Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lost Cane --Waterfalls and Wildflowers


Southern Red Trillium in the rain.


Lost Cane

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Friday April 19, 2013

Ride distance 30 miles total

Pictures are here: 
Lost Cane Pix


   I've said before that something calls me to come to certain places and when I listen good things happen.   Lost Cane is one of those places.  I had asked about the trail heading into it from several people.  The first man said he did not like it that it was really rough, the trail was confusing, it was overgrown, and that he did not feel safe there.
Talking with a few others they echoed the sentiments that the trail was very rough and overgrown and it was a place they just weren't keen on going. One weekend while I had to work Kenny, Buck and Dan Mullins gathered their stuff up and went riding.  Kenny pointed out the trail into Lost Cane to Buck and said it was rough and that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  "LET'S GO!" was his response and that was the end of that.  

     They found the trail to be challenging, but they came home having had a great time and done a ton of exploring! Covered lots and lots of new ground. I benefited 
from their trip even though I was not able to attend.  I was hunting for a cave in the area and being drawn ever onward.   Finally this past Friday I answered the call to whatever I was being led to find.  The timing could not have been better. 


        We got us a room reserved at the local No Tell Motel and headed out for a day and a half of exploring and adventure.  We parked at Sharon & John's Woo Hoo Holler and hit out from there.   We went up another trail and did some morrel hunting. We succeeded in finding a nice mess or two of mushrooms!  It was great fun.  The weather was rainy and cold,but we put on our rain gear and went on just the same.   We enjoyed the scenery and stopped for me to take lots of wildflower photos. We also explored a ridge top trail we found and it was very pretty. 

    We stopped off by the first waterfall that emerges from a cave and goes back in the ground. It was flowing great today.  No water was coming out of that hole up on the cliff. I guess it is a cave?  The river was flooding today making that trail unrideable.   Never saw the Obey that murky and brown before nor with that much water in it!   Thinking on this made me decide it would take a Noah's Ark type flood
to cause water to flow from that hole up on the cliff.  If it is not running today I had to wonder if it ever does?


Wild Columbine along the road


The slopes are covered in wildflowers and new Spring growth far as the eye can see!

Waves of trilliums in the woods



Stinging Nettle Falls emerges from the ground and falls right back into the ground.


     We were pleased to find the creeks running so well. We spotted lots of wet weather waterfalls and cascades. 
Bills Creek is running great today.


Pretty cascade on Bills Creek

        We tore around the plateau on gravel roads and dirt tracks up through the forest.
We had a goal in mind, but had to fight the urge to explore every side path and trail. Fought to keep from revisiting every pretty place we'd already seen and once at a place had to remind ourselves to keep going.  We were not in a hurry, but had to motivate reasonably to make it.Kenny & I are one hell of a team when it comes to exploring.  I could not be any more fortunate to have married this wild-eyed Southern boy.   No one else would have put up with nor been able to match the wanderlust that consumes me.

   
     The path up the mountain always seems longer than it should. We wound through woods deep and dark. Some places the canopy opened and let in the sun trying to shine.
Great boulders towered and loomed up in the woods to our right. They hung draped with every manner of green, growing vegetation and flower.  Purple phacelia crowned one rock making the entire top bluish purple!  Blue phlox, yellow trilliums, white trilliums sprouted up all around.    We made one turn and there in the deep black-green forest I spotted something out of place.  Bright yellow dots!  Everywhere were bright yellow blotches like they were suspended in air.   I realized the yellow spots were kerria shrub! That means only one thing..... an old home site.  The kerria shrub had persisted long after the home was abandoned and deteriorated.  It had grown huge and was so pretty.  The rocks of the foundation lay just before it. 

Kerria shrub in the forest lingers on after the home is gone.


Old foundation to a house long gone.

   We passed up the old home site and had not gone far til we passed an enormous boulder about 25 feet high on the left. It was pock marked and you could almost touch it from the RZR.  I did not recall seeing it before, but Kenny did.  It had been night when we were there the last time so no wonder! We rounded a corner and I spotted our turn. "Here it is!" I hollered to Kenny.  He just grinned and looked at me and away we went.   Down into the guts of the mountain wondering what we'd find?  

