Monday, July 20, 2015


BARD FALLS  ("Hole in the Wall Falls")

Located deep in the woods of the Wilson Creek Scenic River in Caldwell County is an idyllic place called Bard Falls.   I am not sure how it got its name but it is a tranquil mountain cove with a spectacular 30 foot waterfall interrupting the flow of the North Harper Creek. 
Located off Forest Road 464 about a half mile from the trail head of Huntfish Falls, the Mountain to Sea Trail(#440) joins North Harper Creek Shortcut (#266A).  It is a small parking area and campsite.  The trail sports the white blaze of the MST.

The trail winds down the ridge line beneath Forest Road 464  and along the steep banks of the many deep ravines.  The trail is covered with rhododendrons most of which are long past their peak blossoms. Still there were an occasional glimpse of what we missed earlier in the summer. 

It is hard to believe that this place was once the site of a major timber operation and that most all of the trees in this area had been harvested. 

In about a mile and half, the trail empties out into a large campsite and the MST joins the North Harper Creek Trail following the Creek downstream to a ford.

If you hike Wilson Creek, you must be prepared to get your feet wet. The crossing here is wide and quite scenic.  Great views both up and downstream

Crossing the creek, we noticed the flow of a small rapid over the shallow creek bed. I observed that this ford looked man-made and upon researching the trail more I think I was right.  It turns out that the trail is along the route of a narrow gauge lumber rail road.

The trail ran between rock cliff walls above the North Harper Creek.  To access the creek, we had to scramble off the "tracks".

We were tempted at one particularly inviting rapids to scramble down. 

Once there we found ourselves among emerald colored mossy rocks which allowed us to stand in middle off the creek and look upstream at a large pool which featured a small water fall. 
It was a great place to take a break.  Trail research showed that the hike to Bard Falls was 1.7 miles from the trail head.  Trouble was my newly installed Map My Fitness announced that we had traveled two miles....woops.  My Faithful Hiking Companion reminded me that mountain mileage is different than flat land miles....and she was right today. 

Running into some fishermen we learned that the falls were just a half mile down the trail....yep a 2.5 mile hike in....means a 2.5 mile hike out!  ouch! In the lumber days, at the turn of the 20th Century, we could have ridden the train the to falls!**

Today we had the falls to ourselves and quickly scrambled to the base of the falls and ate our protein bar lunch and took in all that was around us.
 We found that some other visitors had erected two cairns.  I symbolically erected one in the middle, and took time to profess my gratitude to my Creator for allowing me to pause in such a beautiful part of his creation.

"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor;for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." Rev. 4:11 

Scrambling around the pond at the base of the falls, I took pictures of various views of this wonderful place. The falls are 30 feet tall and flow into a large shallow pool.  Small rapids flow through the rock. The roar was so loud that when I was on the other side of the rapids I could not hear my Faithful Hiking Companion direct me to take certain I must apologize for those good shots I missed.

Sitting on a rock above the rapids, I spied a blossom from a rhododendron floating gently down stream. Somehow watching this flower petal, was ever so calming and meaningful. A poet of another age would have words to describe what I saw...all I have is my pictures.

All good things must come to an end, but before we left I climbed to the top of the falls to get a few shots and found that above the falls was a large pool with another small waterfall.

As hard to leave the falls, the hot and humid day was not getting any cooler and we had 2.5 miles to cover and about 550 feet in elevation to gain in order to get back to the trail head.  It was long slow slog.  Reminder to the 5.5 mile hikes on 86 degree days!  Thank goodness for the rhodies, as I stopped often to photograph them and catch my breath.

Rating this trail on a hot summer day is probably not fair....but it was a good hike none the less.  Access is a 8...if you know were you are going you can find it, but it is a long way down FR 464; the trails are great - well marked MST- 9; scenery is also a 9 - great creek views, wonderful falls; effort to view is about right.

It is an overall 9 hike.

If you want to see a great waterfall in a remote area of Wilson Creek, this is a great place to visit...but wait for a 60 degree day!

**the picture of the locomotive is believed to have been made around 1909 by Herbert W. Pelton.  It is a Shay Locomotive operated by the W.W Ritter Lumber Mill in Mortimer. For more pictures see the E.M. Ball Photographic Collection UNC-A

Sunday, July 5, 2015



Folks often drive hundreds of miles to view mountain waterfalls. Folks also seek cool mountain stream swimming holes as popular destinations in the middle of a hot summer.  Folks in the Triad tend to forget that Hanging Rock State Park boasts not only the best waterfall but a pretty darn good swimming hole too!

