Friday, November 25, 2016

Saving Money and Contributing to Worthy Causes During the Holidays



Saving Money and Contributing to Worthy Causes During the Holidays! 


    Charitable causes and giving should be on our minds all year, but the period from Thanksgiving
to Christmas is when we think of it most.   I have always donated money, clothing, household wares, food to causes. I have always liked Thrift stores. I've always been artsy craftsy.  It was not until recently that I learned how rewarding it could be to combine  all three!  It has the added benefit of
taking money away from the retail giants,and spending money in stores where the funds do a great 
deal of good.  

        I have recently started going to various thrift stores in my area before going to the retail
 craft store for supplies.  I like vintage items and retro stuff. No better way to find these things than
digging through someone else's cast off "junk".   It is like a treasure hunt.  My grandkids have gotten
in on the fun also.  I have been teaching them about how the monies go to help feed people, clothe the poor, provide housing for the homeless, care for unwanted animals, etc.  

         I have been enjoying creating unique, inexpensive, beautiful items for my home. I have also
been creating inexpensive,one of a kind items to give as gifts!  Candles, wreaths, floral arrangements, gift baskets, all kinds of neat things.  

   
 I have about $7 total in this wreath. It took me 20 minutes to make it.  The candle is Red Apple.
Materials all but the candle and the ribbon were purchased at various thrift stores.  Ribbon $4 from Michael's. Candle $5 from Wal-Mart.  The same candle from Yankee Candle Co. costs $25 or more!
 Teddy Bear and Toy wreath.... I have about $10 in this.  Took me about 45 min. to make.
All but the ribbon came from Thrift Stores.
Terrarium Christmas scene.. I made this today in 20 minutes.
I was able to get the artificial snow, bells, and ribbon from the thrift store.  
The rest I had to purchase retail.  still saved me money.

The artificial snow cost me $1.  Bag of this retail is $5
Ribbon  50 cents. Retail is $2
Bells 50 cents.  Retail is $3

    Red Riding Hood Doll. I got the basket, the doll, the doll stand, a red cashmere sweater, a velvet blazer, the red ribbon from thrift stores.  The colorful Bavarian trim and the print material for the skirt I purchased from Etsy.  She cost me about $11 to make. 
Two monsters I drew then brought to life using mostly thrift store items.  I purchased velour sweaters for $1 each from the Salvation Army store's going out of business sale.  I have about $9 in both monsters.  I was able to purchase most of the material from thrift.  

Maryville has some good thrift stores that help lots of different causes. 
Here are some of my favorites with a little bit about what they do to help our world. 

KARM Thrift Stores --K.A.R.M. stands for Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries

This is one of my favorites.   They are the most pricey for a thrift store, but they also do the most in our area.  They are more selective about the merchandise they put out for sale.  Not snooty, but particular.  It is the cleanest, best organized, best staffed.  Lots of them around Knoxville and surrounding counties.  They are a Christian based ministry and support the spreading of the gospel of Christ.  They have a homeless shelter, they feed and cloth people, they have coats for the cold program. They also help provide shelter for women and children who are fleeing abusive home situations.  They help the homeless get retrained for jobs and back into housing and back into society.
Crossroads Welcome Center provides showers, bathrooms, access to phones, computers, referrals for those who need help getting clean and sober from substance abuse, storage for belongings.
I donate to them. I shop from them.  They offer a 25% off coupon for each donation on your receipt.
I no longer use it because in doing so I take away from the ministry, but it is a nice perk for those who need it or want it.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store  The Salvation Army will always be special to me. They have the lowest overhead of any charitable agency hands down.  They are a Christian based program to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are His hands and heart at work.  Our area store closed in September and thus far has not re-opened, but they are in Knoxville and other areas nearby.
They provide substance abuse rehab, food, clothing, shelter, veterans assistance, elderly programs,
missing persons programs.. helping unite families, combating human trafficking, prison ministries,
youth recreation centers and camps,  international sponsorship programs, disaster relief.
I love these folks so when I see the bell ringer with the red kettle outside a store at Christmas I have my money ready in hand to give.  

Goodwill Thrift Stores-- our town is fortunate enough to have two of these!  Both are good, both are huge!  Goodwill helps put people back to work. They train people, they help with resumes, they help with job searches, they create jobs.  They accept ANYTHING you donate except the things the law won't let them take like mattresses.   Our Browns Creek store is clean, well organized, friendly staff, 
convenient location.  

