Thursday, February 21, 2013

Underground and Above Ground-Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--Dry Creek Falls, Camps Gulf, Lost Creek

  Gray Turkey Tail Fungi 

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--Under and Above Ground!

Dana & Kenny Koogler 
Sat. Feb. 9 & Sun. Feb. 10, 2013

Pictures are here:
Cave & Waterfall Pix

**Note--This blog script was one damaged by closing my Flickr account. I have put
it back together as best I could with photos gleaned from Facebook, picasa, smugmug. It is not
exactly as it was posted originally**

     Kenny & I had decided to run away from home and do some exploring.
The hankering for cave exploration has bitten me.   No shortage of caves in the plateau.
We drove over early Saturday morning and headed to the Lost Creek area.  I knew of at least two caves there and possibly more.  We've seen Lost Creek Falls many times, but it is always fun.  I first visited the cave where I'd seen Kenny talking to a hole in the ground and the hole answering back!  Very weird.  A man had been visiting the area same day as us and had crawled in this small hole in the ground. It was a cave entrance. He was in there and Kenny was quizzing him as to what the cave was like?   Today as then I could feel the warm air rushing out of the cave meeting the Winter chill.  Today was  about 30 degrees outside and in the cave was about 54 degrees.  The difference was that today I was prepared to go in!

      I had put on my cave helmet and light at the truck and was wearing my old clothes.
Kenny was not interested in going in so I just went on alone.   It was something I never thought I'd do.  Crawl into a little hole in the ground.  Yet here I was doing it alone no less.
I went on back and the cave opened up larger.  I could stand and had plenty of head room.   It was not the most exciting cave but I was pleased to be doing this.  I saw cave crickets and spiders.  I saw a few formations.  The cave went back about 100 feet and then stopped. The only way down was vertically.   I have the feeling this is part of the plumbing system for Lost Creek. I could hear water back there, but just a steady dripping.
With no more exploration possible without vertical rope skills I did not stay too long.

Talking Hole Cave.

Not alot to see back in here.

     Next we moved on to Lost Creek Falls and cave.   We did the cave exploring first.
We've visited Lost Creek Falls numerous times.  It is fascinating and beautiful, but the cave held sway over my attention. 

Lost Creek Cave. This photo does not show how massive the entrance is. The bluff above it is about 120 ft high.   We explored this cave and fell in love with it. It is beautiful and exciting!

      Once we came out we spent some time enjoying Lost Creek Falls.

Lost Creek Falls emerges from an underground stream above this and re-enters the earth here.  We were fortunate enough today to finally see the underground portion of the waterfall.  Kenny and I both felt like "Pinch me. I'm dreaming!" One of the coolest things we've ever done or seen.

The above video is of the underground portion of Lost Creek Falls.

     We mosied on down to see my house and eat lunch. My trail name "Magicmomma" comes from the old Frank Zappa song Camarillo Brillo.  I call the funny little cave with the weird doll and chair Magicmomma's house.  In the song he sings about having adventures, but I couldn't come in just then.... I was very busy.   Inside the cave is a painted DO NOT ENTER.  My banner on the front of this blog is taken looking out the entrance of the cave toward the road.

Magicmomma's House/Cave. :-D

 Once we'd eaten lunch we headed out in search of Dry Creek Falls.  We'd hunted it before and thought we'd found it.  We found a waterfall, but it was not THE waterfall.
Found out after returning home from the trip there were two more falls on up.
Back and armed with that knowledge and a GPS we set out to find the rest.
Dry Creek-- It really is dry at this point which is near the start of the hike and along the road.
    We passed old home sites, chimney piles and rock walls.  We soon came to the first waterfall.  We had called it Dry Creek Falls but it was in fact not the falls.  It was an un-named side stream that emerges from a cave and falls back into a swallet. On one side was a beautiful spring fed stream splashing down over the bank forming a pretty waterfall.
It was draped with great velvet green sheets of moss.  I saw two rainbows in this waterfall.
The rock forms here were intriguing.  Coming down the hill was the lovely Dry Creek with plenty of flow today.  At the swallet the entire flow of both streams was sucked back underground and from there down the stream bed was completely dry.   Such is the magic of the plateau.

