Phenomenal hike: Jones Falls and Elk Falls

I have experienced cabin fever this winter for the first time in my adult life. With temperatures sometimes as low as the single digits, Jason and I spent a lot of time indoors. This winter was definitely a change from what I’m used to as A Florida girl.

The last true hike we took was in September. That seems like forever ago, especially when we were used to going out at least once a week.

With Jason having the day off and the temperatures rising to the high 50’s, we laced up our shoes, put on a few layers and packed a few more and went for a drive. That drive took us to North Carolina.

IMG_1154As soon as Jason parked the car, I got out and walked towards the water. The sky was blue with a chill in the air. The sound of rushing water instantly grabbed a hold of me and reminded me why we decided to move to NE Tennessee. It had definitely been too long since we heard that sound.

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This is the beginning of Elk Falls in North Carolina. The parking lot sits alongside the water, which eventually turns into Elk Falls.

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IMG_1158Instead of heading straight towards Elk Falls, we decided to hit the trails and hike towards Jones Falls.

In order to get to Jones Falls, we had to walk  behind a gate in the parking lot area. This trail opens rather wide for a while and at times becomes hilly.

IMG_1159Once we started walking along the path, I remembered why I loved the hike to Jones Falls so much.

About a half a mile later, the trail opened to a river. We continued walking along the river on a narrow trail that was quite muddy in some places today.

The views, the sounds, what more could you ask for.

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IMG_1217We eventually caught up with the Appalachian Trail, which is marked by white blazes on the tree.

IMG_1172I love this hike because you start hiking in North Carolina and end up in Tennessee. We crossed the state line by foot.

IMG_1207When we saw the blue blazes, we knew we had to take that trail to get to Jones Falls.

I loved walking the trail. There was so much green everywhere, something we haven’t been used to since winter came. We even saw trees starting to blossom, which I have to admit made me smile.

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IMG_1222We started to hear Jones Falls and eventually saw it from a distance. It looked like there was ice, but we weren’t sure until we got closer to it . . .

I think both of our jaws dropped as Jones Falls came into sight. Wow, also left our lips. We couldn’t believe all the ice and snow  . . . a wish definitely came true today. Jason and I have been wanting to hike to a waterfall since winter hit, but don’t really have the proper winter gear. We wanted to experience the frozen waterfalls in person . . .

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IMG_1180The temperature dropped quite a bit as we came closer to Jones Falls. It was nice at first because we were both warm from the hike to the waterfall.

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IMG_1188As I was mesmerized by the view, listening to the incredible sound, Jason found a trail that went up towards the top of the waterfall. Yep, I of course went up to join him. Well, he came back down to help guide me. It was steep in some places and slippery. Jason of course helped me.

The site was even better than below. The temperatures were even colder than below. With that said, it was worth the hike up.

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There was a break in some of the ice and you could see the water running below.

IMG_1205After our bodies had enough of the cold, we headed back down the trail to grab our backpack and headed back. Jason packed us some sandwiches, which we stopped and ate where the sun was shinning, so we could soak up the warmth.

Before we starting walking again, I gave Jason a kiss. I was outdoors with the man I love. I was beyond happy . . .

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Of course on our way back we headed off the trail and found a new place to play.

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Some things just don’t change, I found a rock and sat down and took in the sound. Jason, on the other hand, found some rocks that he could skip in the water.

Now back in North Carolina we headed towards Elk Falls. As you hike down the path, there is a place where you can walk out on the rocks and view the waterfall from the top. This is always a great place to see a waterfall. The rushing water is powerful at this view.

Jason walked out closer to the edge and sat down for a while right over the waterfall.

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By the time we made it to Elk Falls it was getting colder, so we didn’t stay for long. Last time we stopped here there were a ton of people swimming in the water and sun bathing on the rocks. This time we had the view all to ourselves.

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My mind instantly went to a different place as I sat and watched the water hitting the pool of water below.

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IMG_1253Today was absolutely perfect. A perfect day with Jason. Really, I could not ask for anything more. We were both in our element once again.

IMG_1237My mind is completely clear and the stress was left along the trail.

