Becky Branch Falls and Warwoman Dell

Becky Branch Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″ (6/15/19)

Warwoman Dell is a nice little recreation area very close to downtown Clayton. There is easy free parking and a variety of trails. A simple little nature walk leads to the small waterfall I painted on 5/31. The Bartram Trail which “follows the approximate route of 18th-century naturalist William Bartram’s southern journey from March 1773 to January 1777” is over a 100 miles long, but only has to be followed about 1/2 a mile up a hill to see Becky Branch Falls.

The Bartram Trail can also be used to access Martin Creek Falls and Dick’s Creek Falls. They are next on my list…

Waterfall at War Woman Dell, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″ (5/31/2019)

Holcomb and Raper Creek Falls

Upper Holcomb Creek Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″, 5/25/19
Holcomb Creek Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″, 5/25/19
Raper Creek Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 13×9″, 5/26/19
View of Holcomb Creek Falls from bridge

Being able to paint three waterfalls (as well as do three tattoos) over the three day weekend was a real treat. I know I mention it almost every time I make a post, but there really isn’t anything I find more blissful than walking to a beautiful site and painting it.

The drive to Holcomb Creek Falls’ trailhead was over an hour and involved going up into North Carolina and then back down into Rabun County and a long descent down a gravel forest service road. I was worried that the waterfall I found was not going to be worth all the time it took to get to it, but boy was I wrong. The Holcomb Creek trail is short and narrow but it leads to two dramatically beautiful waterfalls.

Upper Holcomb Creek Falls

The first one is the bigger and grander of the two, but there was family exploring it when I first arrived so I continued on to the upper falls. It was just about half a mile from where I parked to the observation deck at the second waterfall. Unfortunately the deck had been damaged and taped off as dangerous. The part that was open was too narrow to sit on. I considered crossing the line and seeing if I could sit on the more stable side of the bench but I try not cross that line from brave to stupid. Instead after studying the structure and the area around it I decided to go back and go around and under the decking. I was able to find a comfortable perch on a rock with the undamaged walkway behind me as back support. I painted the falls in my normal way, got a nice visit from a little blue butterfly, and only saw the shoes of two other hikers the two hours I was painting there. When I finished I walked back down the other falls with the plan to just take a few pictures and then head home.

There was no one at the main falls when I got back there and on closer examination it was even grander than I had realized. I did not feel like I could leave without drawing it so I found a shady spot and decided to just do a drawing before I headed home. I used a china marker and only tried to capture the upper half I could see from where I sat. I was basically pleased with the drawing after about an hour, but without color I felt like a lot of the majesty of the scene was lost. Even though it was well into the afternoon and I had lost my shade I decided to go ahead and get the paints back out. I spent another hour or so turning the drawing into a painting but there is still a lot more china marker than usual.

I found capturing the areas where there was less water flowing on the rock especially difficult. I think I need to take the time to do some detail views of wet rock as well as foreground vegetation. Those seem to be the weakest parts of my paintings recently, but overall I was pleased with my results. Two other couples came by and looked at the falls for a few minutes while I was painting, but the majority of the time I had solitude. I was at the site for 5 and a half hours, with about 2 and a half hours of driving time so it was a very full day but a blissful one.

On Sunday I got up and went to the early service at church. For a couple of weeks I have been considering visiting the unfortunately named Raper Creek Falls in Batesville, but was concerned that Google Maps has it listed as permanently closed. It is a 45 minute drive from my house, but only 15 minutes from church so I decided to go ahead and try and visit it in the little window of time between church and heading to the tattoo shop. I am so glad I did. It is a brief drive down the beginning of a forest service road and then a super short (but steep) walk down to the falls. It is not big but it is breathtakingly beautiful. There is a big slab of rock that the water flows along before it falls into a scenic little pool with another large rock outcropping on the side. There was a father and two sons walking up the trail as I walked down but the rest of the time I had the muddy but otherwise perfect little site to myself. For people who find themselves in the Lake Burton/Batesville area I highly recommend taking a minute to check this place out. Just be very careful at the bottom because the mud is very slippery.

