by Shannon Shank, Guest Blogger
After making contact with Visit Mercer County, I was on a mission to see and photograph places not regularly shown on social media. I don’t know about you, but I, personally, like to see different views. So, I planned and mapped out some specific locations. The journey ended up lasting the entire day, and I logged over 10 miles of trails. I saw sights that I recognized, but I also saw a lot of scenes that I felt were unique.
I started my day off in search of Indian Branch Falls in Pipestem State Park. I began at Pipestem’s Nature Center in Summers County and followed County Line Trail. The name of the Trail – County Line — explains the boundaries you will be crossing and paralleling as you proceed. The trail led me to Mercer County, where Indian Branch Falls are located. This is a beautiful trail, with lots of moss-covered rocks. It is about a 1.5-mile hike to the Falls. At the Indian Branch Falls, there is a very small overlook, which allows you to see the water from above. It has a ledge drop and surrounding straight cliff face, and just above the water, I found two lush cascades, which I just had to stop and photograph. The green of the moss, rhododendrons and water contrasting with the shale stream bed inspired me.
My second stop was Camp Creek State Park. At the time, there the Camp Creek State Park Lumberjack Competition & Ramp Feast was happening. I watched a bit in marvel of the axe throwing and log chopping races. I met a couple of people from Visit Mercer County and the county commissioner before I headed out to see the typical Mercer County tourist spots within the park. The first place that I visited was Campbell Falls. There, I had the privilege of getting to photograph a trout fisherman wading next to the falls. I have seen many photos of Campbell Falls but not many in bright sunlight. Fortunately, it was very sunny that day, and I was able to see the light beams radiate off the waterfall.
My next destination within the park was Mash Creek Falls. This is a regular stop for tourists. Structurally, this is one of the prettiest waterfalls I have ever seen. I love how the ledge juts over the plunge pool below. I like it so much, in fact, I have a print of one of the photos I shot hanging in my office.
Also, I have to say that, while in Camp Creek State Park, I met some of the nicest people, including an older couple who told me all about nice trails and waterfalls within the county. I ended up chatting with them for about 15 minutes. They seemed to love getting out and hiking Mercer County.
Wolf Creek Falls was not on my original list, but it was brought up by the County Commissioner, so I had to check it out. While it has the same name as another outdoor landmark in Fayette County, I’d never heard about and certainly not seen a photo of this Wolf Creek Falls before. Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to get to find and shoot them. I’d also heard that these waterfalls do not flow very often, but I was fortunate enough to get to Mercer County after a few good days of rain. Wolf Creek Falls was literally right off the side of the road, and to be honest, I am surprised there are not more photos of it. You can get a good view from the overlook just above it but, of course, I had to get a closer look and take some photos.
My final stop was to hit Brush Creek. I was not planning on going there for a shot of Brush Creek Falls, but rather, to find what seemed to be the elusive White Oak Falls. I tried to map the location before going there but could never pinpoint it on aerial. When I got to the Brush Creek Falls Trail, I saw a sign that said, “White Oak Falls at the end of the trail – 1.75 miles.” So, I strolled right past, not allowing myself to get distracted by Brush Creek Falls. Let me tell you, this hike through the Brush Creek Preserve was simply awesome and so relaxing. There’s a sign when you get to the Nature Conservancy that details all of the rare species of plants around you and to look but not touch. I knew I was going to be in a treat with interesting flora, especially since it was peak spring wildflower time.
I strolled along the trail, passing beautiful wildflowers, moss-covered rocks, logs and intricate rock faces. It was also a nice walk because the trail is basically flat! The reason for that, I found out, was that this once was a carriage trail that was later converted to a smaller log railroad. Sure enough, at the end of this trail was the elusive White Oak Falls. Of course, by this time you are now on the Bluestone River, so you also get a good glimpse of it as well. When I caught a peek of White Oak Falls, it appeared as glorious as I imagined. The only problem was that a little rock climbing was needed to get to it. Since I was alone and wearing big, clunky water boots, I didn’t chance climbing up some of the rocks. However, I still got some interesting, mysterious shots of the falls far lower.
I decided to hit Brush Creek Falls before I left Mercer County. Unfortunately, outdoor conditions weren’t favorable by the time I got back there. It had turned cloudy and dreary and on top of that, the water was roaring off the falls. It took some photos but because of the conditions, they did not turn out the way that I would have liked. It was pretty awesome being next to Brush Creek Falls, though, with the spray of the water, the rushing sound of the falls and the gorgeous yellow wildflowers lining the bank. I’m glad I ended up stopping because I was able to see a neat spectacle.
My 4 a.m. wakeup and the 10-plus miles I’d hiked hit me on the last 1/8th mile. I’m thinking the next time I head to Mercer County, I need to take the whole weekend to explore. I still have a lot more to see that is on my list, but those — including a return to White Oak Falls — are for another day. This was, all in all, a great day-trip. I saw a lot of beautiful waterfalls and hiked miles of gorgeous trails. But, the thing that stuck out the most to me was all of the awesome and friendly people I met along the way. Mercer County, I will be back.
This post was last updated on June 7, 2019