Category: Waterfalls

Grayson Highlands State Park

Tuesday, October 18, 2021

Preparing for the trip to Grayson Highlands, I turned on the propane and started the refrigerator in the Airstream. Luckily, I went back for something and smelled smoke. Checking the refrigerator vent, I saw smoke coming out and quickly turned it off. I already have a leaking water tank – now what? A couple of hours later I turned it back on with the same result – smoking. OK, without fresh water or a refrigerator, what should we do? We decided to load the groceries in my big Pelican cooler and carry a case of bottled water. We might have been OK without water, because the campground has full hookups, but they have cut off the water at campsites due to drought.

I read up on a smoking refrigerator on Airforums, and there were several suggestions. One was to blow out the tube leading to the stack. Two – clean the stack by banging on it. Three – remove the refrigerator and clean the stack. Four – buy a new refrigerator for $1,500 – $2,000. Before leaving at 10:00, I blew out the tube with canned air. Three stink bugs came out. The refrigerator would not work on electric, so I opened the cover to the circuit board and removed 15 more stink bugs! Still wouldn’t work on electric, so I changed a small glass fuse. Still didn’t work on electric. I banged on the stack and more stink bugs fell out. I think the smoke was coming from roasted stink bugs. I then fired up the refrigerator on propane – no smoke 😀. I didn’t want to travel four hours with it on, so I turned it off and would fire it back up when we got there, keeping a close eye on it.

Description

Elevation: 3853 ft.

The extensive 4800-acre Grayson Highlands State Park provides any nature enthusiast premier wildlife watching potential within the mountain range home to Virginia’s highest peak, Mount Rogers. The park offers camping, picnicking, overnight horse stables, a visitor center, hiking trails, and access to the Appalachian Trail. The Rhododendron Trail can be accessed from Massie Gap in the park. Hiking along the summit of Wilburn Ridge can produce spectacular cliffside views. This trail connects to the Rhododendron Trail. The Rhododendron Trail then forks to lead into either the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail or the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Rogers (not accessible by horses).
Habitats within the park range from open meadows, northern hardwoods, rocky outcrops, rhododendron thickets, sphagnum bogs, grazed pastures, Fraser fir groves, and red spruce forests. Nine trails originate within the park, but several of these connect to the extensive trail networks of Mount Rogers National Recreational Area and the Appalachian Trail. Mountain hikers should note that the least strenuous and shortest hiking trail, at 4.2 miles to the summit of Mount Rogers, originates at Massie Gap within this park. Sullivan’s Swamp can be accessed from Massie Gap, as well. This rhododendron bog holds many unique treasures, occasionally including alder and willow flycatchers.
Wildlife watching in this park can be rewarding any time of the year. In addition to eastern hardwood breeders such as wood thrush, ovenbird and black-and-white warbler, in summer, visitors can look for nesting songbirds typical of high-elevation forests, such as black-throated blue, black-throated green, Canada, and chestnut-sided warblers, as well as scarlet tanager and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Spring and fall visits can produce a copious number of migratory warblers, thrushes, and vireos. This park is also home to a large diversity of other wildlife as well. Visitors should keep an eye out for black bear, bobcat, red fox, ruffed grouse, deer, and wild turkey. Salamanders can be plentiful, and this is one of the few regions where Weller’s salamander can be found.

We met our friends, Ruff and Sandra, Tuesday afternoon for a three-night stay in Grayson Highlands. They have a new camper, and were worried about pulling it up the mountain with their Honda Pilot, but they had no trouble. We enjoyed an evening by the fire catching up on the latest happenings.

Each morning I went down to the overlook for sunrise. With colors about peak, it was beautiful.

Martha and I hiked the Cabin Creek Trail the first morning. It is listed as strenuous, but really isn’t too bad unless you hike up Cabin Creek, which we did. This section of Cabin Creek is a tremendous series of waterfalls, all of which are pretty.

The next day we all hiked up Massie’s Gap Trail to see the ponies that remain wild here. We then walked up the Appalachian Trail south to the park boundary. A ranger at check-in said we would find horses there, and sure enough, three were there. A photographer was coming down and said there was a great overlook ahead, but it was socked in with fog. I love fog, as it often makes cool pictures, but I have recently had a fog overdose.