This was the quickest waterfall painting so far (just barely over an hour) and the first one with a horizontal rather than vertical format. I would like to return with more time and sit a little ways up the trail to try and capture the upper tier as well, but I am pleased with how much of the site’s essence I feel like I was able to capture in a short time. I arrived to the tattoo shop feeling so relaxed and content that I forgot to be nervous while tattooing. I think the three pieces I did were stronger because of it.

Hemlock Falls

Hemlock Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″ , 4/27/2019

Hemlock Falls is on Moccasin Creek near Lake Burton in Rabun County, but with a Clarkesville address. It is an incredibly pretty walk but the falls were not especially spectacular. I think my enjoyment of them was diminished by how many people were out on the trail. I was spoiled by my winter hikes when I often did not see another person the whole time I was painting. That is obviously no longer going to be the case this spring and summer. I am going to have to get up much earlier.

Haven Falls

Haven Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×12″, 3/30/19

Haven Falls is right past Glenn Ella Springs Inn. There is wide shoulder to the right of the gravel road and an old (logging?) road to the left. It is just barely over half a mile on an nondescript trail to get to this spot. The pictures I took do not fully capture how lovely this spot is. The cliff is almost a semi-circle of stacked looking rock with a free fall at the top then tiers. I could not find a dry place to sit far enough back to paint the whole scene at once so this is one I will have to return to as well.

Tabor Falls

Tabor Falls, Acrylic & Ceramic Marker on Paper, 9×12″, 3/23/2019

This past weekend instead of hiking to one of the well-known waterfalls in the area I did something rather different. I used GPS coordinates to visit one that is literally “off the beaten path.” In my searching for more waterfalls to visit close to home I found Georgia Waterfalls which led me to Hiking the Appalachians and Beyond. Both are great sites that have way more information on trails and waterfalls in the area than any others I’d found. It had never occurred to me to look for unofficial trails to “secret” waterfalls. But once I read about them I became intrigued with the idea of setting out to find them and not being surrounded with the number of people that always seem to be at the Gorge or on popular trails like Panther Creek.

Tabor Falls was the perfect one to try first as it does not involve true bush-whacking and the trail head is only 4 miles from my house. Including both the drive and the hike I was at this gorgeous waterfall in less than 30 minutes! There was a trail to follow the whole way, but it was made up of a forest service road, an old logging road, and parts of several different small trails. Without the clear instructions and GPS coordinates provided on the second website I would have not found it. Other than a turkey hunter who was near the place I parked I had the entire place to myself. The trees are mainly new growth pines so lots of sky was visible most of the walk. The weather could not have been more perfect and the sky did not have a single cloud. I would have been pleased with my walk even if the waterfall had been less than spectacular, but that was not an issue.

Tabor Falls did not disappoint in any way. With all the rain we have been having there was plenty of water to dramatically fall over the 50 foot cliff. The moss growing on much of on the dark stone added to the mystical feel. There was a nice level dry spot for me to set up my supplies and the sun’s warmth and the cool mist counteracted each other nicely. I painted for a little over two hours, had a snack and then headed home. It is still amazing to me how close this waterfall is to my house. I think I will be returning many more times.

Stonewall Falls

Stonewall Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×12″, 3/16/2019

After weeks of rain it was great to get back out and walk to another waterfall this weekend. This walk was especially nice because my daughter and her dog joined me. Both of them enjoyed it as much as I did. Stonewall Falls Trail is mainly a mountain bikers’ trail, but my daughter’s cross country team ran it last fall. The drive to the trail head involves a rather long gravel road, but it is along the ridge so there are some views. The trail itself is broad and well maintained. It probably wouldn’t be to fun to walk with bikers whizzing by, but we had to ourselves except for one family of walkers who arrived at the falls after we had been there about an hour.

