Road Trip – Waterfall Scenic Byway, North Carolina (May 2-3, 2020)

U. S. Route 64 is the longest numbered route in North Carolina, running 604 miles from the Tennessee state line to the Outerbanks. It dates back to a time of the Modet T and snakes through the North Carolina mountains, by waterfalls, through gorges and some really neat and awesome small towns.

A 150 mile section of Highway 64 near Asheville runs from Morgantown to Franklin. Most of this route is a winding 2-lane road. The last 40 miles before getting to Franklin is part of the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, with many waterfalls. This is part of the route I took…….I would have loved to have stopped and hiked to many of the waterfalls on the list for this route, but with the time I had and mostly due to bad knees I just can’t do the hiking. So come along with me and join me along the beautiful country side and water falls of North Carolina that I was able to experience.

BREVARD

Brevard is located along scenic Highway 64 and is the crossroad between the Pisgah National Forest, Dupont State Forest, Gorges State Park and, Bracken Mountain Nature Reserve. Brevard is also known as the “Home of the White Squirrel” and Land of Waterfalls. Much of the area is a temperate rain forest with 90+ inches of rain a year, therefore giving you about 250 waterfalls.

As part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, Transylvania County’s high peaks and rolling ridges were first created by a shift of geological plates about 450 million years ago. These early mountains eroded down into almost a flat plain over subsequent geological eras only to be uplifted into its current topography during the Cenozoic era.

As soon as Transylvania County was established in 1861, a courthouse was needed, but was delayed until 1866 at the end of the Civil War, when a two-story frame courthouse was finished. Soon after, in 1874, the Board of County Commissioners approved $12,000 to construct a stately and impressive brick courthouse for the county seat, which still stands and operates today. It was the first brick building in Brevard. The Transylvania County Courthouse continues its operation today as a courthouse and the Clerk of Court. In 1979, it was recognized for its local historical significance and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On U.S 276 North, six miles from Brevard is Looking Glass Falls. From my research of the waterfalls in this area Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina and its also one of the easist to view as it is accessbile from the roadside, which was perfect for me. U.S 276 is just a two lane country road, but there is plenty of room to pull over and park near the falls. There is a overlook from the parking area along the road that you can easily view the falls from, or you can take the steps which lead down to the falls for a closer view. You can even wade into the creek and swim underneath the falls when water flow is low.

Looking Glass Falls is 60 feet tall, there is no admission fee and it is always open.

Toxoway Falls

Toxoway falls is half way between Brevard and Cashiers North Carolina. Most travelers drive across the top of the 150 foot falls and don’t even know it. I know I would have if I had not done my research and internet googling before I headed out on this trip. The falls are located on Highway 64, 16 miles west of Brevard. At Lake Toxoway, you will cross a bridge below the dam for the lake. There are spots to park on the westbound side of the road. Cross the road to a walkway along the bridge for a view from the top of the cascading water. Its very beautiful and awesome! Continue to travel another 13 miles to reach Cashiers.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is a 45-ft waterfall located in Nantahala National Forest just 2.5 miles west of Highlands, North Carolina. These falls have been famous for generations as the only waterfall in North Carolina that you could drive behind. When the highway was originally built, all traffic went behind the falls, but in the winter there were problems with the ice and falling rock year round! So now that section of the road is blocked off from automobiles for safety and visitors are able to walk behind the falls and enjoy it more. Bridal Veil Falls does not have a large volume of water so it makes it safe and fun to stand behind. The falls are located right along highway 64, there is roadside parking and is accessible to everyone…..wheeel chairs, strollers, etc.

As I have mentioned in other posts I made this trip during COVID so there were not a ton of people out and about and not a lot of traffic so access and driving was pretty easy and nice. I really enjoyed these falls and thought they were so unique with traffic at one time being able to drive right behind it. It was definetly a different view and perspective to be behind it looking out.

Dry Falls

Dry Falls is another popular waterfall that is only a mile from Bridal Veil Falls. Dry Falls is a 75-ft tall waterfall that falls over a cliff which allows you to walk safely behind the falls and stay “dry.” At the top next to the parking lot is an observation area where everyone can view the falls. There is a short trail that leads down to the falls, which I did not take as its all down hill and I knew it was going to be to much with my knees. It was a beautiful view and a lot of water flowing.

