View from the front seat of the Hippie Hot Rod
This is the perfect weather for hiking. We finally have relief from the summer heat and the leaves are changing the mountain landscape from its standard level of beautiful to downright spectacular.  With that in mind, the family and I packed up the Subaru and headed for the mountains this past Sunday.  Our destination was just north of Walhalla to visit the fish hatchery, a couple of waterfalls along the Chattooga River and views that surpassed anything we could find watching football in our living room.

Lake Jocassee
The trip paid for itself before we made our first stop.  As we climbed in elevation the colors overwhelmed us.  Naturally, fall is developing at a faster pace in the mountains and somewhere along the way I shook off the last remaining sensations of summer.  I remember taking this for granted when I lived in the mountains during college but on Sunday I was reminded why people spend entire weekends where the only goal in mind is to look at the changing colors of the season. 

For us, however, fall colors were merely a bonus as we had not even reached our destination yet. Our first stop was the Walhalla Fish Hatchery which is responsible for stocking about half a million trout into our rivers, lakes and streams every year.  If you are a sportsman that enjoys catching this amazing and elusive creature, you have to visit at least once.  If you are going to enjoy the fruits of the hatchery workers labor, you should at least see the love and care that goes into raising these fish for both their environmental impact and the pleasure of the sportsmen.  

Anyone got a net?
Likewise, if you are a wide-eyed child then the hatchery offers a spectacular view of underwater life without the cost, travel and crowds of any of our regional aquariums.  I remember my parents taking me to the Walhalla Fish Hatchery when I was Ivan’s age and it is truly a pleasure to share the experience with him now.  Heck, I would be lying if I tried to say that I am not impressed by the volume and size of the brown and rainbow trout that the hatchery shares with the public (at absolutely no cost, I might add).

From the Fish Hatchery we traveled a few miles south on Highway 107 to Burrell’s Ford.  Resting on the banks of the Chattooga River, this is a popular destination for hikers, campers, and fisherman alike.  Many of the trout from the hatchery are released here and I have never visited without seeing more fly fisherman than I can count. I have to admit, though, that I am terrible when it comes to fishing in the river. I do not own a fly rod and I am guaranteed to hook 7-10 tree branches for every fish I catch on every trip I make to this area.  

Fortunately for my tackle box, today was just about the scenery, fresh air and exercise.

There are miles of trails and a healthy selection ofwaterfalls along the Chattooga River to keep any weekend adventurer busy for the entire fall season.  On this particular day we picked King Creek and Spoonauger Falls which reside on smaller streams that feed the Chattooga.  They are short hikes with majestic rewards and are a great destination for any family looking for a taste of the outdoors without much effort.

Ivan at King Creek Falls
King Creek Falls is a 70 foot waterfall about half a mile away from the Chattooga River.  An easy 30 minute walk from the parking area led us to one of my favorite waterfalls in The Upstate.  There is something about the path along King Creek that leads to the falls that stands out to me compared to other trails. Whether it is the tunnels through rhododendron thickets or the peaceful song of the creek that never leaves your side, I cannot say. I just know that if you want an easy hike with an enormous payoff, this is a great choice.

Standing in the middle of Spoonauger Falls

All in all, we probably hiked a little over two miles between the two waterfalls. This is not grueling by any standard and it almost seems unfair to see such great falls with so little effort.  However, as long as hikes like The Dismal Trail are looming on the horizon, I suppose it brings a necessary balance to our hiking universe.  

Snack time!
Our adventure ended with one last stop. You simply cannot drive through the mountains this time of year without passing more apple stands one can count. We picked Mountain Rest Apple Orchard on a whim and sorted through six different crates of freshly picked apples while we filled up our bag. We returned home with red delicious, golden delicious and Arkansas black apples that were tastier (and cheaper) than anything we could possibly find in the produce section of our local Publix.

Mountain Rest Apple Orchard
We work hard all week long and sometimes staying home and relaxing sounds more appealing than an hour drive to a hike. Alternatively, we are away from home so much that the more responsible decision would be to stay and work to get caught up on house and yard work.  Sometimes we satisfy these needs or lazy pleasures and sometimes we say “forget it” and head for the hills. The trip is always worth the drive and our minds, bodies, and souls thanks us as we get ready to tackle another week in the “real” world. 

We are lucky to have such inexpensive therapy right here in our backyard.