Monday, May 3, 2010

Dick Creek Falls

My first trip to both the Lower and Upper Dick Creek Falls was on 2-May-2010. It was mostly sunny (bad for picture-taking), temps in the mid 80's with high humidity (bad for hiking), and the wind was blowing badly, which did keep the bugs at bay but made photographing the wildflowers a generally frustrating affair.

Total hiking distance was about 7.7 miles.

It's uphill both ways !

Dick Creek Falls (22-ft high)
36 deg 09.114N, 82 deg 19.632W, 2600 ft

Begin at Rock Creek Park in Erwin. Drive through the picnic area and park near the bath house just before you enter the campground. From here, walk towards the campground and you'll see the trail head for the hiking/biking trail that follows Rock Creek. After a ten minute walk, you'll reach a footbridge; cross it and you will soon come to a fork with a sign pointing left to Rattlesnake Ridge, that’s the trail you want to take. You will follow it approximately 3/4 of a mile through a few easy creek crossings and some steep parts to reach Dick Creek Gap.

As you enter Dick Creek Gap, you'll reach a clearing that contains the intersection of three trails and two roads: one is the trail you just came from; the trail on your right continues on to Rattlesnake Ridge, I’m not sure where the third trail (to your left) goes. Straight ahead are the two roads. The road to the left is marked 'Dark Hollow', but it’s the unmarked logging road to the right that you want to take.

Follow that road down the hill for about 3/4 of a mile where you'll cross over Dick Creek. Just a bit further and you'll come to an intersection with yet another unmarked logging road; turn right on that unmarked logging road.

From here it is roughly 1/3 of a mile to an unmarked pullout on your right. It's the second such pullout on the right. There’s a similar pullout a few hundred yards sooner, but you’ll know this is the correct one because you can see a grassy clearing about a hundred yards farther up the road. If you listen closely, you should be able to hear the falls. There’s a faint trail out the back of the pullout which will lead to the falls, which are only about 30 yards off the road.

The waterfall is hidden in a little grotto. You can view the falls from above and then carefully climb down to the base of the falls for a better view. If you’re through here in early May you may also see some pink lady slippers along the sides of the logging road.

Upper Dick Creek Falls (~30-ft high)
located at 36 deg 08.686N, 82 deg 19.265W, 3060 ft

Get back on the logging road from the lower falls, and proceed upstream through the clearing to another creek crossing. Just across the creek is another small clearing with a rock fire ring. Cross the creek and the clearing and continue on the trail through the ditch until it comes out in a relatively flat spot about 100 ft ahead. There’s a faint trail that angles uphill and to the left, back toward the creek.

The trail is not always obvious, but proceeds through woods with almost no undergrowth. Some kind soul has blazed a portion of the trail with pieces of white and yellow plastic hanging from the trees. Follow this uphill until it intersects with another old logging road - 'road' is a bit of a stretch, more like a really wide path).

Go left on this path about 300 yards and you’ll see and hear the upper falls. The total distance from the lower to the upper falls is about 3/4 mile. If you’re through here in late April or early May keep an eye out for painted trillium.

These falls are located along a wall that curves around to the left. The best photo opportunities are from the sides and directly in front of the falls, but you’ll have to cross the creek above the falls and circle around below the falls to get there. Be very careful as you will cross the creek only a few feet upstream from the precipice. Circle around the far side and scramble down to the base of the falls, it's steep, but manageable.

There are four distinct flows over the face of the falls, each separated by a big rock. It puts you in the mind of water flowing out of a turret on an old castle. In wet weather there are two smaller falls on the trail side of the wall.

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