Cullasaja Falls

One more water fall I was able to see along this route was the Cullasaja Falls along the Cullasaja River Gorge……a beautiful drive with narrow roads, curves that are frequent and shop. Cullasaja Falls is 8 miles west of Highlands and there is no sign for this 250-ft waterfall. The best way to see it is if you are driving from Franklin….due to the location, there is only a small pull of for 2-3 cars along the road, so drive slow and look for the pull off.

Something of interest…..the word “Cullasaja” comes from the Cherokee word meaning “honey locust place”

Other scenic pictures along the drive through Cullasaja Gorge

Turned 60 years…… June 19th!

Well, a couple of weeks have gone by since my birthday and turning the big 60! Wow, where have the years gone? I remember in my younger years thinking 60 was so old and so far away and before you know it here I am 60, but do I feel old? Oh, there are some days I do especially when the body has its aches and pains…….but in my head, I still feel young at heart and I just want to keep on going and going. Turning 60 this year meant that I was not near family and friends to celebrate as I am working and living in Kings Canyon National Park an hour and a half outside of Fresno, CA. Two good friends, Colleen and Teri who live about 5 hours away had been talking about coming up here to visit me, so I suggested they come for my birthday! So the planning started a couple months ago…..they were able to get reservations at the John Muir Lodge which worked out really great because it is right near where I live and work. They were easily able to get a room for the night of June 18th, but there were no openings for June 19th so we kept checking to see if there were any cancellations and looking into other options just in case. The time was getting closer and still, nothing was coming up…..but Teri persisted and called the lodge and low and behold there was a cancellation for June 19th and she snagged it up. We were all so excited and happy about that.

So June 18th finally arrives……Colleen and Teri start out early so they can get here by 11/11:30 so we will have several hours to go exploring on Tuesday. Well, due to traffic, potty, gas stops, and a little site seeing they arrived about 2:30 P.M. I, of course, was on pins and needles as I waited for them to get here…..it was too hard to stay home at the RV waiting so I spent a couple hours at Grant Grove Village near the meadow on a bench taking in nature and texted there where I would be when they arrived.

As I was sitting on the bench I heard a voice ” Were here” I jumped up, gave them both big hugs…..so happy to see them! We got them checked into their room at John Muir Lodge, chatted and let them unwind a bit from the long drive. I first took them to where I lived with my RV in the woods so they could check out my neighborhood.

Our next stop was the General Grant Tree Trail, a 1/4 mile walking loop that is a nice, easy stroll and lots of fun as we checked out the “Fallen Monarch” which was home for 2 years in the late 1800s to the Gamlin brothers who were loggers while they built their cabin just up a ways from the Fallen Monarch. The Fallen Monarch was also used by the US Calvary for a time as a stable for their horses. 

Next on the path was the  General Grant Tree, which is the nation’s only living national shrine. In 1956, President Eisenhower gave the Grant Tree this designation in memory of Americans who gave their lives in wartime. Named after Civil War General and our 18th president Ulysses S. Grant, this tree has a volume estimated at 46,608 cubic feet, weighs over 1,250 tons, is 267 feet tall (the height of a 24-story building), and has a diameter at base height of 29 feet. The General Grant Tree is the world’s third-largest tree. Then it was off to dinner at the Grant Grove restaurant and the end of Day 1.

 

   

 

 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

The Early Years  

On September 25, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation establishing America’s second national park.  Sequoia National Park was created to protect the giant sequoia trees from logging and was the first national park formed to protect a living organism. One week later, General Grant National Park was created and Sequoia was enlarged. To protect these new parks, U.S. Army Cavalry troops were assigned from the Presidio of San Francisco from 1891 through 1913 when the first civilian administrator of the park, Walter Fry, was appointed. The National Park Service was established three years later in 1916.

Early access to the Giant Forest to see the Sequoia trees were limited with no more than a pack road. Under the leadership of Captain Charles Young, the only African American commissioned officer in the U.S. Army at the time built the road into the Giant Forest which was completed in August 1903. For the first time, the “big trees” were accessible by wagon. The growing popularity of the automobile led to the building of the Generals Highway in 1926 opening up the Giant Forest to increased visitation.

Better access to the Giant Forest led to building amenities for the increasing number of visitors. One of the first projects by the National Park Service was the construction of the first steps to the summit of Moro Rock, a favorite destination. Backcountry trail construction also became a priority. In 1932, the new High Sierra Trail was completed connecting the Giant Forest and Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked in the parks to build and improve campgrounds, trails, buildings, and other facilities.

