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

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