Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Foothills Trail (to Lower Whitewater Falls) (Blog Hike #464)

Trail: Foothills Trail (to Lower Whitewater Falls)
Hike Location: Duke Energy, Bad Creek Foothills Trail Access
Geographic Location: north of Salem, SC
Length: 4.4 miles
Difficulty: 6/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: April 2014
Overview: An out-and-back with lots of up and down to spectacular Lower Whitewater Falls.
Trail Information: http://www.sctrails.net/Trails/ALLTRAILS/waterfalls/Lowerwhitewater.html

Directions to the trailhead: From the intersection of SR 11 and SR 130, take SR 130 north 10.2 miles to the Bad Creek Access Road.  Turn right on the access road.  Drive the access road 2.4 miles steeply downhill, turning left once as you follow signs for the Foothills Trail.  Park in the large blacktop Foothills Trail Access parking lot.

The hike: For my general comments on the Bad Creek area, see my Foothills Trail hike to Upper Whitewater Falls, which starts at the same trailhead.  For this hike, it was mid spring when I left my house down in Anderson: trees had fully developed leaves and all grass had been mown at least once.  I arrived up at this trailhead in early spring: the leaves on the trees and wildflowers on the ground were just starting to put out.  So it goes when you hike in the mountains in April.
Compared to its brother Upper Whitewater Falls just upstream in North Carolina, Lower Whitewater Falls is shorter, but it may be more scenic.  The lower falls also offer easier hiker access if you start at the Bad Creek Foothills Trail Access as I did.  In fact, the only real difficulty on this hike is the near complete lack of flat areas.  Thus, this hike makes a good prep hike for longer, more difficult mountain treks. I had a pleasant trip to Lower Whitewater Falls on this chilly early-to-mid spring day.
Bad Creek Foothills Trail Access
            The first 0.6 miles follow the same access trail as the hike to Upper Whitewater Falls.  After crossing the twin bridges over the Whitewater River, you intersect the Foothills Trail proper.  Turning left would take you west on the Foothills Trail to Upper Whitewater Falls, but this hike continues straight to head east on the Foothills Trail for Lower Whitewater Falls.  The white rectangular paint blazes of the Foothills Trail and the blue rectangular paint blazes of the trail to Lower Whitewater Falls run conjointly for the next 0.5 miles.
            The trail soon climbs away from the Whitewater River using a pair of switchbacks.  The climb is only steep for a short distance, and for the most part it is gradual to moderate.  At 1.1 miles, you reach the top of the hill where the trail joins the first of several old logging roads.
            Immediately after joining the logging road, the Foothills Trail and our trail part ways.  Angle right at this well-signed junction to head for Lower Whitewater Falls.  The trail briefly leaves the old logging road to take a short-cut over a small hill before rejoining the road again.
Hiking on an old logging road
            1.3 miles into the hike, you reach a large gravel parking area that serves an ATV trailhead.  The trail seems to end here, but if you walk out to the gravel road and turn left, you will see another blue blaze painted on a wooden post.  After walking 0.2 miles on the gravel road, the trail turns right to leave the gravel road.  A double blue blaze marks this turn.
            The trail climbs moderately to reach its highest point and join another old logging road.  You can now hear but not see Lower Whitewater Falls in the steep valley to your right.  At 1.9 miles, the trail curves right to leave the old logging road for good.  The final 0.3 miles is the steepest of the hike: you descend almost 300 feet and turn right twice to head back north a short distance.
Double blue blaze marking a turn
            2.2 miles into the hike, you reach the overlook platform for Lower Whitewater Falls.  Water sometimes falls and sometimes cascades for 200 feet over solid bedrock.  The platform is sheltered by some pine trees, but you still get a good view of the aquatic action.  Only the very bottom of the falls is obscured from view.
Lower Whitewater Falls

A selfie I took at Lower Whitewater Falls
            The trail ends at the overlook platform, so the only option is to retrace your steps 2.2 miles back to the trailhead.  On your way back, there is at least one sight you should notice that you probably missed on your way out.  After making the initial steep climb away from the overlook and rejoining the first old logging road, keep glancing to the left up the steep valley.  During the leafless months you can see the top of Upper Whitewater Falls some 4 miles to the northwest on the rim of this valley.  If you want to see the entire falls, you can do it the hard way via the Foothills Trail or the easy way by driving another mile up SR 130 to the Upper Whitewater Falls overlook in North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ijams Nature Center: South Cove/River/Discovery Loop (Blog Hike #463)

Trails: South Cove, River, and Discovery Trails
Hike Location: Ijams Nature Center: Wildlife Sanctuary
Geographic Location: south side of Knoxville, TN
Length: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: April 2014
Overview: A rolling loop hike to the Tennessee River and a lotus pond.
Center Information: http://ijams.org/

Directions to the trailhead: In downtown Knoxville, enter south on the James White Parkway.  After crossing the Tennessee River, take the first exit onto Hillwood Ave.  Turn left on Hillwood Ave.  Drive Hillwood Ave. 0.5 miles to its terminus at Island Home Avenue and turn right on Island Home Ave.  Ijams Nature Center is 1.4 miles ahead on the left.