     It was not long til I began to hear water running.  I looked around the forest and through the trees spotted a shimmering white stream coming down off the side of the mountain!  It was where I imagined there would be a waterfall and there was not one, but two!  The second one was a total surprise.  We stopped and went over to the closer one.
It was quite pretty and dropped about fifteen feet over a rock ledge down into a gorge.
Second growth trees stood like pale green soda straws all around us.  Down below the stream splashed and flowed for a short ways.  I could hear the second falls in the distance, but could not see it from here.  Jack-in-the pulpit grew here along with trilliums and other beautiful wildflowers.

Waterfall #1 Lost Cane


Jack in the Pulpit growing on the bank


     We could have climbed down from the side of the first waterfall and made our way downstream to where the second one dropped in.  It came from a different stream of water coming down off the mountain at a right angle to the other falls.  It was also quite pretty. It must stay at least moist all year long owing to the green algae growing on the rock.  The rock is either being formed from plant matter solidifying or being discolored by the algae.   It was slick and would have torn the bank up so we went down to the base of the hill and were able to easily walk over to see the second falls. It was not huge. Perhaps 20 feet high and had a fin of rock at the base over to one side.

Waterfall #2 Lost Cane

       We did not linger too long at this second falls. We had a fair amount of territory to cover.  I'd be interested on any repeat trips in coming back up to this spot and climbing up above this first falls to see if there are more cascades above here?

      We continued down the trail and it was rough in some patches, but nothing to shout about.  We also encountered some downed trees. The worst spot was a thick patch of rose bushes that crowded the trail to the point of leaving only a few inches uncovered.
We pushed through that.  The other potentially bad place was a downed tree that formed a sort of bridge across the trail.  I wondered if we'd be able to continue, but we did manage to get under it without any problem. The RZR's lower profile helped with that. I doubt the Rhino would have made it under.

    We began to see massive rocks and could hear the stream below us now on the right.
I saw one cascade and could hear another.  I hollered for us to stop. I had to check this out. Kenny was right there with me wanting to see.  The boulders were room sized.
The terrain was mossy and green and leafy. It was just beautiful.  We could tell the one drop off had a waterfall. We could also see another cascade emerging from the bank at a right angle to the first one.  We climbed down and then things got interesting. No way to go up the creek on the right hand side. The massive boulder blocked any progress and all the water was diverted to the far left.   Kenny made it round there first and I could tell by the look on his face this was going to be great!
     
      
Massive boulder blocking the stream on the right. I wondered why the stream flow seemed so small down here on this side and so big above it? I was to find out!

     We worked our way across the stream and up the bank.  Kenny indicated to me a hole that appeared to lead to the waterfall ahead of us. "You can crawl in here if you want to try it?!"  he said.  Now most wives would not be too pleased if their hubby told them to crawl in a hole, but this man knows me and knows how crazy I am.  I got his point. It was a shortcut.  He knew from the looks of it he was NOT going to fit but that I might be able to squeeze through.  We raced to see who would make it to the waterfall first??
He took the One if by sea route... I took the land route through the hole.
Someone asked me wasn't I worried about snakes? Simple answer is yes.. and no.
It had been cold and I was not terribly concerned. I did put my hood up to avoid having a bat down the back of my neck and I kept my eyes open looking around before I plowed through there.  I did not tarry, but made quick work of getting through. Lucky for me I did fit and the tunnel went in and up and popped me out in front of the falls!  I have photos of this, but what shows it better is the short video clip below.




     When I emerged at the top of this hole and looked around Kenny was only 1/2 way to the falls! ha! I won!  I also looked back at the hole and knew that I'd never have tried to crawl through it from this end. It looked tiny!

  

Kenny's bridge building route


Tiny opening to that shortcut tunnel

    Here was our reward for making it.. the third and biggest waterfall on Lost Cane Creek.

