Just Jeff's Hiking Page

"Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose
we came from the woods originally."

- John Muir

Jones Gap State Park, SC
10-16 August 2008

When I got back from overseas, I took the kids camping...but I wanted alone time with each one so I took them separately. My older son was out for a few days, then I switched them out halfway thru.


  • Warbonnet Eldorado, half-underquilt, JRB 8x8 tarp. REI TravelSack was traded out with the other kids quilt when the kids switched out.
  • Hennessy Hammock Backpacker Ultralight Asym (BULA), JRB Nest on bottom, JRB No Sniveler inside, MacCat Standard tarp.
Another key piece of gear for this trip were two slingshots...this was a real hit. Both of the kids spent a lot of time shooting rocks and their aim got a lot better. I shot some with them, but the real secret (don't tell them) is this kept them occupied while I tinkered around camp and did some of the camp chores.

I also bought a Sawyer Inline Filter from a water bottle kit at Walmart before this trip. I rigged it up between two soft-sided Nalgene canteens to make a gravity filter. It worked, but I'm not satisfied with the speed. (I have pics...I'll post a link soon.) I'm gonna leave it behind in favor of the other DIY gravity filter I made when I got back.

Some highlights from this trip: making a splitwood fire when all the wood was wet, cooking fondue over the campfire, catching a snake and a humongous crawdad, Rainbow Falls and watching 4 deer cross the trail right in front of us, the huge climb up to Hospital Rock, the comfortable silence when kids run out of things to say and are just exploring the woods...

Sunday, 10 August 2008
Obligatory parking lot picture. Getting ready to head out on the trail...if he can find it thru all that hair. He's carrying a Deuter Fox 30.
Me too...still carrying the GoLite Speed but this may be its last trip as my main pack. It's starting to wear out but it'll still work as a loaner pack.
Here's Site 12 on Jones Gap Trail. You can see the trail down the hill just on the other side of the hammocks, and the fire pit is to the right. This night, he slept in the Warbonnet with a half-underquilt and an REI Travel Sack. That's my latest Blackbishop Sack on the Warbonnet. I slept in the HH BULA with the JRB Nest and No Sniveler. No tarps for the first two nights.
Obligatory sleeping picture. I didn't record low temps but it was warm enough to sleep without a quilt for a lot of the night.
Monday, 11 August 2008
Here's the Middle Saluda River right across the trail from the campsite. This is where we got our water, caught crawdads, etc.
Jones Gap Falls was very close to our campsite. We're still in a drought so it's not as full as it normally is, but still worth the quick walk up there.
And me at Jones Gap Falls. There's another cascade above this one that you can't see in this pic.
We passed the ranger station and the phone on the hike to Hospital Rock...being 13, of course he had to use the phone. He just called Mom and Joker to tell them about the steep trail we were about to hike up.
Standing under Hospital Rock. The trail from the parking lot to Hospital Rock is rated as Very Strenuous...and it is. One part of it is so steep that there's a cable strung up the cliff to help you climb...and of course this was the place with a tree fallen over the cable! We made it up, though. Even found a big log full of pitch on the way! We had lunch inside the little cave and headed back down. This is a pretty decent day hike but nothing extraordinary.

And on the way back down I broke one of my cardinal rules. We had to pass the parking lot halfway back...and we got in the car and went to a restaurant for lunch! I NEVER do that when I'm out camping! We went to Pumpkintown Mountain Opry and had really good BLTs and ice cream. The next day we did the same thing...only we went to Cendy's Home Cooking and got Bacon Double Cheeseburgers and milkshakes. I guess it's ok to break the rules now and then...

I usually don't make fires because I just hike until dinner and fall into bed. This is one of the reasons I wanted to base camp and day hike this trip...time to build fires with the kids. He's getting good!

We found a lot of dry wood down by the river...he had the idea to put the thicker ones on an incline at the campsite and throw this big rock on there to break it up. It worked great - we had 6-8" thich logs sized just right for the campfire and didn't need a saw or axe to do it! And we got enough wood that first night that we barely needed to gather firewood the whole rest of the trip.

We thought this picture looks like a fire angel is looking at him...her head is at top, and the really bright part is her clothes, and you can see her wings behind that. Cool shot of a fire!

