Monday, March 05, 2012

Hunt Fish Falls Revisit

I was able to get away on Sunday for a hike in the mountains. Since I was going solo again I didn't want to go bushwhacking. I promised Carole that I won't go off in the trackless wastes any more without hiking companions. So I decided to go back to the Wilson Creek area to find the South Harper Creek Falls which I have never seen. After that I'd have time for some other trails that I wanted to hit.

But trouble found me almost as soon as I got to the Wilson Creek Recreation Area. In the form of the weather. When I arrived, the weather was fine. A mild day with clear skies. However, the previous evening had been very windy and as I got a good ways up Forest Service Road 464 and was about six or seven miles from the trailhead I wanted to use, I discovered that the road was blocked by a large tree (see yesterday's post for a photo). I had to turn around. There was no way to go around the tree.

I had passed the trail to Hunt Fish Falls a mile or so before the blockage and I turned around and went back to that. I'd been there before, but it's a very picturesque waterfall if not a very tall one. And the hiking would be easy, and I could head down the trail to another waterfall that I'd heard about but had never seen.

In quick order I was on the trail and plunging down into the gorge. As I hiked I noticed that it was getting colder. At first I thought that it was just my imagination at work, but by the time I got down to Hunt Fish Falls and walked out on the big granite clearings below the falls I realized that it really was getting colder. There was a powerful front moving through and it was bringing cold air with it. Out on the rock I actually had to put my gloves on to keep my fingers from going numb. Fortunately, I'd brought a jacket, a ski cap, gloves, and a scarf. I don't know why I had grabbed those items at the last minute, because all weather reports I'd read had called for temperatures in the low 50s. But that wasn't the case at all.

After I'd spent some time at Hunt Fish Falls I packed my camera stuff away and shouldered my pack and headed downstream, seeing more of the trail that I'd never hiked. After a mile or so I came to a spacious camping area beside the creek and I pushed on. I met some people fishing in the creek and I waved and said hello and continued down the trail. And then I saw that the trail ended and to continue the hike I'd have to cross the creek. To do that I'd have to take off my boots and socks and unzip my convertible pants. But by then the temperature was definitely in the low 40s, maybe even down into the 30s--it was much too cold to go wading in a fast-moving creek pumped up with recent rainfall.

So I turned around and headed back to my truck. I figured I could take another Forest Service Road up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and do some hiking from there. In quick order I passed Hunt Fish Falls again and made the climb back to my truck. Once more I was really surprised at how cold it was getting. Oh, well. I had the right clothing on hand in case it got even colder.

Taking another Forest Service Road I began to climb up toward the Parkway. And just as I was getting close to the Parkway I saw something. My first thought was that I was seeing some early blossoms being blown off some tree, because the wind was whipping up. And then I realized that it was snowing. The higher I drove the more intense the snowfall became. A huge front of clouds was coming in from the west and bringing, apparently, heavy snow. I kept driving and hit the Parkway where I turned north, meaning to find some trailheads near Grandfather Mountain.

And it was at that point that the storm really hit. Soon the snow was pouring down and the wind was whipping fiercely. Grandfather Mountain disappeared behind dark clouds and blinding snow squalls, the reappeared as breaks in the cloud cover passed over, then vanished again. This was repeated again and again, but soon the cloud cover seemed to be winning out and the ground quickly began to turn white. I parked at the Beacon Heights trail and strolled to the big exposed rocks at the end of that stroll where I took some photos. Then I figured I'd take advantage of the snow and hit a trail off the Parkway that I'd wanted to hike for some time, but after I'd driven a few miles I found the Park authorities had blocked the route south.

By then, it was getting far too late to think about much in the way of a serious hike. Resigning myself to the fact that the weather had gotten the best of my plans, I backtracked and turned toward the Linville Gorge Wilderness. At least I could stop and walk to the top of Linville Falls, then drive down to Wiseman's View and wrap up my day of outdoor adventures.

And that's what I did. More photos (and video) tomorrow.

This is as the start of the trail to Hunt Fish Falls. It's classic southern Appalachian hiking. If you want to see mountain laurel, azalea, and rhododendron in bloom, this is one great place to go in Spring and Summer.

This is the view from the top of the modest (but very pretty) Hunt Fish Falls.

This is one gorgeous campsite right at the top of the falls. I'd love to hike down here and camp.

A panorama of Hunt Fish Falls and the wonderful swimming hole below it. I can imagine spending an entire day and evening here just lazing around the site and swimming and taking it easy.

Hunt Fish Falls.

The sky was almost clear and spectacularly blue. Little did I know that things were about to change drastically.

This is a panorama of a vast campsite that I hear is mainly used by fishermen. It's huge and is about a mile or a bit more than that from Hunt Fish Falls. Just beyond here is where I had to turn around because it had gotten way too cold for me to ford the creek.

Trail 262 (Lost Cove) is just a lovely path.

And one more view of Hunt Fish as I passed it again on my way back up to the top of the canyon.

I've been to Hunt Fish Falls three times. And every time I've been this little waterfall has been running, sending water in to join the creek below Hunt Fish.

You're not to keep any of the fish you catch on this creek. It's all catch and release.

The great campsite right beside Hunt Fish Falls.

You can always find little treasures like this along the trails. This was just a tiny little cascade. But there in the shade beneath the rhododendron, it was quite pretty.

Good ol' Hunt Fish Falls.

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