Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Waterfall Redemption Hike in the Cherokee National Forest

Sweet Betsy Trillium just beginning to bloom

Waterfall Redemption Hike in the Cherokee National Forest 

Sunday March 4, 2018

Dana & Kenny Koogler 

Acknowledgement to Brian Solomon accompanied by Christopher Lewis
for helping find this one.

   Now and then we hunt for some super obscure waterfall, wildflower or place that doesn't work out like we hope.   Last year about this time we went on just such a snipe hunt.    I had learned of the existence of a waterfall in an area I was somewhat familiar with.  I had never heard ANY other source mention this falls.  My source also had some extremely rudimentary directions, which included a couple tantalizing photos.   It seemed legit. Kenny and I went hunting for this falls fully  expecting to find it. I read the topography and figured where the falls should be.   We had found falls working with lots less! 
I also correctly figured the approach.  We got there and hunted and hunted with no success. 
As usual we had too much on our plate for the day.  We began to grow both frustrated at not finding it, and we were worried we were wasting time on a futile task that we should spend 
looking up other falls in the area.   

      Sitting in the woods that day in the middle of nowhere we ate our sammidges for lunch and 
laughed and whined.  Kenny was put out at what we had to crawl through to get to this point. We were still traveling down the same stream searching to make absolutely certain we had not missed any falls lower down.   By damn he was NOT going back the way we came.  He left me there eating a tater chip and went hunting for a better route out of this hole.   He came back 
with a grin and said "Well, they'se one big briar patch between us and an old tree farm, but once you get through that it opens up and is MUCH better traveling."   Shortly we set out to 
clamber through the briars and back to the road.   It was a beautiful hike off trail and once that part was accomplished much easier.   We discussed our lack of success and began to wonder if
the falls was even real or perhaps was on a different stream? 

      I told Kenny that day I am going to share this one with Brian Solomon. He is my grasshopper and always eager for an assignment.   Have I got one for him!   I went on to say
that if the falls existed Brian would be the man capable and doggedly determined enough to find them.   Kenny never blinked as he had heard of other feats pulled off by this man. 
I had previously shared tough off trail gambles with him and all but one time it paid off.  I went home that day and emailed Brian. I shared all my information including what parts of the stream we'd searched and knew the falls wasn't there.  So he went in having a 
fair idea where to start and what I'd try on any repeat trips.  I don't recall how long it was, but within a few months anyhow he came back successfully having found the falls!  They did exist and were even prettier than the first photos I'd seen of it!  He had talked Christopher Lewis into going along on this fools errand.  They are hosses I'm tellin ya.  They got it done!  
He took a waypoint for me to go back to see it for myself.   I had narrowed the location down to within 300 feet.   It took months before the chance came for us to return to see it in person.

      It is really early Spring but I hoped to find a few wildflowers up.  I was not disappointed.
We'd had lots of rain. Much more than a year ago so I was hopeful that would aid us in being able to hear the falls as we got close.   I did see some pretty wildflowers. The day was cool and clear, but promised to warm up into the fifties.   Jacket weather.    I began seeing the first trilliums of the season. 
 Sweet Betsy trillium
 Yellow violet
We saw loads of hepaticas up!  All white form.   

  Our paths today were extremely muddy and squishy to begin with.   The start of the trail was one with the stream!   We soon got on drier footing and began our trudge. It was not bad.
We found our second path and followed it. It was good knowing that today I had an accurate way point and at least the journey would be shorter.   We then came to the part where the off trail begins.  Saying 0.27 miles .. ahead off trail sounds like no big deal, right?  Well, it depends on the 1/4 mile.   This one was certainly not the hardest thing we'd ever done, but it wasn't easy.
Uphill, rhodo, gushing stream, terrain that pinches you off to where you are forced to ford the stream.   We finally got smart and found a place to ford and then stayed on the far side of the stream.   It was easier going.    Lots of logs and vines, briars to contend with, but we did it. 
Slowly we made our way toward the spot the falls should be.  We had to go round a bend in the creek.   We began to realize how badly we misjudged the distance last time.   I was right about where the falls should be, but my mind nor Kenny's could picture the terrain or distance between points A and B.   We knew the falls lay in there somewhere.   

