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Archived Story

Summer Waterfallin’

Published 10:00pm Wednesday, July 2, 2014

While summer is the least favorite time for me to hike to waterfalls, the ones that are at the end of a well beaten path are not a bad choice.
There are several factors that I don’t enjoy about hiking into waterfalls in the summertime, but these can be overcome or dealt with to make your hike a good one.
The heat is one factor to deal with. You can deal with this one by hiking early, or choosing a waterfall in higher elevations where the temperature can be 10 or more degrees cooler.
Crowds are another factor. Summertime gets folks out and about, and while I don’t feel it’s a good idea to choose a waterfall that’s lesser known and traveled, you can avoid the masses by going very early, or very late. There have been many occasions when my family has hiked to a waterfall late on a summer’s day and meet the last folks walking out and we would have the waterfall to ourselves. Just allow time to be safely out of the woods.
Critters can be a summertime concern as well. While snakes are the first thing that pops in most peoples mind, and you should watch for them, the smaller insects are more of a concern for me. It seems like mosquitos carry more and more illnesses, and sometimes your insect repellants seem to attract them. Deep Woods Off with 40 perce t Deet has had the best results for us, but it’s believed by some that repeated exposure to high concentrations of Deet can make you feel sick.
Stinging “bees”, not just the honey variety, can be a real concern, especially if you are allergic to them. Be sure to carry any prescription meds you need in case you are stung. And by choosing the more popular waterfalls, you are usually choosing the closest waterfalls, which, in case of a medical emergency, puts you closer to help, and easier to find.
A nemesis of mine is the dreaded Poison Ivy. I can catch the stuff by looking at it (no not really). It would surprise a lot of folks how much of it grows along hiking trails. The well beaten paths are usually wider and any Poison Ivy that grows along its route has been trampled down. The number one defense against it is recognition. The “leaves of three let it be” saying is a safe one, but there are tons of greenery in the woods that have leaves of three. Since I’ve had some very bad experiences with it, one of my jobs on a family hike is lead position scoping out the ivy, and believe me it’s everywhere.
While there are some concerns about hiking to waterfalls in the summer, the result can be worth it. The cool mist and sometimes very cold waters can be a refreshing cool down. But therein lies another concern.
Waterfalls naturally are found in steep, rocky areas. These are beautiful parts of nature, but there are indiscriminately dangerous. Rocks around waterfalls are very slippery due in part to the mist that forms from the waterfalls coating the rocks and growing algae and moss that make for a super slick surface. Felt bottom shoes are about the only help for slick rocks.
And, although it makes some really cool You Tube videos to jump off the top of a waterfall, or stand very close to the top edge, the cost of a mistake makes the risk not worth it. Most of the pools at the bottoms of our waterfalls are not deep enough for jumping into.
All that said, with a little common sense, and preparation, you can still have a good day hiking in our mountains. Thankfully, we have some very good park and forest systems that give us access to many waterfalls. DuPont State Forest, Pisgah National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pearson’s Falls, the Blue Ridge Parkway, even highway 64 gives us all close access to some easy to reach waterfalls at the end of a well beaten path.

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