That may be a bit of a stretch, but our seven-mile hike delivered a beautiful creek, two gorgeous waterfalls, and a fabulous view from on top of a mountain bald. (It was supposed to be a six-mile hike, but we kinda got ourselves lost in a rhododendron thicket.)
It’s Easy To Get Lost In Panthertown
Eric is generally really good at following maps and directions. (Me, not so much.) Panthertown Valley, however, is an easy place to get lost.
We knew this going in. We chose the Schoolhouse Falls/Little Green Mountain/Greenland Creek Falls Loop, which is considered to be one of the most scenic areas in the valley. Most of the reviews on AllTrails say things like, “A little anxiety provoking as this trail wasn’t very well marked;” “If I hadn’t downloaded the trail map, we might still be wandering around on Little Green Mountain;” and my favorite, in succinct Southern vernacular, “Have a map on you!”
Well, we had a map on us, and I can tell you, it wasn’t all that helpful. Some of the problem was caused by tropical storm Fred, which created significant washout on the trails.
But some of the trails that are considered “side” trails apparently always require bushwhacking. The Forest Service maintains only what they consider to be main trails, and they mark those with their usual brown trail signs. Those are great unless they’ve been swept away in a flood. They also use green markers on trees for trail finding. Green. In a lush green forest. It’s like playing hide-and-seek with trail markers.
We finally found Greenland Creek Falls by just following the sound of the water. It was worth the struggle.
And then we had to bushwhack our way back to the main trail, and figure out where to cross the creek to find the trail on the other side. Nothing was obvious after the storm damage. But I’m glad we didn’t give up.
A Lunch Break On Little Green Mountain
Honestly, after 18 months of living at sea level with our only exercise on flat trails and beaches, I was a little worried about our ability to hike rugged trails with any elevation gain. But I guess our daily brisk hour-and-a-half walks and bike rides are keeping us from completely going to pot. The trail we chose only had about 800 feet of elevation gain, but I think most of that was in less than a mile to the top of Little Green Mountain.
We like salads for lunch, and we like them loaded with goodies. This one had tuna with chickpeas, kalamata olives, pickled asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkle of feta and toasted pumpkin seeds, dressed with balsamic and olive oil. Those little stainless steel lunch containers have been with us for 20 years and have a lot of miles on them.
On To Beautiful Schoolhouse Falls
Once we found our way off of the mountaintop, it was easy to locate the trail. It was still rough and root laden, but mostly downhill after Little Green Mountain.
Stopping off at Schoolhouse Falls was pure delight, no bushwhacking through rhododendron thickets required.
There’s a peaceful sandy beach at the base of Schoolhouse Falls. It’s the perfect place for taking off your hiking boots and soaking your feet in the cold water. Especially if you have new hiking boots that you’re working on breaking in. I’ve been buying the same Keen hiking boots for years, and they’ve recently changed them. That’s bad behavior!! So I had to switch hiking boots. Now I have Oboz. I have square feet, and the shoebox usually fits me better than the hiking boots. :-(
This was a great hike, with lots of reward for a bit of effort. And the trailhead was conveniently located just a few miles from our campground in Lake Toxaway.
Many thanks to our blog friend Chan, who wrote and recommended that we do the loop trail that included Greenland Creek Falls, Little Green Mountain, and Schoolhouse Falls. With 30 miles of trails to choose from, that helped a lot. Hiking the trail clockwise was also excellent advice, which provided the grand finale of Schoolhouse Falls near the end of our hike.