Sunday, January 20, 2013

Foothills Trail-- Bad Creek to Bearcamp Creek

The past week had a lot of rain, so I decided to revisit part of the Foothills Trail in South Carolina which I'd hiked once last year that had exceptional the waterfalls and streams.  Starting from the Bad Creek Trailhead, a 0.6 mile blue-blazed trail crossed the Whitewater River on a metal bridge to reach the Foothills Trail.

Winter had opened up views of countless smaller waterfalls that I hadn't noticed on my previous trip last April.  With the leaves off the trees, I could also appreciate the route the Foothills took-- while there were some short steep parts, much of it followed old roads and avoided long and sustained elevation changes.
Morning frost made steep steps slippery.
The deep roar of the frothing whitewater of the Thompson River made my heart race as I crosse over it at mile 2.7.  I'd read in the Naturalist's Guide to the Southern Blue Ridge Front that this river is worth exploring via rock-hopping along (no trails)- there is a falls less than a half mile north of the bridge and rare plants.  Swollen with water for recent rains, rock hopping was not an option for me, so I made mental note of the campsite on the far bank, and decided a return trip will be in order.
Bridge over the Thompson River
The roaring Thompson River
After 5.5 miles, the trail descended to a large campsite at the intersection of the side trail to Hilliard Falls (also called Bearcamp Falls).  An impressive amount of water covered the rockface in dramatic white sheets in this two-tiered falls.
Upper part of Hilliard Falls
The next mile between Hilliard Falls and Bearcamp Campsite followed the doghobble and rhododendron lined banks of Bearcamp Creek.
Cascades of Bearcamp Creek
Past the campsite, I found a large puddle filled with frog's eggs.  How cool!
Seemingly boring looking puddle...
...on closer examination reveals blobby things...
... which and an even closer look shows...
.. are little frog eggs!
Beyond Bearcamp, the path joined old roads and walking became easy, traversing pine-covered hillsides.  The sounds of the cascades below echoed up the valley.
Pine-scented forest.
 I decided to turn around before the Foothills Trail descended all the way to the Horsepasture River.  I'm not sure how many miles it was, but I needed a short day on Sunday so I could make it back home for evening aerial dance trapeze practice.  So, I headed back to Hilliard Falls where I set up camp down by the Foothills Trail where it seemed warmer.  It was a large campsite which could have accommodated a large group of hammockers.  Has anyone else noticed that the proportion of branches suitable for bearbagging is inversly proportional to the number of well-spaced trees for hammockers?
Near Hilliard Falls.
Once I put my pack down, I realized just how sore I was.  Leading up to our big trapeze show next weekend, I'd been rehearsing everyday, sometimes twice a day.  As much as I tried to convince myself that backpacking would be a break from trapeze, my muscles told me differently.  I worked on stretching and yoga alternating with camp tasks and dinner.  It was only then that I remembered that one of my most difficult New Years resolutions this year is "Slow Down. Breathe."  Guess I'll need to continue to work on that one!

The cold night, mid-thirities, allowed me to try out my new glove system.  I wore DIY arm gaiters most of the day, with fleece fingerless gloves for hiking, camp tasks and anything with a risk of getting wet, and then changed immediately into the big and heavy mittens (from my dad) when it was colder or when the fleece got damp.  No cold hands for me!

This was yet another trip where I saw no one else the entire time.  Where are all the hikers?  Hello out there.


  1. Great write up, as usual.
    Hilliard Falls is one of my favorite places on the FHT. I have always set up a basecamp at the bottom of the falls and day hike from there.

    1. One of my favorites too! What a coincidence that you commented on this post last week- I just got back from re-hiking the Foothills Trail- the fall leaves were spectacular. I'll post a trip report soon...

  2. Does anyone know the GPS coordinates for Hilliard Falls? Thx !

    1. Sorry I don't know that information. Hope someone reads this and posts the info for you.