Four Chics and a Cat-- I love this place!  They have animals in the store including a one eyed cat!
They have some great stuff at great prices.  The have such good deals if you see something in there you want ... better get it now. You'll come back and it will be sold!  They take anything and everything except mattresses.  The provide fund raising assistance to animal welfare groups in our area.  

All Creatures Thrift Store-- supports the Blount County Human Society. Helps animals.
It helps provide protection, assistance, food, shelter, vet care, rescue, forever homes, to all kinds of animals.  It smells funky because of the cats, but the store is neat, has a wide assortment of items,
friendly staff, good value on the items.  I believe in what they stand for as I am an animal lover.

Community Chest Blount County--Community Chest ministries helps sell items to the area residents at a low price that nearly anyone can afford. Household goods, clothing, toiletries,  all good stuff and some vintage items!  The monies go to help support the FISH hospitality pantry to help feed people who need nourishment.  Ours is in Eagleton Village.  The staff is very nice and the store is a cool place to browse.  

Habitat For Humanity RE-Store-- This place is so popular that sometimes you can barely get around
in the store!  Clothing, appliances, toys, books, craft items, shoes, home decoration, furniture.
They accept all kinds of donations.  Habitat Re stores help repair damaged homes that need maintenance. They help people become home owners by building houses. Six new Habitat houses have been constructed 2 miles from me. They are great looking!  The sell items at low prices to help support their charitable works, but they also get all kinds of items out there where folks can afford them!   

     Before you spend your dollars giving to big stores and franchise operations... 
Shop local. Shop small. Shop area thrift stores when you can to support these fantastic causes.
I have made it a habit year round.  It is fun. I save money and feel good about the money I do spend going to worthwhile causes in my own area!  I believe it is what the Lord would want me to do.  
Back in the 80s there was a benefit concert for world hunger and poverty relief.  I am including it with this post, because the spirit of generosity and giving should always be with us here and around the world.  It is a good reminder.








Monday, November 14, 2016

Grandmaw Edna Overrun by Dogs-- A True, Funny Story.


Grandmaw Edna Overru
n by Dogs-- A True, Funny Story. 



  I love animals. I have had lot of pets including dogs.  I have always tried to only have what I could care for.  It is how I was raised.   My grandmother and my mom lived next door to one another. 
My mom was truck driving and gone most of the week.  Grandma was home every day.  
Mom had just recovered from cancer and had a dog come to live with her out of nowhere.
She did not have the money to get the dog spayed right then. She was doing good to be able to feed the dog.   The dog had a litter of puppies and they were so cute that everybody wanted one.
They all found homes. Radar got in a family way again pretty shortly after litter number one.
This time it was not so easy to find homes for them all.   

      My grandma called me one weekday and was very upset.  She needed help. Mom was gone and Radar and the puppies were "on the neighborhood".  They were annoying the neighbors regularly.
Grandma was the one fielding phone calls about the nuisance. She was very embarrassed and distressed over it.  I thought she might cry about it.  It was that bad.  She had NO pets and did not want any.  I told her as soon as I put Crystal on the bus to school I'd bring Jared and come down and help her deal with it.  I thought I could load my uncle's dog crate into my car and take three puppies at a time to the No Kill Shelter.   I found the crate would not go in my car.  No matter how I tried it would not fit.    
Dogs, dogs everywhere. 
       Finally I said ok enough is enough.  Get in the car.  Jared buckled up in the back.  
Grandma riding shotgun.  Me driving. Grandma holding puppies. Jared holding puppies.
Radar had fled soon as she saw me pull in Mom's driveway.  I had three puppies left.
Nowhere to put them.  I opened the trunk of the car and put them in and shut it. I took off 
as quick as I could go safely to the shelter. It was five miles away.  We got there and cracked the trunk right away to let air in without releasing the dogs.   I went in hurriedly and told them 
"Hi. I'm Dana. I'm sorry to have to do this, but my mom's dog has had puppies and they are roaming
the neighborhood, getting in the road, etc.  They are going to get hit and/or killed.  I need to turn them in. " The lady at the desk said "I'm sorry. I can't help you. You can't surrender dogs that are not yours. She will have to do it."  I answered "Alright. She is in the car. I will go tell her to come in and sign.
Then I will help carry in puppies while she signs papers."  

