Sunday, October 16, 2016

The ruins of Wildcat Wayside

Picnic shelter ruins - 1
Back in August I read about a new website, open parks network, providing searchable access to digitized records of a number of parks, historic sites, and other areas. This website contains records of a number of South Carolina parks, but the one park I was most interested in was Wildcat Wayside near Cleveland, SC in northern Greenville County. I've been here many times, but I've never seen the original structures when they more than ruins. I came up last Sunday to take another look at the park to find the ruins I already knew about and some I didn't.

This infoboard, installed sometime in 2013 or 2014, summarized the history of the park, a 1970s photo of the picnic shelter, and the revised 1940 plan of the park.
Greenville Wayside park sign
This infoboard confirmed the information I had found in this 1940 book in PDF format about South Carolina State Parks, produced the Works Progress Administration. Only one page is devoted to the wayside parks (page 42 in the book, page 44 in the PDF) with this summary of the wayside park amenities:
...and contain picnic shelters, fireplaces, combination table and benches, sanitary facilities, parking area for cars, and a caretaker's dwelling.
The revised 1940 plan for the park, seen on the right side of the infoboard, has all these features. Since it's public domain, I made some changes in Lightroom (corrected the yellowing, added some clarity) and the result is this:
Greenville Wayside Master Plan
This plan points out features now abandoned and proposed features never implemented. I started with the caretaker's cabin area shown on this part of the plan:
Greenville Wayside Master Plan - Custodian cabin area
The caretaker's cabin is long gone, but it was located down this abandoned asphalt road:
Custodian cabin area - 1
A few trees have grown up through the asphalt, making the road tough for vehicles to pass through, but it's still easily walkable. The caretaker  area is much more overgrown though.
Custodian cabin area - 2
What wasn't shown on the master plan was this overgrown, unmaintained but clearly visible path leading away from the caretaker's cabin area:
Overgrown path - 1
This path wasn't marked on the master plan, but also makes sense that it's here so the caretaker can do his job without having to walk back to the road first. This path also happens to pass by my next target, the latrine.
Greenville Wayside Master Plan - latrine
The latrine has long been abandoned, but the concrete foundation remains. Sorry about the quality of photos below. The site is completely overgrown now, so I had to make do.
Latrine ruins - 1 Latrine ruins - 2 Latrine ruins - 4 Latrine ruins - 6 Latrine ruins - 8
open parks network has preserved two photos of the latrine from the 1970s when some of the structure was still standing. This archived photo is with a park ranger:
This archived photo is without:
The two pipes coming up from the ground, seen in both photos, are still there. Here's one for reference:
Latrine ruins - 7
I returned to the path, determined to follow it to the end. The path passed almost right behind the park mapboard. There is a short connector trail that does connect to the main trail, Wildcat Wayside Nature Trail, shown below:
Wildcat Wayside sign
This overgrown path is way too well marked with flags and tape for an overgrown path.
Overgrown path - 6 Overgrown path - 8 Overgrown path - 9
The sudden lack of flags and tape coincided nicely with the lack of a clearly visible way forward.
Overgrown path - 11
The path's end was within a few feet of Wildcat Wayside loop trail a few feet below, but I elected to backtrack to look for the storage tank at the edge of the park as seen in this part of the master plan:
Greenville Wayside Master Plan - storage tank
I used a GPS app to navigate to this location. I had set the point from downloading a shapefile of the area from Greenville County GIS, converting the property lines to GPX, and setting the point based on the master plan map.

I didn't find an easy path to this location, which was my first clue I would find nothing, and when I got to the area where the tank should be according to my GPS app I found no visible ruins. I managed to lose my phone for a while when I put in my shirt pocket to get through a thicket near the storage tank location. I managed to find within 20 feet of where I discovered its loss, but only after searching my track from the trail and back multiple times. The storage tank location search was a failure.

Next I moved on to the picnic area. I've been through this area several times, and now I have a better idea of what the smaller ruins were.
Greenville Wayside Master Plan - picnic area
What I thought was a water fountain is indeed a water fountain.
Drinking fountain ruins - 1 Drinking fountain ruins - 2
The smaller ruins were once small fireplaces.
Fireplace ruins - 1
The picnic shelter was the feature attraction.
Picnic shelter ruins - 2
This photo from open parks network, taken sometime in the 1970s, shows the picnic shelter in a deteriorating condition:
This second photo, also taken sometime in the 1970s, shows the picnic shelter's chimney:
I went further down the trail to the area where the proposed second picnic shelter would have been located.
Greenville Wayside Master Plan - proposed picnic area
I expected to find nothing but trees and vegetation, and that's exactly what I found. The proposed area is mostly flat, and would have been suitable for another picnic shelter.

