Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017

Visit to Upper Sols Creek Falls - A True Masterpiece of Nature

February 02, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

It's been much too long since I added a post so I'll be trying to make up for lost time.  I'll start by sharing images and stories of some of my best autumn images taken last year.  While 2020 will always be known for the COVID-19 pandemic, there was one bright spot - the autumn colors.  We've lived here in western North Carolina for six autumn seasons and, by far, the color in 2020 was the best I've seen here.  Just spectacular.  Additionally, we had some heavy rains, which for the most part really helped waterfalls perk up.  

My first good autumn outing was a new waterfall, Upper Sols Creek Falls.  I saw a nice image on it taken in mid-September by a friend of mine.  Sometime ago, I did try to find the waterfall but just had no luck.  Lots of streams to cross, which made the going tough.  My friend said it was quite easy to find so I decided to give it a go again.  While it wasn't without some mishaps, I'm so glad I persisted and finally got there albeit a bit wet.

The day I went was one of those perfect days when everything comes together.  Good cloud cover to provide nice even light, no wind, and a waterfall too difficult and off the beaten path to have other people running around it.  So I got up early one morning and took off.  The first hurdle was just finding the trailhead.  I used the directions provided in Kevin Adams' waterfall book.  His mileage tends not to agree with my odometer as was the case this day.  But eventually I found the guardrail by a stream he noted.  Following his trail directions and those of my friend I set out.

The first stream came up quickly.  With recent rains, the water was really flowing and was just under knee high.  Luckily, this time, I got across the slippery stream OK.  There were some trail markers that helped for a while.  But then the trail markings and Kevin's directions didn't match up.  Following the trail markings seemed right so I followed them...that is, until they stopped.  This is after I made another slippery stream crossing.  At this point I could hear the waterfall and it sounded big.  So I decided to follow the trail, what little there was, and the sound of the waterfall.  But then the trail evaporated.  So now what?  The waterfall couldn't be too far away but how to get to it?  This is where my better judgement left me.  Oh, and did I mention I went alone?  Yeah, not a good idea but I did have a Garmin emergency beacon if I got into trouble.

So I decided to try to walk the stream to find it.  I was obviously off course but I wasn't going to quit now when I'm so close.  Then I come to some very large trees that had fallen across the stream.  OK, now what do I do?  Oh, what the hell, climb over them, right?  But once over, I find this just isn't my day and I realize I'm not going to find this waterfall.  So, reluctantly, I turned around and head back.  Getting back over the downed trees going downstream proved much more difficult.  So as I was trying to slip my feet back into the stream, they slipped and down I went into the stream getting totally submerged.  My only thought is..."oh, *#&%(*$, MY GEAR!!"  "*#&%*(@##".  I got up and managed to walk the stream to the bank and pondered just how bad the damage was.  Somehow, nothing was damaged.  My camera and lenses all worked. The interior of my camera bag was dry.  OMG!!  Even my phone and Garmin still worked.

Dejected and wet, I decided that was it and headed back to the car.  As I was nearing my car, I realized this day had such prime conditions that I may never have them again.  So, still soggy, I turned around and headed back.  This time, however, I didn't follow the trail tape at one stream crossing and tried to make sense of Kevin Adams' directions.  I walked upstream but on the other side of the stream from where I was before and sure enough I found a little thin trail.  It went steeply up at first, which made me wonder if this was correct but eventually I could hear the sound of the waterfall getting louder.  Eventually, the waterfall came into view and this is what greeted me.

Upper Sols Creek Falls - October 2020Upper Sols Creek Falls - October 2020 Did I say conditions were perfect?  My jaw dropped.  What an incredible sight to see.  On this day, I'm not sure there was a more stunning waterfall to see.  And, I had it all to myself!!  But as I tried to maneuver around I quickly realized I found another big problem.  All the rocks I needed to walk on were covered with wet slippery leaves on top of slimy terribly slippery moss.  It was just like trying to walk on wet ice.  No footing at all.  I don't know how I managed not to fall down several times.  At times, I just went on all fours to move a bit.  Getting my tripod and camera set up was very difficult as was just standing upright long enough to take some shots.  While I would have liked to roam around the area a bit, I only moved to three vantage points to shoot.  I felt I used up all of my luck on this day and I still needed to cross a few creeks to get back to my car.  So I snapped off these photos before calling it a day.

Upper Sols Creek Falls - October 2020Upper Sols Creek Falls - October 2020

Upper Sols Creek Falls - October 2020Upper Sols Creek Falls - October 2020

I took many different shots with varying focus points and exposures so I would hopefully get some "keepers" to remember the day.  So I was thrilled and, yes, still very wet, but I was happy to have found this beauty and was ready to head home.  I managed to get back to my car in one piece with my gear and body intact.

When I loaded my images into Lightroom, my jaw dropped again when I saw what I got.  These may be among the best images I've ever taken.  I was so pleased with the great fall colors that day as well as near perfect water flow.  I couldn't have asked for anything better.  And the fall shooting season was just getting started.

Coming up, I'll share more photos I took this past autumn season.  After that, I'll share how I discovered the wonderful world of Lensbaby artistic lenses.


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