Archive for May, 2010

got a little story for you all… (sorry, I’m not Southern enough to say ya’ll)

I woke up last Saturday, and saw a perfect thick blanket of clouds over Atlanta, making me want to go waterfalling. After a quick debate, I decided where to go.. off Warwoman Road in Rabun County. A little background of why… I visited Becky Branch Falls and Martin Creek Falls 3 years ago, and took a photo of Martin that while I like, I’ve never understood why it’s one of my most popular waterfall shots on Flickr. Regardless, when my friend Little m:) was in town last year, I led an expedition to Martin, remembering it as a relatively easy fall to get to… but I failed, and we managed to get lost. We were along Martin Creek, but couldn’t find the trail, and we came up to the base of a fall, with ruins of a trail, but definitely not like I remembered it. It was very sad… okay, not really, but it was annoying, and haunted me. So I vowed to return, and to find Martin Creek Falls again.

On this day though, the first stop was Becky Branch Falls, near the Warwoman Dell Area. The dell is a valley that the Cherokee named after a woman they called “Warwoman.” Becky Branch FallsThis description of the trail to Becky Branch describes also some history of the dell. From there, it is a quick 1/4 mile hike up to Becky Branch along the Bartram Trail, a long trail that meanders through this part of Georgia (and the Carolinas). It’s ~20 ft tall, easily accessible, with a nice rooster tail. It’s worth the short hike. Also in Warwoman Dell itself, there is a small fall, but it is low flow, and it was only dribbling that day, so I didn’t take any photos of it.

Next I prepared myself for the main event of the morning, Martin Creek. I had the same information I had both when I succeed easily and failed before (Jack Anthony‘s info). I parked at the same location, and crossed Martin Creek. …there I discovered our error last time. Instead of heading up the hill straight ahead, last time we followed a trail that remained along Martin Creek itself. Martin Creek Falls I even last time climbed partly up the hill, and found ruins of an old trail, now abandoned (maybe before re-routing the Bartram Trail?). Instead this time, I followed the other trail up the hill, and I found the Bartram Trail again. I followed this as it led up Martin Creek–further upstream than where we were last time–and after 1/3 of a mile, it easily led me to Martin Creek Falls, just as I remembered. It’s an impressive 30 ft fall, though it was too windy that day, which blurred the foliage in my photo.

On my way back, I wanted to understand what was this fall that we explored last time? The creek has rapids around Martin Creek Falls, then becomes placid for 1/4 of a mile before starting rapids again, Martin Creek Cascadelike those you can see here on the right. Then the creek shoots down a narrow channel in rock, and comes out of the narrow canyon into the falls we explored last time, mistaking them for the “main” falls (we thought perhaps changed by storms).

I then backtracked down the hill, to the trail we went on last time. Again, I saw the yellow mark on a tree branch (which should suggest the Bartram Trail, one thing that confused me last time). I followed it to the base of the lower falls, and with minimally getting my feet wet–but totally worth it–I climbed past the lowest cascades (which only Little m:) did last time) to see this stunning scene in front of me:
Lower Martin Creek Falls
I’m not quite sure the photo can show how beautiful it is.

I then scrambled back to the trail, contented that I finally solved the mystery of Martin Creek…


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In the beginning of May, I went up to Indiana for a friend’s wedding, so I thought I’d use the opportunity to stop by some of Kentucky’s most famous waterfalls along the way.

My first stop was Big South Forkin the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, a beautiful area with gorges and viewpoints like this here of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. In the recreation area, I stopped by Yahoo Falls, possibly the Yahoo Falls Basehighest waterfall in Kentucky, at 110 ft, though it reduces to a trickle in the summer. Yahoo Falls It wasn’t flowing very much when I visited, since there hadn’t been much recent rain. It was a 1/2 mile trail to it, and you can walk to the base and behind it. It is a nice wide-open location, though the fall itself wasn’t too impressive.

My next stop was Cumberland Falls State Park, visiting the falls often called the “Niagara Falls of the South,” Cumberland Falls–though I say comparing it is just embarrassing, and it would be better just to enjoy on its own without the contrast to what it isn’t. Despite the problematic comparison, it is a impressive fall, very powerful. The fall is very easily visible from multiple crowded viewpoints that the State Park provides. Though the fall is very cool to see, Cumberland Fallsit wasn’t as interesting to me photographically. I was a few days off from what Cumberland Falls is most famous for photographically, a moonbow. According to the park, the only other fall with a predictable moonbow is Victoria Falls in Africa. Perhaps someday (or night, I guess) I need to plan a visit to capture it.