The hike: For my general comments on Ijams Nature Center, see my blog entry for the North Cove/River/Tower Loop.  This hike also visits the boardwalk along the Tennessee River, but it gets there using the South Cove and Discovery Trails, which have a gentler grade than the North Cove and Tower Trails.  Also, this loop takes you to the Ijams’ family lotus pond and to the Ijams Homesite, built by H.P. and Alice Ijams in 1910.
Start of South Cove Trail
            From the front of the Visitor Center, start by walking across the boardwalk and walking a short distance on the paved ADA-accessible Universal Trail to reach the signed trailhead for the South Cove Trail.  Turn right to begin the South Cove Trail.  The dirt South Cove Trail climbs gradually and quickly reaches the highest elevation on this hike.  Where the Tower Trail exits left and the Beech Trail exits right, continue straight to stay on the South Cove Trail.  Mayapple, violets, trout lilies, and other wildflowers carpeted the forest floor on our early April hike.
            The South Cove Trail descends on a gradual to moderate grade to reach its eastern terminus at the River Trail.  Turn left to head for the river.  The River Trail follows a power line corridor as it descends gradually.  At 0.6 miles, you reach the river bank.  The nature center was conducting a bank stabilization project when we hiked this trail: piles of rocks were being placed on the river bank to prevent erosion.
            You pass a geologic fold, a bend in the bedrock formed by the same forces that formed the Appalachian Mountains, just before you reach the Tennessee River boardwalk.  This boardwalk is necessary because the cliffs to the left fall flush against the river on the right, thus leaving no room for a trail.  Some caves in the cliffs are known to provide homes for bats.  A mallard swam up the river as we walked downstream.  The boardwalk provides the best river views on the hike, so take some time to admire the location.
Starting the boardwalk

My fellow hikers for this hike
            Past the boardwalk, the trail climbs gradually as it leaves the river bank.  At 0.9 miles, the River Trail ends at a junction with the Discovery and North Cove Trails.  To head for the lotus pond, angle right to begin the Discovery Trail, which climbs gradually along a stream.  Where side trails exit right, stay on the trail closest to the stream.
            1.1 miles into the hike, you reach the algae-filled lotus pond.  The pond was pretty quiet on our visit: only a turtle sunning on a log made itself known to us.  The lotus flowers would be quite stunning when they bloom in July.  Where the pond boardwalk splits, choose the option going right to maximize your pond viewing.
Lotus pond

Turtle in pond
            The boardwalk loops around to the right and reassumes dry ground just before reuniting with the main trail.  Turn sharply left to leave the pond area and begin a moderate climb to the Ijams homesite parking area, passing some nice oak trees on the way.  At the parking area, you can turn right to explore the Ijams homesite if you wish.  To return to the main parking area and complete the hike, take the blacktop Will Skelton Greenway to the left after you are done viewing the homesite.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pascal Carter Memorial Park (Blog Hike #462)

Trail: (unnamed)
Hike Location: Pascal Carter Memorial Park
Geographic Location: east of Knoxville, TN
Length: 0.6 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: April 2014
Overview: A short but interesting nature trail to Carter Mill Springs and an old millpond.

Directions to the trailhead: East of Knoxville, take I-40 to Strawberry Plains Pike (exit 398).  Exit and go north on Strawberry Plains Pike.  Drive Strawberry Plains Pike 3.1 miles to US 70 and turn right on US 70.  Drive US 70 east 0.8 miles to Carter School Road and turn right on Carter School Road.  Take Carter School Road 0.2 miles to Carter Mill Drive and turn right on Carter Mill Drive.  The small blacktop parking area for Pascal Carter Memorial Park is 0.1 miles ahead on the left just before crossing a small creek.

The hike: I was lodging on the east side of Knoxville when I arrived at my hotel an hour and a half before sundown.  Could I find a trail short enough and close enough to squeeze in a hike?  My laptop quickly started browsing, and up came Pascal Carter Memorial Park, which claimed to have a short “natural trail.”
            Freestyle park-hopping is always hit-and-miss, but this park was more hit than miss.  Owned and operated by Knox County, Pascal Carter Memorial Park appears to occupy the site of an old mill and quarry, though I could not find other sources of information to confirm my observations.  Carter Mill Springs, an abundant spring seen on this hike, would have appealed to pioneers, making this site ideal for early development.  Though short, this trail offers much to see in both the natural and historical categories.
Entrance to Pascal Carter Park
            Start by walking through a gap in the guardrail and passing a picnic shelter to the left.  Two wooden bridges cross the creek to the right to reach a large old water wheel; that will be our return route.  For now take the gravel trail that leaves the rear of the picnic shelter.  At only 0.1 miles, you pass what appears to be an old quarry on the left, as evidenced by the exposed chiseled bedrock and large, flat area at the cliff’s base.
            Past the old quarry, the trail turns to dirt and soon reaches a wooden bridge that crosses the creek to the right.  You will eventually go that way to continue the trail loop, but first take the spur trail that remains on the east side of the creek.  At 0.25 miles, the spur trail ends at Carter Mill Springs.  The creek appears to flow out of the base of the small mountain, and it did so with rather high volume when I visited after a heavy rain.  Some holes in the ground above the spring look like small caves.  Concrete benches provide rest for the weary.
Carter Mill Springs
            An unofficial trail climbs the mountain past the spring, but this hike retraces its steps to the wooden bridge and crosses it.  The bridge feels surprisingly springy given its young age.  The trail now follows what looks like an old road as it maintains a constant elevation and angles left.
Hiking toward the old mill site
            At 0.5 miles, you reach what appears to be the old mill site.  A very short loop leads around the now dry old mill pond, and the main trail crosses a dyke to exit the woods.  After entering the open grassy area, angle downhill and to the right.  Note with new appreciation the large metal water wheel and the millstones that lie at its base.  Crossing the two wooden bridges over Carter Creek and passing the picnic table on the island in the creek returns you to the parking area and completes the hike.

Old metal water wheel