Carolina Hiking Adventures

Hunt Fish Falls via Gragg Prong

Backpacking in the Lost Cove Backcountry

Pisgah National Forest North Carolina

Keri Anne at Hunt Fish Falls

Keri Anne at Hunt Fish Falls

Johnny and his wife Keri Anne headed into the Lost Cove Creek Backcountry near the town of  Linville North Carolina for a three night backpacking trip. We started  at the bridge over Gragg Prong.  Here, we traced the Mountains to Sea Trail down along  Gragg Prong where we found a streamside campsite .

Campsite on Gragg Prong

Campsite on Gragg Prong

The next day  we begin cruising downstream, making several crossings cialis generique of Gragg Prong.

FOrding Gragg Prong

Fording Gragg Prong

Keri Anne changing from fording shoes to boots

Keri Anne changing from fording shoes to boots

We made our way  down  Gragg Prong then turned up Lost Cove Creek, where other stream fords  awaited.  The two of us stopped at Hunt Fish Falls, one of the best swimming holes in North Carolina. We found a great campsite with pink lady slippers nearby, as well as good fishing for feisty trout. I caught several and kept them for dinner.

Pink Lady Slippers

Pink Lady Slippers


I cooked trout over the fire and ate supper before a dusky rain hit

Frying fres trout over the campfire

Frying fresh trout over the campfire


The next day, we headed under cloudy skies up to Timber Ridge, where we took the steep ridgeline pathway back to Gragg Prong. Keri Anne and I enjoyed a final night under the stars before leaving the next morning for Johnson City.

if you want to know more about the waterfalls of the Blue Ridge please check out the book I updated and now co-authored.

Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge

Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge

South Mills River
in Pisgah National Forest

Trekking the Bradley Creek Trail in
Pisgah National Forest

Spring was breaking out all over the mountains when
Johnny and  Pam headed for the South Mills River area of
the Pisgah National Forest, near Asheville. They began heading down the
Bradley Creek Trail, which was  running bold from recent rains. The
trail is lesser used because it requires many fords. After a few such
crossings they found a campsite beside the loudly singing creek and
enjoyed a little campfire cookery — baking potatoes and onions over the
fire, followed by s’mores.


Painted trillium
Dwarf crested iris
White trillium

The next day started with a patch of pancakes cooked
over the coals. Their first steps were a chilly morning ford, the first of over a
dozen that day. But they were soon rewarded with numerous wildflower
sightings. The sun rose over the mountains and shone all day long as the
two of them made a loop.


Johnny & Pam
at camp on Bradley Creek
Cooking pancakes over the coals

First they turned up the Laurel Creek Trail,
climbing till there was no more stream and passed through a gap,
dropping to the South Mills River on the Poundingmill Trail. Old home
sites and past logging operations were spotted in these now splendid
woods. Leaf out was spotty and the day was quite warm with scant shade.


Fording Bradley Creek
Evening at the 2nd Campsite
They followed South Mills River past the Turkey Pen
trailhead, and kept downstream. Some of the fords on South Mills River
were thigh high. After 9 miles they began looking for a campsite at the
confluence of Bradley Creek and South Mills River to no avail. So they
headed up Bradley Creek. Pam found a campsite in a flat beside the
A chilly spring mountain bath followed. It felt good to clean up.


South Mills River

The sun descended behind the hills, allowing
chill air to creep into the campsite. They cooked brats and black-eyed
peas for supper, then read a bit before calling it a night.


Torn pants fixing to go
On Fire!
No more long pants to carry!
After another pancake breakfast Johnny decided to make
his pack lighter by burning the long pants he brought for the trip.
Johnny will often take clothes that are worn out on one last trip then
burn them at the campsite after wearing them one last time. Pam stoked
the fire then Johnny proceeded with the ritual. On their way back to the
car, his pack weighed a little bit less as they backtracked up the
Bradley Creek Trail to the end their springtime Southern Appalachian

Carolina’s Art Loeb Trail & Davidson River

Johnny and John Cox warm by the
fire on the Davidson River

Johnny and long time hiking pal John
Cox entered the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, North Carolina to
undertake a three night winter backpacking loop centered on the Art Loeb
Trail. Flurries were flying when they left the car and headed up the
Davidson River on the Farlow Gap Trail. The short winter day allow them
just a short hike to the first night’s destination in a flat on the
Davidson River.



John overlooking cooking oatmeal               Farlow Gap Trail

Subfreezing temperatures left the
rhododendron leaves curled and the backpackers a little chilly, but the
morning fire kept them warm. They had coffee and oatmeal then began
walking up the Farlow Gap Trail along the Davidson River, which had
waterfalls aplenty. In typical winter fashion, the slopes were warm in
the sun and freezing in the shade. Such is winter backpacking in the
Southern Appalachians. They stopped at the old mica mine just below
Farlow Gap for lunch, then continued on to join the Art Loeb Trail.

