Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finding Four Mile Creek Falls

Hypericum nudiflorum from another trip. 

Finding Four Mile Creek Falls
Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sunday June 19,2011

3 miles round trip bushwhack

Pictures are here:

     We'd been wanting to get out and hike, but had been sticking around home doing some
repairs to our house where the hail storm beat it up. Sunday was Father's Day and after church we made our escape to a place I suggested in Morgan County.  I'd seen a photo of a
waterfall there and gotten the way points from Tennessee landforms. Thanks Tom!
We both wanted to see something different and do a  hike that was a little more challenging from a navigational standpoint.  I bought Kenny a new GPS for Christmas. He's used it several times ATV riding, but never learned to mark way points and seek them out. We thought today would be a good day to give it a try. We'd had several days of hard rain and figured the waterfall should be worth visiting . We tossed some things in the backpack and headed out.

      Morgan County has several really pretty places to enjoy outdoor adventure such as:

Frozen Head State Park
The Cumberland Trail
The Obed Wild & Scenic River
Brimstone ATV Riding Area
Wind Rock ATV Riding Area

     The area we were heading to was not among any of those known places. Its the kind of hidden jewel we love.   Rugged and beautiful and seldom visited.  We set my vehicles G.P.S up to find the coordinates on the driving part. I call her "Babala"(Barbara).  We proved today that she will take us to the nearest road access to a way point.   We drove out through Morgan County's rolling countryside. It was beautiful. We had rain at home, but heading west we were driving out of it.  The lilies pictured at the start of this blog entry are day lilies and are very common. They were along the roadsides and fields everywhere.  Deep green countryside interspersed with patches of bright orange.  Too numerous to count is what I'd say about those lilies. We also saw lots of bright yellow tickseed and blackeyed susies. Patches of orange butterfly weed could also be found along the roadsides. 

          We arrived at our first destination and realized the GPS in my jeep had brought us
to the right spot. We were on a bluff top that sloped down across a farm field and past a barn.
It was gated on private property.   We turned around and tried the next road access about 1/2 mile further down.  It met a dead end at Hall Cemetery.  A rough dirt track continued through the forest at the edge of the farm fields and cemetery.  We were a short distance from the
falls according to Kenny's G.P.S, but this was where the walking started. We could tell from the G.P.S that while it would be shorter to go straight ahead we'd simply emerge at the top of a high rocky bluff after having struggled through almost impenetrable forest and weeds. It is usually smarter and safer to approach a waterfall from downstream.

Path of Thorns lay between us and the falls.

  Due to the Bluff above the falls,we opted to try the old road to circle round to the bottom and come up. 

     We started down the sandy road and soon the surface changed to walking on flat, smooth stone. We saw a path heading off to the left in the direction of the falls and checked it out.
Here is what we now found blocking our progress.

Swamp at the top of the bluff.

    We turned around and started back down the old dirt track that changed again in character to a soupy, muddy mess.  We found a couple intersections along the way giving a chance for further trail confusion, but we managed to pick the main and correct fork each time. It wasn't too bad. Frogs were jumping in the mud holes. The sun had come out and was shining brightly through the trees. The air was cool and smelled of damp earth and healthy pine forest and flowers.  It was a good day for a hike with perfect weather.  Tiny rivulets of water ran down the old road along its sides.   We finally came to a point along the road where we turned and went into the woods on the left and found Luke Hall Branch. We headed into the forest and followed the stream up the holler.

     The walk was mainly on the left of the stream heading up and we began to see
orange survey tape along the way as markers.  Someone had come up here in the past to see something?! This is always encouraging to see as it means you are probably on the right track.  The forest was mostly open on the left while the right was overgrown and the track so tight into the creek it would have been harder on that side.   The woods here are healthy hemlock forest. It is gloomy and dark here most of the time. It smelled great and was so cool. The heat of the day combined with the recent thunderstorms had the woods sending up a constant mist. You could walk along and see your breath condense from time to time!  A rare bolt of sunbeams would enter the forest. The sunbeams were made more glorious by the deep forest gloom.  Pipsissewa bloomed all over the forest floor.  It was beautiful and the woods were quiet except for us and some birds singing.  We never saw another soul. We saw very little trash.  When we finally got to the falls we found an orange plastic dish drainer or something that had washed over the falls!

