Mini NC Adventure: Upper Creek Falls

This spring break lead me to a wonderful new hike to another gorgeous waterfall in North Carolina. After two long months in Raleigh, I was ready to get outdoors, in the mountains, and surround myself with nature for a bit. After searching around the interwebs for some new hikes, I found this hike and immediately had the urge to go. The hike in and out wasn’t long and I can’t wait to go back in the summer and possibly swim in the smaller falls.

The falls are located in the Pisgah National Forest along NC Highway 181 near the small community of Jonas Ridge. I was driving to the falls from Pineola and found the trailhead on my left after driving for about 7.5 miles. You can see a Pisgah National Forest sign from the road, that leads you to a pretty decent size parking lot.

 

The hike was a loop hike, and you could choose to see the lower or the upper falls individually as well. I started with the upper falls, (although, for a less strenuous hike, I would recommend starting with the lower falls). The hike down to the upper falls was not too bad. Despite it being so close to the highway, I found that after a few minutes of hiking, you felt completely immersed in the Pisgah National Forest. The trail is full of rocks and roots, so be careful of your footing on your way down.

Once you have made it down to Upper Creek, you will find a wooden bridge that leads you down to creek. I wandered around for a bit trying to see what I could at the upper falls. To get across the creek you have to rock hop, but I found that the hop-able rocks were easy to get across. When you get to the other side you can walk out to the top of the falls and try to get a glimpse over the falls. I would not suggest getting too close to the edge, especially if the rocks are wet or you don’t feel sturdy on your own two feet. One slip, and the fall would be lethal. But the large open rocks would be perfect picnic spots on a sunny afternoon.

After crossing the creek, you will find a campsite with a trail leading you to the lower falls. There are a few other herd paths that lead you further up the creek, but it is obvious which one leads you to the bottom of the falls. There are several different herd paths that lead to the bottom of the falls, and after viewing several other photos from the falls, I’m not sure if I took the right one, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

After spending a few minutes chilling at the bottom of the falls, I hiked back up and out of the gorge. Again, you have to rock hop across the creek, but then its up, up, up to the parking lot. I am not the biggest fan of switchbacks, and found the hike out tiresome, but well worth the waterfall. As you hike back up to the parking lot, you will find a large boulder jutting out of the ground and it looked like climbers had already put anchors on the rock. If I could boulder, I definitely would have stopped here and had a little climb before finishing the hike out. You can also climb onto the top of the boulder from the back and find a slightly terrifying view of the creek below.

The hike was not too long, about 1.7 miles, and perfect for a warm afternoon. Since you’re hiking down a gorge to the waterfall there is a loss (then gain) of about 500 feet.  The majority hike consists of switchbacks so its not too steep, but your calfs will still be burning on the way up. I can’t wait to go back and visit in the summer months and hopefully take a dip in the upper falls.

A Perfectly Magical Winter Break

I’ve been back in school for a week now, and I’m already hardcore missing winter break. It may have something to do with leaving the mountains, or returning to school work, or the fact that it is way to warm in Raleigh to feel at all like winter. I also had quite a long winter break (over a month!) since I didn’t have any final exams (perks of design school) so getting back into the daily grind and constant work work work has been a bit tricky.

So while I should be writing code, learning about shape grammars, and researching inclusive design, I’ll take a minute to share my winter break with all of you.

My whole goal of winter break was to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Since the full effect of cold winter weather hadn’t fully settled in yet, I found myself on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost once a day. Since both my siblings were still in school and I didn’t have my usual hiking buddies, I spent a lot of time alone which was actually super refreshing. I’m the kind of person who actually enjoys spending time by myself so having afternoons on the trails with only my camera and my thoughts was nice after a long grueling semester.

I’m realizing it now as I look through the pictures that I took over break and realized that I didn’t actually take too many photos. I found myself leaving behind my camera on several occasions and just going off for a drive and stumbling upon a trail to explore. It was a challenge to try to get nice shots on my phone, but I made do with what I had available.

Somewhere in the midst of all this hiking and outdoors stuff I managed to drive over to Nashville, Tennessee. My best friend is currently part of Nashville Ballet’s second company, and was performing in the Nutcracker. I haven’t missed one of his Nutcracker performances since we became friends, so the five hour drive surely wasn’t going to stop me now. Looking through my phone, I realized that I have absolutely no photos of Nashville, which sort of upsets me. Ah, oh well. I’ll just make him dress up like the grandfather when he’s home again and get a photo with him. Peyton, you down with that?