 Waterfall on the Davidson River

A light snow had mostly melted, even at
the mountaintops over which the Art Loeb Trail coursed. They made their
way over Sassafras Knob and drifted into Deep Gap, where the DeepGap
shelter was located. A cold night was coming so they laid in the wood.
Sure enough the temperature was in the low 20s by dark. A fine sunset
over the Blue Ridge was their reward for making the shelter.


Johnny and John
hanging out by the fire in front of Deep Gap Shelter

After staying up til about 9:30, they
retired to the bags waiting for the temps to really nosedive,
surprisingly, the mercury actually rose and its was a balmy 28 degrees
when Johnny got  up to revive the morning fire.

Sunset over the Blue
Ridge From Deep Gap Shelter

After breaking camp that morning they
had the pleasure of climbing Pilot Mountain. The views from the top of
the 5000 foot high peak extended as far as the clear winter sky allowed,
with great views of Looking Glass Rock. After taking in the views, John
and Johnny may the extended 1700 foot descent to Gloucester Gap.


On Top of Pilot Mountain

Later that afternoon they made it to
Butter Gap Shelter, at the base of Cedar Rock.  Between Pilot
Mountain and Butter Gap, the Art Loeb Trail had only minor ups and downs
and even a few level sections, allowing the hikers to take in the
scenery instead of huffing and puffing.


The Davidson River watershed and at Looking Glass Rock

Another warm fire kept the chill at
bay. They listened to the Tennessee Volunteers win at basketball then
hit the sack, resting for the next day. A hearty meal of kielbasa with
red beans and rice kept warmed them. Despite having shelters Johnny
slept out under the stars as usual.

Johnny and John by the shelter with
the afternoon sun shining on Cedar Rock


Art Loeb sign – Cedar Rock – Butter Gap shelter

They broke camp quickly the final morning and
continued under a cloudy sky on the Art Loeb Trail, circling around
Cedar Rock, which is quite an impressive feature up close. They finally
left the Art Loeb Trail, then headed for another feature — John Rock.
This open rock face offered more vistas into the Davidson river
watershed, Looking Glass Rock and the Blue Ridge. The dark cloudy day
continue to chill as they made their way back to the Davidson River and
the fish hatchery there, ending their Pisgah National winter adventure.

Views from John Rock Below:

Looking Glass Rock from John Rock

Downriver from Johns Rock

Ice covered pine needles from atop
Johns Rock


Backpacking Harper Creek in the Pisgah National Forest

North Carolina

Pam heading into
Harper Creek

Sometimes it’s a great idea to head to
a lesser used destination that is near a more popular area. Harper
Creek, in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, is very near the more
popular Linville Gorge Wilderness, which is so heavily used that you
must get permits to backpack there. The Harper Creek area on the other
hand, offers huge waterfalls, good trout fishing and a more rugged
experience. The trails are lesser maintained, and have many stream
fords, though a portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail goes through it.


  Hiking the Harper Creek Trail                 Pam looks on South Harper Creek Falls

Johnny and Pam left
obscure Forest Road 56 and headed to South Harper Creek, finding a
campsite that was full of holly trees but the thorns were not
bothersome. It was a nice mountain night around the fire and the two of
them slept out in the open.

Campsite on Harper

Next morning, a morning shower came and
they’ve felt fortunate not to be caught in the rain. When they left
camp, the trail was very overgrown and the wet brush soaked them.
Undeterred, they went to a lookoff of the South Harper Creek Falls
before joining the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which led down to Raider Camp
Creek, with off and on rain.

View of Grandfather
Mountain from rock outcrop on Mountains-to-Sea Trail

After joining Harper Creek, they headed
upstream and came to the centerpiece of the area — Harper Creek Falls.
Since it was a Saturday there were many people swimming and playing
around the falls. To access the granite area and pool between the upper
and lower falls you had to take a rope down to the flat.

Rope leads to area
between upper and lower Harper Creek Falls

Shortly thereafter, a typical summer
thunderstorm fell and drenched Johnny and Pam. They pitched the tarp
real quick and waited the storm out, eating lunch beneath the plastic
shelter. Nonetheless, they headed on upstream and found a campsite, then
commenced to start a fire and dry themselves and everything else off.

Johnny after the
storm and another ford of Harper Creek

That evening Johnny fished a little,
but they mostly relaxed, enjoying the cool weather in the mountains.
The clouds held fast all night long.

Pam fords Harper

Next day, they took it up the Persimmon
Ridge Trail back to the car, completing the loop.

