Hiking In Panthertown Valley

Lately, Wayne and Pam have been doing a lot of hiking in Panthertown Valley in the Nantahala National Forest in Western North Carolina. They’re intent on hiking not only all of the marked trails, but also all of the unmarked footpaths, including the faint ones. I’ve been able to join them recently on a couple of occasions. This post is a compilation of images with brief descriptions from those two hikes.

June 3rd, 2016. These large clusters of blooms, which I think are Rhododendron and Azalea, were side by side along the gravel road near where we had parked. After putting our packs on, we headed down the trail towards Greenland Creek Falls.

After reaching the falls, we climbed out on a large boulder and sat for a few minutes while we took some pictures. An unmarked path to the left leads to the top and then continues on towards Carlton Falls. It starts out steep, narrow, and has lots of roots. It was also wet, which made it very slippery. I gripped whatever handholds that I could find as I made my way up.

About halfway between Greenland Creek Falls and Carlton Falls are, well…the appropriately named Halfway Falls (first image). Even with low water volume, they were both still impressive and worth the effort it had taken to get there.

Eventually the trail opened up somewhat and leveled out a bit. After having hiked about 4 miles, we arrived at an area with lush grass. It made for a comfortable spot to eat our lunches and to take a little break. Afterwards, we turned around and began the hike back to our vehicle. Along the way we passed an unusual looking tree that had multiple trunks reaching skyward from the main trunk. We also passed through a section of trail where both of the sides were quite overgrown with brush. By the time that we were finished hiking for the day, we had logged 8.2 miles and had climbed about 1100 feet.

June 9th, 2016. Less than a week later we were back at Panthertown Valley and hiking on unmarked footpaths. This one led us to the top of Schoolhouse Falls, then followed the creek upstream for a while.

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Top of Schoolhouse Falls

The Mountain Laurel were still in bloom as evidenced by the cluster in the first image. The other flower is a Galax bloom. Galax is a low-growing plant with dark green leathery leaves that are rounded or even somewhat heart-shaped. Galax tend to have an unpleasant, musky scent.

Here we had climbed steeply up one side of Little Green Mountain, in search of the side trail that would lead us to the seemingly mythical Tranquility Point. Some of the trees at the top of the mountain appeared stunted, their growth being limited perhaps by their exposure to the elements.

After having actually found Tranquility Point (there was never any real doubt), we were rewarded with great views. Even on a bright sunny day, it really was a peaceful spot. We lingered here longer than normal, taking pictures and enjoying the breeze before beginning our descent.

Our descent brought us back to Schoolhouse Falls and to the pool at it’s base. I’ve been here several times recently, including this past winter. While the falls weren’t completely frozen then, there had been a number of long icicles hanging from the ledge and lots of solid ice underneath.

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Pool at the base of Schoolhouse Falls

From here, all that remained was the relatively short hike back to the trailhead. Our total mileage for this second day of hiking was 11.7 miles with about 1900 feet of elevation gain.

Wayne and Pam aren’t done marking trails and paths off their maps, so they’ll almost certainly be back. Hopefully I’ll be able to join them on more of their hikes.

 

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