Fresh air, the sounds of nature and your best friend by your side does wonders. It felt good to smile all day long. It felt good to be outdoors for a few hours today.

Red Fork Falls

Our last hike for the day led us to Red Fork Falls in Unicoi County, Tennessee. This was by far the best hike of the day, a little more adventurous and one that got your heart pumping a little more.

We got off at exit 32 on 1-26, and headed towards Unicoi, Tennessee. The trailhead for the waterfall was located off of Red Fork Road and was marked with a large red circle on a tree.

According to the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce website, the waterfall, which is 80 feet high, is located in the Limestone Cove Community.

IMG_0344There was quite a bit of climbing involved in this hike, either on rocks or on tree roots located on the path. I’m starting to become good at seeing the hand and foot holes when climbing up and down rocks.

We crossed two creek beds before we found ourselves along the top of the waterfall. This is when we found many places that gave us plenty of opportunities to get a view of the cascading water.

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Thank goodness for digital camera’s, everything was worthy of a photograph at this waterfall.

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And the hike continued, so we could get a better view.

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IMG_0356Until we saw the water plummet over the edge.

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It became prettier the more we hiked down the trail.

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IMG_0361It always amazes me to see where all the water flows, especially when it cascades down such beautiful rock formations.

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A beautiful waterfall . . .

IMG_0365The best part about this waterfall is the water kept going, which made us want to follow the trail.

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IMG_0373We climbed out on the rock ledge at many points, so we could get the full impact of this beautiful waterfall.

IMG_0374Although it was all stunning, I have to say the pictures below are some of my favorites of the day.

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IMG_0378We wanted to head further down the trail to see more of the water that we were hearing, but the trails were not clearly marked and it was getting late. We will just have to visit this waterfall again.

On our hike back up the trail, we stopped for yet another view of the bottom of the waterfall.

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IMG_0381Before heading back out the trail, we ran into a local who said he has visited the falls since he was 4 years old. He said the waterfall was the driest he has ever seen it, which only makes me want to go back and see it again.

The Cherokee National Forest, an incredible place to be!

Another great day out in nature with Jason. We have had so many incredible adventures as we seek out more waterfalls to add to our list of ones we have seen.

Sill Branch Falls

Our second afternoon adventure led us to Sill Branch Falls, which was along the same road as Pine Ridge Falls on Clark’s Creek Road. This road was found off of Highway 107 in Unicoi County, Tennessee. The trailhead was right off the side of the road.

IMG_0277There were two trailhead signs right off the parking area. There were also signs every where warning us of bear activity. The trail, which led us to the waterfall was Sill Branch North.

IMG_0289This path, although uphill at certain sections, was not difficult to hike. Jason and I found ourselves going off the path down towards the creek, where there was more to see.

IMG_0279Every view we saw was breathtaking.

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Every time we got back on the path, we headed back down towards the water again. This is always where our adventures begin, always were the most fun is had.

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The pictures below is where we spent a lot of our time Monday afternoon.

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IMG_0306 After a while we got back on the main trail, which took us directly to Sill Branch Falls, a beautiful waterfall.

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As I sat and admired the view, the thought of “I wonder what it looks like after a good rainfall” crossed my mind. When Jason and I first started going to all the waterfalls at the start of the summer, it was always after a good rain.

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The trees in the Cherokee National Forest kept tugging at my attention today while Jason was exploring. Everything is so green, so tall over our heads.

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Our hike also included some critters, some creepy crawlers . . . reminding us that you can never be too careful while out hiking.

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I have to admit I stood back aways while Jason took a picture of the timber rattler, I’m not a big fan.

Overall it was a fairly easy hike to the waterfall, one that offered plenty of rocks at the bottom of the falls to sit and enjoy the view.

The GPS coordinates for the Sill Branch Falls parking area, which we plugged into our Garmin were: N 36° 7.812′, W 082°  32.156′.

Pine Ridge Falls

Pine Ridge Falls, in Unicoi County, Tennessee was our first adventure of the day. This Longarm Branch trailhead, which is in the Cherokee National Forest, was located off of Clark’s Creek Road, which we found off of Highway 107.