I had visited the tallest waterfall in Kentucky, and had visited the largest (by volume) waterfall in Kentucky, but the last fall I visited was my favorite. Eagle Falls is also in Cumberland Falls State Park, 1/2 mile from the main visitor center. It is a 1+ mile hike to the fall along a medium-challenge trail, which drops on a tributary right before it pours into the Cumberland River. I loved the setting of this fall, with the beautiful blue-colored pool below it. It struck me how amazing this setting was that I enjoyed all by myself, as opposed to the crowds who were visiting Cumberland Falls just across the river. It’s interesting how people will visit where they’re told to stop by signage, etc, and not explore further on their own to find hidden jewels. I guess that leaves the jewels for those of us willing to explore… Eagle Falls

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One of the highlights of the trip to Tennessee last month was the 8 mile hike (round trip) to Virgin Falls Natural Area. It was a great hike (though long), over 9 miles with over 2000 ft elevation gain (per my hand-held GPS)… but it was totally worth it, as Virgin Falls is one of my favorite falls to ever visit. Scott and I did this trip with our friend Joe who was visiting Tennessee with his family.

The hike starts Laurel Pooleasily enough, then you descend to the first fall, Big Branch Fall, which due to low water level, was not impressive when we visited. Not only that, but also sun made such that none of us even took out our camera. Then the trail descends to the Big Laurel Creek, which you follow past many nice cascades and even a few pools, Big Laurel Fallsone of which had colors I really loved (photo above–looks better viewed large). From there, you continue along the creek to Big Laurel Falls, which are likely more impressive with more flow than when we visited. It also was partially in sun, so we didn’t get great shots of it, this one of the base being my favorite of my shots of it. The most cool thing about this fall is behind it was a large cave, into which the water from the fall flowed, and disappeared into the cave. It’s illegal here to go into the caves themselves, so we didn’t.

Next two falls Sheep Cave Falls along the trail are those of Sheep Cave Falls and Lower Sheep Cave Falls. This is Joe’s shot of Sheep Cave Falls. Though we saw it, none of us got photos of Lower Sheep Cave Falls, which had partial sun on it, killing all opportunity. The water comes out of a cave before going over Sheep Falls, then goes into a sinkhole under Lower Sheep Cave Falls, like Virgin Falls (below).

The finally, you arrive at the main event, the very impressive Virgin Falls. Virgin Falls Scale It is 100+ ft tall, Like a Virginroaring down a rock wall in front of you (see Joe standing beside it for scale–and he’s closer to the camera, so looks bigger than he is compared to it). It was amazing to see, though the sun that was nearby limited our composition opportunities. But it was so impressive to see in person, I don’t think anyone came away complaining (not even Alicia, though she was sore and tired). 🙂

One of the most interesting aspects of Virgin Falls is that the water comes out of a cave right above the fall, then disappears into a sinkhole right below the fall, so there isn’t a creek above ground that you can follow–it seems to arise out of nowhere. Scott and I hiked up to the top of the fall, where I captured this photo of him sitting at the crest of the fall. Shooting on Virgin

We also walked around and were able to stand right in front of the cave that provides the source for Virgin Falls (see photo below), watching the placid water come out of the cave, the water not knowing the massive drop it’s about to experience. From there, it was a tiring 4+ miles back Virgin Falls Cavemostly uphill, but seeing Virgin Falls made it all worthwhile (at least for me). 🙂

We saw a lot of very cool things during the weekend in Tennessee (more of which we still have to tell), but this was number one on my list.

Scott’s Take:
Yeah, I’m a slacker… this post has been up for a week and I’m just getting to posting something. Well, guess what? I don’t have much to add. Doug described this really fantastic waterfall great, so nothing really that inspiring to add. If you ever have the chance, and enjoy a little hike through the woods this waterfall is a must see.

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Water Levels Update: typical spring levels, exact amount depending on recent rain, but most falls have enough flow.
Spring Greenery/Blooming Update: fully green, even up to the highest altitudes. Flower blooming doing well around 2000 elevation in Georgia.

I want to apologize that with lots of waterfall trips recently (and work), I haven’t been good about updating the blog. This is a trip from two weekends ago, though the above information is from yesterday. Also I want to warn you that this entry is photo-heavy, but I visited a lot of falls on that day, and weather was cooperative.

I spent a Saturday nightBig Joel Falls at the Enota Mountain Retreat in north Georgia (near Brasstown Bald). They have trails to two large waterfalls on trails leaving from their property, Gurley Creek Falls and Big Joel Falls. I actually spent the night in a “waterfall room” hotel room nearest Gurley Creek Falls, and I listened to the creek as I slept. They describe Big Joel Falls as being 400 ft fall, though the part I could see if it was only 150-200 ft, from a trail ending in a viewpoint. It didn’t look like climbing to the creek was very easy (and very muddy since light rain), so I didn’t get closer.