Sunrise at the overlook the next morning was cool with the clouds.

Martha’s chicken black beans and rice skillet dinner
Campground store
Shower house and Pepsi
Wayne Henderson is a highly sought-after guitar maker lives nearby
Visitor’s Center
Visitor’s Centter

We have barely scratched the surface of Grayson Highlands and will surely return. Happily, the refrigerator worked fine on propane, although not on electric. It might require a new circuit board, but I’ll read more on Airforums.

Sandstone Falls

Sunday, October 9, 2021

I am on a photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky at https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com. We were rained out from a shoot of Sandstone Falls earlier in the week, so Mark suggested I go by there on my way home. We have had a great week, seeing some spectacular places and kicking my photography up a notch. I have a list of things to order when I get home, but first to see Sandstone Falls near Hinton, West Virginia.

From:https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/the-sandstone-falls.htm:

The largest waterfall on the New River, Sandstone Falls spans the river where it is 1500 feet wide. Divided by a series of islands, the river drops 10 to 25 feet.

Sandstone Falls marks the transition zone of the New River from a broad river of large bottomlands, to a narrow mountain river roaring through a deep boulder strewn V- shaped gorge. The falls form the dramatic starting line for the New Rivers final rush trough the New River Gorge to its confluence with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River.

Your journey to view the falls will require some driving time, but it will take you along two of the park’s most scenic roads, Route 20 from I-64 at the community of Sandstone, ten miles upstream to the town of Hinton, then downstream eight miles along River Road, the park’s only scenic riverside drive. Both these routes offer several overlooks, historic sites, natural areas, trails, and river access points.

Most visitors will find the best starting point for their journey to Sandstone Falls at the Sandstone Visitor Center at the Sandstone exit 139 on I-64. The Visitor Center has excellent exhibits on the New River watershed, water resources, and natural and cultural history of the upper New River Gorge, plus park maps and information.

As you drive south, high above the river on Route 20 to Hinton you will pass two park vistas. The Sandstone Falls Overlook provides an aerial view of the falls from 600 feet above the river. Brooks Overlook looks down on the mile-long Brooks Island, a perennial bald eagle nesting site.

Hinton is the southern gateway to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. A once booming railroad center, the town has a large historic district, railroad museum, antique shops, and restaurants.

After crossing the bridge at Hinton you will begin driving alongside the New River down River Road. There are great riverside vistas, several river access points, a trail, picnic area and small boardwalk view at Brooks Falls, a powerful Class III rapid. The journey ends at the Sandstone Falls day use area, where you begin your walk along the boardwalk and bridges that span the two islands below the falls.

For some reason geese seem to love rapids. Several times I have seen them frolicking in the rapids, taking baths, eating something from the bottom. Mallard ducks were in with this group, and seemed quite happy. I could have photographed the geese all day, but it was time to get home. Many thanks to Mark for all the work, research, scouting and teaching. His tremendous enthusiasm is contagious.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia

Friday, October 8, 2021

I am on a great photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) touring some of the best places in West Virginia. Babcock State Park is another great park in West Virginia encompassing 4,700 acres and abuts the New River National Park. With miles of hiking trails, cabins, campgrounds, a lake, swimming and sports facilities, it has a lot to offer. The major photographic attraction is Glade Creek Grist Mill, “one of the most photographed images in the world.” (https://wvstateparks.com/glade-creek-grist-mill-babcock/).

Patchwork quilt of mills

Milling is an occupation that died in the 1950s but nostalgia brought it back. The Glade Creek Grist Mill, built in 1976, serves as tribute to the hundreds of mills that once dotted the landscape in West Virginia. 

It’s a replica of the original Cooper’s Mill that was located nearby, according to Stephen Tyree, the miller at Glade Creek.

“It’s the most photographed mill in the United States and it’s world renowned,” Tyree said, noting that the mill receives thousands of visitors each year from as far away as Europe and Asia.