      We worked our way along upstream through the vegetation and over countless mini stream crossings.   I am sure most of those would not be there during normal flows.  Finally in one of the contortions trying to get from one point to the next we got a glimpse of white water through the trees.  We could see it. It was real!  
 Our "trail markers" today were rustic. 
 Old logging road
Kenny in front of the falls.  Not a very good demonstration of the scale, but it is a good sized falls. Top drop is about fifteen feet with a thirty foot lower run.  

   We were thrilled to have finally arrived to see this beauty for ourselves.  We were grateful to Brian and Christopher for making the trek ahead of us to confirm it.   We are getting old and lack the stamina we once had.   A second day in the woods seeing what few people will ever see.  Finding waterfalls, big trees, and wildflowers.   The air was fresh. The sky bluest blue and the sun beamed down.  God is in his Heaven and all was right with my world.   I savored the experience because they are fewer and further between these days.  

 The falls sits in a headwaters area.  Springs gushing here and there.  
A "bridge" across the stream just below where I am standing.  It would have made a fair perch for photos or clowning, but not got ya anywhere once on across it.  

Un-named Falls.. beautiful white water.   

Below is a video of the falls that shows it and the surrounding terrain much better.  

We ate lunch at the point just below the falls. It was getting to be 1:30 and Kenny was running low on fuel.   Once we found the falls and enjoyed it we were satisfied and ready to head home.
I was content.  I guess it is that contented feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that keeps me coming back for more challenges.   It is surely that which makes a nap leaned back in shotgun seat of the car using my coat for a pillow some of the sweetest sleep ever.  I am like a cat napping in a sunny spot. 

**Note to Self** Kenny talked about what he'd do on any repeat trips to this falls. I remarked I expected we would NOT be back so wont no use worrying about it.  Famous last words.  Got home and immediately promised Paul Gamble I'd take him back if he had trouble finding it.   Then realized after chatting with Brian that we had missed an upper falls. Damn. Do over! 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Little Laurel Branch Cascade

One of the first hepatica flowers of the 2018 season! 

Little Laurel Branch Cascade

Saturday March 3, 2018

Dana & Kenny Koogler 

   Life has been exceptionally challenging lately.   Kenny working out of town.  Son in law getting ready to deploy.   Helping my daughter with her children and family.   Trying to help a son rehab.
Us being back to the parenthood at our advanced ages.   Kenny got to come home for a weekend off which was an excellent surprise. He was homesick for us and we for him.  It was great to spend time
with him. It was really beneficial to Gabriel having him around.   Saturday Gabe went to stay a couple nights at his other grandparents home.   We had all day Saturday and Sunday to be adults and do what we wanted.   We were hungry for the woods and trails, but we got a late start for a Saturday.
We wanted to pick something fairly close to avoid wasting time driving and not hiking. 
We picked an adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I looked at my running wish list of hikes
in the Smokies. Nothing on there made sense for today with a late start.   

   I got on Tennessee landforms Smoky Mountain section and found a good one.  I had long wanted to see a waterfall on Little Laurel Branch.    It is in the Greenbrier section of the park near the Ramsey Cascades Trail.    We packed some lunches and headed out.   I have hiked to Ramsey Cascade three times and up beyond it two of those times.   I have hiked the Cat Stairs ( off trail) three times. 
I have done lots of hiking in this section of the park, but it had been a long while.  I recalled the last time I hiked back down the trail from Greenbrier Pinnacle looking up a small stream and thinking " I wonder if there are any waterfalls up there?"  I later realized while looking at Tennessee landforms there was indeed a falls up there!   It has taken me a decade to get round to trying to see it.

      I plugged in the way point and let the GPS start orienting itself.   Finding a parking spot on a busy  Saturday was a challenge, but we managed.    Ramsey Cascade is a popular hiking destination. Neither of us was in the mood to deal with crowds today on the trail.   We were ravenous to get into the woods and longed for an off trail adventure to satisfy that yearning.    I walked the parking area
and vetted the waypoint before we set off.   I was tickled to see it was right on target.  