The next AM, I visited 200 ft Gurley Creek Falls, right outside my window. A trail goes up to the upper reaches of it, stopping by one of the best cascades that drops into a small pool. Upper of Gurley Falls This cascade was nice, but I couldn’t find a way to get to the Purple Trilliumbase of the full fall easily (no trail), so I didn’t try to bushwhack that morning. Along the trail, there were a lot of wildflowers, especially trillium, including Purple Trillium, which I hadn’t noticed before, a real treat. I left the retreat to find more falls, but I definitely feel like it is a great location as a base in the north Georgia mountains, having both hotel rooms, and camping sites.

I next went to Anna Ruby Falls, Anna Ruby Falls trying to better capture a fall I haven’t done justice to in the past (and to visit a friend who ended not able to come). This is one of the most famous falls in Georgia, with its own visitor center, and what I feel are restrictive hours–you’re only allowed there from 9-6. The paved trail to the falls is 0.4 mi uphill following Smith Creek. I made it shortly after 9 AM, and it was sprinkling, so I had the falls to myself (very rare there, normally filled with lots of people). The falls themselves are impressive to see, and they are famous as a double fall, with Curtis Creek (on the left) dropping 153 ft, and York Creek (on the right) dropping 50 feet, joining to form Smith Creek. I was able mostly to keep my camera dry as I got a variety of photos. Compositions are limited by large wooden decks, and you aren’t allowed to leave the platforms. On my hike back, I took photos of the stunning Smith Creek, and weather was perfect for photography, with bright forest greenery and even lighting. Smith Creek

I then went to Falls by Forest RoadUnicoi Gap (where AT passes), and turned onto forest road 44. After 1/3 of a mile, I saw this little fall right beside the road. It isn’t impressive, but easily accessed while driving to the upper Chattahoochee. I continued on the forest road for 5 miles to the Upper Chattahoochee Campground. From the campground there is a short trail to Horse Trough Falls, an impressive 100+ fall. It had a lot more water than when I last visited, and was much more impressive. Like Anna Ruby, the composition options are limited by a viewing platform, though it isn’t as crowded. On the trail, there is a walking bridge, which is the first bridge that crosses the Chattahoochee. I followed a faint Horsetrough Fallstrail there along the young river (this is not far from the spring that is the river’s source), to a lower fall on the upper Chattahoochee. The trail is rough at times, requiring climbing under and through rhododendrons, but it’s rather short. The waterfall is in a beautiful location with it surrounded by large rock walls, and I wanted also revisit from 2 years ago. There Lower Falls on the Upper Chattahoocheewas light fog around the fall, which I think provided it with a magical setting for photography (as fog often does). I call it the “lower falls” because I know from a contact of mine that there are upper falls, though I didn’t try to find them, since I needed to get home, and bushwhacking around the rock walls would be slow.

The weather was so great in that day, perfect for waterfalling (except for the occasional light rain). The fog along Forest Road 44 (to the Upper Chattahoochee) gave me opportunity to photograph a dogwood in the fog, with which I will leave you. Enjoy the spring, and I’ll be posting soon from other recent trips. Get out there and enjoy the waterfall season!

Dogwood Fog

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Burgess Fallsthe final visit of our first day in Tennessee was Burgess Falls State Park. It’s a state park that has the 130 ft very impressive Burgess Falls, as well as 2 falls before it and some cascades. We were able to meet up with our friend Joe and his family, vacationing down from New York State. The state park has an easy trail to get to the main Burgess Falls, walking along the side of the river, passing by smaller falls. There is an overview of the fall from above,  but there is also a trail where you can descend (partially easily, partially through spray-covered rocks) to the base. While we were there, Alicia found a way to get to the middle fall, from the top of Burgess Falls, with us only requiring minimal walking in the stream.

Doug’s take: Burgess Falls from Base
I enjoyed this, since it’s a very impressive fall to see (130 ft), and impressive standing at the base. Because of the shape of it at the base, I personally like the view from above better, but overall I feel like it is a more impressive place to visit in person than to photograph. It was great getting a chance to photograph with Joe and interesting to see the difference between his shot of Burgess and mine and Scott’s.

Scott’s take:

Sorry for the hold-up guys… We’ve been waiting on me to put up my 2 cents on Burgess. This waterfall, or series of falls, is a really nice place to visit and unfortunately pretty accessible. Though even with people around we were able to get plenty of shots without any trouble. We even lucked out with the water flow and a slight wind as we were able to get shots of the main Burgess falls from the bottom of the falls. Most accounts I have read before visiting say its nearly impossible to get shots down at the bottom as the spray coming off the falls is pretty massive. In spots there was lots of spray, but not in the areas that allowed us to get some really nice shots. If you are in this area and you miss visiting this waterfall you are probably smoking crack. Don’t miss this waterfall.

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