes to mind.  Are we reducing the grandeur of nature to a selfie rather than savoring the moment we are in?  Is our desire to share our experiences overshadowing the experience itself?

Rather than elaborate any further, I’m just going to leave you with those questions. It’s something to think about.20150828_103920


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Sylva, NC: Pinnacle Park

DSCN0248I know I’ve promised to finished up the Yosemite trip but right now I wanted to write about our trip to Sylva before I forget it.  We hiked there several Sundays ago with our friends from Upstate Hiking who were tolerant enough and strong enough to make it to Blackrock (which is really a rock), not just a trail.

The hike starts in the Pinnacle Park parking lot (which is quite ample) and continues up, up, and more up on the West Fork Trail until it intersects with the Pinnacle Trail.  DSCN0251

DSCN0253DSCN0250If you take the trail to the left, you will reach The Pinnacle.  The trail actually looks like it dead ends into the rhododendron (at the fire ring) but if you take a left through the bushes you will shortly come out onto the rocks where you should be able to see the town of Sylva from above. The group stopped here and had a quick lunch.  It got a little chilly as the sun ducked in and out of the clouds.DSCN0254DSCN0255DSCN0258

Soon after finishing lunch, we decided to move on and tackle the trail up to Blackrock. This  trail can be reached by taking the Pinnacle past the two trails that enter to your right.  You should soon come upon the Blackrock Trail to your left (the Pinnacle Trail ends right here). This is where the very steep up starts (again).DSCN0264 Mr. T and I had tried this hike on another occasion but got stopped by thunder and lightning and brambles.  This time we found the trail had been cleared by a local Boy Scout troop (so we were told) having received information from some people we met over in Panthertown Valley.  It is supposed to be only .6 of a mile but it feels much longer.  We trudged uphill for a good half an hour and reached the first large rock. DSCN0265The trail goes downhill to the left around this rock (under an overhang), skirts another hill to the right, and goes down under another large overhang. This is the bottom of Blackrock. Look for a place to climb up and around the rock to the right of it. Blackrock will be to your left. Views here are very good and well worth the effort.  I noted the trail continued on and of course I wanted to see where it went. The sign says it goes to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nothing changes!

We reached the rock and had some bit of time to ourselves but soon were joined by a lone hiker from the Sylva area. DSCN0270He very kindly answered my questions about local hiking (in Sylva) which he described as limited. After spending about a half hour or more on the rock, we made our way back to the Pinnacle Trail and shot down the East Fork Trail towards the parking lot.  DSCN0272We ran into one couple coming up to Blackrock at this point. I would say that we saw about seven people other than ourselves all day so we weren’t dealing with crowds. Yeah. This trail was very steep (but not as rocky as the trail we came up).

Our hike up was billed at an approximate 3,300 foot elevation gain. We were all glad when we reached the bottom as it was getting late in the day.  I would say this hike was much slower than normal due to the steep elevation so if you are going to do this hike give yourself ample time to finish it. Plus you want to make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the views at both places.DSCN0274

As the parking lot was in sight, I came across a woman and her mother who engaged me in conversation. The mother was trying to get into shape to hike the mountains as she was new to the area and I hope I gave her some encouragement! She and I talked about hiking poles and why I liked them and her adult daughter seemed very happy with that and other advice. Maybe someday she can make it to the top. A worthy goal.

You can find this hike described in Danny Bernstein’s book Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Heritage. 

Mileage: 10.1 Miles

Difficulty: Very strenuous

Happy hiking!

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Tomorrow is 9/11 and I’m remembering…

We all have stories associated with 9/11. We remember where we were on that day, what we did, who we talked to and sometimes we remember our own personal traumatic event going on while something much more horrific was happening to people in our country, Americans and non-Americans alike.  It’s been fourteen years now.

