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Tuesday Trail Tips: Wildcat Wayside Nature Trail

This is one of those places you have probably passed by 100 times and never thought anything of it.  I have seen it all my life on the way to Caesar’s Head or Table Rock, but never took the time to stop.  This weekend we had things to do, but it was too gorgeous of a day not to get out and explore.  The trail I planned on hiking was actually Moonshine Falls, which apparently you have to call ahead and get a gate code in order to access the trailhead.  Did I call ahead??  No, silly, why would I do such a thing?  I like learning the hard way.

SO…really that’s how we ended up here.  Plans often change…due to my inability to research.  But in the end, I was glad.  This was a great place to have a picnic and hike a peaceful, easy looping trail. And with 4(ish) waterfalls, it’ was a great place to explore that my kids thoroughly enjoyed.

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Tuesday Trail Tips:  Wildcat Wayside Nature Trail

1 mile loop – Easy

Waterfalls galore – and right off Hwy 11 (Geer Hwy)!

I suggest stopping here next time you are on your way to the “big stuff”.  It’s worth it – even if you just take in the first two waterfalls – which are steps away from the parking area.  If you do the loop, you will find the 100′ upper falls, but really the first two are the prettiest.  The loop is just a nice walk through the woods.

Of course, don’t climb the upper falls – it’s dangerous.  People have died here – in fact, I remember hearing about it as a kid.  EVERY time we passed by.  So we did NOT do any climbing!

There are no picnic tables so we just found a nice spot by the creek and ate our lunch.  Make sure to leave no trace!  It may be because of the location, but the trail had more litter than most, unfortunately.

I imagine the lower falls make for a great swimming hole in the summer.  Dogs are welcome, as long as they are on a leash.  And as long as they are cleaned up after (really though, have you ever been hiking and stepped in dog doo?  It kinda ruins the mood ya know?!)

SO…what’s next on my list? Well, Moonshine Falls of course 🙂

Until next Tuesday, Happy Trails!

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Upper Falls

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Rainbow Falls Trail (Gorges State Park, NC)

You told me and I finally listened!  Gorges State Park is gorgeous (too much? oh well, it’s true).  From the impressive Visitor Center to the falls themselves, this park is pristine – just beautiful.  There are picnic shelters with huge fireplaces.  Fishing along Bearwallow Creek and Toxaway River.  Trails for every level of hiker (including a section of the Foothills Trail with a suspension bridge – I will be back for that one!) Camping adventures.  Breathtaking views.  I could go on and on but I will refrain as to not completely bore you before I even get to the trail!

Oh (and this is important!) here’s the address – with all of the “Gorges” parks and “Rainbow Falls” it can get confusing:  Gorges State Park 976 Grassy Ridge Road SapphireNC 28774.

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Rainbow Falls Trail:  Top Tips

  • 3 mile round trip along the Horse Pasture River
  • Strenuous hike (per Gorges State Park website – see my notes further down)
  • There are quite a few “death has occurred here” signs – always remember to be careful – use common sense – don’t go near edges…you get the idea (I hope)
  • Tip – do not stop at Rainbow Falls.  Just a quarter of a mile further is Turtleback Falls, which is well worth continuing on to.
  • Other notes:  There is no fee to get into Gorges State Park.  Carry all trash out.  Overall park map with Rainbow Falls Trail circled is at the very bottom of the post.

Curvy roads with breathtaking views lead you past the Visitor down to the Grassy Ridge Trailhead, where you will find the Rainbow Falls Trail entrance.  You will follow the orange blaze.

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The trail follows the Horse Pasture River upstream.  To me, there is nothing quite like hiking deep in the woods, listening to sounds of water flowing by.  It’s incredibly therapeutic.

We hiked this trail mid-October, but it was still warm.  The leaves were just starting to turn, as you will see in the photos.  I imagine the next couple of weeks will be magnificent for leaf peeping.

The trail is considered “strenuous” – but I had my kids with me and it was definitely doable.  There are several sets of stairs, but overall we thought it was easy to manage.

 

 

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We made a couple stops along the river and explored, but do be careful.  The river is deep and the current is strong.  But y’all, talk about relaxing.  Sun in your face.  Sounds of water rushing past you.  Tall trees surround you.  Feel like you are there yet!?!!?

Continuing along the trail you will hear the sounds of a waterfall getting louder and louder.  That moment when you turn the corner and see Rainbow Falls is incredible.  It is a glorious 150′ waterfall.

