So you wanna go hiking. huh? If you make wise use of your time and you plan it out, you can get a lot done in one day, more than you would ever imagine. It truly is about time management. It also helps if you hike with someone who enjoys being pushed to their limits. Until March of 2019, I had never hiked in the Grandfather Mountain area so this was a trip into the great unknown. With my friend Amanda wanting to meet up for a day on the trail, I made a list.
One thing I learned a long time ago was plan for more than you’ll get to see. If you plan to see three waterfalls, have directions for a fourth just in case you get gone early. This was a lesson gleaned in the days before I lived close to the mountains, when not having something planned led to hours of wasted daylight. The FR464 Half-Marathon was a tall order considering Amanda was driving from Charlotte and I was driving from Greenville. We were slated for eight waterfalls but I guessed we might get 5 or 6 done if we were lucky. As I said, better to have a plan for every last minute of daylight versus driving home with the sun still shinning.
Amanda and I had talked hiking at work but this was our first adventure. The plan for the day defined ambitious. The hope going in was to complete five hikes. The first was to North Harper Creek Falls and Chestnut Cove Branch Falls. It was a chilly 43 degrees at the outset but not too bad. I got us off-course getting to North Harper but we figured it out. Even so it seemed like the day was half gone when we finished the hike close to 11. It made me think that we would never get them all done.
Our second hike was going to be to South Harper Creek Falls. The sun was higher and it was getting warmer, the trail was easy to follow and the view from the cliff overlook was amazing. Wow, it was almost 1:30 and we only had three done. After we collected Amanda’s car it was off to our third hike, Upper Little Lost Cove Falls and Little Lost Cove Falls. It was tough getting started on this hike but once we were on track, we knocked it out, quickly moving past the off-trail start. This is where I assumed we would run out of daylight when I was planning things out. Not even close. We joked about driving through a creek on the hike to the falls. We joked about having to climb ropes on the hike out.
The sun was still shinning and the motivation was there so we drove to the start of the fourth hike: Bard Falls. Bard was my favorite of the day but man this one seemed so long, especially coming out. The hike gave Amanda her first chance to do a knee deep crossing of a cold rushing creek, after some earlier rock-hopping. In either case, the legs were starting to feel it after climbing back to the car.
The sun was getting lower and there was one more left. We had done a lot in a day and there was the two plus hour drove home looming. Even so there was no talk of stopping. When we got to our cars at 6:15PM. We had less than an hour and a half until sunset. I only had to ask, “whatta you think?”
A minute later we were racing to the trailhead for our fifth and final hike: Hunt Fish Sidekick Falls and Hunt Fish Falls. We came out after sunset, our legs burning from the long uphill slog back to the car.
Sunrise: 7:29 AM Sunset: 7:43 PM
Starting temp: 43 degrees High Temp: 66 degrees End Temp: 51 degrees
Leave house 6:00 AM (time until sunset 13:43)
Arrive North Harper Creek TH 8:56AM (time until sunset 10:47)
Waterfalls: North Harper Creek Falls and Chestnut Cove Branch Falls
Hike Start: 9:03AM Hike End: 10.56AM Hike Duration: 1:53
Distance covered: 2.6 miles Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Arrive South Harper Creek TH 11:15AM (time until sunset 8:28)
Waterfalls: South Harper Creek Falls
Hike Start: 11:23AM Hike End: 1:23PM Hike Duration: 2:00
Distance covered: 3.9 miles Elevation Gain: 575 feet
Arrive Little Lost Cove TH 1:56PM (time until sunset 5:47)
Waterfalls: Upper Little Lost Cove Falls and Little Lost Cove Falls
Hike Start: 2:04PM Hike End: 3:52PM Hike Duration: 1:48
Distance covered: 1.5 miles Elevation Gain: 535 feet
Arrive Bard Falls TH 4:06PM (time until sunset 3:37)
Waterfalls: Bard Falls
Hike Start: 4:15PM Hike End: 6:14PM Hike Duration: 1:59
Distance covered: 3.5 miles Elevation Gain: 568 feet
Arrive Hunt Fish Falls TH 6:24PM (time until sunset 1:19)
Waterfalls: Hunt Fish Falls and Hunt Fish Sidekick Falls
Hike Start: 6:38PM Hike End: 8:19PM Hike Duration: 1:41
Distance covered: 1.8 miles Elevation Gain: 619 feet
Hiking time: 9 hours 21 minutes
Drive time between trailheads: 1 hour 16 minutes
Miles hiked: 13.3
Creek Crossings: 18
Elevation Gain: 2897 feet (more than half a mile)