In 1940, Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a new national Park to include the glacially-formed Kings Canyon. The newly established Kings Canyon encompassed the previous Grant National Park into it. Ever since WWII, Kings Canyon and Sequoia have been administered jointly. These two parks have grown to encompass 1,353 square miles of which 97% is designated and managed as wilderness.

Kings Canyon National park is the place that John Muir once called “a rival to Yosemite.” By some measures, it is home to the deepest canyon in America. Kings Canyon National Park is composed of two distinct areas……Grant Grove, home to the General Grant tree, also known as “the Nation’s Christmas Tree” and Cedar Grove.

So on May 8, 2020, I made my first drive to Cedar Grove which is located at the bottom of Kings Canyon and features terrain similar to Yosemite Valley. It is also one of the least crowded areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. A 35-mile drive east of Grant Grove, Cedar Grove features a wide range of stunning natural wonders with its towering cliffs, massive trees, cascading waters, and the powerful Kings River.

Come along the ride with me through pictures and narration:

The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180) is carved into granite and winds down into Kings Canyon with the walls closing in at some junctions and bends. This scenic two-lane road has numerous pullouts with an amazing variety of geographical terrain and stunning views of Kings Canyon and Kings Canyon River.

IMG_2258IMG_2259IMG_2523IMG_2302IMG_2511IMG_2300

Ten Mile Creek

IMG_2515IMG_2269IMG_2273IMG_2285

First Waterfall sighting

IMG_2466IMG_20190508_170757IMG_2306

Terrain, Flowers

Kings River

Kings Canyon Lodge/Rough Fire

 

On July 31, 2015, a lightning strike started a fire 5 miles north of Hume Lake. Over the period of the next 3 months, the fire which came to be known as the “Rough Fire” burned 151,623 acres of land over Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The Historic Kings Canyon Lodge was all but destroyed except for the two red and white working gasoline dispensers-not pumps with a sign that read “America’s oldest double gravity pumps 1928” and the Kings Canyon Lodge Sign. The lodge and 10 cabins were originally built in 1937. The store had an old-fashioned cash register that would sound “cha-ching!” when transactions were made. Burgers, fries, sandwiches, and salads were standard meals in the restaurant. The lodge had many items there were antiques, too old to even try and replace. The owner had lived there since he was 3 years old, his father passing the land and business down to him, but sadly the buildings were not insured.

Here are a few pictures I pulled off of google of the lodge before the fire:

kings-canyon-lodge-barOriginal KC lodge 1kings-canyon-lodgecabin-2

In the summer of 2019, 4 years after the fire the lodge has never been rebuilt….a A small wooden concession stand had been built to serve water, soda and ice cream for visitors. The original Kings Canyon Lodge sign and the gas pumps still stand and actually work.

IMG_2518IMG_2521SherryBday_20190619_114148_CCoxFB_IMG_1561160740257

Grizzly Falls

Grizzly Falls and picnic area is located on the Generals Highway to Cedar Grove. The 80-foot waterfall is just a short super short and easy 0.1-mile round trip stroll just off the highway. The waterfall is impossible to miss and is a thrill to watch the water plunge down a granite wall. As you step closer you will be greeted by a refreshing mist. At this time that I visited the falls were very full from the spring runoff from a very good winter of snow. It was amazing!

IMG_2341IMG_2350IMG_2345

Cedar Grove

Cedar Grove sits at the bottom of the glacial Kings Canyon at 4000 feet in elevation. Cedar Grove tends to be more peaceful and quiet, especially before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.  Four campgrounds along the Kings River offer views of the deep, granite-walled canyon. Trails from here lead to meadows, waterfalls and some of the best access to the high sierra wilderness.

Cedar Grove is a modest, low-key lodge in the middle of a remote, pristine mountain wilderness that sits on the edge of the Kings River and is a good base for exploring so much that this area has to offer. A very peaceful experience to sit in the chairs by the river and watch the wildlife and listen to the river.

My co-worker Mike is the manager at Cedar Grove during the summer to fall season. During the winter he is the Cash Auditor and it is this position that I was filling in for during my season in 2019 while he managed Cedar Grove. Mike was kind enough to take me to a couple of site seeing stops in the area.

cedar-grove-updated-banner-desktopcedar-grove-lodge3IMG_20190710_111215IMG_20190710_111302

Roaring Falls

Our first stop was a short 5-minute walk from the parking lot to the falls which is beautiful and full of scenic stops along the riverside. The waterfall is beautiful and magnificent as it roars down the canyon wall and drops down into a pool in the river. Even before Mike and I arrived at the end of the trail you could hear the roaring of the falls.