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Rainbow Falls

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Rainbow Falls

DON’T TURN AROUND YET!  Turtleback Falls is only a quarter mile up the trail and is really pretty as well.  I have heard it makes a great swimming hole in the summer.  There were quite a few hammocks set up – I really wanted to jump in one and join the relaxing fun, but thought that might be awkward 😉

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Turtleback Falls

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Turtleback Falls

Really y’all – I cannot say enough good things about this park.  I can’t wait to go back and explore more of it.  And the Visitor Center – I could have snapped photos there all day.  An architectural dream with views to match.  Unfortunately we walked up right as they were closing it up, so we didn’t get to see the inside.  If you want to check it out, be sure to go between 9am and 4pm Monday – Friday.  On Saturday & Sunday it is open until 5pm.

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Until next Tuesday, Happy Trails!

Gorges State Park Map

Circled in red is the Rainbow Falls Trail.  Zoom in!  Thank you to North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation for this very helpful map.

 

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Sassafras Mountain

 

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Ok, so I didn’t actually hike a trail… no one was really feeling it, but it was a gorgeous day for a drive and I was curious to see if the leaves were starting to change (this was Saturday 10/14)  And guess what…you can drive right up to the top of Sassafras Mountain – the highest point in South Carolina at 3,553 feet.  You can see four states from here – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee!  The leaves were just started to change, so not much color yet, but it’s coming!!

MY ONE AND ONLY TIP

There is a lookout right next to the parking lot once you get to the top.  THIS IS NOT THE VIEW PEOPLE.  Well, not the main view.  I will not name names, but someone very close to me told me Sassafras Mountain may not be worth the trip – the view isn’t that great.  I couldn’t believe that, so of course I had to go for myself.  And guess what nameless person did?  Only went to the lookout next to the parking lot.  I am dying right now as I type this.  It cracks me up.  Because there are 360 degree views just right up the path (insert insane, loud laughter).  Ok, so it’s not like it’s clearly marked – Come up this way!.  It’s fun to give nameless person a hard time, but I get it.  And they think it’s funny too (although maybe not as much as I do).

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So my one and only tip is to let you know that you must follow either the trail next to the lookout or the paved path (it’s gated), which you will see as you enter the parking lot.

And then you will find this (pictures don’t do it justice of course!):

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If you want to hike, there are definitely options.  You can park / start at Chimneytop Gap, which I passed as I drove to the peak (gasp), and hike the 2.7 miles to the top of Sassafras.  Also this of course is part of the Foothills Trail, which spans over 76 miles through South Carolina and North Carolina.  So if you are daring you could do it all 😉  I have researched quite a few sites and Wikipedia actually lays out the different sections of the Foothills Trail pretty well, check it out here.

Whether you drive or hike to the top of Sassafras Mountain, you are in for a treat.

Until next Tuesday, Wednesday, or whenever, happy trails!

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Pleasant Ridge County Park: JFA Trail

This hike is pretty significant y’all.  Why?  Because it was my first solo hike.  5(ish) miles of me, myself, and I.  Once I decided that all the noises I kept hearing were just squirrels, and not some serial killer stalking me, it was quite pleasant.  Hiking on a warm October day, with the leaves just starting to show a bit of color, all by myself, was just what I needed (although cooler fall weather…WHERE ARE YOU?!!?!)

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I have known about Pleasant Ridge County Park for some time as our church youth group attends the Camp & Retreat Center here.  And I can see why it’s popular with children and adults alike – it’s a fantastic place.  In fact, it’s home to Camp Spearhead and Camp Courage , where kids with cancer, blood disorders, or special needs get to be just to be just that – KIDS.

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So…I did a little off the trail exploring.  There is a gleaming pool next to the gorgeous retreat center.  And an awesome ropes course that I gave serious thought to climbing up, but feared cameras would catch me and I would be arrested.  Or I would fall and no one would find me for days (not a soul was around!).  Really though, just a great place to get away!

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The focus was to hike, and hike I did.  5ish miles in the woods on a trail that seemed like would be best used as a mountain biking trail.  Which, actually, it is!

