The Water Trail: Boulder Hopping to Thee Creek Falls

My best adventure so far this summer was exploring a creek watershed only five miles from my home in the South Toe Valley, Pisgah National Forest. My hiking buddy David had seen some amazing waterfalls up the Three Creek watershed years ago and our goal was to see how far we could get and simply explore.

We parked at the Middle Creek Trailhead and hiked a mile or so on easy trail. This was an exploratory hike which would involve a lot of unknowns since we would be off trail.  on our way to and possible Thee Creek It was going to be a very tough all day hike, some of it off trail, rock hopping, root grabbing, water wading with the goal to find as many waterfalls and cool mountain pools as possible and make it back alive.

The first part of the trail was tame, because it was a trail. We soon got to the place to turn off to hit the intersection of Rock Creek and Thee Creek. We miscalculated a bit and ended up ‘wasting’ 45 minutes getting stuck in brambles and rhododendron thicket. We finally crawled and cut out way out and descended down a steep ravine to the welcome water.

Nothing was guaranteed here. We were on ground rarely visited by other humans. We would be boulder hopping and wading into unknown terriroty. There were hazards, limits, realities like gravity and friction. Finally some true rewilding!

Every turn offered a mystical new site and experience as we climbed our way up boulders, small cliffs and rock strewn pools. We were two grown adults acting like kids as we marveled at every fantastic feature we came upon. The pressure was on to get to Thee Falls and get back before dark, since night hiking would be impossible. We also faced the likely possibility of an afternoon thunderstorm which would halt travel and further delay our adventure.

We were both seasoned waterfall hikers and David had copied the maps of this area on his Topo Map App Alpine Quest. Even though I live here in this magnificant valley in the shadow of Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountain Range, I have not explored very many of the dozen or so creeks leading up to spectacular waterfalls, precipitous cascades, sparkling cold pools, and water shoots and features of every shape and size. It takes an entire day to get up to some waterfalls and back, and that’s if you leave early enough in the morning. And summertime is the only time some of these water trails are accessible, due to the frigid cold temperatures of the spring fed creeks. 

Sometimes you only have one thin branch to hold onto!

As I was climbing to the top of Thee Creek, it seemed everywhere I grabbed a place to hold onto, there was another Reishi mushroom at it’s peak of ripeness just waiting to give itself to me. These highly esteemed medicinal mushrooms grow on the dying Hemlock trees. This has been the subject and lament of many a wilderness hike as we morn the loss of our beloved Hemlock species which is falling to the hands of acid rain and EMF radiation, heralding the fate of all the rest of life on this planet. And in the process of falling and dying, the Hemlocks offer a pill or tonic which will help us defend from the very pollution which is killing them. A complete act of kindness and humility because they possess the medicine which will help us.

What abundance our Universe is full of.! I ran out of places to carry them, and so made a makeshift daypack out of my rain jacket and tied it around my neck, on top of my daypack. After awhile I promised David I wouldn’t get anymore things, as it was ridiculous how many treasures there were to bring back!  Not to mention all the rocks I wanted to get.

It was delightful to walk miles barefoot as the water tickled my toes. There were places where I could feel with my feet if the rock would hold me without slipping. Not even the best water shoe can do that. So I would often tell Dave what I thought of the slope as we tippy toed our way along, testing our footing before committing to the next step. There were many places that required daring and skill and we were glad noone else came along because it would be almost impossible to help anyone since we were first exploring this ourselves. The hot summer day was welcomed with almost constant water dips which kept the body the exact perfect temperature for the exhausting adventure. I rewarded myself with a swim in the most mystical crystal clear pool at the top under Thee Falls, and when we finally made it safely back down at the end of the day I cooled off again in a pool at the bottom before donning my shoes and getting back onto the actual trail for the final hike down to the car.

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