     I went out to the car and told Grandma the situation. I said "You are Earline and these are your dogs you are signing over. They won't let me do it since they are not mine."  She agreed and headed inside to the desk. I went in and paired up with the other worker to carry in puppies.  I said let's get these out of the trunk first.  The shelter worker was horrified "You can't transport animals like that! It is illegal!"  ( I did not know that. Truly. )  My response was "Well, she is an old lady. It's hard to tell her anything. I kept trying to tell her she needed to get the mother spayed, but did she listen?" 
The worker said no more, but kept up the pace with me making trips in and out for puppies. 
Little Jared sat in the car watching all this.  On each trip in and out I was catching snippets of the sermon that was being preached to Grandma by the shelter staff.Fussing at her about being irresponsible, cruel, etc.  It was ugly.  She ended up on the list of folks who can not adopt animals anymore.  I was very embarrassed by then, but I was getting the problem solved.  

        Finally the last of the puppies was situated. I walked back out and got in the car. Grandma joined me in a few seconds more.   She sat down as I turned on the car and never looked at me. All she said to me was "I'm gonna kill you."
         

         

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Alpine Mountain WMA

Colorful pair of leaves on the forest floor. 



Alpine Mountain WMA

Monday Nov. 7, 2016
Dana & Kenny Koogler




    Monday was our last day of a long weekend get away.  We slept in. We had a light breakfast.
We got our stuff together and decided we'd try riding at Alpine Mountain WMA near Overton County.  We had heard mixed reviews on it from buddies. Most said "It's okay." with no real enthusiasm.   We wanted to see for ourselves.   Not to toot our own horn, but we have found that
many of these same persons who give a low to middle opinion miss a lot.   We had investigated
access before so we knew where to go. I will put some directions for access at the bottom of this blog entry.   We still do not know enough about the trail system to share detailed info on that part.

        Once we parked we hit the road and soon the trail at the base of the mountain.
It sits off to itself in the middle of nowhere. The small historic community of Alpine is at the base.
Alpine being in the Upper Cumberland Plateau it was very poverty stricken.  A desperate lack of education opportunities existed for the children of the area.  Lack of education leads to lack of prospects for the future. It keeps folks locked in a cycle of poverty.   Reverend John Dillard 
came to the area and saw the need. He appealed to the Presbytery for help in establishing a school.
Alpine Academy came into being. Later WPA  helped the school by building a gymnasium.
Many of the old buildings still exist today and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
 Christ Church Presbyterian
The back of the old historic gymnasium of Alpine Institute.

      We started up the trail onto the mountain and we saw the only person hunting all day. He was not on the WMA land, but on adjacent private property.  We encountered a pair of horseback riders later. We encountered two or three hunters prepping to go into the woods when we were loading up to leave.    The day was pretty and clear. The foliage colors were good!   The trail was dusty in places and muddy in others!   Riding up the mountain through the forest the higher we went the bolder the hues of color got.  Reds, yellows, golds, oranges,  copper. Mostly maple trees were there.
Having never been to this area before to ride we just wandered around rather aimlessly looking at this and that with no destination in mind.    The trails are in pretty good shape on the mountain.

      We turned and started back down to explore a different section of trails. We ran into the horse riders here.  They were two retirees who were fun to chat with.  One rode a horse the other a mule!
The mule rider told me that it IS possible for a mule to founder.  He said he had one at the vet at that moment who had foundered, but was going to recover!   Once past the riders and their animals not spooked we found ourselves winding along a ridge.  It was really pretty and kind of odd.  Above us were slopes filled with bright Autumn foliage. Below us was like looking back a month in time. The leaves there were mostly green with a tiny bit of yellow. Reminded me of the month of September!
The terrain grew more interesting here.  We passed by hollers with some fascinating rock features.
Big sinks, terraces, and cliffs were to be seen north of us.
 A perfect rose gold day on Alpine Mountain.
Sun star peeping down through the trees.
        We were going along and something caught my eye.  We ran upon a man made structure to the left.  It was the ruins of a very old stone structure!  It was cool looking.  I was intrigued.  I got out and
circled it taking pictures and peering inside.  I walked around the woods looking for additional detritus from human occupation.  I did not see anything more.   I would love to know a bit more about the history of it.  It appeared to be WPA era contstruction.  It was a similar stone that I have seen on WPA dynamite shacks and other buildings.  It was different from the crab orchard stone that was used on the church, shop, and gym.  I have read that the original Alpine School was on the summit of the mountain to start.  It was moved to the base after Bushwhackers burned it during the Civil War. Later it was destroyed again by the Ku Klux Klan.  After the second tearing up they moved it to the base of the mountain.   I can't help wondering if this had something to do with the original school?


Above and below  Stone house on the mountain.

The back of the house was just boards. in the center. the ends were capped with stone.