IMG_0276The hike was not bad at all, although we had to watch where we stepped because it is also used by horses.

IMG_0275It was a pretty trail nonetheless and a rather short one to our destination.

IMG_0274There was one creek crossing along the trail, which again was pretty simple to get to the other side due to the low water.

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After we walked across the creek there is an opening in the trail where you can head straight or turn left. Make sure you turn left, this is the path that leads to the waterfall. Shortly after we continued our hike in that direction, we started to hear the water.

IMG_0231We of course followed many trails that led us to the creek along the main path, which provided us with some incredible views and sounds of the water.

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The waterfall was our next destination. We were able to climb directly in front of it, which is always fun.

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After we sit and admire the waterfall, Jason and I always climb to see where the water flows from. Every time we find more incredible views. The pictures below are from the top of the waterfall. It’s always neat to get that perspective.

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Today was another great day in the Cherokee National Forest. It was another beautiful waterfall that we will add to our growing list of ones we have seen. Each waterfall has its own personality, its own unique characteristics, making them all beautiful in their own way.

The GPS coordinates for the Pine Ridge Falls parking area, which we plugged into our Garmin were: N 36° 7.518′, W 082°  32.264′.

The smiles continue

Yesterday still has me smiling … I can still see the beautiful scenery we saw as vividly as if we were still standing in front of it all.

I have a new found love for nature, one that grows more every time my foot hits a new, or old path, Jason and I have traveled.

There was just something about yesterday …

The rain started coming down above almost instantly after we started our hike yesterday. Jason gave me the option of going back to the car and sitting it out for a while, which I won’t lie, sounded like a good idea. The look in his eyes, those beautiful green eyes, I couldn’t say no to, so we kept going. What’s an adventure without dealing with the elements right? At first the rain was cold and puddles were growing on our path … but within time the only drops we felt were falling from the trees as the wind began to blow.

It’s funny what stands out while you are in your own thoughts taking in the surroundings. I remember a cluster of red leaves laying on the ground as we started to descend down the never ending rock stairs. Jason laughed because he knows we would never get to our destination, or beyond for that matter, if I stopped and took pictures of everything. Now I see everything as a picture, something I have to capture, so I can relive that moment.

You develop this new appreciation for nature as you hike through the wilderness.

Something as beautiful as a spider web with the light shining through, a rock laying nearby, the water flowing through the creek or roots that make up the beauty of the base of a tree catches my eye more and more.

The fresh smell after the rain, the breeze that hits your face as you near a waterfall, the instant jolt of cold that starts at your toes and travels to your fingertips when you step in the water and the calmness that takes a hold of you when you see the pure beauty with your own eyes of what mother nature has done …

This is why I feel rejuvenated during and after our hikes.

In addition to all of that, an intensified love for Jason grows as he helps me overcome my fear of heights every time we go out. His patience and understanding of when that fear leaves me motionless is overwhelming. When I reach a certain spot that looks sketchy, it’s hard to move on … I don’t want to make that move and fall. It’s the gentleness of his voice, the extended hand that I grab a hold of, or the guidance of where to put my hands and feet, so I don’t fall … and that look, the look of encouragement, that look that “I can do it,” makes me soar beyond what I think I am capable of doing. The embrace he gives after the fact and the emotion filled remarks instantly grabs a hold of my heart. I am one lucky girl to have a man like this.

Hiking cleanses my soul and fills my heart with so much happiness.

Jason and I share endless smiles as we explore together. Every adventure only brings us closer, only provides us with endless memories of what we shared.

I cannot stop smiling today … I’m happy, I have an amazing life, one that only gets better as the days go by.

I am fortunate to have found the love of my life for the second time … and I am overjoyed that we live in a place that affords us so many breathtaking views that we can get up close and personal with.

Laurel Falls, an anniversary hike

Jason and I went back to Laurel Falls today, which is located in the Cherokee National Forest (Pond Mountain Wilderness) in Hampton, Tennessee. It was truly a perfect day, a great way to celebrate us being together for four years.

Although the rain came down as we started our hike, we kept going. I’m so glad we did, the rain stopped and our adventure continued.

