More AT Photos


Runtrails Home Page




Appalachian Trail Conference


Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club


Fueled by:













































































































































































































































































































































































































































Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next
MAY 7, 2006
"If it weren't for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song."
- Carl Perkins

One of many waterfalls in Pierce Pond Stream in Maine, Day 137.

One reason creeks and rivers fascinate me so much is their "exuberance" as they splash and dance over and around rocks on their way down a mountain or hillside.

I love to hear the "song of the stream."

Along the Appalachian Trail you'll see cascades, rock flumes (AKA chutes or sluices), and waterfalls that range from simple little foot-high drops to an impressive sixty-foot waterfall that thunders through a deep slate gorge. There are multi-tier waterfalls, slick and narrow rock chutes, and several miles-long series of cascades forming numerous waterfalls - all right next to the Trail.

Rather than showing you photos from south to north in this essay, I'll categorize them more by the type of waterfall and length of the drop, from small to grand. This is the first I've shown more than half of these photos.


Even little cascades and waterfalls are appealing, as the next photos illustrate. They are a great place to take a break and observe nature's beauty in a quiet setting. 

One of my favorite climbs was on Day 24, ascending the lush green Unaka Mountains in Tennessee from the Nolichucky River, as the Trail followed this beautiful creek with numerous little cascades:

These small waterfalls from Day 43 in Virginia were delightful. So was the company - Dru and Graham ran with me that day! We enjoyed several streams in that section:

Many falls along the AT come in a series of cascades, such as this five-tiered waterfalls in State Line Branch, so named because it runs along the North Carolina-Tennessee line (Day 17):

This next picture shows a series of little waterfalls in a creek in Virginia south of Dickey Gap/VA 16 (Day 32). There are two more views in Photos 40 that show a more placid side of this lovely creek.

Considerably more rugged are most of the cascading streams in New Hampshire, such as Cascade Brook, below, located on the north side of North Kinsman Mountain (Day 117):

(See the AT blaze in the photo above? That's the Trail, right through or over those boulders!)

Later the same day I passed this waterfall in Eliza Brook, near the shelter of the same name. It had a drop of about fifteen feet, as I recall. Notice the mist? It was a rainy, foggy day.

Another interesting creek in New Hampshire is Whitewall Brook on Zealand Ridge in the White Mountains.

Traveling northbound on Day 119, I came to this idyllic spot and stopped to sit on the smooth rocks for a few minutes to just chill out and watch the cascades:

The AT crosses the creek through a smooth rock "flume" or chute, below:

Fortunately, that day the water was low enough that I could jump over the three-foot span without stepping down on the smooth rock bottom of the chute. I think this would be a risky crossing if the water was high and you couldn't see where you were stepping. You can see where the water drops off into oblivion at the top of the photo - that is a long waterfall . . .

A little farther downstream you come to the Zealand Falls Hut. If you take a short side path you can see part of popular Zealand Falls:

If you have time, it would be fun to explore more of those cascades.

Jim took the next photo of a pretty "stepped" waterfall on the south side of Old Speck Mountain in Maine on Day 127.

That was one of my three longest days on the Trail. It was dark by the time I passed this falls; I could hear its song but couldn't see it except by flashlight:

This is another scenic falls along the Trail in Maine. I believe it is Sawyer Brook, between Moody and Hall Mountains (Day 130):


During a trek on the AT hikers are likely to see some "dry creeks" that have water only after it rains. Sometimes those creek beds are the Trail, wet or dry! Hikers get accustomed to that.

It was a bit of a surprise on misty Day 94, however, when the Trail climbed a hill next to a dry waterfall in New York. (Notice the white blaze on the tree to the right.) This is Fitzgerald Falls and creek, dry as a bone:

Fortunately, all the other cascades and waterfalls I passed did have water in them. In fact, some had so much as to be memorable.

One of the creeks that will be forever etched in the brains of both Jim and me is Vaughn Stream, north of Big Wilson River in Maine's Hundred-Mile Wilderness.

Jim saw Vaughn Stream when it was beyond flooded on Day 141, the day I also encountered the Little and Big Wilson Rivers at "high tide." Jim tried to come in to meet me on the Trail that day but I couldn't cross Big Wilson and he was stopped by Vaughn. Never the twain shall meet . . .

Two days later, I took these photos of Vaughn Stream after most of the flooding had receded in the area. The water was still flowing very fast and was probably higher than during a dry week. Even so, Jim could hardly believe it was the same creek! He didn't see these smooth rocks when he was there:

And it's those smooth rocks that were so dangerous when the creek was flooded, because only a few feet to the right of the AT crossing (i.e., downstream) are double twenty-foot waterfalls, seen first from the top, then from the side, in the photos below:


Hikers need to be wary at that crossing even when the water is at normal depth. Slide on those smooth rocks and you may end up at the bottom of these waterfalls!

The most impressive falls I saw the entire adventure run was Little Wilson Falls, also in the Hundred Mile Wilderness, when it was flooded on Day 141. I've recounted the story in this journal several times about how difficult it was to cross the river a quarter of a mile downstream from this very LOUD falls, as well as several miles downstream when it emptied into the Big Wilson River.

Although Little Wilson Falls terrified me that day because I knew I had to cross the river soon, I'll probably be disappointed if I ever see them  again at normal level.

At sixty feet high, this is one of the longest falls on the Appalachian Trail. It drops dramatically through a gorgeous narrow, dark slate canyon. Imagine the deafening roar as you look at the three photos below.