    We went a bit further on still enjoying the pretty woods.  I knew we should be able to ride from Alpine Mountain all the way through to Deck Cove and Hell Hole.   We were heading in the right direction.   Further out past the old stone house we saw another man made structure. It was the outlet or overflow of a pond.  We stopped to see it.  It was a wildlife pond with standing black water.
A spring is the source of the water way back in the holler.  It flows out a pipe and fills the pond then continues down to the old road.  I have seen a pond like this three times now. Once on property in the Blue Ridge mountains owned by my Daddy. Once on Skinner Mountain. Now here on Alpine Mountain. This is the neatest one far as construction goes.


Outlet of the spring pond.

Spring pond.  


  We kept heading westward.  We passed a double wide to the left of the trail!  Out in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, no water, no nothing!   We wanted so badly to keep heading west to try to find Hell Hole, but we knew we did not really have the time.  We had to get back and eat lunch and pack to go home. I did not want to be so late getting home.  I might as well have put that out of my mind.    We will definitely come back and try the rest of the trail system. The Gazetteer shows most of the trails!    

        We stopped on the drive back for me to take a walk along the West Fork of the Obey River.
I had long wanted to do this.   We found a good spot to pull off.  The river is pretty, but not as pretty as the East Fork.   We were interested in the trail that went along the river.  You know we wanted to aimlessly follow it to see how far it went, but again limited on time.   I thought I smelled diesel fuel on up the river.  I saw an oily sheen on the surface of the water.   I would love to know what went on there?  I know petroleum products when I smell them.  
 Two views of the West Fork river.   It must be reasonably healthy as I saw lots of fresh water mussels and minnows and small fish.
It was up in this area of the river that I saw the oily stuff and smelled diesel fuel.


   I walked along the river bank and shoals picking up shells, acorns, and natural items. I want to make a wreath for Sharon's new house.  It must have lots of pretty things from nature.  We drove back to the campground. I visited with Betty a little bit.   She is a good friend and will soon be moving.
Exciting for her and Klaas, but bittersweet for us.  Once we finally rolled out to drive home it was getting late. I talked Kenny into stopping in Rockwood for dinner.  He agreed and laughed like crazy... "We always try to squeeze the most out of a day, don't we?"  That sums it up perfectly. 
Wear it out!  Until the next episode......Below are directions how to access Alpine Mountain WMA to ride or hike.   Also a short video of leaves falling in the prettiest spot on the mountain.

Directions:  
From Hwy 52 in the community of Alpine turn onto Campus Circle and drive round behind the old gymnasium building.  It is now the Alpine Community Center.   Park here.  
Ride from there out Mountain Lane which goes briefly through a residential area.  You will curve past a small white house on the left and the road continues sharply right and up the mountain. From there it is gravel or dirt.    Just stay with the main trail until you get up the mountain. From there stay left to head toward the summit and bear right/west to head toward the old stone house. It is right by the trail.






        

Woo Hoo Holler in Autumn--Thus Spoke Zarathustra


Stiff Gentian still in bloom by the river

Woo Hoo Holler in Autumn--Thus Spoke Zarathustra


Sunday Nov. 6, 2016

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sharon McGee




    Sunday we slept in and wallered.  I got up and started the coffee and set out the orange juice.
Kenny fixed bacon and pancakes. Yummy!  I love my tupperware husband. :-D 
We packed us a quick peanutbutter sammidge and grabbed our stuff. Out the door we went.
We met up with Sharon and planned out our strategy for the day.  We'd go first to find
Will Wright Branch Tunnel.  Once we had completed that we'd figure what to do next.
I did not feel super ambitious, but just wanted to be with my friends.  John was working today on their house with their carpentry helper.  We figured we'd ride over and check out their house later.
We started out in the direction of Pall Mall to find the tunnel.
Pretty spot we passed on the way.
     
    I knew the trip was going to involve going north on Hwy 127 through Pall Mall and past
Alvin York State Park.   I also knew we had to turn left onto SR 325 Moodyville Road.  Past that it was guess work. We had the GPS coordinates, but if you plug those in you can rest assured the Tom Tom will take you around your ass to get to your elbow.  Kenny and I had our usual navigation spat.
He thinks I should automatically know with 100% certainty where this stuff is even when I have never been before and he KNOWS I haven't.    We found it without any real trouble.  One real pretty, but unnecessary shortcut was all.  Soon we were sitting atop the arch on the road where it drives over.
"You have reached your destination." said the TomTom.  We turned around and parked at the only
reasonable place.  We sat looking at a cow pasture with sparse woods.

     We got out and entered the woods.  We saw a single strand of fence wire which looked like it might be electrified.  I just stepped across it and went on.   We ambled through the pasture and followed a path that lead down and swing right at the base of the hill.  Before us was the tunnel entrance in the side of the hill leading under the road.


