Catawba Falls - Spot and me
Our hike to Catawba Falls was supposed to be short and simple. Catawba Falls, near Old Fort, is the headwaters of the Catawba River which offers water to many cities in North Carolina.
The first falls is easy to get to; the second one is difficult - you have to use a rope to get up there and then it's steep from there on.
Today's mission was to find an easier way to get up to the second falls. If any one could find it, it would be super bushwhacker, Dave Wetmore. Catawba Falls is now fully part of the Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather District.
When we parked at the end of the road, Margaret, the woman who lives in the last house, came out with a beautiful black lab. She told us that Spot - that was his name - leads hikers to the falls. Now if you've been following my hiking adventures, you know that I don't like dogs on trails. Most dogs are out of control, jump on strangers and bark without cause.
But Spot, now that was a hiker's dream dog. He is going to redeem me and turn me into a dog lover.
Dave accepted some snacks for Spot from Margaret and off we went on the trail. Spot just walked ahead, scampered back and forth and enjoyed the water. No barking, no jumping on me with wet paws.
The first falls are very easy to get to - about one flat mile. See the picture to the right of the first falls.
The second falls are another matter. First you have to climb up a steep incline, so steep that someone has put up a serious rope to get up there.
Then we climbed up hand over hand up a sidehill. We missed a left turn somehow and went way higher than the falls. I went up on my hands and knees and came down on my butt and ate a lot of dirt. But we didn't give up.
On the way down, we found the proper turn and got to the upper falls where we had lunch. Spot looked at us with a sad expression - give me some of your lunch, it said. That's when I took his picture. This was the only time he stopped moving. Finally I convinced Dave to give Spot some of his snacks.
We used the rope to climb down. See Dave coming down.
When we arrived back to the car, we found two U.S. Forest Service trucks and four employees getting out. They were surveying how they were going to build a larger visitor parking area. Margaret told them that on nice summer weekends, over 40 visitors try to park across from her house. She knew that the new parking lot was going to save her grass from being trampled on but she was wistful about losing all those visitors. Now she knows when hikers comes by and she invites them to take Spot. Once the new parking lot is built, she'll lose all contact. Maybe we ought to give her a volunteer uniform and have her rove the trail.
And for the easier way up to the second falls? No way. This is a very rocky, spot area and there's no other obvious path up there.