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. 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. 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. Sometimes the trail was hard to follow and I had to blow my whistle once to make sure we were still with the group.
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. 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. 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. 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. The 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. 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. 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.
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.
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!!