Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fentress County Get Aways - Fern Camp -Deer Gap Falls and Xanadu Falls Part 1

Fentress County Get Away Trips--Two weekends of fun!
Dana & Kenny Koogler
March 14-16th & March 22-23rd, 2014
Part 1

Blue hepatica blooming in Overton County.
One of the earliest Spring wildflowers.

Pictures are here: 

      I am combining two trips together since they include do-overs on two weekends.    We went the first weekend. The next weekend our dear friend Sharon McGee and her  granddaughter Lydia were up so we were fortunate enough to spend time with them. It was great! I love Sharon and just loved her little granddaughter too. 
We wanted to make certain they got to see some of the pretty places we'd visited the previous weekend.  It is important to me to share with those who care about seeing this stuff.  Seeing the enjoyment they get brings a fresh perspective so a do-over is never a 
waste of time.  It is made more special by seeing someone else's reaction to great beauty
and adventure.

       The original plan was to spend Saturday doing stuff near the Jordan Motel where
we stayed. The plan for Sunday was to head up to Pickett State Forest to go four-wheeling .    We arrived at the No Tell Mo-Tel Friday night and were greeted warmly.
The office was the living room.  No kidding.   We hit the sack in those hard lumpy beds and were glad to be there.   Saturday morning dawned and we headed out to find the elusive Fern Camp Falls.

       We parked near along the highway and walked back there on the trails to
locate the falls.   We had the GPS coordinates and I had figured about how far it was to the falls. I was right on target for the distance.  We came first to Fern Camp Cascade. It was not spectacular in size, but was rather pretty. It was satisfying to finally get to see it for myself.  

Fern Camp Cascade is about 15 feet high. It is not super hard to get out here for this view.

Next we continued toward Fern Camp Arch and Falls.   It was on a path most of the time, but we had to just strike out through the woods across country at one point.  Well.. that's what we thought and did.... If you follow the old road.. it takes you right to both.  You know us. Always making things harder than they have to be.

Fern Camp Arch is on the rim of the gulf.

Fern Camp Falls is high and there is NO WAY DOWN from here!
I figured on this view from here, but at least I got to see it and was satisfied at finding it.

  The hike back to the car was much more satisfying and far easier!  We just stuck to the roads and before we knew it we were out.   The hike back also took us through one particularly lovely spot we'd missed before. Check this out! 

Moss carpets the forest floor around the trail

     We headed on to our next stop down in Hoodtown to see Xanadu Falls.
It was still pretty, but the Spring wildflowers were just barely up.  The falls had more water coming over it than we'd seen the previous year.  It was gorgeous!

Xanadu Falls.  My balance is still not perfect, but it is getting better.
Kenny crawled into the cave to see bats and found the underground portion of this waterfall. He helped me get down there to check it out too! Below is a short video of it that does it more justice than photos can show. There are also several other videos of the various falls we visited on these trips. It felt unbelievably good to be back at this sort of fun and adventure for me! My vision was still sketchy, but coming around.

We hiked back to the RZR and ate lunch.  Then we decided to try to find
the falls on the East Fork Obey River.  We tried fording the river in the RZR only to have
serious problems.  We were filling up with water, getting stuck on rocks. It was too
deep and rocky for this.  It was too cold and too much water to be trying it at all.
It would have to wait for another time.  We headed on to try to locate Panther Branch Falls.   We did find it and got some pretty views from the overlook, but Panther Branch Falls is directly behind two houses!  One is still being constructed but the other one looks occupied.  No one was home to ask permission. It looks like it might not be that great a
waterfall anyhow. We will check back on future trips and if we can catch someone home we will ask.  

View out over the gulf

We decided since our other plans had fallen through we'd go ahead and visit Deer Gap Falls today. It was close by and was a sure bet to be accessible and beautiful.
We headed back to the motel and parked the truck and walked the lane back to the trail.

    We came to this beautiful view out over Buffalo Cove.

View out over Buffalo Cove from the hike to Deer Gap.

    We began our climb down to the waterfall through the narrow squeeze of rock.
Fatman's Squeeze at Deer Gap. 

    It is just a matter of taking your time and descending carefully around the sides of the gulf to reach the falls.  I have been several times before, but today there was lots of water.
It had been a long time between visits.  The falls is 120-130 ft high with five drops.
The best you're going to get in a photo is three.  The upper two are best viewed from the road level.  It was good to see this pretty place again.  Just challenging enough for me
with my vision and balance what they were.

The fourth drop of Deer Gap Falls. You can walk behind it so I did!
I got dripped on but I did not care. 

Behind Deer Gap Falls  Click the link to see a video of the trip. It was great fun.
The video shows the falls in its entirety much better and gives perspective on how huge
it really is. My joy was exponential at being here and able to go!
I crawled through the jumble of boulders and worked my way up trying to find
the way to view the 3rd drop of the falls. It had been long enough that I was uncertain.
I knew you had to go up to see it and so I tried to recreate the route.
I got there since climbing UP is much easier for me.  I could tell I was getting better
and better.  I managed to get up there to view the 3rd drop, but the view was not totally unobstructed and I was becoming fatigued.   I did not take many photos of it and left that part to Kenny for today.  He made it look easy.

View of the third drop from Kenny's better vantage point.

 I realized I had just enough energy left to get me back out of there and to the motel.
We eased on back out and the climb up was not too bad. It was steep but short.
We encountered a young couple on our way out. We stopped to talk to them. It was a fortunate and informative conversation with a couple locals who were able to 
answer some questions we'd had about the area.  The next weekends trip would hinge on 
this conversation. :-)  

    Back at the motel we got cleaned up. I had to rest. I was wrung out.  
We went into Jamestown and tried the Garden Grill which was OK.  It was different.
The restaurant selections in Jamestown are limited and we were glad to try it out.
We both prefer taking the camper and cooking our own meals most of the time.

Back at the motel we slept good on that old hard lumpy mattress. Before turning in we 
checked the weather forecast which was pretty bleak.  It called for a settled in, hard rain.
We decided that if it came to pass we'd sleep in the next day and go on home.

   We woke to cold, gray, heavy rain with no signs of let up.  We slept in late.
You appreciate it when you dont get to do it often.  We made love.  Always a bonus.
It is the cure for any ill I tell you.  We stopped at Shoney's and ate breakfast bar.
We headed home to spend the day leisurely resting in our own warm, dry, K├╝gler Haus.
The disappointment of the messed up plans tempered by the knowledge the next weekend
we would be back. Sharon & Lydia would be there. We'd get to have more fun!

Bathtub type creek in Overton County

Hepaticas blooming by Bathtub Creek

Xanadu Falls from March 14th trip

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