Rockhopping on a river hike

Published 5:35 am Tuesday, July 4, 2023

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Nothing rivals the relaxation of a quiet hike along a mountain stream. The rumbling of the whitewater is soothing and moss-covered boulders are a sight to behold. There are some who choose to forgo relaxation and travel in the same direction but a few yards from the trail. Those folks are rockhoppers.

Rockhoppers are an interesting breed that will ignore a perfectly good trail for slick boulders placed five feet apart. Anyone can walk up a trail, it takes a special person to enjoy injury-defying jumps instead of steps. 

This weekend, we found our way to the mouth of the Toxaway River. For those that don’t know, the current end point of the river is Lake Jocassee. The cool mountain lake invites its guests to find some adventure in their lake trip. 

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After securing our boat to the bank, we started making our way up the Toxaway. There is a trail with a suspension bridge that crosses the river, but the only way to get upstream is by rockhopping.            

A series of ledges collected water from slick, deep pools above, inviting you around the corner to see what the river held upstream. Earlier this year, Zach from Jocassee Lake Tours showed me a neat spot to rest in the cold river water.           

My crew started up the river and it was notable who the rockhoppers were. My nephew and son made their way from rock to rock quickly. Upstream they went, wading when necessary, without a hitch. I was helping others in my group make their way upstream and realized this rockhopping was expert-level. The majority of boulders were slicker than an ice rink.         

My daughter, Julie, scaled a slanted boulder to an area crossing a narrow channel. I saw fear creep into her eyes as she didn’t know if she would have success or end up wet.         

The Hunt family recently enjoyed a bit of rockhopping at Toxaway River

The look Julie had reminded me of the first time I was introduced to rockhopping. For a friend’s birthday party in 4th grade, we went hiking in Jones Gap State Park. The trail up the Middle Saluda was wonderful, but my friend’s father decided rockhopping would be better. The next hour, I saw my life flashing before my eyes multiple times as we slowly made our way upstream.                 

At the end of the day, I was proud of my accomplishments and became a rockhopper. As I watched my daughter cross the channel from rock to rock, I hoped she would have the same memory. With a few slips and scratches, we made it to a beautiful spot to sit and relax.               

Rockhopping can get you to serene places to relax. It also may raise your blood pressure getting there. It is not for everyone. We will see if my daughter turns into a rockhopper, but the smile on her face during lunch that day gives promise she will be hopping upstream.              

If you want to take an adventure (rockhopping optional) to Lake Jocassee, look up Jocassee Lake Tours. They do a variety of trips for the whole family. They are incredibly knowledgeable and a lot of fun to spend a day exploring one of our region’s most beautiful gems.