I happened to be having a visit with a friend today. She reminds me of my grandmother who I thought the world of.  I’m not sure if she realized I was really giving her a compliment but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this talk reminded me what I learned and felt from my grandmother (actually my mother’s stepmother). She taught me that it’s not the material things we give other people that are important, but it’s the time we take to listen to them and to love them. It’s taking your kid to get some pizza or creating a Saturday tradition of going for Chinese food. It’s throwing a little ball outside after supper, helping them with homework, or just giving them a big hug. It’s taking a little time to listen to your spouse or significant other when they’ve had a bad day and you are busy. Sometimes the people we love are not the people we expected to love or the people we chose to love but people that come into our lives through other people.  But we can find the time to love them all the same.

So on the eve of a day that brought so much horror, it’s good to remember that loving one another is the greatest commandment. 9/11 is a day we will never forget, some for both public and personal reasons, both intertwined and separate at the same time.  It’s a day to remember the people we loved and lost, to honor their memory, and to hug the people that remain.

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My Mini-Summer In the Sierra Continued: Sequoia National Park

After we got off the John Muir Trail backpack, we arrived back in Mammoth and headed to the Twin Lakes Campground where we had spent our first night in California.  First order of business was a shower! I think all of us were very happy to plunk down $5.00 for unlimited access to hot water.  Clean hair is a luxury you learn to appreciate when it isn’t.  After hanging out for awhile at the campsite, putting up tents and strolling around the park, the group drove back into town to find a place for dinner.  This would be one of several dinners for me (at least) consisting of a veggie burger.  I do not want to see another veggie burger for a long time!!!  While I’m on the subject of food, I will say that we had several wonderful Thai dinners in Clovis, California (near Fresno) and Carson City, Nevada.  As a hiker, some of you may appreciate that where and what we are going to eat after a hike is usually a popular topic of conversation. It carries us for many, many miles! The red meat crowd did get their steak in Reno but that came much later in the trip.

First thing in the morning, we were off on an approximate 4 1/2 hour drive to Sequoia National Park.  Unfortunately our reservation at Kings Canyon had to be changed due to a fire and we found ourselves relocated to another campground (Dorst).  We couldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves about that as the female park ranger we spoke to had also been relocated. It was just that sort of day. DSCN0178 After claiming two adjacent sites, and setting up the tents, we decided to head over to the Visitors Center to check out the hiking, gift shop, and food (which was mediocre at best).  The group then moved on in our rental cars to visit the General Sherman Giant Sequoia. DSCN0136 A paved path wove its way downhill towards the small grove of trees where we would find General Sherman among others.  This is billed as the largest tree in the world.DSCN0142  Unfortunately the small but steady stream of visitors posing in front of the trees (we did it too) took away from the spiritual nature of the experience.  As some of us waited for the balance of our group to arrive back at the cars, we watched the sun go down through the trees. DSCN0145_tonemapped

We were able to have some time with the trees to ourselves the next day at the Muir Grove which could be reached by a trail that started right at the Dorst campground.  It’s hard to explain but it is almost like you are in a cathedral in the woods albeit one without a roof. There is something sacred about being in the presence of living things so old and that have been standing in the same place for several thousand years. DSCN0166 When we got there, I went straight to a tree and stood touching it for a few minutes sort of letting it know I was there and didn’t mean any harm.  It is my understanding that many people have a similar reaction. DSCN0165

When we got back to camp, the group decided to decamp because of the heavy smoke.  We decided we would do one more hike before leaving Sequoia and drove up to Crescent Meadow (after lunch at Wuksachi Lodge & Restaurant).  DSCN0192On our hike, we saw a rattlesnake and several bears at Long Meadow as well as a baby bear in Crescent Meadow.  A small crowd had begun to gather on the path abutting the meadow and several overly aggressive nature photographers started to pursue a photograph of this small, startled bear.  DSCN0207He or she at one point came running towards us whereupon I jumped up on a log to get out of its way. The poor thing turned back into the meadow.  Thank goodness there was no sign of its mother!  Some of us also saw a deer in the meadow on our way out.
Lots of wildlife here and no apparent fear of people.  DSCN0214

On our way out of Sequoia, we stopped at an overlook for the view and could see a small puff of smoke in the distance (which was the Rough Fire) amid a strong smell of smoke. Fire is part of the natural order of things here in the Sierra and brings new life to areas that burn.  That being said, there is a delicate balance between maintaining the park as it is, protection of private property, and letting nature take its course.  Just pointing this out and not trying to make social commentary.DSCN0215DSCN0216

Next stop: Yosemite.