PLEASANT RIDGE STATE PARK:  JFA TRAIL TIPS

  • JFA stands for Jorge Francisco Arango.  From what I can gather, he loved mountain biking and dogs.  
  • 5.3 mile loop
  • You can only go one way on the JFA Trail, so no marked-up map this time. (Oh and the map below is from this site, I could not seem to find a clearer version!) 
  • Bikers ride the opposite way as hikers (watch those curves so you don’t get run over!).  And apparently this rotates on a monthly schedule so you get the opportunity to hike / bike both ways.  That’s excellent!
  • On Tuesdays and Thursdays you can bike until 10 PM (any direction allowed)
  • Know the Trail Rules

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I almost hiked the full 5.3 miles…but do you see that cute little dark purple line named Sassy’s Pass?  Well I may or may not have used that cut-through.  So it may or may not have been a bit shorter of a hike than 5.3 miles.  Hopefully I didn’t miss anything too fantastic (LET ME KNOW IF SO I HAVE FOMO AND WILL GO BACK!).

It’s a great trail, but you are alongside the park roads for some of it, and hear a lot of the traffic from that and Hwy 11. There are definitely some interesting stops along the way, such as a cat and a lonesome chimney.  Oh and be sure to visit the fishing pond! (which is up the road from the JFA trailhead)

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It was a great time to reflect, connect with God, think about anything and everything, pray I don’t get murdered, and get in some good exercise.

Until next Tuesday, Happy Trails!

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Creative Outlet 102

What a journey we’re on y’all.

I wanted to take a moment to revisit my original creative outlet post, which outlined my goals and plans for this blog (life) of mine.  It’s been a little over two months since I jumped in headfirst to a world of creativity, inspiration, motivation, and connection.  It’s such a fantastic, positive outlet for me.

I want to live intentionally, and occasionally that means taking a step back and making sure that’s what is happening.  Accountability is everything.  Original goals below, with an update in blue.

CREATIVE OUTLET 101 102: GOALS

Fulfill need to create, inspire, and engage. YAASSSS.  Hikes, blogs, volunteering, interacting – it’s amazing, fulfilling, fun.

Find new adventures.  Explore.  Hike new trails.  Jump in lakes.  I have to admit this is my favorite of them all.  We live in a absolutely incredible place – mountains, lakes, views galore – I appreciate it more now than ever.  It’s hard not to get out and have an adventure. But really, it comes down to that time with my kids.  And myself.  Surrounded by God’s beauty, away from technology and the stresses of everyday life.

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Learn from others, share what I know.  What started this whole journey was being inspired by others, mostly due to social media and bloggers.  I love learning about a new trail, boutique, coffee shop, restaurant, farm….the list is endless!  However it’s also empowering and wonderful to know that I may have something, however small, to give back to this amazing community.  As Marianne Williamson said, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” 

Read. Read. Read.  I try, try, try!  I have a tendency to read less during the school year because life is well, crazy.  I am still reading, it just takes me a lot longer…(currently reading A Man Called Ove, and it’s been over a month…don’t judge).  

Practice kindness.  Volunteer.  Help others.  This is where I feel like I need the most work.  There are so many opportunities that it can be overwhelming.  One of my goals was to make a simple calendar where one could just hop on and see how they can help.  But for me specifically, I still want to find one thing that I can be passionate about and make a difference.  Which in all honesty I have not.  Still working on that.  We’ll just say “To be continued…”

Connect with the community.  Shop local.  Eat Local.  Well that’s not hard – love shopping, love eating.  I still have so many places on my list (we don’t get out much – that sh*$$@ budget gets in my way every time, along with well, life)

And the most important, which is noted above but worth mentioning again: stay true to myself – simply go after what I am passionate about.  This is important, and am I accomplishing this??  Well, mostly I think.  But I gotta admit, it’s so hard not to get sucked into a world of likes and getting a perfect photo, even if your day was complete crap, then acting like it was amazing.  Is it real?  Instagram?  Are you real?  I have to take a step back and remember my purpose, which isn’t likes or followers or readers or comments or even money.  It’s creating my own happiness.  Experiencing life.  Being passionate.  Kind.  Thoughtful.  INSPIRE | BE INSPIRED

So, whatcha think??  What’s your creative outlet?  How do you stay true to yourself?  Is Instagram real?!


I will leave you with “Our Greatest Fear” from Return to Love by Marianne Williamson:

Our Greatest Fear

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Keowee Toxaway State Park

This hike.  That lake.  Those views!  Keowee Toxaway State Park is one of my favorite places to escape to.  With it only being 35 miles outside of Greenville, it’s an easy trip.  We have spent many weekends here exploring the trails, taking in the views, and swimming in the lake.  There is also fishing, camping and a even a cabin you can rent.

