As a raft guide at the Nantahala Outdoor Center from 2002 - 2008, I made several trip to what would become my favorite waterfall destination in Western North Carolina: Wildcat Falls. I was first introduced to Wildcat Falls on a day off during my first year there by Stephan Hart, my botanical buddy. His nomenclature was phenomenal, and my wife will tell you, I don't say that about every man I know. Wildcat Falls is found in rural Graham County and accessed most directly via the Big Fat Gap trail head. This requires 7 miles of driving on a gravel forest road, best experienced in a Subaru which facilitates the most eloquent of fishtails around the corners. If you drive in at night, you can also detect oncoming cars more easily (there were none our entire drive in or out) allowing for a slightly higher rate of travel.
She and I have enjoyed backpacking together for several years now and my goals of carrying a lightweight pack have been realized thanks to a gift from my favorite college buddy, Mac Johnson, who gave me a 1 lb frameless pack made of silicone impregnated nylon (silny). For gear heads, it's a G4 54 pack and I carry 30 lbs. max in it. But to go even lighter on this trip, we camped at the same spot for two nights and the next day, we set out on an aggressive 20+ mile loop carrying only our water and lunch. Trail 42A had not likely been maintained in at least several years, perhaps five, and our shins were scratched and bloodied after miles of bushwhacking. The morning of the third day, I took a dip in Slickrock Creek and then headed over to the "touristy" part of Joyce Kilmer for some enormous Tulip Poplars.
- we didn't see another person on a 3 day-2 night trip in the Eastern US. Awesome!
- the blue ghost fireflies were out in number creating an other-worldly hike in at night
Photographed highlights included:
- nocturnal snails
- poorly maintained trails that were even more poorly signed (54 A is uphill)
- a fungal feast for some bugs
- Indian cucumber root as far as we could see (Thanks Lee Knight for teaching me this one!)
- Susan telling me she is terrible at creek crossings as we are in for 5 creek crossings! (she was fine :)
- groves of gigantic Eastern trees that escaped the axe and saw
Of interest to me and hopefully at least one other person