Friday, March 29, 2013

Fall Creek Falls Camping Trip

Trillium cuneatum growing in the Camps Gulf Addition

Fall Creek Falls Camping & Exploration Trip

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Friday March 22 -Sunday March 24, 2013

Pictures are here:
Fall Creek Falls Camping Pix

Videos are here:
Perrys Branch Falls

Sullivan Creek Falls

Day 1-Friday
   Kenny & I took a long weekend to do our first camping trip of this year. We picked Fall Creek Falls State Park since we had lots of stuff in that area we wanted to see and/or try to find.    The weather forecast was something like this: 
  • Friday-cold, 30% chance of rain
  • Sat. cold, 50% chance of rain
  • Sunday 30% chance of rain, cold 
  We decided to chance it anyway. Even if it rained we'd just take our rain gear and go for it.    We have a four- season camper and any day out on the trail is better than sitting home for the weekend on the couch.

      We got camp set up on Friday after lunch and decided to do something near by.
We headed out to see the Medley Arch.  It is on the Wheeler Farm Addition to Fall Creek Falls State Park. 
Medley Arch from below it.

Apparition Falls was a bonus find near the Medley Arch. Comes out of the ground at the top of the cliff.  Enters a cave at the base! 100 ft high!

   The terrain at the arch was rugged and beautiful.  Numerous sinks, caves, and huge boulders. It reminded me a a glacial cirque.  Looking up at one point the cliffs were a semicircle around us forming a natural barrier.  The arch itself was fascinating and huge!
We saw it from either side and atop it.  We found a bonus waterfall here. Lots of wildflowers just getting started. 
Underground Lake by Medley Arch down in a cave.

    We enjoyed exploring down in the sinks area and saw what appear to be some caves.
We then found a trail heading toward the road and the other portion of the Wheeler Farm.  We followed it and before long we came out at the road heading down into the gulf.  We we made our trip out far easier by walking the graded path back out instead of back tracking.   We did some driving around trying to locate roads that would put us in proximity to Perry's Branch Falls.  It was not that late and we wanted to see this falls.
We did gather some knowledge and decided to head back and check out the map compared with the roads we'd traveled. We went back to the camper and enjoyed a roaring fire and a hot home cooked meal.  Just nice to enjoy one another's company.

Our home away from home!

Nice roaring fire to sit by and keep warm in the evenings.

Grilling up some steaks for dinner

Day 2--Saturday
Saturday we got up and fixed breakfast and headed out in search of several off trail waterfalls.  Kenny had wanted to leave enough time at the end of the day to do some reconnaissance of an area he wanted to explore later in more detail.   I was good with all that.

    We pulled up in this gravel area and parked and started walking in the direction of falls #1.    Tennesseans don't seem to mind dumping their trash outdoors and while I've seen lots of this I continue to be dismayed.  Passing up the trash dump we arrived at this scene:

Cave with a spring flowing out

Dropping over the cliff

Forming the 100 ft high Sullivan Creek Falls. It diverts part of its flow thru channels within the rock. It terminates down in the gorge where a cave drinks up the entire flow. It was an amazing sight!  We saw all kinds of caves and wildflowers down in there.  It was steep and slippery, but doable and worth the effort to see.

        We climbed back up and continued out the old gravel road with the GPS coordinates leading us on to the next falls.  We found it about 1/2 mile further beyond Sullivan Creek Falls.   Below us Laurel Creek Falls plunged a sheer 50 feet down into the gorge.  We were able to climb down to see it easily. The terrain around it is much more forgiving just past the falls.  Lots of wildflowers just getting started.  So pretty!

Laurel Creek Falls in profile

Looking out of one of the cave above Sullivan Creek

Living, growing stalactites on the cave ceiling.

  We walked back out the road to the truck. Passing up all the trash and furniture dumped around and down over the bank.  We also passed an abandoned barn or shed.  Once back in the truck we decided to head to Little Falls which is on state owned property with public access.    I had wanted to visit Old Mill Cave and Cascade but Kenny talked me into leaving that for the next camping trip. It was further west than I'd realized and added a good bit more to the days drive.  So that is what we would do!

