Friday, March 29, 2019

The Falls of Rhododendron Creek

Been up Rhododendron creek a few times over the years; however, today’s hike had a little more meaning. It had been a few years since I traversed the creek once known as Big Laurel. I first heard the original name from my good friend Mike Maples. I never got to hike the trail with Mike, but I came to know that one of his favorite waterfalls was located along it pathways. Mike’s falls is one of many found along a mile and a half stretch of Rhododendron Creek. Tennessee Landforms shows one waypoint and simply calls it Rhododendron Creek Falls and indicates 13 cataracts comprising the stretch of falls and cascades. After our hike, I did a little research and found that Greg Plumbs second edition of his Tennessee Waterfall book listed 8 named falls. Depending on criteria, some of the waterfalls and cascades along the creek merely qualify as pretty photo ops as opposed to official waterfalls. A few of the waterfalls apparently have local names so for the purposes of this writing, I will list both the local name and names given by Greg Plumb in his book. Today was also a great opportunity to locate three home places that I had missed on earlier hikes and named from maps by Glenn Cardwell. With side trips, our hike today was 4 miles round trip. I was joined by Marlene Denton, Duane Pierce, Jim Rigsby, Denise Cameron, Charlie and Denise Denney.   

The trail is not difficult to follow, but there is one stream crossing near the beginning of the hike.

I was not sure that the first falls really qualified; however, Greg Plumb has this one listed as Oldhamii Falls in his book.

The next falls is locally called Triple Falls, and is listed as Rhodora Falls by Greg Plumb.

We attempted some group photos at this lovely falls, but the only one that turned out was of this very silly man!

The next falls is locally called Sideways Falls and listed as Pinxter Falls by Greg Plumb. I had to look up some of the interesting names given these falls by Mr. Plumb and found many of them to be various azalea names. A Pinxter, or Pinkster is commonly known as a Pink Azalea.

The next two have limited views from the trail and are a bushwhack down to the creek to get a better view. I believe that I did that on previous hikes, but settled for the trail view today. The first one Plumb calls Mountain Laurel Falls.

The second one Plumb refers to as Glenn Dale Falls. No idea why he named it this.

Next one found in Plumb’s book is Azalea Falls

Followed by Kurume Falls. A Kurume Azalea is a hybrid pink to crimson azalea. This waterfall was further given the name Stair Step Falls by Marlene.

Alas we come to the Jedi’s Favorite that we will forever know as Mike’s Falls.

Mike's Falls is listed in Greg Plumb’s book as Alpenrose Falls. Alpenrose or Rhododendron ferrugineum is an evergreen shrub that grows just above the tree line in the Alps, Pyrenees, Jura and northern Apennines, on acid soils.
It was here that the silly man was finally able to get a decent group photo! After a few comical attempts at setting a timer and reaching the group, the silly man settled for a squat off to the side!

Here we see Jim and Marlene amidst the Rhododendron that likely gives this creek its name.

As previously stated, there are many small waterfalls and cascades found along the creek so your number may vary depending on what you think qualifies as a waterfall.

The last home place before reaching Grapeyard Ridge belonged to George Rayfield   according to Mike Maples. I can hear Maples now telling family history and me asking him whose chimney this was. I had hiked to the upper reaches from Ted’s Branch years ago with MM and good buddy Ben Bacot. Lots of great memories from those hikes!

Great friends, great hike, but still one more home place to find on the return trip. Hey Marlene, which way do we go?

I had looked for the home place on the way up but decided against another stream crossing early in the hike. With warmer temperatures and being near to the car, I decided that getting wet was a worthwhile risk. The rest of the group decided to let Crazy Gourley scout ahead in the event there was nothing to find. It tuned out to be a little farther up the creek than what my plotted GPS waypoint had shown; however, I did find what little remained of the chimney along with some foundation rocks. According to a Glenn Cardwell map, it belonged to Richard Whaley.

Finding this home place was a nice way to end a great day along Rhododendron Creek. Despite not being an official park trail, this little gem is no secret and is traversed by numerous hikers each year. In fact, I think the trail is better than some of the official park trails.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. I have hiked Injun Creek but need to include Rhododendron Creek in a loop hike.