After hiking about a mile down the trail, it turns into rocks, well stairs almost, that you have to hike down to get to the waterfall.

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The hike up is always a little more rigiourous than the one heading down to the falls.

This beautiful waterfall is 40 feet high and 50 feet wide. The first time we hiked to Laurel Falls it was after a good rain and the water was pouring down the rocks. This time it was completely different.

Laurel Falls, Sept. 9

Laurel Falls, Sept. 9, 2013

Laurel Falls,  July 22, 2013

Laurel Falls, July 22, 2013

The sound of the waterfall was completely different today, but with that said, it was still incredible to see again.

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IMG_0222Since there was not as much water at the bottom of the waterfall today, we made our way across to the other side to see yet another perspective of the waterfall.

IMG_0226We then made our way out into the middle and stood directly in front of it. The water was cold, but it felt great.It’s always a rush to get directly in front of a waterfall. This is where you feel and hear the power of it all. There is no other sound quite like it, no other sound that gives you that sense of calmness.

Now this is where the fun began. The last time we were here in July, a couple of guys who were camping, showed Jason a trail that went directly up. That trail starts alongside the waterfall. Well today was the day, today I climbed up this trail on all four’s at a few points until Jason and I reached the part that became a little more even alongside the waterfall.

IMG_0220This is looking down the trail from top, which really doesn’t give it justice . . .

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Jason and walked out onto some of the rocks at the top of the waterfall and watched where it all accumulated before falling down the front of the rocks. This was a rush, an absolute rush.

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The picture above and below, was my favorite view of the day. It was stunning to see how the water hollowed out part of the rock. Jason and I both agree, that is definitely something you want to see in person.

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I still cannot get over the hike we did to get there. I have to admit my heart started pumping as the trail became narrow and I looked over the ledge and saw how far up we were. That’s where Jason came in, he sensed when I needed a little encouragement, he became my strength and I hiked on and am so glad I did.

Like always, we kept our adventure going and continued to follow the trail. Jason heard from a few people that there was another waterfall and we were determined to find the second one.

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Another waterfall that we witnessed alone . . . another breathtaking view . . .

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IMG_0203It was a rather wide waterfall . . . and it was kind of tough to get it all in one photograph.

Well, we kept going after this and found a few campsites along the trail that had a great view of the creek. As we sat on a few rocks to take a break, I found some beautiful flowers along the edge of the water.

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It was a great day, one that pushed me to my limits once again, making me overcome my fears. My confidence is soaring, especially when I saw the continuous smile on Jason’s face. One of the best parts of the hike was an embrace Jason gave me after completing one section of our hike, as well as his remarks. Yep, I have a great man in my life, one who I fall in love with more a little every day.

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How can you not have a good day when all of this is your view? When all you breathe is the fresh air after an afternoon shower?

A perfect day, a perfect way to celebrate our anniversary. A day I will remember for years to come.

Directions from 1-26 to the trailhead:

  • Take exit 24 to Elizabethton on Scenic US 321                          8.4 miles
  • Turn right at 19E Jcts staying on 321                                           5.2 miles
  • In Hampton turn left on 321                                                          1.3 miles
  • Look to the right for the parking lot and trailhead area.

Alternate hike:

  • In Hampton turn left on 321                                                           0.8 miles
  • Take a right on to Dennis Cove Drive                                            3.3 miles
  • Take the windy road up the mountain to the Appalachian Trail Crossing at the Dennis Cove trailhead where you will find a parking lot on either side of the road.

Gabe’s Branch Falls

Today our adventure took us to Kentucky for another unique waterfall, Gabe’s Branch Falls in Harlan County.

Before we arrived at our destination, we stopped off the side of the road and took in the beautiful view. That view was of Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky.

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Although it was hazy when we stopped, it was still an incredible view.

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Black Mountain, Kentucky

We continued on this breathtaking, curvy road that had beautiful rocks and lush green trees surrounding our path.

We then arrived at Gabe’s Branch Falls, which really did not involve too much of a hike.

IMG_0175After parking we walked straight down, which led to a overlook of the top of the waterfall, which pooled into a water hole where individuals could swim.