A nice 50 footer! 


   We checked out the waterfall and the big rocks directly in front of us coming down the creek.  Very cool.  Far to the right on the bank was another nice sized waterfall.. about a 25 footer shooting right out of the bank. It was coming out of a cave, flowing down and re-entering the earth in a swallet.  Part of the flow went into the swallet while part of the water went in the direction of that big boulder which blocked the creek completely on that side.  It appeared that pretty much all the flow from this falls goes back into the ground in two spots! The rock here was carved into arches and potholes and all sorts of neat forms.



Waterfall #4 Lost Cane--out of a cave.. into a swallet.

   I was absolutely overcome with excitement at finding and seeing all these beautiful things.   It was time for a little trail romance.Yeah. I love my friends, but I love my man more and he comes with some benefits so I was glad for the privacy today hey hey.

After our little romantic escapade we found a simpler route back up the bank to the RZR.
It was a rocky hill climb, but it was way quicker.

      Back on the trail and heading ever down the mountain through its heart.
We spotted more rugged trail. One path lead off to the side avoiding a rocky dirt ditch.
But what fun would that be?  I told Kenny this trail was like a freaking rollercoaster ride!
I was elated.  He responded "Why do you think we loved it so much when me, Dan and Buck came down here?". He was grinning ear to ear.

      In all this excitement of waterfalls and beauty and Freak Nasty.... I somehow missed the mark in hunting the cave and the cave drawings.  I think I know where we went wrong.  We passed a foot path heading up the left bank into the rocky cliffs.  It was either that spot or down closer to the end there was a big dirt berm that appeared to have an old road going up to it.  I am betting it was a cave entrance. It was just down out of view behind that bank of dirt.   That can only mean one thing.. repeat trips til the cave is found!

   
The Dirt Ditch-- the photo from the bottom does not do it justice.

      We no more got down the dirt ditch than Kenny exclaimed "More waterfalls!"
and indeed we did stop and find more!  We were able to stroll up to two more waterfalls in what had become a repeating pattern. One waterfall coming directly down the stream. A second waterfall entering the creek from a side stream at a right angle.  The fifth waterfall was the one on the creek. The sixth was the one coming in from the left.  It was about fifteen feet high and flowed over some ridged rocks and dropped into a swallet across the creek.  Below all this jumble of boulders and beautiful cascades was a cave and a rock overhang.   I could hear water running down in the small cave entrances.

      I walked over and stood before the sixth falls. It was situated in a green leafy amphitheater.  The ridge above was letting the sun peek over.  The hill above the falls was dotted with wildflowers. I stood with one waterfall before me and another behind me.  Surrounded by all consuming beauty.  I was on total sensory overload and filled with joy.
I found myself misty-eyed as I sometimes get when I am in such situations.  I composed myself and just gave thanks for the experience.  Kenny said "You're in Heaven!" and I had to agree.  I always think days like this make up for some of the not so good ones.

  
Waterfall #6 Lost Cane Creek.. out of a spring and into a swallet.



The Green 'amphitheater' behind and above the sixth falls.


    The fifth waterfall was interesting. It was about 20 ft high and cascaded down through a jumble of boulders.  It had a part that was over ridged rock with horizontal lines in it.



Waterfall #5 seen from in front of it.



Waterfall #5 seen from the left. That gives a better look at the ridged rock lines in it.

     We wandered around here a bit and checked out the cave, the creek, the wildflowers and boulders.  Finally we loaded up again and headed down the trail.   We did not find anymore waterfalls from that point, but the trip remained beautiful, wild and interesting.
Now we began the trip through the land of dry creek beds.  We'd see or hear the stream for a little while and then it was gone again.  We did not get out to examine every place the stream appeared and disappeared. Had we done so we'd have been all night getting through there!
   