Since I was on the main trail anyway, I thought I'd pass by Upper Wildcat Falls to see how much water is flowing. The answer turned out to be not much at all.
Upper Wildcat Falls
If I were here to see the waterfalls this day, I would have been sorely disappointed. Here's a more interesting photo of the upper falls back in 2014:
Upper Wildcat Falls
I turned my attention to the Slickum Creek end of the park. The master plan showed a picnic area...
Greenville Wayside Master Plan - Slickum Creek picnic area
but that's overgrown now, if it was ever there to begin with. The parking area is more of an area off the side of the road where can park and possibly not get hit by cars passing by. While the picnic area is no more, two waterfalls along Slickum Creek are still well worth seeing.

The nearly hidden entrance to a trail along Slickum Creek, and the overgrown picnic area, is marked with a green stripe on a tree.
Slickum Creek trail - 1

The waterfall not named on the master plan is appropriately enough, named Last Falls on Slickum. The waterflow on this creek was much better. While I did take a photo of the waterfall, I didn't put much effort into it since it wasn't the focus of my trip.
Last Falls on Slickum
Sweet Thing on Slickum is a few minutes down the trail from here, but I didn't visit it this time. Here's what it looked like back in 2014:
Sweet Thing on Slickum
I was more interested in visiting the pump house upstream from here, so I skipped Sweet Thing this time. About halfway between Slickum Creek and Wildcat Falls is a short road leading to a telephone cabinet. From here, you can head uphill on a trail, faint at first, that intersects with a trail leading to the pump house.

While following this trail, I came across an old path that could have been a logging road or an old trail. This path was overgrown, but still easily visible, and mostly followed a small stream that flowed into a small waterfall behind the telephone cabinet. I managed to find a bottle whose spirits have long departed, if you know what I mean.
Bottle on old path
Having followed this diversion back down toward the telephone cabinet, I reversed course and met back up with the trail, now blazed green.
Green blazed trail - 2
I meet up with the trail heading from Wildcat Creek to Slickum Creek, now blazed orange since my last visit.
Trail to Slickum Creek - 7
The trail markers peters out, but a faint path continues. The pump house is at the end of this faint trail.
Greenville Wayside Master Plan - pump house
Despite easily finding the pump house in previous years without even looking for it, however, I couldn't find it this time. Later, after consulting the recorded location from earlier visits, I found out I was looking too far north. Here's two photos of the pump house location from 2014 when I wasn't so pressed for time:
Water pump location? Cut rock
This area is rather rocky, and moss covers part of the area. In the past, the rocks have been wet and slippery, but with the drought (Hurricane Michael missed this area to the south) rocks are dry and the moss in need of water.
Rocks and moss
Every time I come here I usually find a campfire, or the remains of one. This time was no exception. Camping here isn't allowed, but people do it anyway:
Campfire area - 1
I elected to follow the trail all the way back to the main trail and the parking. The trails were in deepening shadow with the sun getting low, but I could still see well enough to get back.

I've shared my photos to an album on Flickr and an album on Google Photos.

I've also created this map showing the locations of the old, abandoned features marked on the master park map:
In theory, you should be able to export the points from that map GPX when you follow the link to the full screen version, but as of the current version used by the host, 0.8.0.rc8, GPX export is currently broken. I would expect this bug to fixed within a week or two after this post is published. All other export options work fine tough. Sorry about that. I'll remove this notice when it works again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

First paddle on Lake Jocassee

Lake Jocassee rainbow
I've long wanted to visit Lake Jocassee and its many waterfalls for quite a while now. I've been reading my outdoor adventure seeking friend Tom Taylor's visits to Lake Jocassee with considerable interest and a smidge of envy. With my recent purchase of a recreational kayak, the Intex Challenger K1, I now have a means to begin visiting these waterfalls I've been reading about for so long. I had intended to visit Lake Jocassee back in July, but my trip to Lake Oolenoy convinced me that I still can't and won't handle the heat, and to wait for cooler weather. Now that the cooler weather has arrived, I'm ready for a visit.

Lake Jocassee is located in the northern part of South Carolina in the mountainous part of Pickens and Oconee counties. The lake is impounded by a hydroelectric dam, in the southeast corner of the lake, built in 1973 by Duke Power. Four rivers flow into the lake: Whitewater River, Thompson River, Horsepasture River, and Toxaway River. A number of creeks also feed into the lake, some as waterfalls.

Lake Jocassee is mostly free from development along the lake, unlike Lake Summit in Tuxedo, NC I visited earlier in the month.

I paid a visit Lake Jocassee yesterday by way of Devils Fork State Park ($5 for a day pass), on a day whose weather forecast promised a likely chance of late afternoon thunderstorms. I had planned to be back well before then, however. I parked at the northern most boat ramp in the park to save some paddling time.

