Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mill Creek Falls Off Trail Hike-- Trip Report, Photos and Videos

Buck looking me through the woods.

Mill Creek Falls Off Trail Hike
(This is the 5th time we visited this falls)
Dana & Kenny Koogler
Monday Dec. 26, 2011
6 miles round trip difficult


     The day after Christmas and all I wanted as one last gift was some time in the woods.    I finally guilted Kenny into going to Mill Creek Falls with me.  He gave me the usual litany of why we could not do this today.  Reasons included:
  • I don't want to
  • Too hard
  • Creek crossings too hard
  • Too cold to wade the water
 I reminded him I had been very gracious during his time working every weekend away from me and had not fussed at him the previous four months. He conceded and we packed up to go. There was considerable foot dragging on his part.
I could see him trying to procrastinate. One delay tactic followed another.
He tried to persuade me we needed to go to Target to get an SD card for my new video camera I got for Christmas.  I put my foot down and said "Forget it. We must get going now."  The SD card will have to wait for another day.  We finally got under way and hit the trail at 11:15.  Cades Cove traffic never really lets up anymore and I always hate dealing with it. 

     We started hiking and picked up the old wagon road back into Tiptons' Sugar Cove.    The first 0.5 mile is not bad since it is level, but there are lots of old logs down across the wagon road.  It necessitates striking out through the woods and avoiding part of the old trace and picking it back up later.   It usually takes both Herr and Frau Kugler to make up enough brains to do off trail hiking.  We're a good team.  What one does not recollect the other one almost always does.
Today was no different.  One thing we've both learned about off trail travel is this:

If it seems like you may be making it harder than it has to be... you probably are!

    We arrived at the first creek crossing and decided to do something different.
We used a log that has been there every trip, but we have never fooled with it before.   It worked, but it was something else awhile.  We did not bother with it on the return trip, but just forded in our water shoes.  Stobs on old logs and the slickness of barkless logs makes them treacherous.  

Kenny butt scooting a log on the first crossing. Ouch!

Once across we picked up the path again.  It disappears entirely in places and much of the trip is just dead reckoning.  We have never done this trip exactly the same way. 

     We forded several more times. Enjoyed a few flat open areas. Swam through rhododendron hells. Climbed over and under logs.  Clambered up and over shale ridges. I sat down for the second creek ford which was going to be a wet foot ford with another one right behind it.   I zipped off the legs of my pants.  I pushed my long handles nearly up to my butt and donned my Chacos to cross.   Trekking poles really  help on this trip for both fording and bushwhacking and negotiating the banks.   We were both glad to have brought our trekkers today. 

    We came to a wide sweeping bend of the river and did not recall having ever forded here?  We made a hard left and climbed up Cobb Ridge and continued.
The steep shaley ridge is always ready to send you peeling off there on a sled of rock.   It is littered everywhere with chunks of blue rock.
Kenny tried to convince me I should zip the legs of my pants back on, but I flat refused.  It was pretty warm most of the day and I was not concerned about it.
I came down off Cobb Ridge wearing my long johns and shorts.  He laughed so hard he could not make any noise. He decided maybe having an Outlaw Hiker wife was not the best look for me.  He threatened to send me to John Quillen to raise if I didn't act right.  He'd be so bored if ever did become a traditional Tupperware Wife.  He prefers the fool who goes round town terrorizing people with an uncombed mane and no makes up on her face.   She's more fun and less predictable.  Truthfully I think the turn on is in having people think of him "Now that's one heck of a man who can subdue a varmint like that for 31 years!" 

What? Ain't nothing wrong wid how I'm dressed!

     We finally did sit down once we knew we had all the wet foot crossings behind us and put on our hiking boots, but I still rocked out my previous look. It really was refreshing.   We continued on with the terrain growing gradually steeper.  I saw a chimney pile far off in the distance I knew we'd never seen before.  I looked up in the sky and noted the position of the sun. 2 o'clock PM.  I asked Kenny what time it was since my watch had quit working this morning?  He said it was 1:41 pm.  I did not know I could tell time that accurately from just looking at the sun. I knew I had gotten better at it, but that was pretty close.  It hit me that we were going to be running short of time to finish this trip before darkness overtook us.  It caused me to feel anxious and not take as many pictures as I would have with an early start.

     We crossed what I call "Grateful Dead" crossing.  Dave Landreth knows why.
We headed up the steep bank on the right side of Mill Creek.  We picked our way among boulders and massive fallen logs.   We stopped and hastily ate our lunch and rested a little.  We pressed forward and soon passed the record giant chestnut oak tree on our left.  It is still standing, but not for much longer in its present state.
It is rotten and looks like the next wind storm will at least get the crown of it.  There are quite a few large trees back there. 

    Before we knew it the falls were in view.   The water volume today really made this trip worthwhile.    We sat and enjoyed the falls and being back after a five year hiatus.   I took pictures and shot some video footage.  I loved looking back down the creek and seeing the stream cascading endlessly out of sight.
The terrain back in that holler is more than just a little dramatic. 
Not having time to tarry we turned and made the trip back.

Looking back down the steep terrain of Mill Creek.

I slid down into a rhodo hell once and hollered like the preachers coon I was so aggravated.
We saw several deer back in the cove while hiking.  We made it out before dark, by about an hour.  It took us a shade under 6 hours to do this trip.

I was tickled to get to see this beautiful waterfall again. It was like an old friend.
I felt a bit wistful and reluctant to leave, but maybe it won't be five years between trips next go round.

Mill Creek Falls main section


  1. What a great trip Dana! I've never made this hike before; those falls were beautiful. The long johns and shorts sounds like something I'd do myself! Hope you had a great Christmas and New years!

  2. Thanks Mamabug. It is a beautiful area and part of what I like about it is the physical challenge and seeing stuff that is off the beaten track. The long johns fashion statement I later learned is a Florida thing! LOL No kidding! See? I was tryin' to hang with all you cool Florida gals. :^D
    I did have a great Christmas and New Years. Glad you did as well!


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