             I failed to enter the waypoints for the public access trailhead to Little Falls.
Instead I just put in the coordinates for the falls.  We ended up in someone's side yard with the GPS telling us it was only 300 yards beyond the gate to the falls.  So tempting.
But I would not like someone tromping through my side yard to gain access. I corrected my mistake by putting in the trail head coordinates. We drove 2 miles to the right place and from here it said the falls was 0.67 miles ahead.   We began on a trail, but Kenny decided the trail was not leading to the falls to suit him. He took out through the woods
and we were off trail completely.   It was rough terrain. Up and down and through a boulder field.  I was suffering from having hurt myself earlier in the week.  The motrin I'd taken for the pain was not touching it.  The rugged route we took had me winching with every step.   Finally we could hear the creek below us. I had first thought "Oh great! We've come to a bluff. Are we going to be able to get down from here?" but it turned out ok.  The descent was stepped and gradual and I was thankful.   We followed the stream up and it was so pretty. Green and mossy. We were finally on a real trail again. I was very glad about that.   Not too much further ahead we arrived at the pretty sixty foot drop.. Little Falls.  It flows down a rocky stream with a few cascades above it. It drops into a cave or sinkhole.  There is another stream nearby. The stream we followed up toward it turns and goes into a bank nearby.  Not connected to the falls!

Little Falls comes in at about 60 ft high with two small cascades above it. Note the lack of a plunge pool or stream below it?

   Kenny scouted the area around Little Falls while I shot some video footage and took pictures.  He found the actual trail above the falls!  We were both thrilled. Neither of us wanted to bushwhack up over the ridge again and now we did not have to.  Going back was a little longer hike coming in at about 3/4 mile, but so much easier and faster!
Once back at the truck we ate our lunch and Kenny said he was wanting to save Old Mill Cave & Cascade for the next camping trip. It was closer to Rock Island than Fall Creek Falls so we'd hold off on that saving it for that trip.   We ended up going to scout an area
for another upcoming adventure.

         I will not share yet where we went scouting, but I will post a few photos.
I got a real strange vibe about the place. I have not made up my mind about it yet.
I will keep an open mind about it and perhaps the next go round will be better.

Trees growing in the river.

Very clear stream.

The road to adventure or ruin?

  We finally headed the long way back to the camper after much scouting.  We enjoyed a second night of a roaring fire, a moonlit sky and a good hot meal after a day in the woods.    We slept well but heard it raining and storming some through the night. 

    Day Three-Sunday

   We woke Sunday and the birds were singing. The rain had stopped.  It was still overcast and cold, but not as bad as we'd thought it might be on the weather forecast.   We ate a quick breakfast and decided to try for Perry's Branch Falls today since it was nearby.
We headed out with our hiking gear toward the Camps Gulf addition of Fall Creek Falls.
We had seen a dirt road that headed in the general direction of Perry's Branch Falls. 
Friday we parked at a ford of Cane Creek and the GPS said it was 0.5 miles ahead.
Neither of us thought it looked a bit safe to ford Cane Creek the way it was roiling past.
The way we'd found today had us only needed to cross Camps Gulf Creek which is usually a small stream.    We parked the truck and headed out in the general direction of the falls. The rain held off and the sun actually came out for awhile.  We saw some Spring wildflowers and a few pretty cascades and had a decent hike on an old logging road.
We finally got within 0.267 miles of the falls and began working our way off trail toward them.  The going was rough and rather slippery.  We had forded  a pretty stream we believed the falls was located on.  Our trek took us away from that creek and we could not hear water anymore.  Discouragement briefly because we wondered if we'd screwed up?  

             We looked around and saw the terrain was changing.  Descending steeper. Tightening in.  A rock cliff intervened from the left and we began to hear water flowing again.   I knew this had to be it!  Kenny went to hollering "A cave! a cave!" and sure enough there was the mouth of a cave with a stream flowing out!

Stream emerging from a cave.

   We climbed up and went inside the first part of the cave.  We really did not have time today to do any serious exploration of the cave, but we did go in.  We went in the beginning part to see the underground stream.  We saw a few bats roosting. One flapped me.  I did my usual holler and run. The stream flowed down the drainage in pretty rivulets and cascades. It was very mossy and lush green.  A little further ahead the stream dropped 70 feet over a cliff forming the gorgeous and dramatic Perry's Branch Falls!

Perrys Branch Falls! We had found it! I'd say it was worth finding!

The terrain around Perry's Branch Falls is dangerous!  Steep. Slippery. Deep layers of leaves and loose rocks and dirt.  We used care in venturing out to the edge. We spied a bonus waterfall to the right through the trees.  The cliffs have projections out that give you the chance to look back and get the full view of the falls even though you're at the brink of them!  How often does that happen? Very very cool.

    We enjoyed the falls.  We enjoyed the view into the area below and around us.
We had wondered if we'd spy a better way on a more established trail out of here? It did not exist so we went back up the hill toward the old logging road.  It was rough going but far easier than the way we'd come down.  Good practice navigating.
All in all a fun and successful trip with lots of adventure.

Lots more to look forward to with my partner in crime.

Medley Arch Video

Apparition Falls Video

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