Our destination for the hike was Panther Creek Falls, a multi-tiered falls that drops several hundred feet over boulders and past mature Eastern Hemlocks. Our hike began on Hickory Creek trail, which descended about a 1000ft to the Conasauga River Trail, a leisurely, relatively flat hike. This trail brought us to the Panther Creek Trail, where we had to cross the bone-chilling Conasauga River barefoot. Along Panther Creek we made six crossings of the 12-15 foot wide creek, each a study in rock hopping, bushwhacking, balance, and teamwork. Our reward for not falling in a getting soaked was a strenuous .25 mile boulder field ascent, gaining 500 of the trail's 1000ft elevation gain to the falls in a heart-pounding, test-of-will, one-foot-after-the-other climb. At the top, we caught our breath and took in the view to the west until the wind put a chill in us, and we made for camp.
A warm meal, sunset at the falls, a great fire, a couple of beers and good company wrapped up an incident-free day of hiking, along with a few grumbles about soreness, the oncoming cold and the boulder field descent/nine water crossings awaiting us the next day. We woke to near-freezing temps, got the camp stove going and made some coffee, scarfed down some muffins and broke down our campsite. The hike back was more enjoyable, since we knew what to expect and had more time to make the trek. We took a little extra time to film some of the crossings for your viewing pleasure. All in all, a very enjoyable and challenging trip. Having nearly forty pounds on my back for six miles each way was a new experience, and the boulder climb section really kicked my ass, but it was good to know I can hack it. Somehow, this was the first time I had ever hiked and camped, all other adventures had either been day hikes or car camping up to this point. Huh.
Ready to go?
This is what a Rhododenron in the wild looks like!
Crossing 1 of 9...Hmm, how to stay dry...?
At the top of Panther Creek Falls
And happy to have made it!!
Nice fire pit, plenty of wood...