Angel and Panther Falls

Angel Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×12″, 2/18/19
Panther Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×12″, 2/16/19

Those of you who who talk to me often may have heard me mention that time in the basement of the bank has a tendency to drag. I admit occasionally I wish I could be using those 40+ hours a week in a different way. However my friend Tony has helped me think of it from a different perspective. He said that as American artists we cannot expect to have patrons like some other countries still do. (Though I am not sure that there is anywhere today where patrons like the Medici, the Catholic Church or royal families are commissioning grand pieces.) He believes we should consider our day job as our patron. He has shifted his thinking so that instead of considering his non-art work as preventing him from creating, he appreciates that it makes his art possible. He also pointed out that this gives us total independence to focus on the art we are moved to make. No one is going to force us to paint ceilings when we would rather be carving marble. I have made a concentrated effort to adopt this view.

Moss covered wall near the beginning of the trail

This shift in thinking is made easier when a bank holiday gives us a three day weekend. A full extra day to do with as I please is such a treat. There was no question in my mind that what I wanted to do with this most recent one was hike and and make art. Last week I checked the forecast over and over hoping and praying that it would stop calling for rain and clouds all weekend. The forecast never really improved, but luckily the weatherman was wrong. We got an absolutely gorgeous day on Saturday and Monday morning was clear and sunny as well. I was able to go back over to Lake Rabun and do the hike to Angel and Panther Falls and paint there twice.

The trail is an easy mile from the Lake Rabun Recreation Area to Panther Falls, then a more challenging half mile up to Angel Falls. It stays close to the water almost the whole way, and there are tons of rhododendron, which are difficult to paint, but lovely to look at. I painted the lower falls Saturday and the upper ones Monday. It is interesting that looking at both of them propped up next to each other back at my house they look very similar, but the experience of painting them was remarkably different.

On Saturday there was a fair amount of drama along the edges of the day. Two coworkers and I has planned the outing together, unfortunately one of them had a fender bender on the way and had to cancel. The other hit traffic, but Google maps and I did a much better job with navigation than the last time and I was able to get there in just over 30 minutes. I got there half an hour early and saw that the recreation area was closed. (for the winter?) I parked at the alternative trail head and as soon as I got out of my car I realized I had made a mistake. It has been raining in Georgia for weeks on end and I had placed my poor little red car in extremely soft ground. I tried to go ahead and move but the wheels just spun. I do not claim to know very much about cars but I do know that continued spinning will just make things worse. I walked down to the closed parking lot and filled my pockets with gravel. I brought it back and placed it behind the wheels and then decided to do my best Scarlet O’Hara impression and not to think about it until later. I did not even mention it to my coworker when she arrived with her cute little dog in tow. I had honestly forgotten about it by the time we crossed the first little foot bridge. Since I have gotten used to hiking by myself it took me a few minutes to remember how to be a considerate hiking companion, but we found our pace.

There was a family with children playing at the first falls when we got to them so so we just rested for a moment and then continued on up the trail. Not far above Panther Falls there are some shoals that are dramatic enough that I thought maybe they were the second water fall. We almost did not continue up the trail, but neither of us wanted to risk missing anything so we kept going. Angel Falls is much taller but there are so many rhododendrons that you cannot even see it all at once. There was a couple about half way up in what looked like a very picturesque spot. I tried what looked like might be a trail to the left of the falls but soon found that I was mistaken and slid myself back down to safety. A second couple then showed up and made their way up what looked like a trail on the right side of the trail. When they did not immediately come back down we decided to follow them. Because of the challenge of the little dog my friend turned around. I made it up a bit farther, pulling myself up on the larger rhodedendrens, when I came up across the second couple trying to turn around and head back down.

We carefully traded spots on the steep slippery slope and I continued climbing until I came to a beautiful little hidden cascade on a stream that runs parallel to the one feeding the large falls. It was a magical feeling spot, the light flickering through the leaves, the sound of the water. I let myself get a bit mesmerized and while moving closer to get another picture slipped and slid down the bank. I was not hurt, but it was sobering and I was reminded (again) I need to stick to well-established trails. I had carefully made my way about halfway back to the deck at the base of the falls when I realized my phone was no longer in my pocket. I climbed back to where I had slipped, found it waiting patiently in the leaves, and then did what was really just a controlled slide back down to the trail.

