Sunday Hikes: Tom’s Creek Falls

Tom’s Creek Falls is located in the Pisgah National Forest north of Marion, North Carolina. The hike itself is very short at only one mile round trip with a flat gravel trail that is very easy to traverse (there were multiple people in wheelchairs on the trail when I went in March).

The trailhead is located a mile-ish off of highway 221 on a maintained dirt road. It was midday when we started our hike and thanks to the recent spring rains there were loads of wildflowers at the trailhead. And thanks to the first warm weekend of the year the small parking lot was full (Like 5 or 6 cars).

The trail starts flat and wanders through the woods for a bit before reaching a small stream. With the stream to our left the trail got a little steeper with a few easy switchbacks. After the switchbacks the trail straightened up and here is the first view of the waterfall. I was surprised when I first saw it, the 80 foot cascade pours off a cliff into a rounded and rocky area before draining away into a small stream.

The trail ends at somewhat of a split in the road, to the left is a wooden balcony with benches for viewing the waterfall, and to the right is a small hill that is probably twenty feet above the balcony and has a nice view of the waterfall. We went right and scrambled up the small hill and then down into the round and rocky area below the waterfall. From there we could not see or hear anyone and despite the trail having decent traffic it felt very secluded.

The Tom’s Creek Falls trail is a short and easy hike with a lot of reward! If you are ever in the area it is definitely worth the time.

 

Thanks – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Table Rock Mountain, North Carolina

Table Rock seems to be the go to name for any mountain with a flatish granite top. It seems like half the states have a Table Rock Mountain and all of them have incredible views! Perhaps one of the most popular and most beautiful is Table Rock Mountain in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. About two hours from Asheville, Table Rock rises 2,000 feet straight up from Linville Gorge with a squared off peak that makes it impossible to miss when driving towards the mountain. It is easy to see Table Rock’s 4,101 foot elevation on paper and dismiss it since that is not very high even for east coast standards but the views from the top rival any other mountain range in the country!

After camping in an awesome little campsite off of Forest Service Road 210 (the long dirt road that leads up to the trailhead), we woke up a bit late at 9am and made coffee before heading up to the trailhead about 1.5 miles away. The road is typically fairly well maintained but the recent hurricanes on North Carolina’s coast sent enough rain to wash out the roads in a few places and create somewhat rough conditions. It is certainly still driveable but be careful in low clearance and 2 wheel drive vehicles. The trailhead has a large parking lot to accommodate how many hikers and rock climbers come to this area. I think we saw more climbers than hikers here actually. We excitedly hit the trailhead with perfect weather and an eagerness for great views.

The trails length is a bit iffy because there are many side trails to explore and an open granite top to run around on but if you hike from trailhead to where the trail ends and the mountaintop opens up then the trail is about 1.2 miles round trip. The trail is steep, slippery, and a steady incline but it is still a relatively easy trail thanks to the short distance.

Driving up the steep road I saw sneak peeks of the great views to come through the trees. The first opportunity for a view unencumbered by trees is made possible by a large rock sticking out from the trail that looks out on the Linville Gorge. Even from here (about halfway up the trail to the top) the views are amazing and make this mountain feel huge!

From here the trail continues steeply through the trees with long switchbacks and rocky steps. Soon the trail goes through two tall rocks and up some more before a split about halfway through that will take you up and right to the summit or down and left to some great rock climbing spots and is part of the Mountains-to-Sea through hiking trail.

After some more swithbacks through some dense rhododendrons the views start to really open up to the west and soon we created the peak of the mountain where there is the foundations of an old rock house that once stood at the summit.

There are many bushes on the large flat peak of Table Rock with chunks of granite poking out and giving way to incredible views. To the north is Hawksbill mountain and a thick forest.

To the west and south west is Linville Gorge plummeting down and in the distance clouds shrouded the black mountain range and Mt Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern US.

To the south is Shortoff Mountain and Lake James.

And to the east is the flat North Carolina country that seems so far down if you fell you’d never land (don’t test that).

In every direction the views are breathtaking and worth a long while to take in and enjoy. We found a nice spot to sit down and brew some coffee and enjoy the beautiful day and beautiful views around us. We sipped our coffee and explore the top of the mountain a bit longer before deciding it was time to hear back. On our way back we ran into a friendly older man who knew everything there was about these mountains and just had to share it. He asked if we knew about the “stack rock cave” and when we said no he told us to follow him. So we did. He took us back down the trail and just after the two tall rocks we followed him somewhat warily through the brush and scrambled up a small rocky cliff and at the top was indeed a cave created by two pillars of rock that was layered making it a “stack rock cave”.