      The terrain was flattening out. I could tell at one point we had not only lost most of our elevation, but we were down in the depths of the Cane.  All those times looking at the topo map where the lines made concentric shapes getting smaller and smaller... toward the middle. We were there now.  Down in the flat.  We did see native bamboo. We also saw lots of brambles, some downed trees again. It is pretty clear this place doesn't see much traffic or many humans period.  Everything is quiet except for any noise we might be making.   Moss covers most surfaces. We found a small sink hole.  A rock mound out in the center was completely moss covered. The fields down here and forests were a feast for the eyes.  Wildflowers! Everywhere in this bottomland.   Loamy, rocky soil and wildflowers.  We saw evidence of wild hogs in the form of digging, but mostly their scat.
Grapevines hung thick as a man's arm from the trees.  Lost Cane was like a combination of Eden and Saigon.   You'd be a long way from help down in here if anything went wrong.  I knew all this but even so I did not feel uncomfortable at all. I mention this because I will be going some place in the future where that is not the case. The spirit of place here is good.

   



    


Down in the depths of Lost Cane. Much is covered with moss and vines.



A smorgasboard of wildflowers!


Kenny found this spot in the woods that was completely carpeted by Virginia bluebells and wood poppies. Phlox and yellow trilliums were also thick here.

    We made our way along once again.  We found a downed tree that was going to have to be cleared.  It didn't take long with the chainsaw and two pairs of hands. We had it gone and were back on track in about five minutes.  We finally came to the point where we turned right and headed uphill.  Kenny was sure this was the place we needed to turn to go up to the cave.  I stopped and looked back over my shoulder.  I disagreed with him as soon as I took that backward glance.  The so called signs for the cave were warnings that Tennessee's caves were closed to entry. They were on two adjacent trees we had just passed. The signs were up facing in the direction to get the attention of anyone going UP the creek.  Not turning right and going up the hill.  He took another look and realized I was probably right.

     We went ahead anyway to see where this trail went?? It went uphill and I knew from the terrain and distance we were almost certainly too far down the mountain to be anywhere near that cave.  I've got it in my mind where it lies and this just seemed wrong.
It was a fun, rocky, steep hill climb that was a challenge to go up and come down. Glad we checked it out.  It petered out and you could tell beyond a point it was not traveled.
We came back down and thought about our options how to finish the trip?

   We could do as Kenny had wanted and go down and turn around and go back out the way we came in. Back UP the mountain.  That was going to be a long way out.
A glance at the time and we knew two things 1. we'd have to boogie to get out of there and 2. we'd not have any extra time to stop on the way out and look for things we'd missed.  I felt the temptation to stop would be overwhelming to me on the way back that way.  I convinced him it would be closer and smarter to go out the bottom.  We'd have more time and be closer to the truck when we emerged back out on the road.
Kenny's main concern leaving this direction was how rough it was going through that creek bed and with me along!  Now that I wanted to finish the journey this way he was all about it.

  
 
  
Downed tree over the trail.


Rocky dry creek bed. This is only a small sample of the miles of this we had to ride.


     The dry creek bed is hard. Buck and Kenny and C.D. are experienced riders and found it fun and challenging.  It takes time.  It may be the shorter of two distances between points, but it is not going to be the fastest or easiest.  I wanted to be able to say I'd done the entire trail from begining to end even the bad stuff.  So on we went.
Kenny handled it great and was glad we chose this route instead of back up the mountain.
That would have taken forever.  The jarring and bouncing and grinding down the dry creek was something else awhile.   Every so often down this trail we'd seen pipe. Black pvc pipe like someone had tried to pipe water.  Kenny made me put the camera up and get my parts INSIDE the RZR for the rest of the trip since it was hairy.

     We finally made it out and were real glad of it. It was an awesome adventure.
We had a little daylight left so though we were damp, cold and hungry that did not stop us from a few side excursions on the way out.  Then back up the road to Woo Hoo to load up and head to the motel.  We were glad to get in where it was warm and get some dinner in town.  The No Tell Motel is actually the Jordan Motel and while it lacks some fancier things more modern hotels have it is inexpensive, clean and relatively comfortable.
It is the only game in town so we know we'll be back again.

    We got some sleep and prepared for the next day's adventure!
Good Night!

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