More Harper Creek

Granite face on
Harper Creek

Upper section of
Harper Creek Falls

Persimmon Ridge Trail

Middle Prong
Wilderness/Shining Rock Wilderness

It was a cold December day just after Christmas when Kevin Thomas, Bryan Delay And I drove to the Pisgah National Forest. we
started our hike near Sunburst Campground, heading up the Haywood Gap Trail, entering the Middle Prong Wilderness.


  Entering Middle Prong Wilderness
Bryan and Johnny at camp on Middle Prong

We went a little over 3 miles to a great campsite near Grassy Cove Branch.  The temperatures dropped below freezing bug weren’t bad.

Clouds came the next morning, then the rains
started as we ate breakfast.  We hurriedly packed and hiked in the rain to
Buckeye Gap, near the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We then hike to more miles and
ate lunch under a somewhat dry layer of thick balsams.  We resumed our walk
and left the middle prong wilderness and headed up the flat Laurel Creek.
A 10 plus mile day found us at a wet camp on a hillside above Laurel Creek.
We battled to start a fire, Kevin getting most of the credit.  The winds
followed the end of the rain and we bedded down shortly after dark.

The sky cleared the next day as we headed out
toward Black Balsam Knob, entering the Shining Rock Wilderness.  The views
were great, but it was very windy on the crest, as we traveled up in over knobs,
ate lunch, then went to Shining Rock Gap on the way to a great campsite.
Later we climbed up to Shining Rock which offered a great 360° view.


       Sun sets at
Shining Rock Gap
Snow falls at dark on camp

The next morning we rose to 14 in snow.
The morning was bitter.  We cut through to Ivestor Gap, dropping back down
to the low lands on the Fork Mountain Trail, ending our trip with a ford.


Johnny on
Fork Ridge Trail
Winter view of the North Carolina mountains

50 Mile
Backpack on the Swamp Fox Passage and Awendaw Passage of the Palmetto Trail in coastal South Carolina

John Cox and Johnny at campsite on Alligator Creek on
Swamp Fox Passage

The Palmetto Trail is South Carolina’s master path.
Plans call for it to extend from the mountains of the Upstate to the
ocean in the Lowcountry.  Johnny and friend John Cox recently
trekked the last 50 miles of the Palmetto, going from Lake Moultrie
through the Francis Marion National Forest all the way to Buck Halls
Recreation Area, located on the Intracoastal Waterway near the Atlantic
Ocean.  Buck Hall marks the eastern terminus of the Palmetto.
It was late when they left Canal Recreation Area near Lake Moultrie
beginning the fall hike, and fully dark by the time they reached the
first campsite.  A cold front had moved in so the evening fire was
needed.  Next morning they crossed Wadboo Swamp, a gorgeous
blackwater steam bordered by big cypress, tupelo and bottomland
hardwoods. The path left the swamp for longleaf pine forest,
complemented by colorful sweetgum trees.  The tread was mostly
grass, and was easy on the feet.  The level nature of the trail
also allowed the two to reel off miles.  The second day they
covered 12 miles and still had plenty of time to relax despite the short
days of fall.


Johnny hiking through pines
Indian ghost pipe on the Palmetto They drank swamp water, which is hard for some people
to get used to.  And there was plenty of swamp along the way,
usually along creeks, which were bridged.  At Alligator Creek, they
camped in slender oaks, making a warm fire for

another chilly night. Continuing south and east they passed through a lot of
grassy open areas, and Johnny, going against is own inner voice, walked
on in short pants, getting a good dose of chiggers.  However, the
mosquitoes weren’t bad at all.


Hooded pitcher plants
Cypress turns color near Little Hellhole Bay The third day was a 13 miler, alternating between
creeks and pine stands.  At times, the trail traced old logging
railroads, which were arrow straight and elevated to stay above the
bordering wetlands.  The day clouded over and they were glad to
make the Turkey Creek campsite, which was in pine/sweetgum flats above
Turkey Creek, which was bordered by wooded floodplain. The evening was
much warmer. Our final day was the longest and the hottest.
They trekked through more pines, but also oak forests and through
evergreen shrub bogs, much of it still on the straight grades.  The
elevated grades allowed them to enjoy otherwise wet areas with dry feet.

This hike is in the above book, 50 Hikes in South Carolina

The final night they camped on Steeds Creek a tidally
influenced freshwater stream.  The gorgeous blackwater stream was
bordered by colorful fall hardwoods.  A chilly dip washed off the
accumulated sweat. The final day, they joined the Awendaw Passage of the
Palmetto Trail, traveling along a tidal saltwater stream bordered by
grassy marshes.  The final 5 miles were simply stunning, looking
out on Awendaw Creek from a wooded bluff, crossing numerous boardwalks
over salty tributaries, shaded by palms and live oaks.

Awendaw Creek as seen from the Palmetto Trail