Saturday, April 12, 2014

INDIAN CREEK TRAIL

Visiting Window Falls

at Hanging Rock State Park



Moore's Knob as seen from the Dan River Bridge
We have hiked nearly every trail at Hanging Rock State Park but we have never hiked Indian Creek Trail.  The trail is a 3.7 mile trail from the banks of the Dan River to the Visitor's Center Parking lot at the trail head of the Hanging Rock Trail.











The trail head is pretty easy to find...just take NC 8/89 trough Danbury past the sign for Hanging Rock Park and just before you get to the Dan River bridge, turn left on Flinchum Road.  It is a gravel road that dead ends at the parking lot for the trail/boat landing.



Two trails can be accessed from this site.  A shorter 1.3 mile loop trail, River Bluffs is for the less vigorously inclined.  The Indian Creek Trail is the one we chose as we chose to be vigorous today.  Our destination was not the Visitor's Center Parking lot....been there, done that.   My hiking companion had never seen the Park's famous Window Falls....just 3 miles up hill from the banks of the Dirty Dan River.

The trail generally follows the banks of the Indian Creek.  It is a beautiful forest trail adorned with rhododendrons waiting to bloom.   On many occasions we had the pleasure of fording the creek.  Don't take this hike if you don't want to get your feet wet.







We got to see some of the first blooms of spring.  A yellow bell bush provided a nice foreground for a picture of a small water fall in Indian Creek. 






On several occasions on the trail there were massive rock formations which invited some rock scrambling but the FBWG had already decided to hike a vigorous trail so I decided that I would wait for a less vigorous day and come back to Indian Creek and explore these rocks.  We trudged on and after about the fourth creek ford, the trail began to climb more steeply and we soon found ourselves on cliffs over looking the creek some 100 feet below.





These cliffs are but one mile down the trail and offer some nice benches to rest your dogs and catch a cool breeze coming up from the creek.  From the second bench a cabin on the bluff can be seen in the distance.






Leaving the cliffs the trail turns into a wide fire access road with a long switchback which masks the steepness of the climb.  It was a hot day and we trudged up the ridge.


At 1.65 mile marker the trail comes off the ridge and again takes up the path of Indian Creek which we followed all the way to Window Falls.  But in the meantime we came upon a group of trail angels working on a boardwalk over a soggy section of the trail.  It turns out this is a work crew of Boy Scouts who had thrown in to help on an Eagle Scout project from one of their troop. Ben Rolfes was the Eagle Scout.  Like many who we meet on the trail, they were eager for the Fat Bald White Guy to take their picture and make them famous....I was happy to oblige!  So here's Ben's Crew....thanks for making this trail better!


The trail intersects with Moore's Springs road not far from Ben's work site.  The trail can be accessed from Moore's Spring Road.  If you want a 2.0 mile hike to the river this may be the best way.   Near the Moore's Spring Road trail head, there is an old farm building of some interesting construction.  Not far from this building is a standing chimney, a remnant of a farm house now overgrown with Yellow Bell bushes.




Crossing the road we picked up the trail and again found ourselves fording the creek a few more times.  The trail was deceptively steep, something we did not fully appreciate until we were hiking back out. 




Our dogs were getting tired... our water supply was getting low...and the trail kept getting steeper with no end in sight until we saw a sign telling us that we were but a third of a mile from Window Falls.

We trudged on and soon we heard the unmistakable sound of children's voices....intermingled with the roar of the creek as it plunged down the mountain from Window Falls.  Soon we saw the first sign of freshly clothed families coming down the trail....looking at us a bit strangely no doubt....I am sure we did not smell too good...after all we had been hiking in 80 degree weather trudging up a mountain, wading creeks....whatever!


The first glimpse of the falls came as I pointed out to my hiking companion the rock ridge which looms above Window Falls.  Then we saw for the first time the lower cascades.   I profiled this waterfall in the winter of 2013.   It is really a fun place to visit. My hiking companion promptly shed her shoes and socks and waded into the cold creek water at the base of the lower cascade.




Window Fall is a natural jungle gym.   There must have been 30 people of all ages and dispositions climbing on rocks, wading in the water, taking photographs from all kinds of angles.   Window Falls has an enormous three story rock ridge which hides the upper cascades from view from the trail.   You can see these falls from a "window" in the rock wall.

Upper Cascade of Window Falls

 
 




I struck up a conversation with a scoutmaster from Wilson who brings his troop to Hanging Rock State Park every April.  This was a perfect setting for these boys.  They were climbing everywhere.  I caught a picture of one of his troop climbing to get a look through the "window".  From this position I looked up and saw a brave young lady sitting on the edge of the rock ridge, some two stories above everyone else. 




Resting, eating power bars an drinking water seemed to invigorate us and after  thirty minute stay at the falls, we started our trek out.   If you make this hike, recognize there is another small but very interesting falls up the trail from Window Falls.  These falls are called Hidden Falls.  Truthfully if you are hiking to see the falls, you need to park at the visitor's center lot and walk down Indian Creek Trail.  You can see both falls with a hike of no more than a total of a mile.  Hidden Falls is a bit less sociable than Window Falls.  Check out my earlier blog if you are interested in the waterfalls of Hanging Rock Park.       http://fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-waterfalls-of-hanging-rock-state.html


Indian Creek Trail is really a neat trek.  It offers both creek and mountain vistas.  Lots of rock formations, a couple of neat  waterfalls.  We want to return for a shorter trail when the rhodies are blooming.  The Hanging Rock State Park has never disappointed us.  While the view to effort ratio is low for this hike the access is great-9; the trail is well marked and maintained -8; the scenery is a 8.   Overall grade of an 8 for this 6 mile out and back trail.  