Although it’s a relatively new mill, Glade Creek is a patchwork quilt of sorts, built with parts salvaged from much older mills that had ceased operation. Its main structure came from Stoney Creek Grist Mill in Pocahontas County, the water wheel came from Spring Run Grist Mill in Grant County and other parts came from Onego Grist Mill in Pendleton County.

Learning by doing

Tyree began working at the mill as a college student. He had applied to be the park naturalist but jumped when he was offered the job as miller. Having no experience was no deterrent for the determined man.

“I learned by doing,” he said. He ordered a textbook to use as a guide as he learned his way around operating the mill, and he’s happy to share his knowledge with the guests at Babcock.

The milling process begins by pouring dried, shelled corn into the hopper—the receptacle above the grindstone. Outside, a sluice gate controls the water flow from Glade Creek, turning the water wheel and setting in motion the gears that operate the 900 lb. grindstone. As the ground corn falls from the grain spout it’s filtered through a mesh screen, where the miller or his assistants use a bolting hammer to separate out the cornmeal.

But there’s one more step. Even if the customer brought his or her own corn to grind, the miller gets his cut. 

“This is his toll,” Tyree said, brandishing a flat wooden paddle and raking it through the cornmeal. Whatever amount fits on the paddle—typically 8% to 10% of the haul—he gets to keep as his charge for grinding the corn.

If customers didn’t bring their own corn, they could still buy cornmeal from the mill, he added. But in these instances, money rarely changed hands. 

“Back in the olden days, most people bartered because they didn’t have money,” Tyree said. “They’d trade milk, butter, eggs, vegetables, nails, lumber … whatever they had, for a sack of cornmeal.” (https://wvstateparks.com/glade-creek-grist-mill-babcock/)

We visited this area twice, once in the evening, and then the next morning. Mark hurried us along for the morning shoot. Although it was still too dark to shoot, I hurried along, and I realized why. Being such a popular spot for photographers, they were soon lined up. I was having trouble keeping my camera steady as I tilted it over to get a vertical shot. Mark had been telling me I needed a more stable tripod and ball head. Now I could see why. Yesterday, I had knocked my lens back to proper shape after dropping it at Cooper’s Rock. I broke my lens hood and dented the area where you screw on a filter, and a filter was an essential item for this shoot. After hammering, I was able to restore its circular shape, but I spilled some crud from my tools onto the lens. If I wiped it off, I would scratch the glass. I tried to blow it off, but that didn’t work well either, so I ran it under water. I was able to safely clean the lens, but now there was some condensation on the lens. Apparently some water got inside the lens. Fortunately, Kevin was using a Nikon camera, and he graciously lent me his lens after he finished. Whew! I then got out of the way, so others could get their shots.

Elakala Falls in Blackwater Falls State Park

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Someone told us to go to Elakala Falls, so we did. It’s a short, but treacherous, slippery walk down to the pretty falls. Another photography workshop was scattered all over the rocks, their mentor moving around to help each.

The Elakala Falls are a series of four waterfalls of Shays Run[2] as it descends into the Blackwater Canyon in West Virginia. They are within Blackwater Falls State Park[3] and are quite popular among photographers, with the ease of access for the first waterfall, and the relatively low traffic of the other waterfalls in the series.[4]: 219  The first of the series of waterfalls is 35 feet (11 m) in height and is easily accessible from park trails. It is the second most popular waterfall in the park.[1] From the official Elakala trail there is a bridge over the top of the first waterfall offering easy access and views.[4]: 219  The remaining three waterfalls of the series are progressively more difficult to access, and have no official marked trails to them.[1] The gorge is nearly 200 feet deep at this section accounting for the difficulty of the descent to the lower waterfalls of the series. From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elakala_Falls.

Valley Falls State Park, West Virginia

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

I am on a photography workshop with my friend Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) touring and photographing some of the most scenic places in West Virginia.

Once the site of a lumber and grist mill community, Valley Falls State Park is a place of scenic beauty and historical significance. A series of four picturesque falls created by the dark, rushing waters of the Tygart Valley River distinguish this 1,145-acre park. In addition to its scenic charm, Valley Falls State Park offers miles of hiking and biking trails and fishing. The day-use park gates open at 7 a.m. and close at dark. From: https://wvstateparks.com/park/valley-falls-state-park/

From Google Maps
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