IMG_20190508_143544IMG_20190508_143930IMG_20190508_143153IMG_20190508_143412IMG_20190508_143244

Roads End/John Muir Rock

It really is what it sounds like…..the end of the road in the beautiful Kings Canyon. This is the jumping-off point for many of the National Parks backcountry trails. Mike and I parked in the parking lot here and took a short walk to the edge of the Kings River and the famous John Muir Rock. On excursions to Kings Canyon, John Muir would give talks on this large, flat river boulder. The massive boulder sits at the base of a granite face that rises hundreds of feet out of the river. Nowadays for those who have the nerve, Muir Rock is the site of a 15-foot jump into a beautiful swimming hole.

roads endroads_end 1Screen shot 2010-09-14 at 9.06.33 PMIMG_20190508_144943IMG_20190508_145138

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day trip to Sequoia National Park

April 23rd I headed down the road to explore Sequoia National Park, which is the sister park right next to Kings Canyon National Park. If there were no signs indicating landmarks you would not even know when you are entering and exiting each park, they are sometimes looked as if they are one park.

This view shows one of the world’s largest groves of trees. Redwood Mountain Grove covers 5 square miles of more than 2,100 giant Sequoias trees that are larger than 10 ft in diameter.

Also here is the largest area of wilderness in the lower 48 states covering the span of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that includes both the National Forest and National Parklands.

Further along the General’s Highway through Sequoia National Park, I came across Clover Creek Bridge and Creek which is about a mile from the Wuksachi Lodge turnoff. Clover Creek Bridge is one of two bridges that were constructed in 1930. It is a concrete bridge with a masonry facade, giving it the appearance of a stone bridge which gave it a rustic style appearance that fits in with the surrounding area. There was a small pullout where I was able to park my car and go have a closer look. With it being late April I enjoyed seeing the creek while it was gushing from new snowmelt.

My next stop was the General Sherman Tree Trail. I took this trail which is a mile round trip. At the time I was researching information I found that the shuttle bus does not go to the lower trailhead until summer and I did not know that I could have gotten a handicap pass to put in my car and park in the handicap area because of my bad knees. If I had done that it would have been a much shorter and easier walk…..But I was determined that I wanted to see the General Sherman Tree so I made the hike from the main upper trail that sits at 7000-foot elevation, it is a paved, steep grade path with a few steps and bench seating along the way. There was still snow around and plenty of melting snow runoff.

About 3/4 of the way down you will come to a viewpoint where you can view the General Sherman Tree from a distance. With it being so tall its hard to get a photo when you are closer to it, so you can get a good photo of the whole tree from this spot. There are also benches to sit on and an interpretive sign here that tells you about the General Sherman Tree.

IMG_20190423_140315

When you finally make your way down to the General Sherman Tree there will be a lot of people lined up to take a photoshoot with the General. There is also a wooden fence around the perimeter of the tree to protect the shallow roots. As you continue walking there is a loop trail where you have the chance to see several other awesome trees, one being the massive fallen Sequoia that the trail goes through, two twin-trees, other Sequoias that have been burned or have interesting growths on them.

General Sherman Tree was named after Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman…..this trees claim to fame as the biggest tree in the world comes from the volume of its trunk. Some trees are taller, but no other tree has more wood in its trunk. General Sherman stands 275 feet tall and is over 36 ft in diameter at the base. It is believed to be 2,200 years old and weighs about 1,385 tons. The Sherman tree top is dead, so it no longer gets taller, but its trunk keeps increasing. Each year the trunk grows wider, adding enough wood to equal another good-sized tree.

The next stop was the Giant Forest Museum, which to me was not really a museum. Here you are able to talk with rangers about the Sequoias and hiking in the area. It also has a small gift shop and the rest is a display that shares the story of the Giant Forest and Giant Sequoia Trees. The village market building which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places began renovations in 1999 and was converted to a museum and visitors center which was completed in the summer of 2001. The Sentinel which stands directly in front of the Giant Forest Museum is the 13th largest tree in Giant Forest, but the 21st largest in Sequoia National Park.

 On the way back I stopped and took some pictures of the Marble Fork Kaweah River…..So pretty.

And finally here are just some other random nature pictures I saw on my drive