          We found a spot where we turned and started looking for the confluence of Luke Hall Branch and Four Mile Creek.  It was located easily and the spot was very scenic. 

Four Mile Cascades

     We turned and started up Four Mile Creek. Fording here both Luke Hall Branch and Four Mile Creek was going to be treacherous due to slick rocks and deep holes of water.  I opted to leave my boots on and just wade the creek in them.  It made for safer tread. I knew when I got back to the jeep I could just take them off and ride home barefoot.   It wasn't far up to the falls from here. Only about another 1/2 mile.
It was tough going now because of rhododendron, slick rocks and the unexpected boulder field on the left.  A boulder field a good place to get your leg broken far from help.   What happens is that there are large and medium sized boulders jumbled on the banks of a stream.  If the stream floods often and high enough it keeps them scoured so you can see where to step and where the individual rocks are.  If the stream does not flood moss begins to grow all over them.  It forms a veil that makes them look like solid ground.  One false step could have you tread on a gap between the boulders that is covered by the lacey curtain of moss. You would then find yourself injured badly. We had to be extra careful.  We didn't have the option of picking the far bank since the bluff came right down to the stream leaving no place to walk for most of the right side.  We ducked under branches, trees and bushes and scrambled over boulders for a short ways.  The stream was then squeezed through a narrow slot.  We found a way around it on the left side.  Once past that we just got in the stream bed and walked.  We finally got a glimpse of Four Mile Creek Falls!
It was more than worth the effort. It is 60 feet high or better. It sits in a rock amphitheater. 

Four Mile Creek Falls

     We hung around at the falls for awhile enjoying the view and soaking it in. We couldn't tarry too long since we had to make our way out of there.  We decided to try climbing out the left bank toward the bluff just to explore and see if there were any cracks in the bluff that might allow a person to take a short cut?  We found none and the bluff line extended as far as we could see.  We followed it for a ways, but it got worse and worse so we had to turn around and follow the stream back out.

        We made much better time coming out and it felt good to have the hard part over with. We'd found it! We had made it back out alive.  We were back out in the sunshine again.  We strolled leisurely down to Clear Creek which today was murky due to the heavy rains.  It was a pretty spot. The only wildlife we'd seen today was a couple grouses we'd flushed up. We stood looking at the rope swing over Clear Creek and a tiny humming bird came and lit on a branch.  What a beautiful place!

Clear Creek Swimming Hole in Morgan County, TN

    We made it back to the jeep and were glad to be done. We were soaking wet from the creek and the humidity.  We headed home agreeing we'll come back and find Mill Creek Falls. We tried that once before unsuccessfully, but have the new and improved GPS and surely we can find it next time! 

Roadside Butterfly Weed

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Visit to Erin's Meadow Herb Farm

Foxglove growing at Erin's Meadow

Erin's Meadow Herb Farm Visit

Dana Koogler

Tuesday April 17, 2012

Pictures are here:


     One of my favorite places to visit for gardening and home decoration ideas is Erin's Meadow Herb Farm.  I started going there four or five years ago and really liked it.  I've been a number of times, but this visit was the earliest I've ever made the trip.  It is located in Clinton, TN.  I usually don't get out there til May or June.  I end up wishing I'd come there before I planted anything so this year I changed up.   It was a good visit. Only one other couple was there shopping so it was real quiet.  Visiting early in the season is good, but it has the draw back of some of the herbs and displays not being as impressive yet.

    I would like to go back if the chance presents to take Crystal to see this pretty place.
I had an overcast, cool day to visit and that was nice, but I like visits on sunshiny days.
I purchased a number of herbs to expand my kitchen herb garden. I also purchased some ornamentals and perennials.   I will post some photos of the things I bought once I get them planted. I'll do a follow up blog on the those. 

      Not much more to say so I'll post photos of the highlights. I left with not as many items as I'd expected this time, but I left inspired as ever. I made a stop by Joann Fabric Center afterwards and purchased outdoor fabric 50% off to make some changes to my back porch and back deck. I want to rework the color scheme.  I will be sure to post photos of that and do a blog on the porch freshen ups as well as the plantings!

Red Barn display near the entrance. Erin's Meadow uses vintage items and a shabby chic style to work in with their displays.

My favorite portion of the Fairy Garden. I love the green gold foliage and rusty colored fern leaves contrast.

One of the green house bays.

Bright colored ornamentals as well as herbs for sale.

Inside the gift shop

Monday, April 16, 2012

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--Hoodtown & Xanadu Falls

Adders's tounge fern in Hoodtown

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--Down in Hoodtown

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Saturday April 7, 2012

**Repaired blog set--Missing photos, damaged links**
Need return trip to Hoodtown Overlook and Rock Castle Falls

   We had taken a ride back Hoodtown Road two weeks ago and were eager to return.   I'd had the feeling good things lay at the bottom of this rough four-wheel drive track.    It turned out to be true.    We had a beautiful, sunny Saturday to spend exploring and adventuring.    We unloaded the rhino and took off. We first took the path to the right to Hoodtown Overlook. It was a gorgeous view of the surrounding gulf.  The trees were leafy now and greening up.  Lots of pines and moss up here on the bluff line. It was really beautiful and the air smelled so clean.
 We soon passed the very large semi-circular rock shelter a short distance down the path.   We continued on with lots of anticipation since anything we saw from here on out was new to us both!  The trail was rugged to put it mildly.  We came around a bend and were met with an uneven rock ledge extending all the way across the road.  We eased down past it without any problems.   At the bottom the trail split four ways with the most rudimentary path barely visible to the far right.
Kenny said "Maybe we should walk back there and see if that is where Xanadu Cave and the falls is?"  I disagreed since it seemed we hadn't gone far enough yet to be encountering anything of the sort. 
**Photo Missing** Replaced with video of ride

The view from Hoodtown Overlook--missing
We took the trail to the left and we forded the river.   It is a pretty spot with the river flowing by and the cliffs are dramatic.  All sorts of fragmented rock forms small caves and alcoves in the river banks.   A huge gum tree stood on a rocky island.  The stream glimmered aquamarine in its depths.   Downstream more gum trees were seen bowed down from the force of the river in flood stages past.
We got out and hiked around exploring for a bit then decided to continue our hunt for the waterfall. 

        We tried two other paths before finally going back to where Kenny suggested.  It turned out to be a by-pass trail to avoid going over that rock ledge!
We'd found another pretty cave area and cliff over hang on a middle trail. 
We could feel cold air flowing out of the cave.  Bleached, smoothed rock chunks littered the ground.   The cliffs were decorated with ferns and brightly colored wild columbine.    Neither of us had ever been here before, but this cave may be one I've seen mentioned called Zarathustra's Cave.   Maybe someday we'll find out.

     We pressed on along the river trail as far as we could go.   It was beautiful. 
The forest was healthy hemlock, poplar, beech, maple, chestnut oak, sycamore, and lots of sweet gum trees.   I also saw fringe trees in peak bloom like white frills.
Pinkster azalea bloomed along the river banks.    Wildflowers bloomed all around.  Purple and white phlox, ferns with their fiddleheads, rue anemone, prairie trillium, southern red trillium, and dwarf iris were thick!
We finally arrived at a point where the river ford was deep and swift enough to make it impassable.   We stopped and hiked around enjoying the forest and the sandy shores of the river.    Lots of different kinds of butterflies and dragonflies zoomed around.    The Zebra swallowtails really liked this area. I finally got a photo of one.    We turned around and headed back in the direction we'd come from.    Fording the creek filled the floor of the rhino up ALOT in most places.
The river is just barely at a point where we could ride down here at all. 

     We doubled back up a trail we'd tried earlier and got out and walked.
The trail was marked as continuing up a steep bank to the left, but we followed the hollow straight ahead.  It appeared foot traffic had gone this way in the past for some reason.  We were not disappointed.  We stopped and listened.  Soon we could hear water.   We climbed over boulders and logs and made our way ever onward.    The forest was deep and shady with the sun filtering through the canopy now and then.  The rock forms in this area were quite interesting and uniquely beautiful.   Lush ferns grew everywhere.  Purple phacelia bloomed. Little red birthday candles of prairie trillium sparkled on the forest floor. 
We could hear the sound of water growing stronger and soon we were met with our first glimpse of Xanadu Falls!  There had been three things we hoped to find today 1. Hoodtown Overlook 2. Xanadu cave and falls 3. Rock Castle Falls.
We had found the two we knew to be in Hoodtown!

       We stood staring open mouthed at a lovely stream that flowed down a flat area of the forest like a shelf......... then dropped about 35 feet down into a gully.
The water was like a white ribbon today slipping over the rocks and briefly forming a small plunge pool before seeping underground.    To both the left and right were massive rock openings and overhangs.   Room sized boulders flanked us.   Swifts dipped and swooped from under the rock cliffs.   We could see their nests.   We stood and just drank in the sight of this exotic and beautiful spot.
We climbed over into the left side where we could see the entrance to Xanadu cave with its gate.  Water was flowing over here too.  The stream having gone underground peeped out briefly then went back under for good. 
We took a last good look around and decided to head back to the rhino and eat our lunch.

Xanadu Falls
 We then continued back up out of Hoodtown and loaded up to go see what we could find down in Rockcastle Gorge. 

     We arrived in Jamestown and followed the powerline cut out to where we'd gone before. Last time we could hear the falls, but the descent was so slippery and steep and muddy we opted to come back with a rope for safety.   Rockcastle Gorge is one of many steep gorges in the plateau.    We walked the rim out to the only place we'd found where we could get below the falls and come up to them. We'd found a way in above them, but no way down from that point. 
Today we tied the rope off to a tree and climbed down the rocks through a cleft.
There is an impressive rock house that runs below the rim of the gorge for a long ways.    We carefully picked our way down the steep bank holding on to trees and working our way among boulders and over logs.   We could hear the falls down there roaring so we knew we were in the right place.  We soon glimpsed the first flash of white water.   We passed between two huge, flat boulders with loads of purple phacelia growing atop them both!  Lots of wildflowers appeared on the forested slopes.   We were able to approach the falls from below for a good view!

     Rockcastle Falls is not huge, but its quite pretty.   I would not make a special trip over just to see this falls, but it made a nice addition to a days outing.
There is a small  natural bridge nearby, but we did not tarry to hunt for it. 
We enjoyed the atmosphere at the falls for a bit then climbed back out of the gorge.   We explored the area at the top and the powerline cut a little more. 
Vernal iris and birdsfoot violet grew ever where in this field!  The ground was pretty in purple!  We want to return later and see about following the powerline cut out to Catpen Hollow Arch on a future trip!?? 

*Photo Missing** replaced with video of Rock Castle Falls
 We had a good time and a successful day in finding all three things we hoped we'd get to see!

View from Wilder Mountain on a blue bird day!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau-- Stinging Nettle Falls & Spring Wildflowers

Wood Poppy--these covered the forest floor around Stinging Nettle Falls

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--

Finding Stinging Nettle Falls

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Camping, Riding, and Hiking Trip
Friday March 23 through Sunday March 25, 2012
Hoodtown Pix 

**Repaired Blog entry--missing photos and broken links**

     We had been needing to get over to see our friends who live in Fentress County and so we all planned to meet and spend some time together over a weekend.  Sharon had come up from Florida and was at her place. Brenda and her kids and grandkids were planning to come over too.  We dropped off our things at the cabin we'd rented and went out to have some time to explore together  just the two of us for Friday.   Places to eat out are scarce in the vicinity so I prepared some chicken dinners in foil pouches to toss in the oven when we got back that evening.

       We planned to do some scouting this trip to get answers to some access questions we'd had.   Some answers were in the affirmative and some were disappointing.  We'd hoped to find an access on the east side of the Obey river heading down into the gorge. The East Fork of the Obey River is far too deep to ford now on horse, atv or foot.  You'd have to swim it.   Riding the river trail was out of the question and that was no surprise.  We were not to be so easily outdone and continued our looking around.   Kenny and I have both learned that while trips like this can be frustrating and disappointing, they can also yield great rewards!    One has to spend a little time checking out maps and then back that up with a drive or hike to see if what is shown on paper is reality.  

      We enjoyed some grandstand views from Wilder Mountain's summit.  We saw lots of beautiful scenery.  We put together some roads and trails we'd been on before, but needed to learn better on our own.  When we passed by Tay's store........I had a fit of sudden uncontrollable sobbing.  We lost our friend, Ed Choate, Brenda's husband back in the Fall after only knowing him a short time.  This trip was also about grieving a loss and reconnecting with friends.  It was sad in some ways, but sweet too.   Ed was a funny, caring, generous man with a quick smile and ever the skeptic.  Brenda and Ed were the perfect couple.  We were fortunate to know him and happy to still have her with us.  I don't often pray to anyone but God, but today I asked a special favor in my prayers. I was being more Catholic today.  I prayed that Ed would be our trail angel and bless us with his knowledge and good luck.  He was born and raised right there in Fentress County and knew the area like the back of his hand.   I was not going to be disappointed at all!

      We decided to head down Bill's Creek Trail to try to find Stinging Nettle Falls.
It is a waterfall that gushes straight out of the ground and drops about 30 feet into a cave.  We'd been near it back in the Fall on our first trip and felt we could find it today.  I had waypoints for it, but the GPS was not cooperating.  I didn't know if we'd find it today or not but we'd give it a try.  We found the upper end of the trail gated off.  Not to be so easily outdone we wiggled round it and off we went.
The trail was muddy, rutted and rocky. We passed by what appears to be the stream source for Bills Creek!  It flows out of the ground at a rock overhang and runs for a spell, then goes underground and forms a dry stream bed only to reappear later with a healthy flow!    There are streams like this in the Smokies and the Cumberland Plateau. 

      The day was clear, sunny and 65 degrees. The woods were bare, but the lower we went the greener things got.  I anticipated the lower elevations would be prettier and possibly have some wildflowers out.  We finally arrived at a level spot near the bottom. I knew we were getting near Millard Fillmore cave.  I had told Kenny I figured Stinging Nettle Falls would be at the base of a rock cliff or hill.  Kenny said "Where does this go?" and pointed to where the path swept to the right.   I looked up and saw a massive rock cliff like a great theater. I could hear water roaring.  "This is it! " I shouted and grabbed my camera and took off. I was wearing not my boots, but my good tennis shoes and I did not care. It was total abandon.  The forest floor was awash with deep green moss, brown loamy soil, rocks and bright yellow blooms of wood poppies!  Gushing out of the ground in the distance was a white cataract.. we had found it!  The rocks echoed back the roar of the water.   In climbing around exploring and taking pictures Kenny pointed out two other cave entrances to me.  They were down in the ground, not back in a bank.  You could hear water roaring in both, but in the one you could see it!   It sounded like two powerful streams under great pressure.   What surprised me was that the round cave on the cliff was dry!  I had seen a photo where water was shooting out of that hole and expected that was the falls.   It was not the case. 
We both wondered aloud what sort of rain event it would take to cause water to flow from that cave? 

**UPDATE** I got an email response from Tom Dunigan who agreed with me and Sharon that the photo taken prior to our visit shows water gushing from that now dry, round hole on the bluff.  He says there is a place down on the TN/AL line at Walls of Jericho where water gushes from a blow hole after heavy, recent rains.  I expect he's right that such a thing could cause water to flow from this hole. It would not go far seeing as how it would drain down into those two other cave mouths 20 feet out from it. 

       The slopes around it are rocky, boulder strewn and mossy.   Walking ferns and various lush green mosses grown on the rocks in the pit where Stinging Nettle Falls flows.  I expect in Summer the water dries up and stinging nettle plants make their own kind of cascade over the slopes, but right now we saw none of those nasty plants.  Brenda later told us that there is a stream in Alpine, TN one county over that is currently named Means Creek. Its former name was Nettle Carrier.  There was a Cherokee Indian named Chief Nettle Carrier!   One of the interesting features here was a hole in the rock that looked like the handle on a tea cup!   Trilliums, poppies, violets, toothwort, foam flower, ferns and other beautiful Spring wildflowers bloomed all around.

Stinging Nettle Falls
Wilder Mtn

View from the summit of Wilder Mountain along the rim of the gorge

     We went on down past Millard Filmore Cave and checked it out.  We found a couple pit caves with interesting rock forms caused by erosion.  Saw a sink hole and found the place where Bill's creek goes underground. It just peters out and stops flowing and seeps into the ground.   The area surrounding the cave was covered with green growth and wildflowers.  The trail is rutted, muddy, overgrown with briers in places and rough as a cob.   We loved it!

I was pleased to find prairie trillium blooming. It is my favorite trillium.

    Prairie trillium

  We were quickly losing daylight and turned and headed back up Bill's Creek trail to the truck.   The trees growing more stark the higher we climbed out of the holler.   The sun was setting and the angle of its golden rays striking the bare gray trees was strange and beautiful.  It looked like a gold-gray fog amidst the forest.  I photographed it, but the picture did not show how oddly beautiful it was.  Back up at the truck the sunset was beautiful.  Even then we could not quit and had to go flying down the road to see where it lead?!  It dead ended, but we had fun making sure!
Sunset on the Cumberland Plateau is like a benediction from Heaven.

     Sunset over the plateau

We found a shortcut thanks to my TomTom GPS who I call Babala. (Barbara as pronounced by Mr. Yakisota. The name of his  hot secretary) The trip home was ALOT shorter and quicker. Gurl done good! :-D   We were back at the cabin worn out and hongry.  I turned on the oven and got those chicken dinners cooking. I'd put mesquite seasoned chicken leg quarters with squash, potatoes and onions in there to roast.  We had a salad and drank some tea while we waited for those to get done.  I will remember to bring the slow cooker along next time since those things take forever!  They were delicious when they finally got cooked. 

     We met up with Sharon Saturday morning and took the wildflower tour of her property. What a lucky lady! She did good buying property alongside the beautiful Obey River. It is laden with wildflowers in Spring.  It would give the Smokies a run for their money.  We took  her back to see the waterfall we'd found the previous day.  There was no way I wasn't going to share that with my friends who had been hunting for it too.   She liked it alot and we got out and explored some other caves.   She knows how to take the party with her.  She's great.  We met some folks hunting morrels and got out and hunted some ourselves. Found a small mess.

   Brenda came over Saturday evening and we had appetizers and drinks.
We had plenty of time to sit around and visit and relax.  We put some steaks and baked potatoes on the grill.  Yum!  Sharon fixed hot bread and butter and steamed broccoli.  It started to rain so we ate in the shabin.  Kenny kept on making untoward remarks about the shabin til I thought maybe Brenda and I were going to be entertained watching a boxing match. He kept on picking.  ;^D  My money was on Sharon! LOL

     Finally we headed back to our own shabin because we were weary and wanted to rest up enough to have energy to play the next day. 

We're sophixstikated hillbillies. *hic*  See? All the elements one needs for a good time... red solo cup.. wine.. beer bottles with corks........ what else could you want?   This wine is excellent. It goes with anything from cornish game hen nestled in a bed of wild rice to a peanut butter and nanner sammidge.

      Sunday morning rolled round. We slept in a little and ate breakfast of orange rolls and fried morrels.  Kenny fixed them and they were great, but very rich!
I  just can't handle much fried food.     We packed stuff up so we would not have to double back for check out time.    We'd left the rhino over at Sharon's so we decided to go hiking today.   I knew something good was down Hoodtown Road and was determined to find out what.  We did find good things there, but that is for another trip!   Ed's people were from down in there!  Very cool.