The views were very cool from here and despite the somewhat sudden and weird nature of us finding out about this place we were grateful to this guy for sharing his knowledge with us. After chatting with him a bit we headed back down to the trail head to eat our lunch. We made sandwiches in the car and then headed back down for Asheville and eventually home wishing we were still on the mountain.

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Great Smoky Mountains Elk

Elk were reintroduced to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001 after 300 years of an elkless east coast. On our last trip up to the Smokies we were lucky enough to catch some elk grazing in a field in the Cataloochee Valley!

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes:  The Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail

The Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail is the only way to see the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  This is an old growth forest, which is unfortunately very rare in this area, with trees that are up to 450 years old.  The massive tulip-poplars can be up to 20 feet in circumference.

We drove up from the Atlanta area and passed through the small town of Robbinsville, North Carolina as we neared our destination.  We set up camp at Horse Cove Campground which is within walking distance of the trailhead parking area for the Joyce Kilmer forest.  The trail is a series of two loops forming sort of a messy figure eight.  There had been a fire in the area somewhat recently so part of the first loop was closed while we were here.  



We took the path across the stream and followed a slight incline for about half a mile through several patches of wild rhododendrons until we arrived at the nexus of the two loops.  The extremely large tulip-poplars are concentrated in this area and are strikingly huge.  This is an all hardwood forest in this area.  The shorter second loop took us a while to complete as we took pictures and discussed which tree we thought was the largest.


We then returned back the way we came and quickly arrived back at the parking area.   The trail is normally about 2 miles in length but since one part of the first loop was closed, we actually went about 1.75 miles.   

This trail was very enjoyable and easy to complete.  I would think that these may be the largest trees in any concentration on the east coast.   There is a lot of other outdoor activities in this area as well as being only about 45 minutes from the Cherokee entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As always, thanks for reading.  rk

My Favorite Coffee Roasters

A while ago I wrote a blog about my favorite coffee shops that I’ve been to while traveling but some of my favorite coffees come from roasters that don’t have their own shops or that I haven’t been lucky enough to go to yet. So here is my list of my five favorite coffee roasters I’ve had so far. 

     1. Counter Culture Coffee

     Calling home Raleigh, North Carolina, Counter Culture is very popular in the southeast. A good bit of the coffee shops in Atlanta carry Counter Culture and so it is my go to roaster and I get to try most of their available coffees. Counter Culture consistently roasts delicious single origin coffees and I never have to worry about getting a coffee I may not like from them because they are dedicated to sourcing and producing quality coffee that supports the farmers and helps them to farm the best coffee possible. If I had to choose only one coffee roaster to drink the rest of my life it would be Counter Culture Coffee. 


The two bags of Counter Culture I have right now (the one on the left is getting kind of old)

     2. Dapper & Wise 

     Located in the hipster Mecca of Portland, Oregon, Dapper & Wise is not only dedicated to making the tastiest coffee possible they’re also hilarious (just watch some of their Instagram videos and you’ll see). I first had Dapper & Wise a couple years ago when I received a sample pack for my birthday. Ever since then I have been in love with their roasts and even have a couple bags in the mail coming to me right now. 


One of Dapper&Wise’s shop locations

     3. Crema Coffee Roasters

     If you are ever in Nashville and can’t decide on a coffee shop then i’ll go ahead and decide for you. Go to Crema. I have been to most every shop in the city and Crema is easily my favorite. Not only do they have a dope shop but they roast their own coffee and they do it well. They care about the quality of their coffee and it reflects in the delicious roasts they produce. 


Crema’s delicious Ethiopia Sidamo that I bought last week (it’s almost gone)

     4. Intelligentsia Coffee

     Starting in San Francisco and then moving to Chicago and now with 10 shops in LA, Chicago, and New York City. Intelligentsia has been around for 21 years and with two decades of roasting experience you’d hope their coffee is good by now. And it really is. There is a reason they are one of the biggest names in specialty coffee and have so many locations across the country and it’s because they cook some tasty beans. 


Enjoying some Intelligentsia at the beach

     5. Cartel Coffee Lab 

     The last entry to this list and the second that was also on my favorite coffee shops list, Cartel populates the Grand Canyon State with 6 shops and they roast probably the best coffee in the state. Like the other entries Cartel cares about quality and sourcing and it shows through their coffees. My favorite coffee I’ve had from them was a honey processed El Salvador! 


My Cartel mug that is now broken 😦

– Josh