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Before heading down to the waterfall, we followed another trail that was clearly marked. This led us to incredible rock formations with water flowing through them that continued to the waterfall.

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It was stunning to see the hollow sections of the rocks.

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IMG_0134After we were done walking on rocks across the water we decided to follow the marked trail down to the waterfall.

IMG_0169The waterfall was beautiful. It is definitely one Jason and I want to go back to once there is a good rain.

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According to information on the Harlan County website, the falls is 15 to 20 feet tall in the northern mountains of Harlan County on Gabe Branch near the Leslie County line. The water falls into an 8 to 10 foot deep swimming hole.

While Jason and I were sitting on a rock near the waterfall, he spotted a snail . . .

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There’s just something about this little creature that is fascinating.

I’m glad Jason’s cousin Christina and her family showed us a new spot today!

Another great day out in the wilderness!

Backbone Falls

After having to stay indoors yesterday because of all the rain, Jason and I hit the trails and found another beautiful waterfall in Tennessee, Backbone Falls.

On our way to the falls, we drove past South Holston Lake, where we stopped and climbed down to the water to check things out. There were some people out in their boats enjoying Labor Day, but not many because of the overcast skies.

South Holston Lake

South Holston Lake

South Holston Lake

South Holston Lake

After leaving the lake we headed on a road that Jason loves  . . .  and, well, me not so much. Today I got a little car sick because of all the twists and turns. The first time we traveled this road it was only a few days after we arrived in Tennessee and I was fine, well better off than today. The Snake has 489 curves to be exact. Thank goodness we did not drive the whole thing and left in a different direction.

The Snake

The Snake

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I was thankful when we arrived at our destination and got out of the car . . . yeah no more curves and solid grounds.  After we parked we headed towards Backbone Rock and hiked up quite a few stairs that took us to the top of the tunnel.

Backbone Rock, a fairly short hike.

Backbone Rock, a fairly short hike.

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IMG_0033I sat on a rock next to a tree as I looked down at the road and creek below us.

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According to a sign posted near Backbone Rock, “Around 1900, the Beaver Dam Railway Company blasted and drilled the tunnel to provide railroad access from Damascus into Shady Valley’s rich manganese and iron ores and timber. Within the next 20 years, the area’s privately owned timber had been cut over twice and ravaged by a devastating fire.”

IMG_0046The railroad tracks were removed in 1924 when the route was opened to cars. The tunnel was then expanded into a two lane road in 1930.

IMG_0048Backbone Rock, as well as 20,000 surrounding acres, were purchased when Congress allowed the federal government to acquire land in 1911, which was formed as part of Tennessee’s National Forest lands.

IMG_0050Backbone Rock, known as the shortest tunnel in the world. It was a great site to see from above and alongside the road.

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We walked across the street and found another trail, a trail that led us to Backbone Falls.

IMG_0051Of course as soon as we arrived at this trail, there were more stairs that went straight up, which were kind of slippery from all of the rain yesterday.

IMG_0052A rather short hike later, which was up hill, we started to hear the sounds of the waterfall.

IMG_0054Jason stood very close to the edge of the top of the waterfall and took some pretty incredible pictures looking down.

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IMG_0058And then we walked down even more stairs . . .

IMG_0062Until we saw this . . .

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At one point Jason and I walked on the rocks located at the base of the waterfall, so we could feel just how cold the water was . . . COLD!

IMG_0078But worth it, I love walking right up to a waterfall, there is no feeling like it, no feeling at all. To feel that rush of cold air, while touching the cold rock and the water, best feeling.

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We decided to walk down the creek a little bit, where of course I found more water to take pictures of . . .

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We then walked back up the stream to where the waterfall was located and got back on the trail, which included more stairs that led us out a different way than we went in alongside the road.

IMG_0102I had to capture one more beautiful sight before we walked back to the car. More water, more incredibly calming sounds to end another fantastic hike.

IMG_0101Backbone Falls was a beautiful waterfall, one we got to witness alone, as we were the only ones on this trail.

Linville Falls

Jason and I drove to North Carolina today to check out Linville Falls, which was located off Blue Ridge Parkway.