What you see when you first round the bend. You can see the flat spot that is the road up there.

 Tunnel entrance.  Will Wright Branch Tunnel is the largest naturally occurring tunnel in the state of Tennessee. 150 ft through passage that is listed on Tennessee landforms as "complex". It is not a straight shot through.
Kenny stands at the opening on the other side.

    The creek flows through the tunnel and out the other opening.  We followed it. The tunnel itself was interesting with lots of formations and little side passages.  We easily found the second opening which leads to the other side of the road.  We did not want to try that one just yet and went into the dark one wearing headlamps.  It was a tight squeeze and duck down and watch your head.  It curved  back and forth and we just kept following it. It didn't take long for us to see a tiny bit of light above some rocks.  We were wading in mud so thick it would nearly suck your boot off.  We just stayed in the water as the creek bed was slightly less muddy.  We went over there and found we could climb out that hole, but it was not going to be easy.  It involved a slimy crawl up a slanted boulder the size of a Volkswagen.  We were able to tell it came out in the same general vicinity as the other hole.
We back tracked and on the way back saw some bats, spiders and cave crickets.  Sharon doesn't like spiders.   We wandered around and checked out the interior a little more.  Once we were satisfied with that we went to hole #2 and took a look.  We were out on the other side the road.
What is neat about this is that the scenery is pretty.  We must come back after a good rain.  Why? Below the opening of this tunnel is a waterfall.  It is not huge. Only eight or ten feet high, but it looks pretty cool.

 Looking out of the tunnel on the far side we are at the top of a waterfall.
 That black hole in the center of the photo is where hole #3 comes out.
Mo in the tunnel.  I am so thankful I have a best friend who likes to explore!  She is hilarious too and puts up with my nonsense.

    Once we got done exploring the tunnel we started our short walk back. We stood looking at the single strand of fence on the return trip.  I reached out my finger and touched it. It was electrified. I felt a little zap!  Sharon held the strand down for me with a large stick. I held it down for her.  We stopped on the drive back at the Forbus store in Pall Mall.  My boots were caked with thick mud. I was stomping them off in the parking lot when an old timer stood up and addressed me. "Gal, you stompin' that off 'fore you go in thar? Don't worry bout it. Go on in." I grinned and told him thanks that I had been under the ground in a tunnel.  His eyes got big and he questioned me as he wasn't sure he heard me correctly.
"Tunnel?!"  Yup.   Forbus Store is quaint.  I finally got to see it.

Forbus Store in Pall Mall.  It is not far from Static, Kentucky.

     We decided we'd go see the view from Rick and Lorelle's new house.   They were not home, but she took us up there to check it out and see the view. It really is something. Pretty house that still smells brand new.  View from their back yard that just won't quit.

View from Star Point

            Next we all went in the direction of Woo Hoo Holler so we could see the new house construction. We also planned to do some four wheeling and go back to the Hood Cave.   We stopped and visited with John and saw the house. It looks great and its going to be marvelous when it is completed.   I was standing in the area that will be the kitchen when it is done. I found myself overcome by emotion.  My friends dream and plan and it is coming to reality!  What a great feeling of joy.  Good friends who share common interests are the best.  They help restore my soul and are a source of comfort and joy.

      We scarfed down a quick sandwich so we could get going with our adventures for the rest of the day.    Sharon went ahead and Kenny and I hung back to avoid the dust.  It was dry and powdery.
We met back up at the cemetery. We continued up the river in the direction of Zarathustra's Cave.
John had said the river was nearly dry, but we were pleased to find many of the springs and holes of water still flowing.  Sharon was on a four wheeler and after a time holding the throttle with your thumb wears your arms and hands out.  Kenny put me behind the wheel of the RZR  with Sharon riding shotgun.  He drove her four wheeler to give her a rest from it.  I don't usually drive it especially in areas where there are lots of obstacles.  I did it though and he said he was very proud of me. I took my first mud hole and slung mud ALL OVER Sharon.  It was a total accident. She threatened to get me back on the return trip.  Dry as it was and we were still hitting mud holes!



Swift Ford is beautiful as ever.


 Autumn colors reflected on all that blue water at the Big Rock swimming hole.

Copper Beech leaves and the river.


