Sunday, September 09, 2007

Winding Stairs, and an Attempt at Kings Creek Falls

My husband rarely has a specific travel destination in mind, but this week he suggested we go to Kings Creek Falls in South Carolina's Oconee County. It's a short hike, about a half-mile one way, so I went to sctrails.net to hunt for additional possibilities. After tossing around a few suggestions, we decided on the Winding Stairs trail first, and then drive up the road to Kings Creek Falls.

There are two trailheads for Winding Stairs. Both are off Hwy 107. We headed to the southern trail first, and ended up passing it. Directions at sctrails.net said to turn right onto Tamassee Road (FS 710). We didn't see that, but we did find Cheohee Rd with S 710 painted beside it, so we took it.

Cheohee Road is a gravel road that winds down the mountain past thick masses of rhododendrons (and I mean THICK, THICK MASSES. I would love to drive down that road in the spring!) The directions said the trailhead would be 2.5 miles on the left. If what we found was that parking area, our odometer said 3.0.

Kelley took one look around the isolated area, and, failing to see a trailhead, said forget it. We headed back to 107 and parked in the small parking area just south of the Cherry Hill Campground entrance (the same area we parked in when we hiked Big Bend last fall.) The Winding Stair trail is adjacent to the south side of that parking area.

After hiking for about a half hour, we found ourselves at a junction that had absolutely no arrows that would help us determine which way to go. The trail to the left narrowed just feet from where we were and then seemed to disappear. The trail ahead dropped down a steep bank to a creek. Kelley walked down a few feet, peeked through the trees, and saw a trickle of water falling over rocks. Apparently, folks got tired of hiking around to the falls and made their own path. The trail to the right appeared to be the most likely path to that pitiful falls, so we took it. Fifteen minutes later, after failing to spot a blaze and hearing thunder moving toward us, we turned around. Once at the junction, we took the steep path down to the creek and drank Gatorade while admiring the iddy-bit of water cascading over those rocks. Beautiful!

We headed back to the car when the thunder grew louder, and made it shortly before the rain fell.

For those of you who can't remember:

Main Entry: Rain
Function: noun
1 a : water falling in drops condensed from vapor in the atmosphere

As that condensed vapor fell on the earth and lowered the temperature, we drove a couple miles north on 107, turned on Burrells Ford Road, and spent the next half hour waiting for the rain to end.

I checked ncwaterfalls.com for information on Kings Creek before we left, but since I had used sctrails.net for the Winding Stairs info, I printed their information for this hike instead of using Rich's directions. Mistake. We walked down the gated road (instead of the path right in front of our car), made a few turns, and ended up back in the parking lot.

And called it a day.

While we didn't hike the entire Winding Stairs trail, and failed to find Kings Creek Falls, we had a great time. For more information on Kings Creek, go to www.ncwaterfalls.com/kingcreek1.htm

Seriously. Use that link if you want to get there.

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