      The day was sunny and warming up nicely. Skies were blue with a few puffy clouds.  
The air was cool and fresh.   The streams were flowing powerfully thanks to all the recent rain as well as snow runoff.   We began our off trail up the stream on a very rudimentary "fisherman's path".  
It soon disappeared and we just had to chose the path of least resistance.   Trying not to give in to every urge to go around things.   That can make off trail hiking take way longer than it should. 

    The woods were pretty open and thanks to the Winter vegetation was much easier to cope with.
We still got scratched up by briars and dog hobble a little bit.   The huge trees, mossy logs and few waking Spring wildflowers really made the woods extra special today. 

 First super mossy log of the day. I had to touch it.
 Open woods and sunbeams shining down on Kenny and me.
 Saw every shade of hepatica today. These were pink!
A few long spurred violets getting started. 

     I let myself stop and take pictures of everything I wanted.  I had been too long between hikes.
I was thrilled to see forest and flowers and streams!  As we climbed we crossed and recrossed the stream a couple times.   We thought we were picking the easier side of the creek,.  While it was necessary in at least one spot, the return trip showed us only one crossing was really needed.  
It is possible to get on the left side and stay there.  We had to go around a couple spots where trees had fallen leaving massive piles of laps.  ( laps are the tops of trees and they are no fun to try to go through) Another spot was a huge rhodo thicket we were able to go round and avoid that struggle.

          We began to see large rocks sticking up like fins and some boulders the size of houses.
The headwaters around the falls is flanked left and right by huge rock formations.    The trees higher in the headwaters give way to yellow birch, beech, buckeye, and hemlock or fir.    We began to see 
more and more pretty cascades along the creek as we climbed.   
 There is something very soothing to my eyes about the back country streams in the mountains with all the mossy logs and jumbled debris.  It lacks that manicured look that I find at some touristy waterfalls.

First dutchman's breeches of the season!   Saw this and some very tiny quirrel corn just getting started.   I was hollering for joy!  

 silky cascade along the stream
 A very large poplar tree.
Top of the same big tree.

Once we got up pretty high in the drainage you could see the Greenbrier Pinnacle in the distance!
Cool to think of all the times I've been up there!

  One of the cool features of this off trail was that the route we chose had a squeeze through a crack in the rocks. A couple spots were like natural stair steps up a boulder field and through a headwaters spring area.  I love headwaters areas when the water is spurting from under every rock and root.
We passed one massive boulder that looked like a building!

Huge boulder capped with ferns
First good look at the falls.  Hard to tell from here of the scale.

   The grapevines in this area were big around as a man's arm.  I also though of the Page sisters who trek the mountains with David Sands, Erica Burnette and Co.    I swear they been hanging laundry out in them woods.  We ran upon a double strand of twisted Dutchman's pipe vine that looked for the world like a clothes line!   Like it was placed there on purpose!  We encountered a set of 10 foot twin falls below the main falls.  My concern on seeing them was that this was the lower drop of the falls as pictured by Tom Dunigan. I had been praying the falls were ruined with too much downed trees falling in them.      Turned out not to be the case so it was all good.

 Above and below a horizontal and vertical oriented shot of Little Laurel Branch Cascade. It was a beauty today.   I am betting though that during the drier months it is a lot of work to reach this spot for not much reward in the way of flow.   Soaked up all the beauty, mist off the falls and sunbeams I could get today!

  We clambered around in the falls and viewed it from various angles.  It was fun.   It is possible to get lots of different vantage points of this one, but it is work.   It is a hard one to photograph and show its size and shape.   It has about a fifteen foot chute at the top where it gushes down off the mountain then runs a short distance before running down over the  squared off rock face.  Some of the stones back here today near the falls looked like man made structures, but we knew better.  
The only signs of man we encountered was the rock pile walls and tater hole of a cabin down low in the drainage.  Aside from that the old logging road we glimpsed down low was it.   

