A Difficult, but Beautiful Hike to the Falls

North Creek flows down the mountain, often spectacularly.
This is Susan’s panoramic shot of me at a “shower.”
Susan and me at Apple Orchard Falls.

My hiking compadre, Susan, and I challenged Apple Orchard Falls yesterday, a day when the humidity was so high, the walk felt like wading. The temperature was no New England fall, either.

This was a test of our endurance and for me, it came a week before my 74th birthday, so I was not as confident as a bullet-proof kid.

Susan’s watercolor interpretation of the falls.

But, because the hike is one of the best in these mountains–where great hikes are the norm–we stayed focused on nature’s beauty, rather than her challenges and we soared up to the falls. This is probably a high-moderate hike (4 miles, 800 feet of elevation) on a cool day, but yesterday, I’d say it ventured into “difficult” range. The last 400 yards of the hike is more of a climb/scramble over large rocks before emerging into the open with the high, gorgeous waterfall–the one I consider the prettiest–all things considered–that I’ve seen in Western Virginia.

The odd aspect of this hike for me is that I thought I had walked it before, but as my steps mounted up, I saw nothing that was familiar to me and finally determined that I’d never climbed Apple Orchard Falls.

That’s me dipping my shirt into the cool water of North Creek.

So, I took full advantage, climbing into the rocks beneath the falls and getting a wondrous soaking, a kind of initiation. On the way up, both Susan and I took advantage of the mini-falls–about four of them–to cool off. I even took off my shirt and soaked it in the cold water, then slid it back on at one point.

This is a good hike, especially if you’re either younger than me or in better shape than me, but I loved every step. Susan said she did, too. Here are some photos from the walk.

That’s me under the falls. It was wet up there.
The bridges along the way are well constructed.
We had linen napkins for our picnic lunch.
That’s me creeping up toward the falls.
Spiderweb in the light
These colorful mushrooms were all over the place along the trail.
Here I’m soaking my shirt in cold water, so I could cool off.
Susan celebrates the falls.

By admin

Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. On Advisory Board of New River Voice.