      We drove several miles up the river to Hoodtown and finally found ourselves across the river from the cave entrance.  The cave has numerous entrances.  I found another one today!  I think it is the one the cavers call Dragon's Breath.  The wind was rushing out from under the ground at shoe level and rustling the weeds around it.   Getting to the main entrance requires fording the river, climbing the bank, walking along a narrow ledge, and climbing into a small hole.  That is what it takes to get to the first cave entrance.   Sharon had been before, but missed most of what we showed her today.  It was very cool.  We got across the river easily thanks to low water.  The bank scramble was tricky, but we did it.  Now we had to odd man to see who was going in that small hole first?
I just volunteered so I could get it over with.  Once you are in the room opens up and is larger.
Lots of laughing as we squeezed in the hole like dogs.  The air was nice and cool inside.  It was prettier than I remembered!  Lots of formations. Columns, stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flow stone, rim stone.  It is gated at the back.  We did see one bat and some guano.  We also got further back in another passage than we did before. It had been filled with water the first time. Today it had water, but it was a lot less.


 Looking back out the hole we crawled in.

This cave column looks like "This is a stick up!"  

Sharon and Kenny have made it in too. 

 Sharon in the part that has just enough head room in the center
Pretty cave formations, drapery, soda straws. 


  We enjoyed this cave so much. It was far prettier than we recalled from the first trip.  We spent more time in there and saw more this go round.  What fun!  Sharon had missed this one when Howard brought them here years ago.   Next we crawled back out the hole one by one.  We had to crawl a ledge 10 inches wide or less for about 20 feet in order to reach the next opening to the cave.  That doesn't sound so hard, but it sure isn't easy.  A fall from there might not kill you, but you'd sure be dinged up.  No one got photos of it as we were all too focused on getting across safely.  The next entrance is seen below.  
Looking out of Zarathustra's Cave entrance #2

This entrance and cave Sharon had seen before.


  We didn't spend as long in the second part of the cave as it was not as interesting. 
We went back out and had to crawl the ledge back again.  Going back is sometimes easier, but not this time.  Kenny told me later he was really proud of me. My fear of heights and balance problems are gone!  I handled it like a boss.  Thank you Lord!   Once back out we had to go down and across to get to the next set of openings.  They were way cool.  Check it out below. 



Looking out of Bigalo Jingoist Hole.   Three views above.


This is looking back down at the river below the caves.  

  We were losing daylight fast after the time change.  We realized that we had a good distance to ride back so we needed to get going.    Lots of obstacles between us and the clear path to home. I had dinner in the crockpot at home for all of us.  We were all going to be tired and hungry after today's adventures and work.    Sharon drove the RZR on the way back. I knew she'd get the chance to sling mud all over me so once we stopped I saw a giant glob of black mud on the windshield. I could reach it. I got a handful of it and painted my face in a tribal motif.  I sat there while she and Kenny conversed. They paid me no attention. Finally she turned and looked at me and her eyes grew wide and she seemed a bit startled.  She laughed and said she would expect nothing less.   I wore it for a good while, but it got to stinking so I scraped it off once it dried.  We were all very dirty from dragging around underground.  We were also powdered with gray road dust. I looked like Ashy Larry.

Ashy Larry-- from the Chappelle show.

  We got back to the main path in great time. Sharon's four wheeling skills are excellent. She will tell you otherwise, but don't listen.   She is being modest.   We got back just before pitch dark to the Shabin and Baby Butt Lane.  John was already gone back to Maple Hill.  We had a brief scare that Sharon's purse was stolen, but it was located. We were all relieved and loaded up to get back to the campground to eat.  I wished I had time to shower, but instead I just took off my muddy boots and washed my hands and wiped my face off.  Kenny helped me and we got to cooking right away.
We could smell BBQ chicken when we pulled up to the camper.  Not a good sign.  It had overcooked.
It was eatable, but on the dry side.  We were all too hungry to care.  We sat down in our little K├╝gler Haus on wheels and shared a meal together.  Overcooked BBQ chicken. collards brought by Sharon, fried potatoes by Kenny, french style greenbeans and corn on the cob by me.  It was a good supper and a fine time of conversing with friends.  Very mellow.  We were all exhausted and finally turned in.  I had made coffee and we had cinnamon pound cake for dessert, but no one had room for it. 

      Kenny and I sat up and watched The Infiltrator starring Bryan Cranston. It is the movie about U.S. Customs and the DEA bringing down drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Meddelin cartel back in the eighties. It was good, but a bit depressing since it was too true.   If you don't know about the history of the CIA, the drug cartels and the DEA agents back during that time period.. read about the predecessor to Robert Mazar who the Infiltrator was based on.  Ernesto "Kiki" Camarena.  What a brave, dedicated man.  I stayed up yet a bit longer to get a shower and wash off the filth. And yes! I moisturized!   No more Ashy Larry.  We generated a lot of dirty laundry this trip.  We went to bed and slept like the dead. It was a good thought knowing our weekend was not yet over! 



