When Hannah and I travel, we look to hit the trifecta – sunshine hiking, competitive pickleball with folks who don’t take themselves too seriously, and evening wine with good company. Today in Tryon, NC on the South Carolina border, we have ourselves a Meatloaf Day (and by that, I mean, two out of three ain’t bad).
Having played pickleball the three previous days this late October with our sisters and brothers of Yonah Mountain, Georgia, today we check the boxes of good company (our sister-in-law Becky and her guy Derek) as well as hiking with them into the Carolina mountains in search of Melrose Falls.
Chauffeuring us through their hometown of Tryon, NC and out route 176 on the way to Saluda, Becky and Derek take us to the trailhead in a mere fifteen minutes. Though there’s parking for only two vehicles there, we safely park on the far side of route 176.
Passing by the trailhead boulders and around the metal gate, we ascend quickly into the mountains. Hiking on conservation land administered by Conserving Carolina, we pass the turn to the trail to the falls for a looksee assent to the abandoned Southern Pacific railroad tracks above the falls. Stepping carefully on the railroad ties, we soon find our path engulfed by kudzu – the dreaded Asian vine that is overwhelming the American South. Watch our path on the tracks disappear over the next four photos.
Kudzu is a plague on the hillsides and lives of Southerners. Nasty for the ecosystems it invades, it smothers other plants and trees under a blanket of leaves, dominating all the sunlight and keeping other species in its shade. Introduced from Japan into the United States, kudzu was initially planted to stop soil erosion. Since kudzu can grow up to 60 feet per season, or about one foot per day, the best way to fight it seems to be with Billy and Betty – goats that is. Currently there aren’t enough goats on God’s green earth to handle the tsunami of kudzu.
Smothered by kudzu, the railroad ties beneath our feet are camouflaged and footing is uncertain; we U-turn back to the initial trail to the falls.
The ¾ of a mile rocky trail goes up and down the mountainside to the falls. For the final 300’, the path drops steeply toward Melrose Falls which has us been descending on all fours. Never perilous, though slow-going, we arrive at the boulders above the falls. We are serenaded by nature’s watery chorus.