Un-named waterfall along Dry Creek.--This blog was repaired to replace broken photo links Feb. 11, 2015. At the time of the repairing of this blog this cascade has been named Rylander Cascade and the trail head to Dry Creek Falls and this cascade has been marked with a sign that reads "Rylander Cascade 0.5 miles".  It is the first one you come to on this hike.

Above photos.. I lost one of a rainbow shining in that swallet that drinks in Rylander Cascade.
I am replacing it with photos that will have to do. Top--Looking out of my "house" cave Bottom--what it looks like inside the house/cave.

     We continued on up the drainage and from here on it was covering new ground for us.
 We followed a rudimentary path for a short distance further.  Waterfall hunting in this area is challenging because you don't know if the falls will be on a stream that is shown on maps or if it will just emerge from the side of a hill with an underground stream source?
I was no more certain as to the source of these falls.  We set off across the woods in the right general direction.  Below us the stream spilled over numerous pretty cascades.

A nice slide on Dry Creek
Un-named slide section on Dry Creek

     We picked our way across country through the brush and briars.  We climbed around boulders and downfall.  The grade was not extreme, but steadily up hill.   We finally came to an area where we could hear the noise of the creek intensify.  We worked our way closer to see and before us were boulders and about a five foot drop.  This was not it.
We had to work our way back out further in order to continue.  We kept pressing on up the mountain and up the stream.  Instead of coming to more promising looking terrain ... the stream totally flattened out.  No more cascades.  Just a flat stream lying in the bottom of the gorge.  The flanks of the mountain around us were impressive.  The hemlock gorge around us was heavenly.  I soak up the fragrance and sight of the hemlocks every chance I get.  We crossed the creek when the going became impossible on the right and continued on the far bank.

There is no trail to Dry Creek Falls.  At least not at the time of the original writing.  At the time of the repair of this blog it is supposed to have been improved. I will hike it and write a second blog and report on what I find. The terrain here is not great, but we've done far worse.
  I began in my own mind to have serious misgivings as to whether we'd find this falls or not?  I doubted if I had plugged in the right GPS coordinates?  We decided to keep going, but set a limit on how much longer we'd continue before turning around.  Looking around it was clear there was not much more elevation to gain so we were running out of places this falls could be.   Finally Kenny spotted a cliff line ahead of us.  "I bet this is it." he said.  And thankfully he was right.  Soon we stood in this deep hemlock ravine with the beautiful and elusive Dry Creek Falls before us.  It falls thirty five feet over a sheer cliff into a small rock amphitheater.  It was well worth the effort to reach.

Main drop of Dry Creek Falls. There was a rainbow in the mist of this falls also. I told you this plateau was magic. Y'all thought I'se just kiddin', didn't ya?
Dry Creek Falls

Upper Dry Creek Falls is about 17 ft high.

   Kenny went on ahead of me to see if he could spot the upper falls? He was soon waving to me from the edge of the main falls. Photo/video bombing me. Looking like a Bigfoot up there waving down at me. He knows he is funny and crazy which is why he does it.
I don't even complain anymore. I figure if it really bothered me I'd quit bringing him along because I know in advance how he's going to act.  Rock throwing fool. :-)
We enjoyed both falls and spent some time there, but did not linger too long as we were running low on daylight.   We need not have worried. We made it out of there in a fraction of the time it took to get there since it was downhill most of the way.
It was a very satisfying bushwhack today having found something not a lot of folks see.

     The next day we visited Camps Gulf and went in the caves but did not stay long.
We were tired and the weather was nasty and growing worse by the moment.
We got close to the end of the trail and the rain poured down in earnest.  It was a settled in storm.   I got wet and cold.  We drove home with the rain coming at us from the east and the wind gusting strongly from behind us in the west!  Very strange.

 We will return to Camps Gulf on a prettier, warmer day to explore the caves there.

Kenny walking up the entrance of Camps Gulf Cave