'Anything Can Happen Day' excursion leads to Rocky Fork discovery

Jeff Bobo • Sep 20, 2017 at 12:39 PM

We have a thing at our house called "Anything Can Happen Day."

The purpose of Anything Can Happen Day is a completely unplanned and spontaneous adventure, and it's on these excursions that we usually make our most amazing discoveries, such as Rocky Fork State Park this past Sunday.

We had a very busy day running around town Saturday, and Sunday was going to be for staying home doing chores. That is, until I said, "You want to go for a ride?"

Lynn: "Where do you want to go?"

Jeff: "I don't know. Today is Anything Can Happen Day."

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who didn't want to stay home and do chores Sunday because a few minutes later Lynn, our little dog Maggie and I were heading south on Interstate 26.

About the time we got to Johnson City, I had decided we were going to do one of two things.

Plan A was a trip to Union County, S.C., where my immediate paternal ancestors lived from the mid-1700s until the end of the Civil War. There's a plantation house there that was built by one of my ancestors around 1815 which is now a museum, and even though it's closed in Sunday, my idea was to find it, take a selfie there, and look in the phone book to see if there are still any Bobos living there.

Plan B was to hit the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville and follow it to Boone, have lunch and then take that narrow winding U.S. 421 back to Elizabethton. We've tried to make the BRP trip from Asheville to Boone twice, and both times it's been closed because the road was frozen at Mount Mitchell.

But neither plan came to fruition. About the time we passed Erwin, I was yawning. That long day we had Saturday was catching up to me, and I knew I wasn't going to survive an eight-hour adventure.

As luck would have it, about the time I came to this realization we passed a sign on the Interstate announcing the exit for Rocky Fork State Park, which neither Lynn nor I had ever heard of.

So, we went on down to the rest area, which was the next exit down, let Maggie do her business and made a U-turn back to check out Rocky Fork.

We didn't know what to expect, but we definitely didn't expect what we found.

As soon as you turn onto Rocky Fork Road off the old Asheville Highway, the first thing you notice is this amazing pristine wild creek. The road isn't quite wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other, so I had to be mindful of oncoming traffic. But I couldn't take my eyes off that creek.

It was just one waterfall right after another, and pools, and eddies, and little rapids and giant moss-covered boulders the size of a house. We were enjoying it so much that we drove right past the entrance to the park. If you blinked, you would have missed it.

That was a big mistake because as soon as we passed the park entrance the road narrowed to one lane and went straight up the side of a mountain. There was nowhere to turn around, and if we’d come upon oncoming traffic, somebody was going to have to make the sacrifice and back out the way they came.

Fortunately we made it to the top of the mountain without meeting an oncoming car, and there was a small cemetery up there where we could turn around.

So we headed back down the mountain and into the park, and low and behold, there's another one-lane road. Again, fortune was on our side and we made it to the parking lot without meeting oncoming traffic.

Rocky Fork State Park is very primitive. It was established in 2012 on 2,037 acres of scenic wilderness in Unicoi County about 10 miles from Erwin.

It's just a parking lot (which was almost full), a fire pit and benches where rangers put on nature programs, and an old logging road converted into a walking trail that follows the creek.

Lynn is recovering from a knee injury, so she couldn't use the walking trail. But with the parking lot full, I wanted to see what all the hub-bub was about.

Maggie and I started walking, and what I saw just blew my mind. Every few steps there was a different incredible view of this untouched pristine creek. I'm sure that place has been logged out for centuries, but the creek probably looks the same as it did when the first European settlers arrived.

I didn't want to leave Lynn alone at the truck out in the wilderness for too long, but I also wanted to keep going. Each new view out-did the last one. I’ve always been extra partial to mountain creeks, and this is the best I’ve seen in a long time. I wanted to climb down the creek bank and go swimming in one of those pools.

I probably walked a quarter-mile upstream before Maggie and I turned around and walked back to the truck.

Upon researching the park, I found that if we'd walked a little further we would have found that the trail comes to the historic site of  the winter encampment of Creek and Cherokee Indians where in the late 1700s Col. John Sevier and his troops surrounded the encampment and mounted a surprise attack. The Creek and Cherokee sustained heavy casualties during that attack.

From that point there are lots of little side trails that follow other creeks.  

I’m thinking, one hot summer day next year when Lynn’s knee is healed we might have a not-so-spontaneous Anything Can Happen Day adventure back to Rocky Fork. Those mountain pools and waterfalls are calling my name.