I brought along the Android phone I use as a media player and GPS device to guide me in my travels.
Start of paddle screenshot
I forgot to remove a map marker in from my Union trip, but no big deal. According to this app, it's about 2.7 miles from the boat ramp to Wright Creek Falls, assuming a straight line.

The Intex Challenger K1 is not a fast boat (I estimate my moving average even with the improved paddle is 2.5mph), and the included aluminum breakdown paddle fatigued me during my recent visit to Lake Summit.earlier in the month.

I fixed the paddle fatigue issue with a carbon fiber shaft two-piece paddle. The kayak still needs to be replaced with something better, but I hope to upgrade to a much better inflatable kayak in about a month or so. Until then, my slow cramped kayak will have to do.

The view from the boat ramp is outstanding with those mountains in the distance.
View from the boat ramp - 2
Then I headed for the Thompson River arm of the lake that would take me toward Wright Creek Falls. When I got close to the waterfall, however, my map revealed another waterfall I had forgotten about when planning this trip, Double Spring Mountain Falls.

Double Spring Mountain Falls is a waterfall in an cove whose presence is given away only by the sound of rushing water.
Double Spring Mountain Falls - 1
The stream itself is unnamed, but the waterfall is named after the mountain it flows down, Double Springs Mountain.

Before heading to the waterfall, a short rest to let my feet recover from being in a cramped space.
Break time
When I stepped out of the kayak, I was in for a bit of a surprise. My foot hit the muck, and kept going!
In the muck
That muck also stank of sulphur. Pew! Anyway, the waterfall is a short distance upstream.
Double Spring Mountain Falls - 2
I took a short video of the waterfall in action:
I spotted two steep paths that lead upward to the upper portion of the waterfall, but I didn't feel taking a chance on hurting myself or worse that day so I skipped that option. In 2010, the writer of the blog Adventures of SCJack, Jack Thyan, visited this same waterfall and climbed this path to the upper section and made it out alive and uninjured.
One path to top of waterfall Another path to top of waterfall
A short distance away, one cove to the north, is Wright Creek Falls, a popular destination for visitors to the lake. The lake level is rather low because of the area drought, and it shows here.
Wright Creek Falls - 1
However, it had rained the day before, especially upstream in the mountains of North Carolina, so at least the water flow was decent.
Wright Creek Falls - 4
You can walk behind the waterfall now with the waterfall so low. I didn't do take advantage of that opportunity this time, but at least now I have a reason to come back again. But back in the early 2010s when the water level was higher, kayakers could paddle behind the waterfall.

Youtube user Reliable Ron posted this video of him paddling to Wright Creek Falls, and in this segment he paddles behind the waterfall:
Flickr photographer Tom Taylor took this 2010 photo of Alan Russell doing the same thing:
Alan behind Wright Creek Falls
I would love to do that!

I would have liked to stay longer, but some loud obnoxious folks with an even louder obnoxious dog showed up in a pontoon boat, and I didn't feel like putting up with them, so I headed out.

I had skipped over exploring another stream in yet another cove in case I had to make a quick exit because of thunderstorms. I went back to check it out, but this one had no waterfall, just more stinky muck.
Stream Mading in muck!
I had already began heading back to the boat ramp...
Exploring stream screenshot
... when I noticed the dark clouds off to the south.
Storm clouds - 1
This was a bit troubling, because I expected to be off the water by the time thunderstorms started moving in. I expected this one to miss me to the east, and that's what ended up happening (thank goodness).

Storm clouds - 2 Storm clouds - 3 Storm clouds - 4
I had to fight a head wind at times on the way back, and it slowed me in my high profile kayak more than I liked. Thankfully for me, thunderstorms stayed on the other side of the lake.
Storm clouds - 5 Storm clouds - 6 Lake Jocassee rainbow
If those thunderstorms had just tracked a few miles west, I'd have been in an interesting situation.

As I was pulling my kayak out of the water and back to the car, sprinkles began to fall even though the sun was out. Those sprinkles didn't last long though, not even long enough to wet the ground.

I made a map of my journey, and I also marked the locations of the two waterfalls:
A number of tempting historical POIs were along the way to Lake Jocassee, and I had to resist stopping to photograph them because of time. I did stop at this old school behind Boone's Creek Baptist Church, ...
Boone's Creek Baptist Church - 2
... once known as Boone's Creek School:
Boone's Creek School
The old schoolhouse was renovated in 1980 for use as the church's social hall.

On the way back, I saw more rainbows along the way than I've seen in many years. If I weren't busy zipping along hilly rural highways, I would have snapped some photos.

I had a great time today. I look forward to coming back again, this time with a faster kayak and no chance of thunderstorms.

All photos from this trip are in an album on Flickr and an album on Google Photos.

Update: Tom visited Lake Jocassee the very next day, also visiting Wright Creek Falls. An interesting almost coincidence!