Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gee Creek Wilderness Hike

Oconee Bell Close-up

Gee Creek Wilderness Hike

Dana Koogler solo

4 miles round trip approx. 

Tuesday March 19, 2013

Pictures are here:

Videos are here:

    I took a notion to hike Gee Creek trail again.  I had learned there was an upper Gee Creek Falls and thanks to Tennessee land forms I had the coordinates and wanted to see if I could find it?  It had been a year or two since I had hiked this small but beautiful wilderness.  My imagination was captivated again at learning there was an upper falls and it was pretty good sized based on the photos!   I had read in a guide book that there were no more falls above the fourth one and that the trail did not continue past a certain point.
It distressed me to realize I had believed it for so long.  I did read it in more than one source though.  Turned out all that was incorrect information.

     The hike is pretty straightforward to start with.  The first creek crossing is bridged and
the trail is easy to spot.  It is a wilderness and wilderness trails are not intended to be real groomed and are never maintained to the same standard as state park or national park trails.   A wilderness trail is also not as well marked.   The hike is in a narrow gorge and follows a creek so getting lost would take some work .

Waterfall #1

Waterfall #2--Here is the first creek crossing.  There is another cascade below this area.

Waterfall #3

Waterfall #4

Remember this view from a previous trip report? The trail ended here. Now some one.. I am guessing the Cherokee Hiking Club........ has constructed trail that includes stone steps!
It is wonderfully done.  Thanks to whomever was responsible. Bravo!

    I was able to continue into the upper reaches of the wilderness without too much problem.  The hairiest section of trail was climbing over a rocky outcrop that sits up like an inverted V and gave me about six inches to stand on or rather crawl over.  A fall from here would not have killed me, but it would have hurt and landed me in the creek. Thankfully there was a downed tree just on the other side of this sloped rock I had to cross.  It gave me something to hang on to as I descended to touch the trail again.

Right after this was another creek crossing.  The gorge walls had encroached too tightly so the trail was on the far side of the stream.  There was a log here to cross just by chance.
I crawled it to the other side!

The trail in the upper portion of the wilderness was more like this! It was so pretty.

Here is an example of what the rock is like in this gorge. 

Here is an example of the steepness of the terrain around you.

Upper Gee Creek Falls! It was about 50 ft high.  It was so worth it and so pretty. I got right in the falls to take pictures and shoot video.  Very mossy and green and lush.
I had long wanted to shoot a video and take pictures where the sun and the water intersected like this. Today I finally got my chance. I loved it!

Upper Gee Creek Falls in profile. This is the #5 waterfall. It is on a side stream.

   I climbed up the super steep bank and sat in the crook of a tree to eat lunch by this spot.
All around me were too many hepaticas and windflowers to count. Later there will be trilliums!   I enjoyed the sunshine and the sound of the water.  When I finished my lunch I climbed back down.   I got over confident once I arrived at the stream I had to ford.
I was being a turkey and just going to trot right across the way I had going over.
The stream was not real deep. Only about six inches or so where I forded.
The next thing I knew I was on my back in the creek. Soaking wet. Very cold.
Very humbled.  As I got up I realized one of my trekking poles was gone!
I was already soaked so I went ahead and just searched all around the water for it.
I never did find it.  It could not have gone far because downstream from me was a dam made of sticks and debris.    What a bummer!

      I was thankful not to be injured and knew that being cold and wet was survivable.
I just plowed on through the creek on the way back.  Trying to stay dry now was pointless.  I thought on the way out about what I'd do to finish up my day?
I did not really want to go home yet.  I decided if I had my Winter coat in the jeep when I got back I'd strip down to my undies and wear the coat and my sandals home. It would look hellish, but I'd be warm and dry.  I'd just head home.

   I never saw another soul today on the way in or out.   I did not have my coat in the jeep.   I recalled there being a Dollar General store up the road a few miles.  I changed into my sandals. I sat on my jacket. I drove up there and went in wild and wooly.
I bought some of the ugliest clothes you've ever seen. I went in the bathroom and put them on.  Ugly or not........ they fell marvelous!  My skin was blood red from the waist down from the cold and it felt what I call "spicey".  So cold its hot!
I put on dry undies, dry camisole, dry yoga pants, dry tunic.  My hair was now curly as sheeps wool from having gotten wet. I had some sticks in there.  I just left that stuff.
I came wading out into the sun dry and warm and happy and looking like the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.    I got lots of laughs and questioning glances. The cashier tried not to laugh, but I just winked at her and told her to go ahead.

      I felt good so I went on with my day.   I drove up to the top of Starr Mountain for a little hiking and checking for early Spring wildflowers and views.  I was not disappointed.
 I want Kenny to go back with me to hunt for Mason Evans cave up there. Even if I'd found it today I would not have gone in exploring alone.  I think it is near White Cliffs, but I am not certain. I have the GPS coordinates for it.  It will wait for another time.

    I enjoyed four-wheeling on the old red dirt rutted mountain roads and just goofing off.

View from White Cliffs out over Rural Vale

Trout lilies blooming early on Starr Mountain

   I went home dry and dirty and happy.  It felt good to get a shower and a hot cup of coffee and a robe when I got home.  I love it when I take a shower and sticks and leaves are left in the shower floor.  It makes me feel like I did when I was a child and there was a REALLY good bathtub ring after a day's play.  It was WORTH IT!  Now that's a good hike!  Just before washing my hair a spider jumped out of my fro onto the shower wall.
More evidence of having arrived at wild woman status. I love it!

 What I did NOT love was losing my trekking pole.  What I did NOT love was the days later hot knife sensation down my right leg and from my back to my front in my pelvis.
I don't know what I did to myself and it seems to be mending, but I will be  more careful from now on.   I injured myself in the fall, but while I was out having fun I just ignored it.
It is a long way from the heart and I am far too mean to kill.

        I plan to return to Gee Creek Wilderness later this Spring when the wildflowers are out in greater numbers. 

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