 A shot of a lower portion of the falls.
Isolation shot of the frothy cascades below the main falls. 

 We had a much easier hike down than it was going up.   Still had to be careful, but we didn't waste time crossing and recrossing the creek.   Here is another scenic cascade in the stream way down in the drainage. 

    We slowly headed back down after we enjoyed the spectacle of the falls.   It was a short, relatively easy bushwhack.   It felt extra special to have seen a little known falls when we got back down to the main trail and began encountering lots of people returning from hiking the Ramsey Cascades Trail.
Below is a shot of Ramsey Prong with that blue green snow water color to it.  Today we got a dose of exactly what we needed and it was glorious!  We capped off the evening with a stop at Calhouns for eats.  I love going in there with my butt dirty and sticks and leaves all in my hair.  I expect to be taken seriously. ;^D

Last of all is a short video of the falls.  It shows it better than my photos. Note to myself. Today I found diapers and fanny wipes in my backpack!   I could hear Jenny Bennett's laugh had she been there and seen that.   The spirit of the Contrarian was with me today in them woods!  Dearly missed. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Gabriel to the Playground with His Mom and Grandparents

Gabe crawls through the play tunnel 

Gabriel to the Playground with His Mom and Grandparents

Sat. Jan. 20 , 2018

Dana, Kenny, Lydia and Gabriel Koogler

   I had not spent any quality time with my daughter in law in awhile. 
She came over and spent the day.  I enjoyed it so much and so did Gabriel. He was 
glad to see Mama!  No one can take her place or makes him smile and laugh as much.
It was a really pretty day. It was the first warm day we'd had in a long while.  We got 
out Saturday afternoon and took a ride to Townsend. We went to the playground.
We took Gabe's little push car to give him some rides in that and get some exercise.
Lydia took us and showed us on the way home where Mt. Luke is located. What an experience!
I'll do a blog on that another time. 

 Gabe & Lydia 
 Gabe with apple cheeks and a big smile

 Trying to crawl UP  the slide! 
 Little Gabey Bear is getting to be a big boy! 
 See saw with Mommy!

 Brrmmin in my little car
 Wearing Papaw's cool shades
Happy Baby running

 What is it about going UP slides kids like so much? 
 Hair like corn silk.... 
 Gabe stayed on the swings a long time!  

It is fun spending time with mommy and Nanny and Papaw.

   We were finally able to get Gabe to go back to the car. He had a great time.  He was getting tired and a little chilly.  He sat down in his car seat and got Bah out to have a sip. He had dissy blanket to snuggle with.   Lydia directed us how to find Mt. Luke. Their family owns a cabin up there or what is left of it.  The road is like going to billy goat town!   It is steep and narrow and the cabins all perched on the mountain side.  I'll go back up there and take photos of the place.   

It is historic for sure.

     We went home for more play time indoors.  Dinner.  and good conversation and lots of laughs.

Big Piney Rock House

Big Piney Rock House

Friday Jan. 26, 2018

Dana & Kenny Koogler

 We went over to visit with John and Sharon in Fentress County on a much needed get 
away weekend.   We have been going through a rough spell in our personal lives thanks to the upheaval caused by having substance abusers in the family.  Relapse is part of recovery, but that doesn't mean its painless. You don't give up. You keep loving . You keep praying. You keep working the 12 steps and you keep trying.   We finally made arrangements with Gabe's other
grandparents and our daughter and son in law to watch him for a weekend.   It worked out great, but what we did not count on was how tired we were.  We also did not count on 
how after awhile the problems at home follow you. You cannot run from things forever.
You gotta talk things out and work on it.  

