It was hot. Extremely hot. My mind wandered to places where I might stay cool that didn’t require air conditioning. Standing under a waterfall seemed like it might be a good idea, but I couldn’t decide which would work best. Eventually, I decided a cave would do. There are no true caves in our area, but the next closest thing is Stumphouse Tunnel. I decided I’d take the cameras and head up that way. Along the way I would snag Ken in Clemson.
I decided I would spend a good bit of time in the tunnel. Last time I was there back in 2012 the only thing that kept me from going all the way to the back of the tunnel was standing water in the last section. This time I would be prepared. I had two very bright LED flashlights, and I tossed my heavy muck boots into the car.
I picked up Ken about mid-morning, and after a quick stop for coffee, we headed straight on up through Walhalla and north on Highway 28 to the tunnel. There were a couple of cars, but it wasn’t crowded. I gathered my gear, which consisted of the boots and flashlights, plus my Nikon with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, tripod, GoPro with headband, and Panasonic Lumix camera. As I said, I was ready.
The first thing that caught our attention was the soothing sound of a brook running next to the path leading up the hill. Sounds would play a large part of our experience on this trip. So much so that we decided to include audio as part of this visit. At the top of this post is a link to an audio file with some of the sounds we heard.
At the top of the hill we were hit by a cool breeze from the mouth of the tunnel – just what I was hoping for. It compelled us to head on inside. We turned on flashlights and I put my GoPro on a headband and started it running.
There was a narrow pathway between two fairly deep channels of water. The sound of dripping was constant. Using the flashlight and fast lens, I took several photos.
We reached the gate, and, to our dismay, found it locked. We wouldn’t be going deeper into the tunnel today. At the time I wondered if this was a seasonal thing, since it hadn’t been that long ago that I was able to venture further. Perhaps to protect bats? I read later online that since the city of Walhalla had taken over management of the park they had sealed it off because of the hazards of falling material from the central shaft. Yeah, right.
I could see light from the central ventilation shaft ahead. I set up the camera to try to do a long exposure of that area. You can see our shadows from the light at the entrance of the tunnel. I was also mentally kicking myself for bringing my 50mm f/1.8 instead of the 35 mm f/1.8. A wider view would have been nice.
Before heading out I had a few more experimental shots I wanted. I set up the tripod at a low angle to try to capture some of the water drops. I was hoping for a silky effect, like a waterfall. The effects were neat, but not exactly what I wanted.
Ken waited patiently for me as I tried these shots.
After exiting the tunnel we were most in awe of the amazing sounds. Ken suggested that we ought to try capturing some of that experience. I had my Tascam recorder with me (as I always do), and said that it should be fairly easy. We decided that a bit of lunch was in order, first. We headed back down the mountain and into town for some fast food, then returned to the park. In the hour or so that we were away, traffic had really picked up. There were LOTS more people, also possibly seeking the coolness of the tunnel. Even so, we set off with the recorder.
The audio came out OK, but I’d really like to do this the right way sometime. I’d have one recorder with lapel mic for each of us, and a third recorder for ambient sounds. As is, Ken sounds “off mic” most of the time. Even so, I think it captured the sounds of the tunnel fairly well. So, if you haven’t spotted it already, click on the “Play” button at the top of this post to listen to some of the audio from our trip.
Since we were in the park, we headed on over to Issaqueena Falls. I asked the rhetorical question to Ken that I’ve posed here before. Why is it that Indian maidens feel compelled to jump off of something for lost love? That’s the tale of Jocassee, and the Indian maid at Blowing Rock, and I know it’s been used at other locations. I THOUGHT it was the tale of Issaqueena, but I was wrong. It seems she was being pursued, and faked jumping over the falls. Different story, with a much better ending.
The falls were also busy. We walked down to the overlook, but didn’t go further. I took a few photos, but this waterfall is almost impossible to photograph with all of the vegetation around it. I’m not even posting any of my attempts here.
It looked like thunderheads were popping up, so it was time to end our quick mid-week excursion. I drove Ken back to Clemson, then headed on home. If I ever hear that the tunnel is open, I do plan to head back. It’s been a long, LONG time since I’ve been all the way to the end, and I’d really like to do that again.