The first view is at the top, where the river was about thirty feet across:

The next two shots are a little farther down the gorge as the channel narrowed through the rock walls:


That last view with all the mist and churning water was both awesome and chilling. The one thought that dominated my brain was, "And I'm supposed to cross that river in a few hundred feet???"

(If you haven't read them yet, you can get all the gory details on Day 141 and in Photos 11 and Photos 41.)


Another magnificent falls, even at normal flow, is the 40-foot drop at the bottom of Laurel Fork Canyon in Tennessee. The AT follows the Laurel Fork River for a mile or more as it drops into the canyon, and right at the edge of the river for half a mile north from the falls.

There is a high water detour a couple hundred feet higher. If the water is the least bit high, you simply cannot walk down there or take a photo from the angle below. (Look at the second photo on Day 28 to see what I mean.)

Another beautiful, high falls is in aptly-named Falls Village, Connecticut.

The Housatonic River forms the Great Falls, which are usually dry in the summer due to the diversion of water for hydroelectric generation. However, on Day 100 there was plenty of water flowing on both sides of the rocky outcropping to pique my interest (notice the mist in the background where the second part of the falls is located):

The next falls through Slugundy Gorge in Maine is not as high as some of these other large falls, but it is dramatic because of the beautiful canyon through which the stream flows.

This is just one of several falls hikers can see from the Trail as it climbs north from Long Pond Stream up Barren Mountain (Day 143):

I also enjoyed Katahdin Stream Falls, located about a mile north of Katahdin Stream Campground, the staging area for hikers ascending Mt. Katahdin.

The beautiful fifty-foot cascades are just off the Trail and definitely worth a peek (Day 148):


The AT guide books advise hikers of interesting waterfalls (and other natural features) that are located on side trails off the AT. One such waterfall that I recommend you go see if you have the time and energy is Apple Orchard Falls on Apple Orchard Mountain in Virginia.

I didn't take the national recreation trail a mile down to the falls when I passed nearby on Day 47 because I've "been there, done that," several times, in fact.

These outstanding falls just happen to be on one of Jim's and my training courses near Roanoke! If you haven't seen them before, they are definitely worth a little side trip. You'll see hemlock forests, rock outcroppings with moss and lichens, and numerous spring wildflowers and rhododendrons from April to June. This side trail feels more wild and remote than most sections of the AT in Virginia.

The photo below, which I took April 23, 2006 on a training run, shows the upper portion of the 150-foot main drop of Apple Orchard Falls near the headwaters of North Creek:

It's less than a mile from the AT down to the wooden bridging where I took this photo.

Be aware, however, that the trail is fairly steep in places and there are numerous wooden steps to climb just above the falls. Compared to the terrain in New Hampshire and Maine, it's "moderate." Perspective.

If you have more time, you can follow the boisterous creek for over two more miles below the falls. There are numerous other smaller waterfalls and cascades along the 2,000-foot descent to the valley below. This is part of the course for David Horton's Promise Land 50K trail race in April.


I've mentioned many times in this journal how much I enjoy running and hiking along streams (as long as I know I don't have to ford them!).

In the final section of this essay I'll show you photos from several of the very active creeks and rivers I had the pleasure of following for half a mile to six miles as I climbed up or down mountains in New England.

One of my favorites was Sawmill Brook through beautiful Sages Ravine near the Connecticut-Massachusetts border (Day 100). The creek was quiet and calming despite a series of cascades, little waterfalls, and reflecting pools of water.

This is one of my Top Ten spots along the whole AT. Here are two photos showing small waterfalls along the picturesque brook:


One of the most difficult climbs (up OR down) on the AT is the Beaver Brook Trail portion on the north side of Mt. Moosilauke in the southwestern corner of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

I chose to go southbound on Day 116 so I'd be going UP this steep, 2,900 foot climb instead of down it. Uphill is always kinder to my Granny Knees. Jim went up to the summit with me, then headed back down the difficult trail to our truck so he could pick me up hours later.

We were pleasantly distracted on the climb up the mountain by all the spectacular scenery, including a mile or more right next to the Beaver Brook Cascades. Jim took this photo of me on the way up:

I felt privileged to follow the lively Pierce Pond Stream for about six miles on Day 137 in Maine.

Going northbound it's a downhill trek, mostly next to the creek until it empties into the Kennebeck River near Caratunk. I was totally fascinated with all of its rapids, cascades, waterfalls, flumes, and even some quiet, slow-moving sections. This stream has it all.


There is also a photo of the stream at the top of this essay that shows another of the numerous waterfalls along its length.

The next photo shows one of the interesting flumes (water chutes) in Pierce Pond Stream:

The Trail doesn't cross that chute, which is about ten feet wide in this spot. In fact, the only time I remember crossing the stream was at its outlet from Pierce Pond. You can see a photo of the rickety log crossing in the journal on that day.

I'll close with one last flume photo from Maine. This one was along Rainbow Stream on my next to last day on the AT in the section that includes Rainbow Lake, Rainbow Mountain, and Rainbow Ledges - lots of "rainbows!"

I followed the rambunctious creek for about two miles, reveling in all the cascades, waterfalls, and sluices like the one below, which I shot from the Trail about ten feet above the fast-moving water:

I did have to ford that stream farther up the Trail, but it was a non-event. Whew!

"As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can."   - John Muir

You can't get much closer to the "heart of the world" as you can on the Appalachian Trail. (Yes, even avalanches.)

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

Previous       Next

Send an e-mail message to Sue & Jim  

2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil