Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--Hood Cave, New Waterfalls and Un-named Arch

Turkey tail fungus on a fallen log across our path.

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--Pre-Christmas Ride

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sat. Dec. 15 & Sun. Dec. 16, 2012
Total miles ridden approx. 62
Total miles hiked approx. 3

Pictures are here:

   Six  years ago at about this same time of year I was feeling very stressed out
Pre-Christmas.  I told Kenny I was going to take a day outing for myself and do some hiking, and exploring in the Cumberland Plateau.  I wanted to see the Alvin York Birth Place.   I also planned to visit Northrup Falls that day.  Beyond that I was open to suggestions.   I stopped at Highland Manor Winery and purchased a bottle of wine to take home.  The nice lady I spoke with there told me of a waterfall nearby I should go visit that was very close.  I took her advice.  It was one of the most exciting, best days ever.  The entire day was just what I needed.  I fell in love with Fentress County and the plateau and I've been coming here ever since.      All these years later Kenny and I decided to do a stress buster weekend to beat the holiday blues and so the tradition continues!

     We left Saturday morning early and got a room at the Jordan Motel so we could stay over one night.   We had two glorious twelve hour days of four-wheeling, hiking, and exploring.  No cell phones.  It was a blast!  I felt like when we returned home that I dreamed the entire trip.  It was that much fun!

       Kenny had brought Buck and C.D.  over to ride the river trail a week earlier so he had some good suggestions about where we should start.  He wanted to take me UP Lost Cane.  We began there and it was awful.  Everyone had said it was rough. Rough ain't the word.  It was horrible. I was soon ill from all the jarring around. I kept getting out of the RZR and walking.  We quickly decided it was not the thing to do so we got back out of there and will leave it for another day.  


This photo is just a small sampling of how rocky and rough Lost Cane is. From what Kenny says the bottom part here is the worst, but its pretty much all bad.
 This is a dry creek bed being used as a trail.

Sunshine in Tar Gap
     We forded the river and just barely made it across.  We got wet.  it was too high to go any further.   We did pull down to the next ford only to find it looking worse than where we just came across and very swift.  We turned around and decided to try to ride some different trails just to see what we'd find.  We were not disappointed.  The day was clearing off and turning pretty. Blue skies and moderate temperatures!  The forest trail was beautiful even in the bareness of Winter.   We made it all the way out to a gap where rock outcrops the size of buildings flanked the trail.   The trail narrowed so we parked and got out to hike. We walked up through a natural gap in the mountains that was one of the strangest and most beautiful places. 

Mountain Gap in beautiful sunshine.

We walked up through this gap to an overlook with a fantastic view. 

View from overlook out across the Plateau.

     We turned around and headed back the trail to see what else we could get into?  I was having so much fun I didn't care anything about eating though it was lunch time.

     It may sound strange, but I have something that calls to me and if I will listen to it
I find things.  Always good things.  Its an intuition or an inner voice or perhaps something else more spiritual.  I have learned to hear it and to follow.   We headed back down the trail and I knew it was time to stop and follow.   The stream before me was in a beautiful hemlock gorge.  Pretty enough on its own.  I knew to look and so I proceeded up the hill through the boulders high in the drainage.  I could hear it before I could see it.  A waterfall!  I stopped and used my "intercom" system and yodeled down to Kenny Woo Hoo! Waterfall!!.  He came hauling up the bank to meet me.   I stood atop a hemlock trunk curved like a giant J holding me.    Around me were massive cliffs and boulders jumbled around this stream.  The stream itself was a pretty series of cascades.  Capped by a very pretty waterfall.  Kenny crossed the creek below me and I continued working my way around boulders toward the base of the falls.  I saw what I thought would be a short cut to put me at the base.  A tunnel through the rocks.  I passed through it which was fun, but it brought me out with about a one foot view of the tail of the falls!   I had to cross to where Kenny was and climb the bank to get the full view.  It was a fun adventure though and I would not have missed any of it.


Newly discovered waterfall on an stream which has no name. It is about 20 ft high. There is more above it!
Bottom: J shaped hemlock tree

Here is a link to a short video that shows off all the drops of it better than the photos ever could.

     We finally tore ourselves away from the waterfall and chose a path to head down again.  Our walk back was easier as we picked  a place where we did not have to navigate the boulders.   Back at the RZR we finally ate lunch.  We then headed back down and forded the river again. We got wet once more, but not quite as bad this time.

    We kept going out on the road heading straight for the top of the mountain.  On the way up you can look over and see a rocky outcrop standing all by itself.   We had finally figured out how to reach it.   We climbed up the rope someone tied off and got out on the rocks for a grand stand view!  It was amazing.  I was being silly while out there. I saw where someone had built a fire and there were charcoal sticks laying around.  I set to work making my cave pictographs in honor of Ed Choate.   He had poked fun of the cave pictographs that had been discovered and carbon dated.  Saying they were not old that they dated back to the 1950's or so.  That he knew who did them and it was a Tipton who done it.  It bothered Sharon enough when he told it that she called TNC to make sure they knew and weren't having a hoax perpetrated upon them.  They were not happy to get her call. Long story short they had their doubts, but the carbon dating process satisfied them that the cave paintings found were "Mississippian" ( Indian) aged.    Ed had a wonderful spirit of fun that is sorely missed.

    We climbed down to get a better, closeup view of the natural Chimney and some of the rock forms which are impressive!   Once we'd had enough of that I took a notion I wanted to go round to where a sign  indicated there was supposed to be a waterfall. Kenny said we'd head down the mountain on the back side and try to make it out there.

     We hauled butt out the mountain and it really pleased me to be able to figure out where we were.   It is finally starting to come together for me now. All the trails and how they fit.
We made it out there before dark, but found fallen trees across the trail that would require being sawed up to get through.  We'd have to come back tomorrow to try it as we only had less than an hour of daylight.  We ended up having a fun night ride.  That's what comes of trying to be too ambitious which we always do.  It was great fun except for when I had a thorn hit me in the forehead. Ouch!

View from the stand alone lookout on Skinner Mountain. I liked the shot that shows the little pools of water.

         We headed back down the mountain in the dark and loaded up.  We drove back to down muddy and dirty and had dinner at Pizza Hut in town.  Then went back to Jordan Motel to get cleaned up and get some sleep. I would like to say I'll never stay at the Jordan Motel again, but seeing as it is the only motel in town.... I'll probably be back.
The prices are good, but you get what you pay for and the mattress was only slightly softer than a brick.  The next morning we were waked by the sounds of a cat fight outside our door.  Then round two of the cat fight.  When we walked out the door with our stuff there was a twenty pound possum sitting at the feet of Baby Jesus in the manger scene.  He and the cat had it out and the possum won.  He waddled away and went under a hemlock tree.

        We got some breakfast and set out to start our day. We went down into Hoodtown and witnessed the destruction caused by the logging operation there.  It made me cry it was so ugly.  We also witnessed the burned over area at the bottom. We  had seen smoke from Skinner Mountain overlook two weeks ago.  We saw today where the fire had been.  The forestry service had stopped it and the area will heal, but it was still awful smelling and looking.

Burned area at the bottom of the road.

     We headed up the river and found the Hood Cave entrance we'd located a couple weeks back.    We crossed the river and carefully made our way over to the entrance.  The first entrance was small, but big enough to squeeze through.   Once inside the ceiling was low in places, but in others you could stand up.  I shined the light in and it looked ok so I went ahead.   Kenny was not wanting to come in through that small hole.  He was not going to be left out so he followed me.  He had his misgivings about it, but once in he was fine.   I later had the chance to tease him about his reluctance. "What you scare for? WHAT?" using my best Impatient Asian voice. We had a great laugh over that.

   Kenny going back out the hole for Hood Cave. I'm outta here!

Live rock formations on the ceiling of Hood Cave. We were careful not to touch them.

    We saw many interesting formations inside the cave. Rim stone. Flow stone. crystals.  columns.  Stalactites and stalagmites.  The entire ceiling of the cave is "alive" still forming new structures so we used care not to handle these things.  I watched the floor also for where I was stepping.  We saw the gate at the back. We turned right and went to another passage where the cave went around the bend in a big pool of water.

     We spent a good amount of time in there not wanting to leave, but we had three other entrances to check out.  We crawled the skinny ledge to the next big opening of Hood Cave.  The ledge crawl would have been scarier if not for the fact I'd been roped up and climbing the day before.  By comparison this was not bad.  Both cave entrances have gates on back but the parts of the cave are connected.  Ed's family used this cave for cold storage of foods.  

Looking out the big entrance of Hood Cave.

Looking out of what Chuck Sutherland tells me is "Bigalo Jingoist Hole". I think he is making up stuff trying to pull a fast one on me. :-)

While we were here doing this I felt as if it were not real. Pinch me I must be dreaming!?
I had wanted to do this for awhile now and here we were doing it!  One of the coolest things we've done ever.  

     Reluctantly we left and headed out to find the elusive "Triple Falls" clear across the the mountain.    We stopped and had some lunch on the way.  We drove way round the country and finally set out to find this waterfall.    We had to saw logs out of the trail,but it was not bad.  We came to a place where the trail was blocked by an even worse tree across it.  We just got out and walked the rest of the way. 
Triple Falls? We found a waterfall, but it was not triple. It was quite pretty. Here is a short video of  Triple

    We walked back to the vehicle after finding the waterfall and did a little more riding.
We just explored and boy did it pay off.  We stopped at one place thinking there might be an overlook around some rocks.   There was not a view out over the gulf but something else interesting!  We found a natural arch or bridge.
Natural bridge from the top side

Ladder to the bottom. Through the trees I spied something man made. A very sketchy looking ladder. We walked round there and found it lead down to the base of the cliff and the natural bridge.  It was not as rickety as it appears.
Natural bridge from the base

  We spent some time checking out this fascinating natural feature. What a find!
It does not appear to be listed in any database. That is three land forms in one weekend discovered not included in any database or guidebook!  It pays to just amble around.

We finally packed it up and headed home.  I was so tired and so muddy and dirty. I thought I would take a nap in the truck on the way home, but I was too excited thinking over all we'd done to sleep.

I can hardly wait to take our friends back to see these places. I look forward to the next trip!

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