Seldom-Seen Falls Trail
To many natural wonders (including the 100 ft. Seldom-Seen Falls themselves), the hidden falls treasure, and beyond, to the high-elevation meadow.
*** Note: This is a steep, rugged, poorly maintained, “black-diamond” trail that requires strenuous exercise and a pioneer attitude! The quest for the Seldom-Seen Falls is not for the faint hearted or weak of spirit, and certainly not for the old and feeble or very, very young. Only the most able-bodied souls possessing an adventurous spirit should venture forth. After all, there is good reason why the falls are called seldom seen.
Estimated hiking time to: Price Cascades: 10 mins
Seldom-Seen Falls: 30 mins (.75-1 mile)
High-Elevation Meadow: 1.5 hour (1.8-2 mi.)
The Old Mountain Road is your path to adventure. It is the road running directly behind the Old Farmhouse and up behind the barn. It is noted on old maps of the area as “Old Mountain Road,” meaning that it must indeed be very old now. It was probably quite old already 100 years ago, when it served as the main road up Old Field Bald Mountain to the high-elevation meadow, which was the original site of Old Farmhouse. For his first wife, Emma Jones (Betty Conway’s grandmother’s cousin), who didn’t want to live isolated on the mountain top, Roby Grier drug the Old Farmhouse down the Old Mountain Road bit by bit by horse and sled back in the 1940’s, and reassembled it where it stands today. A few years after Emma died, his second wife kicked Roby out of the house and made him move into the “millhouse,” which is the shed along the Old Farmhouse driveway. Imagine that!
As you hike up Old Mountain Road, you’ll find…
Delightful Price Cascades at the corner of our property, where you find 2 gates. Here the improved driveway turns left through one gate, while you should continue straight through the other gate on the rough, overgrown Old Farm Road.
Beyond the gate, the road crosses the stream. Look up the mountain to see if you can glimpse the bottom of the lower falls (stream cascading down large rock face).
As late as 2004 Barton Grier, Roby’s nephew, used to drive his truck up and down this Old Mountain Road. Imagine that! And imagine what forces of man and nature have cut the deep road bed out of the mountain side here.
When the old roadbed meets the freshly bulldozed (2011) section of road, you should be able to look back over the Willett Miller Valley—this is “THE ECHO SPOT.” The timber operation that cut most of the trees off this hillside opened this view back down into the Willett Miller valley so that you can see over to Black Mountain, a ridge running off of the higher Old Field Bald. Look across at Black Mountain and you’ll see fields where Christmas trees used to grow. If the wind is not whistling too loudly through the trees, you can holler over the valley and Black Mountain will echo back to you in about 2 seconds. Try it and see.
Soon you will pass very near the Willet Nest. This is the highest house on this side of the mountain. Soon thereafter, you’ll come to a fork in the trail. Keep to the left to stay on Old Mountain Road to the top of the falls, but take a short break at this little overlook spot that provides the first views of Seldom-Seen Falls, the lower section. (The Lower Loop Trail coming in from the right provides an opportunity to loop back down across the mountain, and intersects with other trails that will take you either straight down to our barn, or all the way to the end of the valley and back to the end ofWillett Miller Rd.).
Once you have walked past the Willet Nest and the lower falls overlook, it’s time to look for a cache hidden inside a tree. This cache has a special treasure inside that you can take with you and use from time to time to brighten your day. To find this cache, look carefully along the left side of the trail as you climb towards to the right-hand bend in the trail, and see if you can find a tree just along the trail that offers a great hiding place for a squirrel or raccoon or hidden treasure. Although the cache cannot be seen from the trail, you can see evidence of the cache that will lead you to the treasure. Think like a raccoon…clue: Don’t untie the string!
Watch for where two big trees have fallen across the road and been cut through. Congratulations! They mark the spot of the best views of the top of Seldom-Seen Falls. Spectacular! They also mark the spot of another hidden treasure. Look for a small canister at the base of a big tree with a Posted sign on it. Take a treasure and/or leave a treasure, and don’t forget to sign the log book so we’ll know who really made it all the way to this special place.
Ready for more adventure? You’re nearly half way to the top of The Old Farm Road! And the Upper Loop Trail junction is not too far ahead.
The Upper Loop Trail takes off to the right just where the evidence of logging ends. It quickly crosses the creek and heads up and across the high plateau for nice views of the valley below. It eventually turns back down the mountain and loops down to join the Lower Loop Trail, from which you’ll have various options to find your way back down to the Old Farmhouse.
As you continue to climb up Old Mountain Road, watch for large chunks of striking, white quartz rock. The sharp edges of this quartz made for good Indian arrowheads!
As the road curves left, look for a massive old chestnut stump, the remnant of a giant. Chestnut trees used to be the dominant tree in the Appalachian forest, offering superior wood that was, like the locust, very rot resistant. The blight wiped out the chestnuts and changed the forest mix. This stump is surely 50 years old. Now locust is the hardest, most rot-resistant wood in the forest. Because a fence post made of locust will last upwards of 30 years, farmers have prized it for all sorts of rough construction. Do you see any fallen locust trees that look like they’ve been lying around for years?
As the road curves right, look for a large flame azalea. This relative to the rhododendron blooms bright orange in early summer. It is growing next to an evergreen hemlock tree. Take a close look at the hemlock needles and you’ll see the fuzzy white of the woolly adelgid., the insect that is killing the hemlocks. Say good-bye and RIP to this hemlock tree. Soon, like the chestnut, the hemlock will be but a memory. What will the woolly adelgid eat then?
If you persist up the Old Mountain Road, you’ll eventually come to a large burm in the road serving as a blockade to vehicular traffic. It is here that the road crosses onto Bald Mountain Farm property (marked by the bold blue blaze), where trespassers are prosecuted. This is the end of the trail, so to speak. However, if you stand on top of the burm, you can hope to glimpse the lovely high-elevation meadow just beyond. It is there that the Old Farmhouse used to be, surrounded by wildflowers in summer.