Social media sites like Facebook and Flickr have become wonderful resources for the weekend adventurer in all of us. Many photographers are anxious to post images of their outdoor adventures, scenic panoramas, and nature close-ups, putting the temptation out there for us to go and visit those places as soon as we have an opportunity. Really, a lot of these places are not that far away and how did we not know about them? A very striking, painterly image was recently discovered on Flickr of Glenn Falls, Virginia and a convincing voice suggested, “Someone should go and explore this waterfall and some around the I-81 area.”
”I will go”, I said, “but Glenn Falls is not indicated in my gazetteer for some reason.” It was on Google maps however, so we decided to just wing it. Since there are several others waterfalls in the area, we certainly have other options!
Being that my weekends are relegated to work, a midweek day was selected and as you can imagine, rain began as soon as I hit I-64 headed east. Really? Who would have believed it – right? This has been the summer of endless rains and if you have an adventurer’s heart, you just have to go with it, or sit in the recliner watching the grass grow.
After picking up my partner in adventure in Buchanan, Virginia, off we headed to Lexington to knock around and wait out the rain. Weather .com indicated that the rain would stop during the afternoon. By late morning, we headed out of Lexington on Route 11 – North Lee Highway. It was still trying to rain a little, but we pulled into Vesuvius and turned onto Route 56 east. Shortly after we started down this route, I caught a glimpse of a little hand painted sign that said, Glenn Falls. I said “there it is” to which Mark replied, “That’s all it is?” Well, it became obvious that this was not what we expected to find, so we decided to head on through the Vesuvius area and connect with the Blue Ridge Parkway heading toward the White Rock Falls area. It looked like a possibility in the gazetteer.
The rain and wind were still threatening and when we found the trail head, it indicated that it was a 2.5 mile hike both ways and with the on and off rain, we were not prepared to hike that distance-who would have thought to bring raingear? So we headed back into Vesuvius and stopped by Gerties’ General Store which appeared to be the (only) hotspot for some lunch in the area. Food aroma’s met us at the door and we also saw an opportunity to ask some locals about the Glenn Falls situation. Come to find out, it is on private property and it was questionable as to whether the owners allowed visitors into see the falls. As we were heading out of Vesuvius, it became obvious that this is the best view of the falls – No wonder we were not impressed heading in. After a nice lunch, we decided to take another route and head to Panther Falls on the Pedlar River which is located outside of Buena Vista in Amherst County.
As you go out of Buena Vista on Route 60 east, cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway and almost immediately, you come upon a Forest Service Road (dirt) marked Panther Falls Road which turns to the right. A very short distance down this road you will find yourself at the trail head located on the left.
By this time, the rain had stopped and there was a slight overcast, but this is desirable for photographing waterfalls! Plus, we had the entire place to ourselves. We slogged down the muddy trail a short distance to the falls and plotted out our best angle. Panther Falls is a split falls. It cascades in two different places which makes it a challenge to photograph. There was a significant cool breeze and mist rising from the water of this upper side. There are huge rocks on each side and on the left side, large “drilled out” places in the rock. At some point in the past, the powerful force of the water has made a perfect circular hollow in the rock as the water ran much higher and faster. As you look at the second section of the fall, watching the water, you can come to understand how that had happened. If the water were not as deep and forceful, you would probably also see a circular cutout in those rocks as well.
Swallow tail butterflies were flitting all around and the sound of the water along with the mist coming off of the falls made for a very relaxing time at Panther Falls. We headed out on the muddy trail as the sun began breaking through the cloud cover. A perfect day of chasing water falls had come to a close and it was time to head home to West Virginia.
Published on September 7, 2013 in Day Tripper a publication of Mountain Messenger in Lewisburg, West Virginia