I also went exploring with the fam-bam and we all shared some of our favorite hikes with each other. While I enjoy the solitude of an hour on the trails, its nice to share the scenery with other people and discover new places in the process.

We all have a major love for snow skiing, so we made a ski trip a priority on our winter break list. We met up with an old family friend (not in this photograph) and had a fun filled weekend of snow tubing, decorating Christmas cookies (which we’ve been doing since I can remember), kids vs. parents games of Heads Up, and a day of skiing. It was a perfect day of skiing with 50 degree temperatures and sunny blue skies.

img_1815

Probably the most exciting part of winter break was having the company of my aunt, uncle, and Oma for Christmas. They made a last minute trip to North Carolina to spend the holidays with us. It was such a treat to have them here for a few days. It was Oma’s first time to North Carolina in roughly ten years. It was like a true family Christmas.

During the last few days of my winter break, North Carolina got a mini monster of a snow storm. It started on Friday morning and by the time I woke up on Saturday morning we had a good 6 inches on the ground. On Sunday, the snow still hadn’t melted but I packed my car up and got ready to go back to Raleigh. I had just hit the road to go back to school when I got a text informing me that my first day of classes had been cancelled, so I got one extra day of break. It was a nice little surprise to have one last home cooked meal and a few hours more with the parents.

img_1894

I’m such a “Look at the moon” person

I’ve lived my whole life tucked away in a small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I spent my childhood knee deep in rivers and creeks, hands covered in mud, and head full of imaginary creatures such as fairies and unicorns. More often than not you could find me in the small patch of woods at the back corner of our home building fairy houses out of twigs, soft green moss, and delicate flowers. I had a wild imagination that took me on magical adventures everyday. But, somewhere along the way of growing up, I lost that imagination in the jumble of school, friends, and technology.

For a good portion of my middle school and high school years I was sucked into the teenage lifestyle. I was much more interested in messaging my friends and playing Farmville on Facebook than building fairy houses or playing pirates in our tree house. I grew out of my imagination “phase” and let the current of social media consume my life. I was obsessed with likes and my online presence. I felt lost without my phone in my right hand, awaiting the ding of text messages, followers, and snaps. My biggest dream was moving to a far off city surrounded my noise and lights and being consumed by the hurry of people.

Then two summers ago, I went on an overnight camping trip with the senior campers at Camp Spring Creek and my life was changed. When offered a chance to go on the trip I was a bit hesitant, but at the last minute I agreed and packed my backpack. I figured I was comfortable in the wilderness and viewed it as a time to bond with some of the senior campers. Little did I know that in those two and a half days spent dirty and cold in the Black Mountain Range I would regained my desire to explore and my imagination would come back to life.

Now I live in a far off city surrounded by noise and light and a hurry of people (sure, Raleigh is no NYC or LA, but its definitely bigger than my hometown) and all I can think about is going back to the mountains. I yearn for even the shortest of breaks from school to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and find peace on the curvy roads surrounded by trees and rivers and dirt and mud. I spend almost every free minute at home driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, awing at the marvelous Appalachian Mountains. I now feel so connected to the place that I live and the feeling of clean fresh air, winding country roads, and high mountain peaks. I would rather spend my evenings enjoying a beautiful sunset than at a party with some friends or trapped behind my computer screen.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still often find me with my phone in my hand or back pocket, but the urgency to view and reply to messages has since dissipated. My camera roll is now filled with photos from the stunning places I’ve been and my mind is filled with places I wish to go. The gratification I receive from likes and comments on my photos is now a happiness I am able to share the beauty that I find in the world with my friends and family. I want to be able to share those moments when I reach the top of a mountain and can just stare in pure amazement at the wonderful world that we live in.

So yes, I do get overly excited at the sight of stars and I will most definitely pull over on the side of the road to just take a minute to enjoy the color of the changing leaves. If you spend time with me you will definitely hear me say “Look at the moon!” more than once, and you’ll have to be patient with me as I take a few extra minutes to awe at the color of distant mountains or rolling waves. I like the feeling of grass between my toes and cold river water rushing on my hands and you would find me clutching a salamander or toad before you would find me using a clutch. I would gladly wear the smell of a campfire over expensive perfume and I am more comfortable in a t-shirt than I will ever be in designer clothing.

I will never underestimate the power of adventure any longer. Because if one trip could help me re-establish my connection with nature, who knows what the rest of my life will bring.