 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

ROUGH RIDGE

A Hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway


If you travel north on the Blue Ridge Parkway and cross the Linn Cove Viaduct, you will encounter an overlook just past the 303 milepost without a sign...and a parking lot full of cars....you will have found the trail head to Rough Ridge.










This popular trail offers the best view to effort ratio of any trail we have ever hiked.  It is a short trail, only 1.5 miles out and back,  but offers spectacular views, great rock scrambling and a pretty fair workout too. 






Not far from the parking lot is a nice bridge over a mountain creek and waterfall....the trail is rocky and well worn but rather narrow.  This trail soon intersects with the Tanawha Trail...take a left toward Linn Cove and you will soon find the boardwalk of Rough Ridge.



The Rough Ridge Trail has three distinct overlook areas.  The first is the Boardwalk which is about a quarter of a mile from the parking lot.  The Forest Service has constructed a nice wooden boardwalk over protected vegetation complete with nice benches leaving access to a large rock cliff for the first of many panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.  






You get the first views of the Linn Cove Viaduct and Calloway Peak of Grandfather Mountain as well as the distant Table Rock Mountain

 
From the Boardwalk you can also see the next two overlooks some 500 feet up a pretty steep and rocky trail.

You got to love those trails where you can see where you are going as well as where you have been.

The trail is narrow and rocky as well as steep.  Because this trail is so sociable we had plenty of opportunity to catch our breath as we allowed folks coming down the trail room to pass.  In another quarter mile we arrived at the next overlook a very popular rock cliff.  Not wanting to wait for a spot, we scampered up some rocks above this cliff and got just as good a view without having to be sociable.


From this vantage point we had a 180 degree view of the world and a chance to catch the first rays of the spring as well as snapping some neat pics of the glory of the Blue Ridge that surrounded us.

The Linn Cove Viaduct is an engineering gift to the mountain.  It skirts the mountain and provides vehicle traffic with a unique driving experience. 
This peak is on our summer bucket list.  We are hoping to hike the Daniel Boone Scout trail to the summit as soon as we get in a little better shape....you know how Fat Bald White Guys like to eat in the winter time!

 



The best view may well have been to the southeast toward Blowing Rock.  Look closely and you can see our peeps on the Boardwalk taking pictures of the nice young couple posing on the rock cliff.

The trail to the summit of Rough Ridge did not seem quite as steep.  The trail is surrounded by rhodies but spring blossoms are a least a month away.  Though the temp was in the upper 40's we were very comfortable hiking without a coat.  Very little wind and a warm sun made all the difference.



When we arrived at the summit rock, we found it to be occupied by four college kids.   So what is a Fat Bald White Guy to do but become sociable....turns out that among the four, one was a fellow Wolfpacker!   Katie, Alex, Tyler and Matt are from Cary and have been friends for some time.  Great folks who got a laugh when I handed them my Hiking with a Fat Bald White Guy card and asked if I could make them famous by putting their pic in my blog. 



Yep that mountain top is calling and the FBWG has got to climb that peak.  As good as the view is from the summit of Rough Ridge, I can only imagine the magnificent view that awaits us....but that will have to wait another day.  Leaving the summit we spied some other rock cliffs we wanted to explore, so we followed the Tanawha Trail off the summit.  We got to do some nice rock scrambling for the effort.  At the first of the cliffs, caught our fellow Wolfpacker, Katie, giving us a "thumbs up".




We were drawn to a split rock formation.  Hearing the voices of young people above us, we figured that if they could climb to the top so could the Fat Bald White Guy and his Hiking Companion. 



Getting to the top proved pretty easy...mainly because some teenage girls showed us the trail but even the Fat Bald White Guy needs help every now and then.   When we got to the top we found ourselves alone for the first time and we stretched out and caught some rays!  We also got some nice pics too.




Climbing down from the top of the rock formation I was intrigued about climbing to the top of the other rock.  But Fat Bald White guys are not as limber as most folks and I thought better of trying to make such a climb...then a young man showed up....a wirey fellow.  Saying that it was an easy rock to climb, he promptly made like Spiderman and was soon standing in a place a Fat Bald White Guy would never stand.



Rock scrambling is almost as much fun as playing in creeks.  If you make it up to Rough Ridge summit, make sure you visit the split rock. You can visit the top of the rock on the right without Spidey skills by following the trail behind the rock formation.




The trail out was nice if for no other reason we got to revisit all the views we enjoyed climbing to the summit.  As we got back to the parking lot, I was pleased to see a Boy Scout working on a rock cairn.  Being called away from his work before he could finish by his family, I took up the task and as is my custom thanked God for the beauty of his creation with each rock placed on the cairn.  Rock Ridge is one beautiful hike.

Reviewing the trail is easy....this is a popular trail for good reason.  It is reasonably vigorous but very short in length.  So the view to effort ratio is very good.  The access near MP 303 is a 9....would be 10 but you may not get a parking place....the trail is an 8 as it is well maintained but very sociable.... scenery is a 9...can't wait to return in the fall!  Overall this is a solid 9 trail.  It  is one that you can make much longer by taking the Tanawha Trail from the Linn Cove access (4.0 mile) or Boulder Field (3.5).  Just be prepared to be sociable!


My best to my new found Wolfpacker friend...she told us she was a biology major but had decided that she would pursue a career in public service....and when I saw this quote I thought of her passion.....best to you Katie  

" I began learning long ago that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others". - Booker T. Washington    
FBWG