My first trip out is to Gorges State Park which is only 6 miles away and where I learned I was clearly in for a lot of rain.
At the visitor center I learned from a very creative exhibit that the park has an average of 91” of annual rainfall as compared with 46” in Raleigh, the state capital, 43” in Charlotte, the largest city and 37” in Ashville only 54 miles away.
I also saw the rainfall totals for this area over the last 10 years. They didn’t have totals for June yet but they’ve had about 45” of rain through May
The visitor center has a delightful place to relax in rocking chairs overlooking mountains in the distance but I was anxious to finally get out and do some hiking.
I would recommend the visitor center as a great stop for information about this newest and western most state park which is adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest and provides access to some of its falls I’ve come to see today.
Although I didn’t take any pictures of the new campground under construction, it appears the designated RV sites have been done with some care to provide what looks like level concrete pads and electric. Sites in the campground vary widely in their amenities and the RV sites are limited in number. Also be aware that the roads within the campground and to get to it, are, like many roads around Transylvania County including the roads to Riverbend RV park, very steep and winding. Check your brakes and make sure you know how to drive in the mountains before coming. Even so you may find yourself as I did with white knuckles.
The park provides access to three waterfalls and they are my first hiking destinations of this trip. The largest of these is Rainbow Falls.
Once the trail moves into Pisgah National Forest land it runs beside the Horse Pasture River which is visible at spots along the way.
A set of steps leads to the carefully protected view of the falls.
I have no idea how you’d get to the base. None of the information I had said anything about it.
If you’d like to hear the falls and see it in action, here is a short video. Wish I’d gotten more of the downstream falls which can be seen in the picture below although the view of them is restricted.
I caught only a little bit of the rainbow that gives the falls its name. I thought by coming in the earlier morning I might see a larger one. Guess I’ll have to come again.
I walked on along the trail which was rougher and not as developed at this point. I wasn’t sure I was going to find a second falls until I found another set of steps.
Turtleback Falls named for obvious reasons.
I could get much closer to these falls and see down stream easily. I’m sure people get into the pool below the falls on a very hot day.
The rhododendron around Turtle Back was lovely.
All my pictures of Turtle Back were taken from the side as it was the best and closest vantage point. The only straight forward shot I could get was through the foliage. But I liked it so I’m including it. Here is another very short video, as in 10 seconds, this one of Turtle Back Falls.
I had missed the 3rd falls on my way up to Rainbow but I found it on the way down. It’s very small but has sitting spots which neither of the others do and I’m sure is a very popular spot for swimming later in the day when it warms up as the water is quite cold. It’s aptly named Hidden Falls.
The rhododendron around Hidden Falls were even more plentiful and of a darker pink.
I wish I had a hiking partner to take these selfies with.
Two days later some wonderful people from Louisiana, Pat and Gayle, asked me to join them on a hike up Whiteside Mountain. They have been coming to Riverbend for many years and have hiked nearly every trail around several times so I jumped at the chance to accompany them.
The trail can be a loop and they advised from experience that we take the mostly stairs trail up and the gravel service road down. Not sure why the only pictures I have of the trail up don’t include any stairs.
They told me this was one of their favorite hikes and they’d done it many times. Once when they got “up top” they couldn’t see a thing it was totally fogged in. Other times it was clear as a bell. Today seemed to be somewhere in between. Hazy but still the view was grand. I’d like to come again if time permits and see if I can catch a crystal clear day.
My gracious hosts.
On the way up I spotted these lovely Fire Pinks
They are smoky mountains.
The longer we stayed the hazier it got.
I took the path behind the kiosk which said I was in Panthertown Valley. I wish Panthers (mountain lions) still lived here but sadly they do not. I then crossed the wooden bridge and hiked up the old logging road.
I was happy to see wildflowers along the way.
A joy along the narrowing road was a blooming Flame Azalea.
And then I came to the falls and I was the only one there the entire time I stayed which was at least 30 minutes, perhaps more.
You can see the lovely pink mountain laurel left of the School House Falls.
I sat and drank in the beauty and the sound for some time. I’d read that you could walk behind the falls. I thought about it and decided I wanted to see if I could. Now how to get back there.
Because I had my hiking pole I was able to balance my way along this narrow lane of rocks to the edge of the waterfall pool.
But when I got on the other side there was nothing even remotely resembling a path.
I climbed my way through it to this vantage point and hoped I could walk under and return on the other side since coming this way had been pretty precarious.
I took this short video (click link to view) from here before walking behind on the slick wet rocks. Thank goodness for Vasque hiking boots and a hiking pole.
It was fantastic being behind the waterfall. So cool both temperature and otherwise.
Out the other side.
The falls look quite different in these two pictures.
Back on the rock bed in front of the falls I set up a rather dark selfie and then left before anyone else came. What a great morning.
The next morning was a different story.
I returned to the Trailhead for Rainbow Falls in Gorges State Park and took the other trail to Raymond Fisher Pond.
The hike was very nice.
The pond was very nice
The park had changed the area to no camping, torn up the campsites and left all the pieces in a mess. I’d like to find out the story behind this. So far it has been my only disappointment at Gorges State Park. This was not very nice.
I took an “I was here” selfie and headed back to Ruby.
Now for the “and then. . . .”
The Raymond Fisher Trail is only a 1.5 mile out and back trail so I had planned to also hike the final trail in Gorges which required me to drive back to the Visitor Center and park to reach the trail head.
I hopped in Ruby, turned the key and she cranked and cranked and cranked and would not start. I did this several times. I got out, put the hood up as if I might be able to figure this out. SURE! I had just bought a new battery as you know. The day before I had filled up with gas. I hadn’t a clue and was totally bummed at the thought of Ruby’s first tow trip within 2 weeks of Winnona’s and what would happen to my insurance premium as a result of all of this.
I guess Chris took pity on the old woman and came over to ask if he could help. He tested the battery, tried starting it himself and then called over his friend Brad. Together they pushed me back out of my spot so I could roll down the parking lot slope and pop the clutch. I was in business. This is a big reason I have always owned a standard transmission car. Winnona is my only automatic ever. I left Ruby running while I stopped to thank the boys and get this picture of my heroes. Chris is on the right.
And now what? Well this post is long enough so it’s going to be a cliff hanger.