        We climbed down in Rockcastle Gorge and found the falls, but needed a knotted rope or some gear to climb down safely.  It was so slick and muddy I thought Kenny was going to fall to his death. After that kayaking incident I was not as willing to do the Poorly Prepared Dayhiker thing. (Roger, I let you down)
I wanted to come back with a rope at least.  So we headed out of there and we're going back with a little better prep and a little more beta next time.   I got the scoop from Tom that we were on target.     I can hardly wait to return.

      We spent time with Brenda, Sharon, Melinda and Carson.  We met Sharon's kids and grandkids.   It was a nice Sunday and more fellowship with friends.
I look forward to more such trips and the warmth shared with them. John was missed as he had business to take care of in Las Vegas and home in Florida.
We had the kind of weekend we needed to replenish our souls with rest, fun, and lots of love from friends.

Down in the deeps of Rockcastle Gorge

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Twin Rocks Overlook and Piney River Trail

Fire Pink along the Twin Rocks Overlook Trail

Twin Rocks Overlook and Piney River Trails

Dana Koogler solo hike
Tuesday March 19, 2012
Total miles  hiked =4

Pictures are here:

     I woke early Tuesday morning and drove out to Spring City to hike the Twin Rocks Nature Trail and part of the Piney River Trail.   I have made many trips to this area with hiking clubs, my kids, Kenny, and other friends.  Lots to do and see.
Spring City is a town on the Eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau on Walden's Ridge.   Nearby hikes for this area include Stinging Fork Falls, Upper and Lower Piney Falls, Laurel-Snow Pocket Wilderness, and the Cumberland Trail.

     I was the first car in the parking lot and hiked out to the Twin Rocks Overlook first.    It was a nice easy hike with a climb to the ridge line then the trail runs more or less level most the way and then makes one last small climb.  Before I knew it I could see the outline of the rails on the caged ladders.

    I climbed up to enjoy the view and stuck around a little while to explore the rock formations.   The day was warm with a nice breeze and lots of sunshine and blue skies.   The first part of the trail had a few wildflowers, but the drier pine ridge up top only had trailing arbutus and a few halbeard leaf yellow violets.
The early Spring green leaves and red buds on maples were pretty to see as well.
In the distance I could hear the whistle of the freight train and the rumble as it passed down in Spring City.  I was never out of earshot of Piney River roaring by.
Sarvis berry trees bloomed fluffy and white atop the ridge. Down on the lower portion of the trail I passed several yellow buckeye trees in bright yellow bloom.

One of the caged ladders to reach Twin Rocks Overlook

View from the Twin Rocks Overlook

      I hiked back to join the Piney River Trail and headed out along it to see what was blooming this time of year?   I had heard from someone that you really need to hike it twice in Spring to get the full measure of just how rich it is with wildflowers. I believe that after today!  In March the rocky cliffs are laden with spring beauties, trout lilies, chickweed, rue anemone, fiddlehead ferns, long spurred violets and blue violets.  April is trilliums and gaywings, nodding mandarin, and wild oats.   The recent, ample rains had the rocky cliffs echoing like a parabolic mike with the roar of the river and dripping with their own mini waterfalls!   The hemlock forest here is healthy and thus far untouched by the hemlock wooly adelgid blight.  The hemlocks shelter these tender flowers from the sun allowing them to bloom longer for they like the cooler temperatures and moist conditions.  The warm temperatures this Spring had many of the trout lilies past peak bloom by the time I hiked here.

Deep gloom along the Piney River Trail is owed to the hemlocks.

     I walked out about a 1 1/2 miles and the trail continued to be dry pine woods mostly without the wildflowers I was hoping to see so I turned around. I decided to do some exploring the spur trails I'd passed. One went up the bank and was more dry pine woods without anything good to see.  The other went left and down along the river!  More wildflowers and new views of the river and the site of an old bridge!  Now this was more like it.  I ambled around the banks of the river and found geese nesting and found a couple campsites.  It was beautiful!

Old bridge site

Piney River

Layers of wildflowers and moss

Trout Lily closeup

     I returned to my jeep and just took my time soaking up the fresh air and the sights.   I found that the dude I'd seen out there was still sitting on his butt texting on his cell phone and laughing.  If I ever find myself getting like that I'll chuck my cell phone in the river.