Once we arrived there was a map outside the welcome center that showed the different trails you could follow to check out the waterfall.

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This was the first view as we walked away from the Welcome Center.

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We first followed the gravel pathway to Gorge View that lead to the lookout  at the top of the waterfall. This hike was very easy and traveled by many others of all ages.

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One of the many beautiful sites along the trail.

Linville Falls …

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It was very pretty to look down at the waterfall, along with the creek. This area of North Carolina is absolutely stunning with all the rock formations.

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After taking this all in we traveled to Chimney View. Again not a bad hike.

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This viewpoint showed us the flow of water that streamed down to the waterfall. It was neat to see it from this vantage point.

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Then the adventures began. We took Plunge Basin, which was the hardest hike of them all and less traveled by others.

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It started off not to hard and then the farther we went down the more strenuous it became. With that said, it still was not too bad. The closer we hiked towards the water, the more tree roots and rocks became a part of the trail.

Like always, the end result was completely worth the workout.

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There were a few places to climb to get different views of the waterfall. The closer you get to the waterfall the better the sound and the cooler the air became.

It was quite impressive too see what kind of waves the waterfall was producing, that sound was incredible to hear. It brought me back to the beaches of Florida as the waves made it to the shore.

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It was again a perfect day, the weather wasn’t too hot and the skies remained blue while we were there.

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Linville Falls was a beautiful waterfall … the rocks were also incredible!

This is a cave located near the waterfall.

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Another view looking sideways to the opening of the cave.

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Another fantastic day out in nature with Jason.

Elk Falls & Jones Falls

After taking a week off from exploring, we hit the trails again today and witnessed two beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina and Tennessee.

The first waterfall, Elks Falls was located in North Carolina. That waterfall was rather easy to find, as well as a very popular destination.
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As soon as we got out of the car, we went down by the water, which like always was breathtaking to see.
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North Carolina is a beautiful state. I told Jason it was crazy to see just how different it was from Tennessee.
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We then went back on the trail, which was about a quarter mile to the waterfall. One of the easiest trails we have hiked.
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We first stopped at the top of the waterfall. You get such a different perspective at this height.
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We then got back on the trail and found the bottom of the waterfall. I couldn’t believe the amount of people gathered here swimming and enjoying the sites and sounds.
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Although we have seen quite a few waterfalls since arriving in Tennessee, it always takes my breath away when we get up close and fully experience the atmosphere.
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Since there were so many people at the falls, which seemed to keep multiplying as we stood there, we decided to make our way back to the car.

That is when our adventure continued as we searched for our second waterfall, Jones Falls, in Tennessee.

We walked behind a gate located in the parking area, which remains closed to traffic, and followed a rather wide trail. We stayed on that trail for about a half of a mile before it opened to the creek.

This is where it got tricky.

At first we thought we had to cross the creek to get to the other side, but then found a trail, which really didn’t resemble a trail. It was more of a worn path in the overgrown grass. This eventually took us to a much smaller trail along the creek.
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We followed this until the Appalachian Trail, which was marked with white blazes on the tree. This is when the trail became beautiful.
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As we walked the trail we crossed from the North Carolina to the Tennessee state line. That in itself was pretty cool to think about.
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The trail was harder than the first one of the day. We climbed up and down the path, which got our heart beating.

Once the trail showed two white blazes on the tree, we changed to another trail that had blue blaze markings. This is when we started to hear the water.

I was stunned at what we saw …
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The waterfall was absolutely beautiful. I have to admit it’s my new favorite spot.

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The water was freezing and the temperature of the air instantly gave me goosebumps. These are my favorite places to go because we most often are the only people there.

We found a rock, I sat and Jason layed on my lap as we enjoyed what we found. I told Jason we have a pretty good life. We get to experience these stunning places on a regular basis. These incredible views are in our back yard for the most part.

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This hike was 3.6 miles round trip, which I felt by the end of our adventure. I guess doing cardio … running and the elliptical … five days in a row showed me what I actually worked out once we hit the trails.

On our way back we spotted a ton of butterflies, another highlight of our adventure.
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Two incredible waterfalls in one day … what a great way to spend a Sunday with Jason!