I brought some Freaky Flames from Walmart that makes different colors in the fire...didn't show up so well on the camera but it looked pretty cool in the flames.
Another shot of the Freaky Flames.
Another obligatory shot - feet in the hammock. Using the HH stuff sack as a pillow under my knees. I also took a video here...can't see much but you can hear the nighttime sounds. It was pretty loud with all the bugs, frogs, birds, squirrels, etc.
Him in his hammock, taken from my hammock...close enough to talk as we fell asleep.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
On Tuesday, we drove up to Ravens Cliff Falls. It's a pretty large and well-traveled trail, but the falls are pretty cool. On my trip a few years ago I hike over the top of the falls and back around to the Ravens Cliff overlook...it's a pretty cool place.

This is a neat stump we saw next to the trail. There were worms all over some of the trail sections, too.

It looked like it was going to storm during this part of the hike, and we didn't bring any rain gear or anything...just a bottle of water and hiking poles. It was warm enough that we could have made it the ~2 miles back to the car with no problems...but it stormed pretty good that night.

Raven's Cliff Falls from the overlook. You can see the bridge at the top from the overlook but not really in this picture.
Ravens Cliff Falls is pretty tall...it's tough to get the scale from these pictures. The overlook is across a big valley.
And me with the falls. (By my right elbow...)
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Even after Ravens Cliff Falls where we thought a storm was brewing, it didn't really look like it was going to rain last night...but we set up the tarps just in case. Good thing - it rained pretty hard for a while. He was under the JRB and I had the MacCat. The site was sheltered pretty well so it all came straight down and we both stayed completely dry. Even remembered to put some firewood under the tarp!

I really like laying in the hammock and listening to the rain bounce off the tarp. And when it stops raining, I usually bounce in the hammock a few times just to make the drops fall off the tree so I can hear them hit the tarp again!

We dropped by Jones Gap Falls again on the way out to pick up Joker. I like the morning lighting in these pictures better than the afternoon lighting from Monday's trip.
Jones Gap Falls
This was a great trip. We do a lot of hiking trips so it was a good change of pace, especially since I've been gone for several months, to just sit around a base camp, talk, and take easy day hikes. Don't get much alone time like that now that he's a teenager!
Jennifer and her mom brought Joker up to the park...we met in the parking lot, then had lunch at Pumpkintown Mountain Opry again. Came back to the park, dropped off Joker and me, back on the trail! My older son (no trail name yet) went back with them so I got one-on-one time with Joker as well.

I had to do some extra pack trimming in the parking lot b/c Grammy thought it would be nice if the kids had extra snacks, juice boxes, etc. Trying to keep the weight down with Grandmothers around can be a challenge! But the kids liked it so I just took out some of the other snacks.

They even brought me a change of clothes...I think they were trying to tell me something!

Surveying his lands from his campsite throne.
He took this picture from his big rock.
Lots of these orange salamanders around the river...this one was on the big rock.
He had to catch all the little critters we saw...this is the same salamander.
We saw this snail drinking from a mushroom when we went to the river for water. He spent about 10 minutes watching it! Close-ups below.
We spent HOURS down at the river this time. Walking upstream and downstream, skipping stones (he's getting good), catching salamanders and crawdads, scrambling over the rocks, finding waterfalls and little chutes...one of them was about two and a half feet wide and came up to my chest, and the water was COLD and fast!
Magnolia blooms down by the river...picture just for mom.
One of the little salamanders we caught.
Big ole 'mander...probably 5" long, hiding under a rock.
Same 'mander...we couldn't catch this guy.
I asked Jennifer to grab some water shoes on the way up...those were a huge help with all these rocks.

And here's a short clip of Joker skipping rocks.

I forgot to take a picture of the seep hole, but both of the kids learned how to get water that you don't have to filter by digging a seep hole and lining the walls with sticks and the bottom with pebbles. One more skill for their survival training!

We caught several crawdads...this guy was the biggest. Look how thick those claws are!!

I had never seen red crawdads before...at least not until after they're cooked. A few of the bigger crawdads were red when we caught them. That was pretty cool.

Proud of the fire he helped build. The next day he built one by himself. We even found a pitch stump near the campsite that we used to start his fire...he made the tinder shavings and everything.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
For some reason, this is the only picture I took on Thursday. At least it's an action shot. Sort of...

We broke the rules again and went to Cendy's for bacon cheeseburgers. Like a lot of old country stores, Cendy has a bunch of old signs all over the walls. One of them was Kodiak smokeless tobacco...Joker asked what a Kodiak was, and I said it was a kind of bear and a kind of dip. He said, "Dip? You mean like chips?" Uh...gross! Pretty funny, though. He knew what it was once I told him about the spit cup.

Friday, 15 August 2008
When Joker showed up, I moved the Warbonnet over to share the same head end tree with the Hennessy. It worked fine, but Thursday night it stormed BIG TIME and all the water coming off the MacCat splashed back up onto the half-underquilt. Didn't really cause a problem but I would have been worried if it had been down.

