The Falls of Rhododendron Trail

Rhododendron Trail

I have painted over a dozen waterfalls since the last time I wrote a post for this site. All of them have been in Habersham County and most have been in the Lake Russell recreation or wildlife management area. Since five of them are accessed via Rhododendron Trail I will start my catching up with them. The Lake Russell trail head is incredibly just 3.3 miles from my front door. There is another trail head near the Chenocetah Lookout Tower that I started from back in January 2019. It took me a little longer than I would like to admit to realize they were the same trail. This summer I have been focused on the first mile of the trail, which stays close to the unnamed creek, and is much less steep than the portion starting near the tower.

There are four waterfalls that are right off the trail and two that involve a bit of a bushwhack up a different tributary. I visited all of these waterfalls on June 20th to get a feel for each of them. I painted Lower Rhododendron Falls that first day and then went back the next day to paint Upper Rhododendron Falls. On July 4th I painted Peek a Boo Falls, on August 2nd I painted Tiny Dancer Falls, then on August 8th I painted Trailside Falls. There is another small waterfall close to the trail head that I have not seen a name for. Unfortunately there is a fallen tree across it at the moment. If it gets washed away I may try to paint it as well.

First small waterfall on the trail

The trail is an easy one to walk and in good shape. It seems like it would be a more popular hike. A few times there has been another car parked at the trail head when I arrived or left, and there have been fresh mountain bike tracks, but I have not actually passed anyone else on the trail or seen anyone while I was painting. The bushwhack to the Upper and Lower falls is a moderate one. There are some steep and slippery spots but they are not extreme. As is often the case, the first time I visited them I made it more difficult than it needed to be, but the second time it was fairly simple.

Lower Rhododenron Falls

There was not a great spot to sit and get a full view of the lower falls so I set up a little farther back than I usually do and included a mossy tree in the foreground. I was not happy enough with the finished piece to put it in a frame. I feel pretty sure there is a better way to capture it and I will go back and try it again eventually.

The next day at the upper falls I had the perfect spot front and center to paint what is currently one of my favorites of all the waterfall paintings I have done so far. I believe it was also the first I did after it was wisely suggested that I change out my Cobalt blue for Cerulean.

Upper Rhododendron Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 11×15″, 6/21/2020

When I returned to paint Peek a Boo Falls I brought a piece of birch plywood instead of paper. It is taller and thinner than my usual format and had to be tied to the outside of my backpack, but was not much heavier. The narrower composition allowed me to leave out most of the dead fall at the base of the falls. I am planning to cut more panels and explore how practical they are. I am curious how much bigger I can go and still be able to finish a whole painting on one visit. Several of these paintings took close to three hours to finish.

Peek a Boo Falls

Tiny Dancer Falls is also called Cascade Falls on some sites, and I actually painted it back when I first started doing plein air painting back in January of 2018. There was ice all around it that first day and I was very new to the practice. The two paintings are not very similar at all.

Tiny Dancer Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 11×15″, 8/2/20
Trailside Falls from Above

Trailside Falls has well worn path to its top, which I walked down on each visit. However to find a good spot to paint from I had to make my own way down to the base. There is a lot of blow down around this one as well, but I was able to arrange my composition to eliminate all but one thin tree. It do not think it as distracting as I feared it might be. The use of more white in the foliage at the top of the falls I hope helps create a greater sense of depth in this piece.

Trailside Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 11×15″, 8/8/2020

I highly recommend Rhododendron Trail for the number of waterfalls so close together near the trail, as well as for its lack of popularity.

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