Christy and I spent most of last weekend at my friend Ericís wedding in High Point.Most of the weekend was taken up with the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, the pre-ceremony preparations, the wedding, and the reception.However, we did make it over to Salem Lake on Saturday morning for a 7-mile run.


By Sunday I was ready to spend some time in the woods.Luckily, I managed to talk Christy into hiking.We left my momís place in Winston-Salem and drove up to Doughton Park.Doughton Park is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, located near Stone Mountain State Park outside of Elkin.We drove to the Longbottom Road Trailhead, which is the starting point for numerous trails.We met J Bob there, as he was joining us on the hike.It was nice to see J Bob, as weíd last hiked together on a snowy backpacking trip in Panthertown Valley in February.


My original plan was a 10 mile round trip hike to Caudill Cabin:




However, that hike requires somewhere between 26 and 32 creek crossings.Basin Creek runs right past the trailhead, and water levels were way up due to the recent wet weather.Getting to Caudill Cabin probably wouldíve been possible, but it wouldíve meant being wet all day.We needed a backup plan.


I suggested hiking the Cedar Ridge Trail up to Brinegar Cabin.However, that hike involves a 2000í climb in 4 miles, and that was more than Christy wanted to tackle.Then I remembered a hike that my friend Joel had mentioned to me years ago.Itís an off-trail hike to an unusual hanging valley (named, conveniently, Hanging Valley).The valley features ruins from some old settlements.Since it is off-trail, it isnít well known.For some reason, Iíd never gotten around to checking it out.Although it would be an off-trail hike, I wasnít expecting a hardcore bushwhack.If there was a settlement there at one time, there would probably be something of an old road leading to it.


We hiked up the Fire Road, which was rather muddy from the recent rain.We followed along Basin Creek, which was running full.After about a mile we reached a crossing of a small creek.I recognized it as the stream draining Hanging Valley.Just beyond we spotted an old roadbed heading up the ridge immediately west of the valley.


The old road was in pretty good shape, but extremely steep initially.Eventually the grade eased, and we passed some mountain laurel in bloom.Then the trail leveled off, before dropping down to cross the creek just upstream from an obvious waterfall.This caught my attention, because I was not aware of any waterfalls here.The drop is pretty obvious on the map, but the stream is quite small.However, with the high water levels, it looked like it might be worth investigating.It was a bright, sunny day though, so I decided to save it for the hike out.


We crossed the creek and continued following the old road along a ridge above the creek.Eventually we reached the creek again.After another crossing, a broad, flat valley opened up ahead of us.Itís a lovely spot, under tall white pines and stout tuliptrees.The ground was covered in running cedar, and the whole area looked like it has serious wildflower potential earlier in the season.


We strolled into the valley.After a short distance we spotted two stone chimneys.We didnít find much else in the way of ruins, but the chimneys are tall and impressive.Inside one we found a geocache, which was last signed in March.We had lunch there before resuming our exploration up the valley.


We were just leaving the ruins when the sky suddenly darkened.Thatís when we discovered that the valley is haunted.A witch stepped out from behind a tree, directly into our path.Christy and I hid behind J Bob, and the dogs hid behind us.The witch cackled in cruel laughter.


This wasnít just any ordinary witch, either.In fact, it was the ghost of author Ayn Rand.When J Bob realized this, things really started going downhill.They got into an argument about politics, which escalated until J Bob called her a greedy bitch.The witch retaliated by turning J Bob into a newt.We begged and pleaded with her to turn him back (well ok, we asked politely, once), but she just cackled before jumping onto her broomstick and flying away.


Unfortunately, unlike this guy:




He didnít get better.


We werenít really sure what to do with him.Eventually we turned him loose at the base of a sizeable tuliptree.We figured heíd be happy there.RIP Bob, or whatever.


We explored further up the valley.The old road faded away, but the hiking was easy.We followed the stream, which had dwindled to a small brook.We were looking for more ruins, but all we found were a few piles of rocks that clearly werenít natural.Iím guessing they were from old foundations, or possibly collapsed chimneys.Eventually the flat terrain ended, and we decided to head back.


We returned to the brink of the falls and took a break there.Christy waited for me, while the dogs joined me for a good old fashioned bushwhack down to the base of the falls.The descent was steep and slippery due to the wet conditions, but it wasnít terrible.After a short distance I worked my way over the creek, and found myself at the base of the second substantial drop.The first is a nice, steep slide, but I never got a good look at that part of the falls.The second drop was only 20í or so, but it was pretty and rather photogenic.It starts as a narrow flume of water beneath a huge boulder, before fanning out over the rock face in a lovely cascade.There was a bit of deadfall here, so I did some gardening before setting up the tripod.I took a few photos, before resuming the descent.


The next part of the bushwhack was more challenging due to heavier foliage.Before long I managed to slide, stumble, and scramble my way to bottom of the third drop.This is an impressive tumbling cascade, perhaps 30í high, over an open rock face.I took a few more photos before pausing to consider my options.From the map, it looked like there was one more substantial drop farther downstream.However, the forest ahead looked like a true jungle, and Christy had been waiting for quite some time.I decided to head back up, and hike with her back down to the fire road.From there, Iíd follow the creek back upstream to the base of the last waterfall.


The climb back up was a grunt.I was a bit out of breath when I rejoined Christy at the top of the falls.From there we followed the old road back down the steep hill to Basin Creek.Near the bottom I let Christy rest again while I explored the lower part of the creek.I took a short cut over to the creek and headed upstream.Eventually the terrain got steep, but the creek was largely hidden by boulders, dense foliage, and fallen trees.I was sure there would be another waterfall, so I climbed up through the mess.At one point a tree branch knocked my glasses off my face, and I spent several minutes fumbling around looking for them.


I thought this would prove to be the low point of my little adventure, but I was wrong.I finally found them, and resumed the climb.I worked my way up the creek, scrambling up boulders and over deadfall.Finally a waterfall appeared ahead.What a relief!My relief lasted all of about 2 seconds.Thatís how long it took me to realize that it was the same waterfall Iíd been at about an hour earlier.Groan.


I returned by the same route.By the time I rejoined Christy I was filthy.I was literally covered in mud.Apparently this is how I compensate for spending an entire evening in a tuxedo.


The rest of the hike out was eventful.It was a great day, with some rarely seen ruins and the discovery of a previously undocumented waterfall.On the downside, J Bob getting turned into a newt was tragic.But Iím sure weíll move on.

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