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My Mini-Summer in the Sierra

When I was in college, and taking a class in environmental history, we read the book My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir.  I was not a hiker then (not even a person who liked the outdoors) and I thought the book was really, really boring. In fact when my professor asked me in class what I thought about it, out that personal opinion popped surprising even me! DSCN0007 Time has a way of changing us and how we think and that happened to me. When a group of five hiking friends decided to go on a trip to the Sierra, my interest was piqued so I signed up to go.  Anyone who knows my hiking style knows I sometimes pick hikes by their name. Trail names like Rattlesnake Knob or Zengarden Bald make me just want to get out and explore them.  This one was no different!DSCN0019DSCN0022

Our trip began with a 3 day backpacking loop on the PCT and John Muir Trail starting in Mammoth, CA.  After picking up our permit at the ranger station, we took the shuttle bus ($7 round trip) from the local ski area to the trailhead. My pack weighed about 28-30 lbs. more or less when you added the bear canister.  Not being much of a backpacker, I struggled a bit with all the weight but by the last day I was feeling pretty good about it (maybe eating some of the food helped; still brought too much). Having used an old backpack laying around the house, I vowed to send it into retirement at the end of our travels with the idea that if I ever really backpacked again I would buy something lighter and newer! DSCN0037DSCN0029

We spent two nights on the trail:  one night at Thousand Island Lake and the other at Ediza Lake.  Thousand Island Lake is a very pretty place and we found a nice place to camp. DSCN0049

Several of us bought the Magellan Scout Tent just for this trip because it was inexpensive (I already own two hammocks). Some of the reviews mentioned the tents having condensation on the inside in the morning and I would say that was a true statement.  But all in all the tents were very good and we used them for the entire trip without incident.  A very small price to pay for an economical tent.

There was still some snow on the mountains at the end of August and in fact we woke up from our slumbers with ice on our sleeping bags to a beautiful, sunny morning.

DSCN0046 Our second night (Ediza) was much warmer (we stayed at a campsite off the lake that could accommodate a group our size). DSCN0091 I was pretty beat the second day out and when our leader plopped down to wait for the reconnaissance party to come back and report on camp sites, I was quite happy to make myself comfortable.

Daytime temps were in the 80s but the nights were variable.  The scenery was impressive but we were dealing with smoke from a wildfire for most of the trip and most of my photos were not great (I chose to take my small pocket camera instead of my Sony to keep the weight down!).  There was plenty of water to be found on the trail and on our third day we passed 3 or 4 lakes on our way back to the trailhead.  No open camp fires were allowed on the trail.DSCN0067DSCN0065

What did I learn?  First, that I could finish a three day backpack and manage my tent, food, etc. fairly competently. Being on a whole food plant based diet is not an asset on the trail (besides taking a ribbing!) but I managed. One of my other camp mates was a vegetarian but she is a lot more flexible than I am. I did find a few pre-packaged vegan meals at Mast General Store in Greenville which worked for me. Second, that I actually liked it pretty well. We all have personal baggage and mine is that I hate backpacking because I hate the pack. But I’m feeling a little more positive towards it after this trip! I thought the trails were in pretty good shape and a decent hiker should not have a problem with this loop. Finally, one of my fellow backpackers thought it would have been nice to spend a few days at one lake and do some day hikes.  I think the best one for that was probably Thousand Island Lake.

We also visited Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks! Blog post to follow.

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