    

      The East Fork Obey river in the gloaming. Evening shadows lie in the river bottom, but up above there is still a little golden sunlight left.   This place is restorative. It also gives me back a bit of my soul taken away by the daily struggles of life and the stuff the world takes away.


     Zarathustra was an ancient priest and son of a nobleman from Iran.   Not a lot is known with certainty about him. He followed a false god, but he was a loving, caring person and a gentle soul.
He wrote beautiful verses.  Here is an excerpt I particularly like from Zarathustra's Rondelay. It seems fitting in a time such as this when the world is filled with both deep woe and deep joy. 

“O man, take care!
What does the deep midnight declare?
"I was asleep—
From a deep dream I woke and swear:—
The world is deep,
Deeper than day had been aware.
Deep is its woe—
Joy—deeper yet than agony:
Woe implores: Go!
But all joy wants eternity—
Wants deep, wants deep eternity."”



*You can also find directions to the Will Wright Branch Tunnel on the front page of my blog at present. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

O & W Country-- Needle's Eye and Devils Den



O & W Country-- Needle's Eye and Devils Den


Saturday Nov. 5, 2016

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Total hike distance 4.4 miles

Pictures are here: Big South Fork Photos

Needles Eye & Devils Den Directions
(FYI-- You can also find this on the front page of my blog at present.)


   Friday evening we left and headed to Jamestown to camp ,and spend the weekend.
Crab Orchard Mountain and Luper Mountain tops were on fire on the drive there.   It was a strange sight seeing the glow of fire in the dark from the interstate.   We went through Arby's to get something to eat before heading to the campground.   We arrived at Maple Hill and were tired.  We got to see Klaas, John, Sharon, and Pat.. John's mom who was visiting.   We stood around and chatted a bit.
All of us were tired and the air was turning cold.  We hit the sack pretty quickly so we'd be rested up for a full day of hiking and exploring on Saturday.   The flannel sheets felt great on the bed along with the quilts.   I slept like a log.

Eerie glow above the mountain top seen from I-40 West.  Forest fires!

    Saturday morning we got up and after breakfast we visited briefly with John, Sharon, and Pat.
They were not joining us to hike today as they had to take Pat to the airport for her flight home.
We gathered our gear and went out to an area of the Big South Fork  new to us.
We had never hiked or done any exploring around the O & W area just outside Oneida.  I had long seen photos of the old O & W bridge. I wanted to see it for myself.  I had a brief sinking feeling
while reading a trail narrative on the way there. I was concerned the old O& W road was not open for vehicles.  We were in for a pleasant surprise finding that the road is  open.  We were able to get where we were going.   The old road is very appealing. Pretty drive the whole way.  Water levels in streams were low as expected, but the scenery was still attractive.   We both agreed we want to get back to this area again when there has been plenty of rain. Spring would be excellent.

       It was not long until we parked by the O& W bridge. We walked down to the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.  It was pretty and had a good bit of water. The gum trees foliage was pretty along the river banks.


Above and below-- two different views of O&W bridge.


Autumn colors along the river.


    We drove across the bridge. It is rickety walking on it and driving on it.  We spotted the trail head for Devils Den to the left.  We'd come back for that.  We continued out the road and soon encountered some folks on horseback.    We pulled over at a wide area and put the window down.  They passed us without their animals getting spooked. We were able to speak to them regarding the location for accessing Needle's Eye.  I knew it was not on the park maps or literature.  It is only on Tennessee Landforms.  One man was happy to tell us we could access it further down just before the end of the road.   He went on to say "It's quite a hike up there to see it."  We have learned not to let that sort of assessment by horse riders upset us.   

       We found the only place it could be. One lone, unsigned trail heading up the hill.  
We parked here and started out using the GPS to assist us.  I had read a good trip report by blogger and editor Ben Garrett so I had some idea what to expect.   The climb up the trail was indeed steep and very rough and rocky.  The forest was pretty and leaves littered the path.
We passed by a rock shelter on our left.  I could tell the terrain was going to get less steep.
Pretty soon we did get to the top.  We saw horse stile number 1.  We kept going to our right.. the west.   We passed horse stile 2.   The trail climbed yet again to the top of the ridge line.
It was not long until we came out at a big intersection that was flagged in a couple spots with neon pink survey tape.  We turned right and headed out the ridge. It was not long til we passed a picnic table and a lot of horseback riders eating lunch.   We finally came to a point where the trail drops over the edge of the ridge.   Once down there we had arrived!  Before us was The Needle's Eye. It is the largest natural cave in the Big South Fork.  It is very unique and way worth the effort to visit.  

