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Western North Carolina waterfalls and wildflowers

Western North Carolina waterfalls and wildflowers

It’s technically spring here in the Boston area, but not nearly as far along as in North Carolina, where we were just visiting family. We spent most of the trip in and around Columbus, about an hour west of Charlotte, and while it was brief, we got in a little hiking and sightseeing with the kids.

I still can’t get over how many waterfalls this state has! I know we have our fair share in Massachusetts, but there are so many easy-to-find waterfalls in North Carolina.

Shunkawauken Falls

On our first day, we visited the Shunkawauken Falls, coaxing our rental car up winding roads to drive by the falls (the road is narrow and signs discourage parking in the road or walking in the area). This is a really impressive waterfall, with the road separating an upper and lower portion, both of which steeply cascade down the mountainside.

Shunkawauken Falls, Columbus, North Carolina

Shunkawauken Falls, Columbus, North Carolina

Pearson’s Falls and Glen

For a more active waterfall experience, we headed to Pearson’s Falls and Glen in Saluda, driving through back roads, some of which were unpaved, and a cool grafitti-filled tunnel.

Some pretty cheery grafitti

Some pretty cheery grafitti

I particularly love the rhododendrons in the foothills at this time of year, visible through the bare tree trunks and clustered along streambanks.

Arriving at Pearson’s Falls, we took the family-friendly hike up to the main waterfall past a few smaller falls, along stone paths, skirting dripping, moss-laden rock ledges. Our five-year-old enjoyed himself immensely, which was a relief, as hikes have sometimes been a challenge.

We played a wildflower-spotting game and I told him he’d get his official wildflower-finder’s badge if he pointed out flowers he found along the way. I recognized trillium, and back at the bottom of the trail, matched up the other flowers we’d seen with the poster identifying them. Before we left home, I bought a used Nikon 105mm FX macro lens at our local camera store; I’ve wanted to try macro photography for a while, but didn’t feel ready to make a big investment in a lens, so this was perfect. I’ve been able to hand-hold it and the vibration reduction has come in handy. I made the wildflower photos and close-up of dripping moss below with the macro lens.

Rhododendron-lined stream on the drive to Pearson’s Falls

Rhododendron-lined stream on the drive to Pearson’s Falls

Stone step path at Pearson’s Falls

Stone step path at Pearson’s Falls

Frances Lightner Ledge at Pearson’s Falls

Frances Lightner Ledge at Pearson’s Falls

Macro photo of dripping moss on the ledge, taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Macro photo of dripping moss on the ledge, taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Smaller waterfall at Pearson’s Falls, with the larger falls visible through the trees

Smaller waterfall at Pearson’s Falls, with the larger falls visible through the trees

Pearson’s Falls, Saluda, North Carolina

Pearson’s Falls, Saluda, North Carolina

Sweet Betsy Trillium ( Trillium cuneatum ), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Sweet Betsy Trillium (Trillium cuneatum), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Bloodroot ( Sanguinaria canadensis ), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Bloodroot ( Sanguinaria canadensis ), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Spring beauty ( Claytonia virginica ), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Sharp-lobed hepatica ( Anemone   acutiloba ), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Sharp-lobed hepatica (Anemone acutiloba), taken with Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens on a D750 body

Carl Sandburg Home (National Historic Site)

Another fun half-day trip from Columbus was the Carl Sandburg Home, a National Historic Site that’s the former home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. A main attraction for the children is a large goat pasture that visitors can enter. The goats didn’t seem to care one way or another about our presence there, but gamely let the children pat them. The grounds were lovely, and I’d be interested in seeing the inside of the house on a future visit (by the time we’d wrapped up with goats and some walking, things were unraveling a little with the kids, so we called it a day).

Ooh, goats.

Ooh, goats.

I’d definitely recommend a visit to this part of the state, and look forward to going on some more challenging hikes as the kids get older. The VisitNC website is a good resource for trip planning, and while cell service was sometimes spotty for us on the back roads, most locations were pretty easy to get to, with very little traffic. Drop me a line below with any of your favorite spots in western North Carolina—we’ve been once to Asheville and I know there’s lots to see around there; would love any ideas!

Exploring the streets of Havana (with kids)

Exploring the streets of Havana (with kids)