      The weekend turned out to be rainy on Sunday but the rest of the weekend was pretty fair.
We did hash out our differences and the time away from home and being with friends was good for us.   Below is a quote I have in art work framed and on the wall at my house.  A reminder to keep trying. Never give up. 
“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.”--- Rumi 

     Big Piney Rock House

  Friday we ended up with a few hours to do something.    We needed to keep it short.
We went down into Big Piney gorge to see the massive rock house we found.  We wanted to 
check it out during cold weather.  It is probably very snakey down in there during warm weather.     We went to the Sandy side and started in.     We found the trail in fair shape.
Still lots of overhanging limbs but only one fallen tree.     We made it there and walked down
into the drainage and followed it back to the rock house.  It was pretty cool.  The late afternoon sun had the woods looking golden and smoky.   
 RZR on the trail at the rim of the gulf
Golden sun in late afternoon woods.  

 Finally made it to the rock house.
 Looking out from under it. Nice to see blue skies.
 Taken from the second level of the rock house.
 Late afternoon sun makes its way into the rock house' upper reaches.


  Once we'd checked it out we found an easier, quicker way back to the RZR and the trail. 
We went on down to the bottom of the gorge to see the creek. It was wintery and pretty. 

Incredibly clear and sparkling waters of Big Piney Creek.
 Lots of icicles still around. Edges of the stream still frozen.

We did a quick stop by the spot where a cemetery is supposed to be.  We did not find it, but did find the remains of an old structure.  We will have to try again.  I have a way point for next try.

  Saturday-- Trail into Lost Cane 

  Saturday we visited with John and Sharon a bit.  They invited us to have dinner with them.
We told them what we planned to get up to and they opted out.  I told them I had a feeling it might not end up being fun or a success.  Unfortunately I was right.   
We stopped by a house we pass sometimes on Boatland Road.   I had photos of Mrs. Koger's beautiful tiger lilies I had taken one Summer when they were extremely pretty.   I got prints made for her.  I brought her a candle I made.   We stopped for me to take them in. I met her son James and told him what I'd come for. He told me she passed away last June of cancer.  
I was stunned and saddened. I expressed my sympathies and sorrow at having not made it by there in time to meet her. I left the things with him to enjoy and promised to try to be more neighborly.  I went back to the RZR with Kenny and burst into tears as we pulled away.  
Don't hesitate to do something nice for another, because we never know when it may be too late.  Her name was Clarice Koger and she was only 72 years old.  A sweet looking silver haired lady.  I hate that she is gone.   

     We went on to Bills Creek and the upper trail on the ridge.  It was open, but lots of brush to whack me in the face. We finally got on to where we'd found  a side trail we believed led down off the ridge and into Lost Cane just below Frank's Flume.   We pulled over and walked it. 
The plan was to clear it out IF it went where we believed and IF it was not a mammoth task.
We followed the old road, but it did not end up going where we believed.  It would have indeed been too much of an undertaking to clear out.   We finally had to give up and go back.   I was down.
I just didn't care about anything right then.   I was still saddened.  

    We had a nice dinner with John and Sharon and lots of good conversation.   
We finally headed back to the No Tell Motel as I call it.. the Jordan Motel.  We slept and when we went to bed it was raining.  It was to have cleared out by morning, but it didn't.  We went back to Boatland to see John and Sharon and have breakfast. The day was rainy and cold and dreary.  
We said our good byes and headed home.

   It was good to get away, but most of our plans didn't turn out like we wanted. That is not the end of the world.  When you explore sometimes you are going to get disappointed.  At least we have the satisfaction of knowing what we wanted to know and can cross some things off our list.  

     A consolation prize was that at the start of the week a young couple reached out to me for help in finding Rainbow Falls.  I ended up helping them. Friending the lady on Facebook.  They are 
our kinda people!  I am very excited to get to meet them. They are Hippie Jack loving, music loving, outdoor loving, campers, four wheeling peeps!   A second good side effect of helping them?
I found out they can help me get to see Hell Hole and possible some of the other sink holes I want to check out to wrap up my sink hole research project. 
' A third great thing that happened was in studying the map for them I happened upon answers to accessing places I had wanted to reach! I also found new  questions for myself to have brand new Ponders over.  Julia Ross.. You know what I'm talkin' bout gurl!  LOL... The studying on a thing can be nearly as much fun as finally figuring it out!