 The Needles Eye.. you have to duck under the arch to enter the next part.  Size 10' x 4'


Ladder down into the Crypt.  or the cave.


Fellow hikers and horse folk in the cave at the far end.  

Here is a photo of a partial view off the back side of the cave.  


  Once we had checked out the cave and the views and the Needle's Eye we decided to move on. 
It was very neat place to visit and worth every step to get there.   We saw signs as we left that someone is bringing horses down right to the Needles Eye where they are not supposed to.  It damages the trail, the bank, and puts the horse at risk for an injury. No one in this group was that kind of rider.   We hiked back the way we came and it was much easier as it was nearly all downhill or level on the way out. 

Lunch by the Big South Fork Cumberland River 


 By the time we got back to the truck we were very hungry.  We had lunch and headed down to the river bank near the confluence of Whiteoak Creek and the Big South Fork Cumberland River.   It is an extremely pretty area.  We talked to two fishermen while there. Nice men who were more familiar with the area.  We learned from them that efforts had been made in the past to close the road to vehicle access, but because it is a county road they had been unsuccessful in doing so.   Persons who feel it should be closed to traffic drag logs out into the road and rip up boards from the bridges.  The dirt ditch you have to climb down to reach the river bank here is steep, rocky, and shifty.  Leaves on it don't make it any better.  We scrambled down and back up.  Parking here is really tricky. There was space for only two vehicles. Once we'd gotten to see the river up close we headed a bit further down the road to hike to Devils Den.

Whiteoak Creek

Big South Fork Cumberland River .. the confluence with Whiteoak Creek. 

       

Devils Den


    There is a fair amount of space on the far side of the bridge near the trail head to park. When we came back through the horse folk had tied up horses to the hitching posts leaving no space to park on this side.  We drove back over the bridge and walked to the trailhead.  
We had to be careful to avoid the hind ends of the horses tied to avoid getting kicked.  We climbed up around a large boulder rather than use the stile and maybe get nipped. 
Once on the trail we were soon confronted with a steep climb. The trail goes up and up here steadily.   It is only 0.6 miles one way to the Devils Den, but you don't stop climbing until you are nearly there.   We encountered a backpacker on his way out whose name was Doug. 
We chatted with him while we all took a breather.  He had gotten disoriented on the trail system further out.  He was going back to Bandy Creek.   I offered him a ride with us. He said he would think about it.  We told him to wait at the truck if he opted to let us take him back. 
We knew we would not be up there very long.   

     We passed a small cascade with a bare trickle.  I think that is Jakes Falls when it is flowing.
The trail climbed and then leveled off right past that.  We kept watching for an unsigned path to the right.  We found it without any problems.   It was very simple getting to Devils Den.
It is a pretty cool rock shelter, but not nearly as intriguing as Needle's Eye.   Kenny remarked he'd have been mad to have hiked 3 miles round trip to something as mundane as Devils Den.
He felt the primary redeeming factor was that we were in the area already and the hike was very short.  I would have to agree. I'm sure the hike would be a little prettier in Spring with plenty of water on the falls and wildflowers possibly in bloom.   


 Devils Den .. first look at it.
 Pretty weathering like ruffles on the rock shelter.
Devils Den with Kenny in it for scale!  It is a good sized rock shelter.  

  Once we had checked it out, we headed back.  We did not see Doug the backpacker at the truck.  We started our drive back to the campground.  Along the way and past Leatherwood Ford we saw a man with a backpack hiking up the road. It was Doug. We stopped and offered him a lift which he accepted.  He had covered a good bit of ground by taking the trail already.
He was from Southeast Indiana.  A very nice fellow.  We made sure he got back to Bandy Creek Campround.  We had never been there before and so we took time to drive through.  It is extremely nice!  We would like to camp there sometime!  

          We were tired and sweaty and dirty.  We made it back to the camper and I gathered my shower stuff and headed to the bathhouse at once.  A little while later I was all clean and smelled better and was dressed for a date with my sweetie.   We went out to dinner at Vegas Steakhouse  in Crossville.  It was delicious. After all the exercise I had a hankering for a good steak.  We had steak, baked potatoes, and salad.  It is a nice place to eat and the prices are not bad.   Service was good and though they were busy we were seated almost right away.

   After dinner we were both wrung out tired.  We still made ourselves stop at the store on the way home to get milk and bananas.   We hit the sack pretty shortly after getting home.  Tired, but happy.