20 mph Speed Limit

28 09 2006

Two o’clock didn’t come soon enough and waiting around for people is not enjoyable when you’re heading to the lake…

Saturday, a group of friends went out to Lake Hartwell to go boating. Abram Rampey brought his boat and Katherine Bowyer brought a jet ski. Andrew Pierce, Jarred Mann, Matt Bentley, Jason Williams and Michelle Lavengood were along for the fun…and what fun it was!

We left about two thirty Saturday afternoon – a late start – and headed to Abram’s house to get the boat, which was in need of fuel. A quick stopover at the gas station and we were on our way. Katherine and Michelle were already on the lake enjoying the thrills of the Sea Doo when we shoved off.

Less than five minutes had passed before someone was on a tube flying around behind the boat. After some time, we hooked up a second – and much larger – tube alongside the first, but not before Abram shredded a tube line in the prop. The speed limit written on the large tube: “20 mph”. What kind of fun can you have at 20 mph? That warning was rarely heeded.

Someone managed to flip the jet ski over and flood the engine. Thirty minutes of waiting and it finally cranked again. I’m glad it did, because I got to drive it later on. My first experience on a jet ski was one of first caution, then exhiliration, then sadness…I had to relinquish the controls.

Many wild rides were experienced on the tubes. Michelle completed a full flip and stayed on the tube. Katherine, Andrew and Matt got the full wrath of Abram’s crazy driving (I feared for the life of all). Matt actually cut a flip in the air, flew off his tube and landed on Jarred. Matt and I found out what it’s like to go over thirty miles and hour on tubes. It’s insane. 20 mph Abram! 20 mph!!!

When we returned to the Rampeys’ house – hours after dark and tired from the day – Dr. and Mrs, Rampey fixed us dinner: bratwersts and potato wedges plus brownies and ice cream. Mmmm mmmm goooooooood!!!

A fun day had by all. Many thanks to Katherine and the Rampeys.


Landslide Falls

4 09 2006

Andrew and I went hiking to Jones Gap Falls, which is located just west of Jones Gap State Park. The trail was fairly easy until we got to the bridge across the Middle Saluda River. “Trail Closed” a sign warned. We crossed the bridge and continued on unaware of what we would see. Pictures of the Jones Gap landslide had done it no justice. A giant gash was carved out of the hillside as high and as low as we could see. Giant rocks and large trees were strewn about like tinkertoys in a child’s room.
We proceeded to cross and continue on to Jones Gap Falls which made a right turn not far past the slide area. It was a serene place with the mixed sounds of trickling and splashing waters. A nice place to relax, shaded from both the sun and the cares of life. Check off another of the Upstate’s waterfalls that I’ve visited.
The list is now as follows:
1. Big Bend Falls on the Chattooga River
2. Chauga Narrows on the Chauga River
3. Issaqueena Falls past Walhalla on Hwy. 28

4. King Creek Falls near Burrell’s Ford on King’s Creek by the Chattooga River

5. Spoonauger Falls near Burrell’s Ford on Spoonauger Creek by the Chattooga River

6. Lee Falls on Tamassee Creek

7. Licklog Falls on the Chattooga River
8. Pigpen Falls on the Chattooga River
9. Lower Whitewater Falls at Lake Jocassee
10. Miuka Falls on the Winding Stairs Trail
11. Secret Falls off the Winding Stairs Trail
12. Station Cove Falls at the historic Oconee Station Site
13. Yellow Branch Falls across from Issaqueena Falls on Hwy. 28 past Walhalla

14. Falls Creek Falls on the east end of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area and Jones Gap State Park via Hospital Rock Trail

15. Jones Gap Falls on the Jones Gap Trail
16. Raven Cliff Falls from the top via the Foothills Trail and the lookout across the valley

17. Laurel Fork Falls on Lake Jocassee
18. Twin Falls west of Table Rock
19. Carrick Creek Falls in Table Rock State Park
20. Spring Bluff Falls via Pinnacle Mountain Trail
21. Mill Creek Falls via Pinnacle Mountain Trail

22. Reedy River Falls in downtown Greenville

Cold Water and a Copperhead

3 09 2006

[Original post March 27, 2006]
Saturday, Drew and I went hiking at Keowee-Toxaway State Park. The trail passed Natural Bridge and Raven Rock on the way to a lakeside view. Natural Bridge is a rock that is hollow underneath. A small creek passes under it. It was dissappointing to say the least. Raven Rock also left much to be desired. No ravens were to be seen…nor was much of anything else for that matter, except for trees and the rock.

The trail down to the lake was steep…really steep. I was scared that we wouldn’t be able to make it back up with forty-pound packs on our backs. The trail spit us out on a small camping area beside a cove.