Walking back to Panther Falls and finding a spot to paint was uneventful. We sat there for about 1 1/2 hours. My friend was very patient and told me stories about what is going on in her life while I worked on my painting. Other hikers stopped by and a few checked out my painting and seemed to like. Several asked if I sold them. I did not have a good answer, but I am going to work on that. After a while the sun went behind the clouds, it started getting cold, and as soon as the painting was finished we packed up and hiked out. It was not until the parking lot was in sight that I remembered about my car and the mud. It will come as a surprise to no one that the amount of gravel that fits in my sweatshirt pockets was not enough for my tires to get traction, but luckily there was a wonderful group of people coming off the trail at the same time who helped me enormously. I was so grateful I did not have to spend the evening sitting there waiting for AAA to send a tow truck to rescue me.

Sunday rained just as much as the weather man had warned. I taught Sunday school and went to the tattoo shop, but Monday once the kids were off to school all I wanted to do was go back and paint the other waterfall. Having my coffee I decided that even if it was cloudy if I bundled up I would be fine, so I went, but the layers were not needed. The sun came out, the sky was clear and I parked in a very solid parking spot. I made great time to the very top of the trail where I experimented with a blissful little practice my friend Richard had talked to me about, then I painted for 3 full hours. There is an observation deck with a bench is very comfortable for someone whose back and shoulders might have been a bit sore from some sliding. The finished piece may not really show it, but I laid down layer after layer of different greens to try and get the feel for the rhododendrons on either side. I found the end result very satisfying.

I am so thankful to my patron day job and the forces behind the weather for such a delightful weekend.

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls, Acrylic and Ceramic Marker on Paper, 9×13″, 2/2/2019
Minnehaha Falls

Today I visited Minnehaha Falls, in Lakemont, right beside Lake Rabun. As the crow flies it is not very far from my house, but the road wraps around the lake (and I missed a turn) so it took me over an hour to drive there. But it was an absolutely gorgeous day and the drive was an interesting one. I had never seen Lake Rabun before and enjoyed looking at all the beautiful homes and boat houses perched all along its edges. After a while I had driven so far I started to wonder if the GPS was just going to dump me somewhere random and say I had arrived, but then right there on a gravel road among the lake homes there was a little sign and some stairs leading up to the trail.

It is a very short trail, just half a mile to the base of the falls, not strenuous at all. After all the cold weather and rain I would have welcomed a longer walk, but I am not complaining. There were several people at the base so I just took a few pictures and climbed up to the top. That gave me more of a work out.

I checked out the top of the falls and then slowly made my way back down as close to them as possible looking for the right place to sit and paint. I really wanted to be in the sun, but even though it was noon there was not a spot with direct light. About half way down I found a spot that was not muddy, had a nice view, and was at least partially sunny. I sat there and painted for about 2 1/2 hours.

I used a ceramic marker to sketch the scene first, then used it again to add details at the end. Again I only brought the primary colors, green and white, so it was nice to be able to get rich darks with the marker instead of trying to mix them from all the other colors. The light changed dramatically over that time. I would like to talk to some other plein air artists about how they handle that. I think it must always be an issue unless one is an extremely fast painter. There is a going to a plein air event in Sautee in mid April. I may need to take a day off and attend.

It seems like each post about walking to waterfalls and painting them all I really have to say is how much I enjoy it. It is starting to feel repetitive, so I will stop typing and just share a few more pictures.

Toccoa Falls

Toccoa Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″, 1/26/19

Toccoa Falls is the tallest waterfall (186 feet) I have visited so far, with the shortest walk to get to it. It is on the Toccoa Falls campus and you enter through the gift shop and walk up a short paved path. I had spent my Saturday doing other things and was looking for a quick visit to a place that was on my way home and Toccoa Falls was the right fit. It is a very beautiful spot. Unfortunately it was too late in the day to sit in the sun and I had an important basketball game to get to. I only spent about an hour painting and I was not at all pleased with my initial results. I thought I was going to have to plan a return visit in order to get a post worthy image. However, over the last week I have reworked the painting in the studio and gotten it to the point where I can call it done.