Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaaqeena Falls, Walhalla SC

A nice day trip, today, for the mild activity level Al and I enjoy. A 31 mile car trip from Highlands, NC to Walhalla, SC. We walked the main street of a town lost in long ago. Several antique stores were waiting for the occasional customer. Quiet, sunny, hot at 86 described the day. A very nice lady at the Coffee Grounds Cafe directed us to a very special spot in her area of the world. We would surely have missed seeing this, had it not been for her directions. In fact, we still almost missed it as there were no signs leading the way.

Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls are located about 2.6 miles south of the junction of Hwy 28 and Hwy 107 (about 25 miles south of Highlands). It's just past the Stumphouse Ranger Station on the Left. Once you turn in to the correct road, you then see a small sign indicating turn left for Stumphouse Tunnel and Right for the falls. First we visited the tunnel. This was a 1,600 foot gouged out black, dark, mist covered, musty, wet, spooky hole dug deep into a mountain back in the 1850's. The plan was to build a railway through the mountains; but, then the Civil War started and plans died. I was only able to walk into the darkness for a little ways before getting spooked. No lights in there! Lots of water leaking through the mountain and filling both sides of the floor as it cascaded down and out of the darkness. A low blanket of mist 'welcomed' you as you entered. A palpable cold, wet air also hit your senses. Turning around to come out, the welcome of sunshine was reassuringly there. Note, it would be wise to bring a flashlight if you plan to go deep in the tunnel, so you can see snakes and bears easily!

Then it was back to the fork and on to Isaqueena Falls. A serene walk along a brook, noticing a mother and her children enjoying a picnic at one of the tables, a couple with two little dogs barking savagely at my little sweet Sunny (quiet poodle). Then it was a short treck through a wooden bridge and then to the lookout perched just so you can enjoy a beautiful vista of water again cascading down the mountains. Al was tempted to stop at the first lookout; but, I braved a few more feet and was taken aback by the beautiful view. Al joined with a little coaxing and was pleasantly surprised. The kids far below, did some stenuous rock climbing to descend down to the bottom of the falls and then return to where we were. We left the scene very contented that we had again enjoyed a treck through a special part of the US of A!