Jocassee can be many things. Beginning paddlers can hang close to the bank and still get to some cool geological features and small waterfalls. Intermediate paddlers and venture further up to Wright Creek Falls and the Thompson River and Whitewater River areas. Experienced paddlers can take longer trips across open water to the Horsepasture and Toxaway arms of the lake. Regardless of the route taken, conditions on the lake can change in an instance, turning a leisurely paddle into a real challenge. That was really born out on my most recent trip to the lake.
I wasn’t really planning to do a waterfall excursion. Truth be told, I didn’t really have anything planned. Laura was away at her sister’s, so I had Saturday available for a solo outing. My only real thoughts were to head up to Sassafras Mountain and check out the new overlook, then just see where things went from there. Turns out it was a perfect day for catching waterfalls.
I started out early, taking 276 to Highway 11, and from there over to Highway 178. There were some low clouds giving way to clear skies, with fog hanging where those clouds touched the mountains. Table Rock was shrouded, so I didn’t pause for any photos there. On Highway 178 I got to Bob’s Place, and on a whim turned down toward the Estatoe Valley, heading toward Twin Falls.
I have long dreamed of paddling Cascade Lake in North Carolina. The lake is in a beautiful setting in the mountains of North Carolina in the Dupont State Forest. Unfortunately, the only access I was aware of was the dirt road that ran along the west shore. There was no public access on that side, so it seemed that the lake was off-limits. Then my friends Lisa and Sherry posted photos that their paddling group had taken on a recent trip. They paddled from Cascade Lake Campground on the eastern shore of the lake up to Hooker Falls. I knew I had to give it a try.
For this particular trip I was joined by Brian Goess. When we started out the weather looked iffy, and at one point sporadic rain drops hit the windshield of the truck. As we drove north toward Hendersonville, though, the weather cleared, and it looked like it was going to be a spectacular day.
We found the campground with no trouble. I was pretty familiar with the area, so it was just a matter of watching for the signs. We pulled in and were directed to the camp store to purchase a day pass.
The folks running the place seemed to be very friendly. In fact, everyone we encountered was pleasant – campers and employees alike. The place was jam-packed and every camping slot filled for the holiday weekend, but we were able to get a day pass and were assigned a parking spot near the boat ramp.
And so it was only two of us left. Chip had to get back to family, and Stephen had to get back to church. Houston and I got up, had a quick breakfast, then packed up the mountain of remaining food and gear into our trucks. At the Devil’s Fork State Park store we checked out and each bought souvenirs. We both bought copies of Claudia Hembree’s “Jocassee Valley” book, and I bought two more stickers for my kayak.
Sometimes after weekend like this it’s nice to step back and do an overview. We decided to do that quite literally. We left the park and headed up Highway 130 toward the Bad Creek Project. We had taken Laura’s mom up here for a picnic sometime back, and it has fantastic views of Lake Jocassee. This time, on our way up, we encountered a family of turkeys.
At the overlook itself we had clear views of the places we had paddled the day before. We could see where the Whitewater River enters the lake, and even had a view of the Lower Falls. We could also see where we had stopped for lunch and other places along our paddle route.
As we suspected, after our long haul we were not going to be up for a late-night trip. Our nephew, Chip, joined us after work, and we set about the task of putting together dinner. It seems that each of us had brought enough snacks for all of us. There was more food than the four of us could possibly eat. Stephen had prepared venison spaghetti for us, and we followed that up sitting out on the deck of the villa telling family tales and enjoying the evening in general.
The next morning we took our time getting started. We fixed a huge breakfast with grits, eggs, bacon, toast, and more venison, this time in sausage format. It looked a little off-putting, but tasted fine.
With such a gluttonous start, it was hard to imagine another paddling trip, but we headed out anyway. Stephen, Houston, and I walked down to where our boats were chained and set out. We would meet Chip at the boat ramp, where he would have his boat and the rest of our gear for the day.
…or “Becoming One with the Water”
Houston and I got up early, thinking we might do an early paddle. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating. It started pouring, and I kept checking the weather radar app on my phone. It looked like it was going to clear up soon, though, and it did.
Stephen got an early start and met us at the villa. After greetings, pleasantries, and settling in, we were anxious to get on the water. We decided that rather than dragging the boats down the trail to the beach, we would toss them on Houston’s truck and drive around to the boat ramp reserved for the villas.
Down at the ramp we readied the boats, as low clouds hung over the mountains to the north.
For this trip we decided to do a route Houston had done before, and I had done several times. We were ging to paddle up to Wright Creek Falls first, then see where we could go from there. The weather was still iffy, so I didn’t know how far we might make it.
Out on the lake there were loons – and not just the ones in kayaks. There was the distinctive loon call, and the birds proved themselves to be amazing divers. Stephen and Houston thought one had drowned given the amount of time it was under.
Memorial Day Weekend is always the pits, at least as far as Furman is concerned. This weekend is particularly bad. Laura has to give exams both Saturday morning and Monday morning. When she’s not giving the tests, she will be busy grading them. With Furman going onto a semester system next year, this is the last time that Memorial Day will be messed up.
Even knowing that she wouldn’t be available for exploration, I got my household chores done ahead of time this week during the evenings so that I could head out and explore this weekend. I had planned to do a bit of geocaching, but I put that on hold to take a few photos.
My first target was Freedom Weekend Aloft. Last year I stumbled onto a balloon launch from a parking lot and was able to get some great shots. I was hoping for the same this year, but I was afraid the brisk winds this morning would keep the balloons grounded. Either my fears were confirmed, or I had missed the schedule. There were no balloons to be seen. Therefore, I headed north to look for some waterfalls.