Hidden gem

Finding a time for my father and I to get together and go on a trip anymore is like getting a porcupine to peel a banana; it can happen, but darn it takes forever. Finally threading the calendar needle of free weekends, we both had a Saturday open to tackle anything we wanted within a days drive of Kings Mountain. Only problem was that anything within a few hours drive we had crossed pretty throughly and we didn’t have enough time to go deep into the backcountry. We threw around the normal list of names: Pisgah, Shining Rock, the Smokies, Linville Gorge, Middle Prong, Jones Gap, etc.. Thinking back, I remembered a place that all of my whitewater kayaking buddies had gone to paddle, but I’d never heard of anyone hiking it before. A quick Google search showed me that while Wilson’s Creek is best known for the class II-IV rapids carve through the granite canyon, there’s plenty of hiking trails to keep the terrestrial minded happy.

Tucked in the corner between Linville and Grandfather Mountain, Wilson’s Creek is a slice of the tight technical creeks of out west in our own backyard. Kayakers have always praised it for its great paddling and if you enjoy the Upper Green you’ll love Wilson’s Creek; most of it is the pool/drop kind of paddling you don’t find that often. Fisherman also love it for the abundance of trout: both the native brookies along the small feeder creeks and the larger hatchery supported rainbows and browns that they release in the main creek. Hiking trails radiate out from the Creek and have plenty to keep you busy with between the river, falls, and overlooks that you come across. There’s even a primitive Forest Service campground if you don’t want to hike that far for a campsite (along with several mom and pop type campgrounds along the road that runs beside the Creek).

Starting from Kings Mountain, we took Highway 321 up to Hickory and stopped at the Outdoor store there to order a piece of a Yakima rack system to finish the setup on dads car (and ogle their Kevlar boats). From there we took 321 to 90 and took the few back roads to get to the main road that follows the Creek. Driving along the well maintained gravel road  that follows the Creek, we couldn’t help but pull off and look at the rapids below; this looked more like California than Carolina. As we kept driving, we watched every twist and turn of the river and some of the kayakers that were paddling that day. Fisherman were out in force the day we were there, and all of them seemed serious to the point I wondered whether they were catching the fish or playing chess with them.

Further up we came to the came to the camp ground that the forest service takes care of and found that due to recent flooding, this coming year they were limiting the number of sites down to half of their normal number. There are plenty of small stores around as well so when I finally go camping there I won’t have far to go if I forget the hotdogs. After finishing scouting, we decided to hike along the river and on its upper stretches the river is slow, flat and calm; perfect swimming holes in extremely cold water to cool down this summer. There’s even nice sandy beaches and a remarkably low-level of trash which is something that’s rare to see around good swimming holes.

Upper Wilson’s Creek

We decided to make one last stop on the way home at a particularly impressive rapid that had a 4-5′ drop; we had seen a kayaker higher up on the river coming down, and I wanted to get some pictures of him running the rapid. A short but steep descent brought us to the Creek’s edge where we were sat and waited for the kayaker. While waiting, two college students (one male, the other female) hiked up to the top of the rocky outcropping above the bottom of the rapid. Once at the top, they hugged, and the girl started pulling off the t-shirt and shorts that covered her swimsuit and jumped straight into the pool 15′ below without any hesitation; all Dad and I could do was look at each other and mouth “Wow”. She swam back to the edge after swimming for a bit, dried off and went back to the car with her beau…whether she carried him up the hill on her back and killed a deer for their meal afterwards I have no clue, but to jump that height without any hesitation she’s probably more man than I am.

Kowabunga!

Driving the twisting road back home, blaring John Denver on the iPod, the three of us declared this trip a success and started figuring out when we could come back when we had more time. Since then, Dad has taken my 12-year-old brother on a backpacking trip there and says there’s enough trail to keep us busy for a long time; I suppose I better cash in a few of my vacation days and pull out the gear.

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