We backpacked with Upstate Hiking last weekend in Panthertown Valley. Typically we don’t backpack much but like to do it a few times a year.
Saturday was a bright, sunny day as we started out with 7 adventurers in total from the Saltrock Gap trailhead. Parking there is pretty good and we got there early enough to secure a place to park. The hiking plan was somewhat flexible although we had planned to hike in the northwest corner of the valley in an area we had not hiked before. Sunday our plan was to hike some of the waterfalls.
The group headed up the Blackrock Trail to where it meets the Overlook Trail which we turned down. There are great views of the valley on this trail and I wanted to get a few of them in before we turned north. We reached the view of the valley and stopped to enjoy the view. Click on the photos for better views. One of our sharp-eared hikers heard the sound of a pileated woodpecker doing what woodpeckers do at the top of a dead tree so we got our cameras out for a photo opportunity.
Because we had made an up on Blackrock and the trail turned down on Overlook, we decided not turn back but to go to the end of Overlook and make our turn north on Powerline Road. Powerline is a pretty open old forest road which gradually makes its way uphill.
We continued on our quest for Flat Creek Path. An unnamed trail on the left looked interesting so we decided to explore it, passing an old barn whose roof was caving in upon itself. As we continued on through the green woods, we came upon what appeared to be a memorial. Plants were named with little markers, and a dog statute with a dog collar draped around its neck stood guard. This little trail is on the map but it is not named.
The group turned back towards the main trail and continued on. As a side note, Powerline Road does have some views where the powerline crosses the trail but nothing terribly photogenic. We knew the path we were looking for was close by but did not find it. I stopped to take a look at the map and the group sat down to take a little rest. I left the group sitting in the middle of the trail while I went on to look for the path. Unfortunately we had gone a little too far and had to turn around. I had seen something with potential as we passed and I went ahead a little to check it out.
We turned down this little opening off the trail and the path began to open up in front of us. I would say it was never really a great trail and was little used. We crossed one small stream and hit several turns. Some of us just sloshed and jumped through the stream while some took off their shoes. I’m just too lazy to want to bother with all that shoe untying so I was part of the sloshing crew.
This trail, which looked to have been an old logging road at one time would be my guess, had several turns and fortunately we have a pretty good sense of direction and made our way eventually to Turkey Knob where we looped back down to Blackrock Trail. As we made our way down the trail, we startled a wild turkey and its poult (baby turkey). I was in the back and all I could hear was its squawking and the sound of its wings as it flew off the trail. Turkey Knob lived up to its name! And the person in the front often gets a front row seat to nature. I apparently earlier also missed the opportunity to see some sort of black snake while I was scouting the trail which I can say didn’t hurt my feelings.
Our goal was to camp near Granny Burrell Falls so we repeated Overlook Trail down to Carlton’s Way. Carlton’s Way is actually a pretty good trail and works its way down into the valley floor. We found a place to camp not far from Granny Burrell and set up camp in the pine forest. A few of us had hammocks, the others tents. Supper was a time to test gear, get water, and wind down from a 12 mile day. Some of our hikers gathered wood and got a fire started after dinner. We all sat around and enjoyed the company and the sound of what we thought was a single whippoorwill who decided to start singing when it got dark. Of course it also decided to start back up in the morning. Who needs an alarm clock when you have nature at your door?
I was pretty tired after such a long day and decided it was time to hit the hammock about 10. The rest of the group followed shortly thereafter and that’s when the rain started up. It rained pretty much the rest of the night. Most of us managed to stay dry in our tents and hammocks and I finally made the move to get up when rain started to seep in.
We decided to break camp and head out to avoid any more rain as the forecast was not looking pretty. Some of us who had made good time packing up took a little trip to look at Granny Burrell which is not a very impressive waterfall but had a lot of water in its pool that morning due to all the rain.
The group reunited at the campsite and we headed out. We were only a mile from the car and made it there by following the Panthertown Valley Trail. There is a good view of the valley between Granny Burrell and Saltrock Gap on the right but that morning it was all fogged in as we passed.
We made it back to the cars in one piece and headed out to find some warm coffee, Panthertown beckoning in our rear view mirrors with more places to explore on another adventure.