I needed to hike on Saturday.Christy and Saucony both had surgery last week, and I needed a break from our house, which is beginning to look like an infirmary.Bob was of a similar frame of mind, and Joel, Myron, Dorcas, and Izzak all decided to join us.Since the weather forecast was marginal, I decided that a valley hike was in order.Since weíd have multiple vehicles, I decided on a shuttle route along North Harper Creek, in the Wilson Creek area near Linville.


We saw lots of hunters and campers along the road to the North Harper Creek Trailhead.We dropped my car off there, and piled into Dorcasí new Honda Element for the ride to the Persimmon Ridge Trailhead.We started down the trail at 10:30, under surprisingly sunny skies.


A short walk down an old road brought us to a major junction.This area used to be very confusing, but new trail signs may have solved that problem.We continued down the Persimmon Ridge Trail, which was challenging due to the leaves covering the trail.The footing was tricky, especially near the end of the trail where the descent became steep.It was a relief to reach the edge of North Harper Creek.There would be no more downhills through the rest of the day.


A short walk upstream brought us to the first creek crossing.There are no bridges in this area, and the crossings can be difficult when the water is up.Unfortunately, everyone in the group managed to miss my emailed suggestion that they bring sandals in case we werenít able to rock hop.Luckily, the first crossing was aided by well-placed rocks just downstream.However, we still had 14 crossings to go.


We continued upstream on an old railroad grade, passing a nice campsite along the way.A short distance later, we spotted Bards Falls in the distance.A short and fairly easy descent on a side trail brought us to the base of this obscure waterfall.Bards Falls is quite attractive, and large boulders and a fine swimming hole add to the beauty of the area.Unfortunately the sunny weather provided poor lighting for photography.I still attempted a few photos, but knew that the results would be marginal at best.


We resumed the hike upstream, arriving at the most challenging stream crossing a few minutes later.Itís possible to rock hop most of the way, but an absence of rocks near the far side make for an extremely difficult crossing.Myron made an attempt, and even spun on a floating log briefly.Somehow he and Bob both made it across with only damp boots.This was impressive, since Jesus would have trouble crossing here without getting his sandals wet.


After watching Myron and Bob come close to swimming, I decided to use my tevas to wade.Dorcas and Joel followed barefoot.Beyond the crossing, we continued a couple hundred yards to a pleasant campsite for lunch.While we ate, we saw all kinds of people pass by, including kids, dayhikers, and backpackers.It was a little startling to see so many people.


After lunch we continued upstream, negotiating a handful of crossings.However, the worst carnage came later.At one point, Myron tried a long leap but slipped.

Dorcas stumbled later, and Bob and Joel both slipped off the same rock near the end of the hike.I got a little water in my boots on a couple of occasions, but managed to avoid any major disasters.


A long climb led up along a series of cascades.We eventually topped out at the brink of Chestnut Branch Falls, which is not on Chestnut Branch (itís actually on North Harper Creek immediately upstream from the Chestnut Branch confluence).This waterfall is a long slide, and the open rock face at the top provides an excellent place for a break.We took advantage of it, but nearly lost Myron to a lengthy nap in the process.


We eventually resumed the hike, crossing the creek one more time before reaching the base of North Harper Creek Falls.This waterfall is one of the nicest in the area, and we paused to take it in.In fact, the entire area is well worth a visit.Bob noted several large trees nearby, including Tuliptrees and Hemlocks.Iím guessing that the early 20th century loggers missed this area due to the rugged topography.


Another climb led to the top of the falls, where we crossed the creek yet again.The upper portion of North Harper Creek Falls is another long slide across open rock faces, much like Chestnut Branch Falls downstream.It was tempting to take another break here, but the sky was finally clouding up, and it was getting late.Clearly it was time to go.


One more climb, some slippery footing, and three more creek crossings brought us to the North Harper Creek Trailhead.The first sprinkles began to fall just as we reached the car.Fortunately the rain held off long enough for everyone to enjoy one of the beers Joel brought.It was a pleasant way to end a much-needed hike in one of my favorite areas.

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