Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hike to Virgin Falls

Well, we had been waiting for a good rain. A few days ago we got it...1.25 inches at my house. We were waiting for the rain to hike to Virgin Falls. We wanted to make sure that the falls were running at full capacity.

So last Thursday afternoon we decided to see who was interested. The hike to Virgin Falls is considered "strenuous" because it is 9 miles round trip and because it is mostly uphill on the way back to the cars. some of that uphill is pretty substantial. A total of 7 of us decided to go.

This is a great hike. It is only about 30 minutes away to the trailhead and there are 4 great water features along the way. The first is Big Branch Falls. This is more of a cascade than a falls but it is very nice.

At about 2.5 miles in is Big Laurel Falls. That is Big Laurel Falls in the photo above. This waterfall has about a 40 or 50 foot drop and is very wide. It has a cave behind it that you can go into. Except this day the cave was flooded from all of the recent rain. I have been there before when there were people camping in the cave with a tent...but not today.

In another mile or so we came to Sheep Cave. This is where a stream comes out of a cave and cascades down over a long drop. I understand that you can go a ways into the cave when the water is down...but not on this day.

At about 4.5 miles we came to the very impressive Virgin Falls. This falls drops 110 feet and has a very large volume of water going over it. But the most interesting part is that the water comes out of the mountain, goes over the falls, and then disappears into the ground again. There is no visible stream either above or below the falls. I had heard of Virgin Falls for several years but never hiked to it until this spring. I was blown away by the size of the waterfall both in volume of water and height of the falls. Look at the picture above. That is about the height of a 10 story building. It would take about 20 people standing on top of each other to reach the top. Before I hiked there the first time, I didn't realize from the pictures the impressiveness of this waterfall. There is a very loud roar and a lot of mist from the falls.

It was a long uphill 4.5 miles back to the car but we all made it in good shape.

About a mile from the parking lot on the gravel road we saw a herd of wild boar. There were about 10 and they were all black and most had heavy manes. They crossed the road and ran into the woods. They stopped a ways inside the woods were we all got a good look at them. They were quick and agile. They certainly all had the appearance of Eurasian boars rather than feral pigs. The herd that I had seen in March had several members that had the coloring of domestic pigs, but not these.

We stopped at the Artist Corner Cafe on the way home and several of us had the lamb special for that day along with a little Fat Tire beer. A great hike and a great day!
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