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Keowee Toxaway State Park:  Natural Bridge Nature Trail and Raven Rock Trail

Natural Bridge Nature Trail:  1.3 mile loop

Raven Rock Trail:  4.4 mile loop

TIP:  To get to the view that makes this hike so very worth it, you gotta get on the Raven Rock Trail.  So all in all you are looking at about 5.7 miles (full loop).  I have labeled this on my map below with notes that some may find helpful.  You can also find the original here.

Shortly after you start the hike, which is on the blue Natural Bridge Trail, you will encounter a fork in the trail, where you must make the decision to go right, or go left.  This is important y’all.  From my experience (which means the dumb choices I’ve made) I feel as though I can help you.  I suggest going left all the way.  It will take you down a fairly steep descent with lots of stairs.  If you come back this way you are climbing for quite awhile…which you may not want to do at the end of the hike.  Also, it’s really the prettier of the two options.  By going left at the start of the hike you will end up by Poe Creek, which features the natural bridge and a waterfall.

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After this you continue on the Natural Bridge Nature Trail until it connects with the Raven Rock Trail.  I personally don’t have an opinion about going left or right on this loop, either way it takes you to stunning views and great swimming spots.  The water is clear and the air is fresh!

There is primitive camping along the way but I am terrified of hiking in with kids (carrying a sh*& ton of stuff!) and not having a real bathroom nearby.  However, if that’s your thing this is an awesome site!  And the leaves were just now starting to change – it would be glorious to camp here in the next couple of weeks with all of the colors and cooler temps!

After swimming and taking in incredible views, it’s time to head back.  You can make it one whole loop or go back the way you came.  Again, it depends on what kind of workout you want.  Last time we hiked up all the stairs (remember how I said to go left at the beginning?  we went right) and it was exhausting.  But it did feel great after it was all over!

Lake Keowee is stunning.  It feels like you are far away from real life when you sit up on that rock at the top, breathless and awe-inspired.  I would do this hike over and over again just for that moment of beauty and wonder.

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Until next Tuesday…happy trails!

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Whiteside Mountain

Before we get started, I know it’s Wednesday, NOT Tuesday.  I am thinking about renaming this series “Wednesday Wonders” or just plain “Trail Tips” so that I am not tied down to one day.  Because apparently this is a recurring issue that I am not proud of.

Anyway, I’ve got a good one for y’all this week…WHITESIDE MOUNTAIN.  I kept seeing picture after picture of stunning views from this mountain located right near Cashiers, NC, and just knew I had to see it for myself.  And…drumroll…I can check off one of my hikes to accomplish by the end of 2017 as this was on the list!!!

Before we get into the trail details, I want to point out that I am in love with both Cashiers and Highlands.  I could write and write and write about all there is to do in this area.  But for now, I am going restrain and focus solely on Whiteside Mountain.  ALTHOUGH you could surely plan an amazing long weekend in this area for when you hike this trail.  In my dreams that is what I would have done.  But real life got in the way as usual.

Moving along, I would like to present my latest idea – goal – thought – whatever you want to call it.  What is it you ask?  It’s simple – for every hike I will provide a map with notes.  Mostly because I hike a lot of trails more than once and can’t remember the best ways to go, but also because I get asked a lot of questions about trails and directions and views – and goodness knows I am no help because I cannot remember unless I have written it down.  Kind of like in real life (if it’s not on my calendar it ain’t happenin)

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WHITESIDE MOUNTAIN TRAIL:  Tips

2 mile loop | Moderate hike

$2 Parking – WELL WORTH IT.  PAY IT.

AMAZING VIEWS – at an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, it is awe-inspiring – take your breath away – gorgeous – can’t really even put it into words

Be on the lookout for endangered peregrine falcons, which nest here.

WEAR BUG SPRAY AND BEWARE OF STINKY MUD.

 

We decided to go to the right as you enter the trail from the parking lot (as you can see from my handy map above **pats self on back**) and then took the slow descent down the left side.  If I were to go again, I would go up the right side and back down the right side.  The left is just a wide old roadbed with no views really (although it’s pretty).  By going up AND down the right side, you get view after view after view with lots of smaller trails to explore along the way.  By going right you are choosing the harder path, but it sure pays off.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Psalm 145:5

We sure did stand in wonder and marvel at what God has given us.

Last thing – this was our view on the way home to Greenville from Cashiers – just a little stop alongside the highway.  Ahhhhhhhhhh……

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Until next Tuesday, or Wednesday, or whenever…happy trails!