Foliage nearing peak color at the top of Upper Creek Falls
The view from the very top of Upper Creek Falls near the peak of the fall foliage season
During my trip to the western North Carolina mountains, I was looking for some locations where I hadn’t shot before. As it turned out there were a ton of waterfalls nearby that I had thought about visiting before but had never actually visited. So, I took one day and went to three that looked promising.
Upper Creek Falls is south of the Blue Ridge Parkway and near Linville Falls. The trail isn’t nearly as developed as others in the area, though. Consequently, there is relatively little traffic to the falls. Upper Creek Falls is interesting because you can get to the top and bottom of the falls via a loop trail. Most waterfall trails take you to the bottom or the top of the falls, but the route between top and bottom is usually off-limits. There is a good reason for that. The constant moisture from the spray of a waterfall tends to make everything in the vicinity moist and slippery. Rocks are especially notorious for building up a thin layer of slime that becomes as slick as ice when wet. I have plenty of first-hand experience with slipping in creeks and rivers. In fact, there is more about that in a moment.
I decided to approach the falls by heading to the upper end via the loop trail. The trail was relatively short and on an easily managed grade. Even though the parking lot could accommodate ten or twenty cars, there was only one other in the lot when I arrived. I followed the only other couple down the trail as we both headed toward the overlook at the top of the falls.
The creek feeding the falls is pretty in and of itself. The foliage surrounding the stream was beginning its turn to the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges of fall. The scene above the falls was beautiful enough to photograph. So, I set down my pack and set up my tripod to capture the scene. I was set up on a rock ledge closest to the stream. When at full flow the rock that I was standing on would have been underwater. Fortunately, in the fall the area is pretty dry so most of the rock was safe to walk on. But, remember what I said about rock becoming as slick as ice when wet? What I didn’t realize was that a small amount of water had been trickling out of the woods and had flowed across the rock to the creek. As it turned out, that three-inch swath was exceptionally slippery. I know because I stepped on it as I was looking through my viewfinder composing an image. As quick as you can imagine my left foot flew out from beneath me and I fell on my butt and my left hand that I had thrown out to break my fall. I kept my right hand on a tripod leg to attempt from having my camera going flying into the stream and over the waterfall!
The good news was that I kept my very expensive camera body and lens from being dunked in the water and smashed on the rocks. The bad news was that my left wrist was causing me quite a bit of pain. Get the picture. I had fallen mostly on my left side, braced my fall on the smooth rock with my left hand, and was reaching up to steady my tripod, camera, and lens with my right hand. I managed to settle my tripod back onto all three of its legs so that I could work my way back onto my feet. Pushing off with my left hand was unthinkable because of the pain. I rolled and cautiously made it back onto my feet. I began to rotate and move my wrist to see if it was broken. Amazingly, I had full motion with it even though moving it was very painful. At this point, I called off my plans to hike to the bottom of the falls. The last thing I needed was to discover that I was a mile or more away from my car with a broken wrist. I moved slowly back to my car checking my wrist continuously.
As it turned out my wrist wasn’t broken. But, I certainly had sprained it. Over the next few days, it grew swollen, turned black and blue, and remained painful. But, it became obvious that it wasn’t broken. As it turned out, the fall that I experienced wasn’t the one I expected!