Located about thirty minutes from Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock State Park is one of our favorite hiking venues.  I visited all the waterfalls one cold February day when my Faithful Hiking Companion was sick with the flu.
On a hot and humid July 4th, we returned to the Rock to visit three of the five waterfalls in the park.  She had seen Window Falls when we hiked up from the river on the Indian Trail.  She also got to see Tory's Falls on our hike there.


Three of the waterfalls are accessed from the Visitor's Center's Parking lot. The Upper Cascade is a short 6/10th of a mile out and back hike along a graveled trail that is somewhat handicap accessible.  

A large wooden observation deck allows folks a nice view of the falls.  But to get the best view of the falls, you have to climb down the steps and scamper over some rocks to get to the base of the falls.

The Upper Cascades flow down a narrow rock channel and there are at least two more cascades that can be accessed by a trail that leads off the main trail right before you get to the observation deck.  I did not venture all the  way down on this hot and humid day but got a picture of the lower falls from a rock cliff. 


Both Hidden Falls and Window Falls are accessed by trails on the far side of the Visitor's Center Parking Lot.   It is another short hike about a 8/10th of a mile round trip.  It is another well maintained and well traveled trail through a well used picnic area.  

Hidden Falls is really my favorite falls.  It is a series of small cascades nestled in a bed of rhododendrons.  I took my time and tried to get many different views.  The main falls is a seven foot cascade.  But taking the trail less traveled we got to see some really nice late blooming rhodies. 
The trail less traveled took us to the small waterfalls hidden in the rhododendrons.  A recent rain had left the leaves wet and the stream full. 

While well passed peak blooming there were many late blooming rhodies adorning the stream which captured my attention.  

The middle cascade forms a small shallow pool before it pours over the main falls. The main falls pours across several rock formations before forming a fast moving stream down the mountain. 

The hike out was uphill to the picnic area where we were entertained by the late afternoon foraging of some of the park's deer population.

The deer were evidently used to feeding off the refuse left behind by departing picnicking families.  We enjoyed watching them and they seemed to be unaffected by our presence.  My Hiking Companion was eager to take one of them home but fortunately such is not allowed by park rules. 


The Lower Cascades are located off Hall Road on the western side of the park. To get there your turn left onto Moore's Springs Road when leaving the Park entrance then take another left onto Hall Road. About a mile down the road is the parking lot to the Lower Cascades on the right.  It will not be hard to find on a hot summer day as the lot is likely to be full of cars. 

The trail is only a half mile long and for the most part is a wide heavily used path.  But towards the end of the trail it turns into a wooden observation deck and a couple of hundred steps!   

Pausing at the observation deck you can hear the falls.   You can get a nice view of the distant countryside and a glimpse of the falls through the leaves. 

Even though it was past 4 pm and there was thunder in the distance, there were still a large number of people enjoying the cool pool at the base of the Lower Cascade Falls.  Wanting to get the best pictures, we chose to first go downstream and again found some late blooming rhododendrons. 

We also added to a cairn that was constructed in the middle of the stream and enjoyed the many small falls created by the fast moving stream.

During our time downstream, the crowd thinned down considerably and I was able to climb up to the rock cliff base of the falls.  The pictures I took there made it look like I was in a cave.  The flowing water over a several millennials carved a large path between two rock formations.

On one side the rock wall was easily five stories tall. The sun reflecting off the water on the rock wall produced shadows which made the pool enchanting.

The temperature at the base of the falls is noticeably cooler and I can see why those enjoying the swim did not want to venture far from the refreshing spray of the falls.

When you get up close to a waterfall the size of the Lower Cascades you get the impression of its majesty.  You also no longer understand it as an inanimate feature of a landscape. Waterfalls such as these are alive.

 Leaving the falls I took one last look at what I believe is the best waterfall in the Piedmont Triad.  Gone were all the swimmers and the we were alone with the sound of the rushing water.  The scene reminds me of a favorite quote of mine from the author e.e. cummings: "I thank you God for the most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of the sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, ...which is yes."

Rating any hike at Hanging Rock State Park is easy.  It is one of the best hiking venues in the state.  A special treat is its waterfalls.  You can reach each one by hiking no more than a mile round trip. Each is spectacular and rival some of the best waterfalls I have seen while hiking the Blue Ridge.

Overall we hiked about 2.5 miles.  Access is an 10; trails are a 9;  scenery is a 9;  effort to view ratio leans toward easy effort for a great view.  Overall a 9+ hike on a hot Fourth of July afternoon.

"There is a waterfall in every dream.  Cool and crystal clear, it falls gently on the sleeper, cleansing the mind and soothing the soul." 
                           - Virginia Alison