So Friday morning while Joker was still sleeping I changed the hammocks a bit and fixed the tarps...we had a big area at the head end where we could stand up, and the Warbonnet's head end was under the JRB so there was better coverage at the foot end. No more worries about getting wet.

Hammocks from the other side. Foreground is Warbonnet with half-underquilt, head end to the right. The half-underquilt worked great this way, except that it kept sliding up to one side. I couldn't tell if it was Joker rubbing against me b/c sometimes our hammocks touched. I'll probably add loops to the Warbonnet to attach these quilts to and this won't be a problem anymore. I really like the idea of having a thin half-underquilt for warm temps like this, though.

Behind the Warbonnet is the Hennessy with Nest.

This guy was about 3' away from the tree our feet were tied to...he's about the size of a 50 cent piece. We checked on him from time to time...he had a couple bugs while we were there. Big sucka!
We stopped by Jones Gap Falls again on the way to Rainbow Falls on Friday. Just as we were getting back to the main trail (Jones Gap Trail), he asked me, "What's a college degree? Is that how hot you get in college?" Haha..."If you're lucky," I answered.
Just after we got onto the Rainbow Falls Trail, I saw this little snake. Joker thought I was just trying to scare him until I caught it! He didn't hesitate to hold him, though...he said this was one of his favorite parts of the trip.
Close-up of the snake.
Rainbow Falls Trail is another Very Strenuous trail, but the falls are rated as Spectacular...and they are. These pictures don't really do it justice...it's definitely worth the hike. Here's a video of Joker saying where we are. (Anyone know good software that can rotate videos like these?)

There was a little overgrown trail that looked like it went around the left side to the top. It was very steep, with some scrambling thru a little cave (more like an overhang closed off on both sides, really)...eventually it got too steep for Joker but I think it did actually go to the top.

So we went back down and had lunch right next to the falls. Better than a kitchen table!

We left back down the same trail we hiked in on, but there was another branch that looked like it might go to the top as well. Turns out it went to the YMCA camp instead. It was fairly strenuous in some parts but it was definitely worth it this time.

As we rounded a bend, we heard some loud rustling in the leaves to the left of the trail. We stopped and stood quietly as a doe and two fawns, still with spots, bounded across the trail and hopped about 50' to the right. Then they stopped and looked around at us. Another doe, probably the mother, stayed on the left side of the trail. She would walk a few steps, stomping the ground as she walked, trying to distract us from the fawns. Then she'd put her head down like she was eating...then quickly look back up at us...trying to lure us into moving. We just stood there for about 7 minutes watching the display before they ambled off. I couldn't get to the camera without making noise so we didn't get any pictures.

We found where they crossed and saw some of the tracks, too. They were in the leaves so none were good enough for a picture, but at least Joker saw how he could follow their progress and how to tell the difference between a walking track and one where they jumped. Awesome experience!

It was hot and our feet started hurting on the way down, so we pulled over at this little stream to cool off. We soaked our feet and put our heads under this little fall. And THEN...
...we looked downstream and saw this smooth rock that looked a lot like a waterslide. Nice little pool at the bottom...and then a 10' drop-off right on the other side. Hrm...but I thought if we were careful it would be ok, so we went down to scope it out. Looked good, and I was pretty sure the pool at the bottom would catch us before we went flying over the cliff.

I tested it once...once you start going there's not stopping...I hit the pool at the bottom and that water was COLD COLD COLD. AWESOME!!

So I stayed at the bottom to catch Joker and make sure he didn't flip over the edge...he came right down and I wish I could have gotten a picture of his face when he hit that water!! Haha...he jumped right up just to catch his breath! It was a great time.

Here's a video of it.

Climbing trees back at the campsite...he kept turning around so I couldn't get a picture!
16 August 2008
Another picture of the Hennessy Hammock...already had the Warbonnet packed away.
And the last obligatory photo - Joker sleeping.

After we woke up the last day, we drove up to Ceasar's Head overlook to have lunch at the park. The binoculars at the overlook are definitely worth the quarter...you can see out over a 2000' drop-off as the Blue Ridge Escarpment opens onto the Piedmont. Then we hiked to Raven's Cliff Falls real quick and started the long drive home.

This was a great trip with both of the kids...I really needed a week in the woods to decompress from my time over there. I often hike alone, but I think bringing the kids this time forced me to calm down, slow down and focus on the journey instead of the destination. And the kids needed alone time with Dad as well...perfect trip at the perfect time.

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