Sunday, September 5, 2010

Upper Laurel Fork Falls & Campbell Falls

The cool morning temperature that signals the advent of fall was in the air so I hauled my lazy butt out of bed early on Saturday and went waterfalling in Frog Level. To get there one must go through the Dennis Cove recreation area, past the campground, all the way to the top of the mountain. There is a gated forest service road on the right (just as the main road breaks hard left) that takes you all the way down the mountain to the level of the frogs. You'll know it's the right road if you see the huge stump pushed up against the gate. The gravel road down the mountain is a bit over a mile in length, and is in remarkably good shape, so good in fact that some folk had pulled in a pop-up camper. The road ends at a turn-about. Park there and cross the creek.

Follow the forest service road as it continues leftward, generally following the creek. The hike was very easy with very little gain in elevation but there are several very challenging creek crossings to negotiate if you are trying to keep your feet dry. After the first of these crossings you'll come upon a good sized clearing, follow the tree-line down the left side of the clearing and you'll find the trailhead marker for Laurel Fork Trail and another, more challenging creek crossing. Laurel Fork Trail is easy to follow, and is in very good shape, with only a few muddy spots, but did I mention the creek crossings? There are two more of them to negotiate over the next .4 miles before you get to the falls. You'll definitely hear the falls as you approach them. There's a small trail down to the base of the falls, but it is very steep, and wet, and slippery, and steep, and rocky, and wet. It's one time I definitely wish I had brought some rope. I have a nice rope in the truck, about 25 feet long with a knot about every foot, but it's only useful if you remember to bring it.

Once back on the trail, continue up stream to Campbell Falls. This part of the trek is another .6 miles of trail, two more creek crossings, and one section of swamp slogging with some nearly-rotten logs to walk on, it only adds to the excitment. There's a steep and muddy side trail down to the pool at the bottom of the falls, I passed up it once I saw the mud. The falls face away from the trail, so to get some good pictures you'd have to negotiate the mudslide trail to the pool, then cross the creek at the base of the falls, something I wasn't prepared to do on this day. Instead I took the second side trail to the top of the falls. There's simply no way to get a good shot of the falls from up top, but there was a beautiful cascade at the top which is where this picture was made.

There's a third set of falls in the same general area, Firescald Branch Falls, which I couldn't find an obvious trail to, I'll try harder the next time ;)

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