A golf course and several houses were across the lake from us, but at least we had the unspoiled cove. After getting our feet wet in the icy water, we noticed some large rocks about a hundred yards around the water’s edge. We were compelled by some unseen force to get over to them. Steep hills and thick brush blocked our way, but nothing would keep us from our goal. We finally made it over to the rocks, which now seemed much higher off the water than from our previous vantage point. We made our way down to smaller rocks and, of course, Andrew had to jump in. I followed suit soon after. The water was frigid, but refreshing. Soon, Andrew decided that he would have to jump from the higher rocks, twenty-five feet off the water. With a running jump, flailing arms and a boy-like scream, Andrew flew out into the air.

On our trip back, we saw a cool lizard.

I nearly stepped on a Copperhead, so we had to take pics of it.

So what was in our packs to make them forty pounds?

Two dictionaries and a one-volume New Testament Commentary in my pack. A twelve-pack of Cheerwine, a camelpack, a Nalgene bottle and a Maglight in Andrew’s pack.

We’ll be back to go rock jumping soon. Guaranteed!

Studio Backdrop

2 09 2006

A cold breeze met us with absolute contempt. “Are you really dumb enough to go hiking today?” it smacked at our ears. “Why yes I am!” came the dumb reply from my mind. Since when has freezing temps kept us at home?
Liberty and Pickens breezed by us and Pumpkintown nearly missed us as we sped by. Caesar kept watch over the foothills and Piedmont, but we continued on to the trailhead for Raven Cliff.
By eleven we were leaving any trace of civilization behind. The trail began to undulate with the ridges and forty pounds in my pack seemed like a hundred. Soon, though, my tight muscles would relax and we maintained a quick pace. At the highest elevations, we looked out over the mountainous terrain which sprawled out beside us. The hillside below descended quickly and disappeared before touching bottom. The lowest elevations were hidden from our sight. The world was unreal for a time. It was as though we were in the world’s largest movie lot. The terrain derectly beside us was real, but beyond that sharp edge lay the most beautiful studio backdrop I’ve ever seen. Mountains in their deep green met the sky with it’s sharp blue. The Artist’s work was incredible. No human touch could be seen; it was all God’s awesome Creation.
The trail began to descend slightly and soon we were on nearly flat ground. The winding dirt path became rocky and fell into what looked like an old streambed. We walked under the face of the earth for a while until the trail rose out of the deep rut. The way was still very rocky; our road looking like something from a Robert Frost poem.

Soon, our path led us down to a river which we followed for a short while until we reached a bridge. The bridge was like none I’ve ever seen before. It was a wooden cable-supported suspension bridge. The cables were cemented into the rock on each side of the span. The bridge swayed with our steps but made not one sound in its moving.

(Sorry about the pic quality on this one, it is a screen capture from a video)
It wasn’t long before we had to make our way down to the rocks. The navigation of the “trail” down to the falls was tricky to say the least. We finally made it down and began the tedious crossing of the slick rocks. We realized that this 420 foot waterfall was not one continuous drop, but a series of steps that culminated in one large plummet of well over a hundred feet.

As the egde came nearer, we slowed our pace. The world fell away to the depths, and our view became trees across the deep valley. Minutes passed as we built the courage to approach the edge. Thoughts of my fall earlier in the year crossed my mind and I hesitated to go any closer. I had to do it though; for me…and to get some cool photos. I hovered at the edge, teetering forward to get the entire shot down the falls. I couldn’t take it for long and had to step back. It was Jarred’s turn. I could hardly watch. I was able to walk to the edge, but I certainly couldn’t watch anyone else do it. Thoughts of a splatter stain on the rocks below ran through my head as Jarred peered over the precipice.

We headed back to the trail and started the difficult climb back up to the bridge. I shot a quick video from the middle of the bridge (from which the photo of the bridge in this blog entry came from) and we were off. The four-mile hike back was a time of reflection, but our day was not over yet.

A quick stop at Caesar’s Head gave Jarred the chance to climb in the Devil’s Kitchen.

The view from Caesar’s Head is a panorama of many of South Carolina’s natural treasures. Table Rock and Pinnalce Mountain stand in sharp contrast to the Piedmont in the south. Just to the north (right) of Table Rock is Jones Gap, a deep and craggy valley that looks nearly impassable. Just below the observation deck and through Devil’s Kitchen is a profile view of Caesar’s Head.

We headed back to the car after a few minutes and started back toward Central. On the way down the snaking mountain highway, I put the car in neutral and coasted for several miles. Pumpkintown, Pickens and Liberty passed us again, waiving their backcountry hands and yellin’ “Ya’ll come back now!” I’m sure we’ll be back again soon.