Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bryants Cove Four-Wheeling

Rhexia marianna--growing in a wetland at the start
of the Bryant's Cove Ride.  (Maryland Meadow Beauty)

Four-Wheeling Bryant's Cove 

Kenny & Dana Koogler
Saturday August 2, 2014

Pictures are here: Bryants Cove Pix

43 mile Round Trip Ride

     Kenny & I wanted to get away and do something different.   We hadn't been four-
wheeling since April.   I was longing for my beautiful Cumberland Plateau.   We had talked 
about going exploring, but hadn't done any of that for months.   It was time.  Kenny did not
want to go camping.  We planned a get away weekend out in the Plateau with a stay at a motel.
Less work for Kenny that way not having to pull the camper.   He had been to Bryants Cove, long ago, but I had never been.  We decided that would be a fun trip.   I had no expectations. 
I did not want to feel obliged to find anything.  I did not want to continue my pattern of doing
things over as a sure bet.   

         We headed over early Saturday morning because the drive would be long.
Kenny was a champ and found the parking spot and road access to Bryants Cove he'd used before.  I had done some additional research Friday evening and had an idea where we were 
supposed to be starting out.    It worked out perfectly. He still had the track on the GPS from 
the last trip with Buck.  We parked back Pryor Ridge past the church at an old lot full of log trucks.   We saw one other vehicle and trailer that appeared to be someone else riding, but we did not run into that person on this trip.  They were gone by the time we got back. 

      We took a wrong turn at first and headed out past a swamp. I'm glad we did make a wrong turn because it was a pretty area with rhexia galore!  

Top: Wetland swamp
Bottom: Maryland Meadow Beauty 

    We got turned around and heading the right direction.  The GPS makes it easier to get yourself
oriented and it beeps periodically to let you know you're on track.   It was not long until we came to an 
area of sandstone filled with rose pinks and blazing star.  I got some photos and found something I did 
not even know was possible.  I found white blazing star blooming in the midst of all the normal, purple/pink
variety!   Lots of butterflies were around feeding on nectar.
Top: Normal pink blazing star
Bottom: White form of blazing star

  We rode on through red dirt and gravel tracks.  We went through mud holes.  The sun was shining. The skies were blue with puffy clouds.  It was a warm day, but not too hot.   We had dragonflies buzzing past and butterflies flitting from flower to flower.    Frogs hopped all around 
those mud holes.   Every so often I need to smell dust and red clay.  I can't have things groomed
perfect and touristy all the time.  A person has to have some grit in their gizzard now and then to
cope with life.    I was going to make certain this weekend I got PLENTY OF IT!

     The forest was deep and green. Healthy hemlock groves. Umbrella magnolia, sycamore, hickory, maple, beech and oak were some of the trees represented in the forest.   The sun shone
down through the groves of trees making dappled patterns.    The air began to change and grow cooler.   The further we went the cooler it grew.  Usually losing elevation means its going to warm up.   Today we went lower and the air was cooler.  We both knew what that meant.  Out here in the Cumberland Plateau you are likely nearing a cave when you feel that cool air!  We were in bottom land now with lots of weeds and lush grass.  Purple phlox was all around smelling so sweet.   Mud holes of black loam stood full of water.   We looked to one side and there was the cave we'd felt air
coming out of!  I am not sure, but I think this is Peter Cave.  I have not been able to find any info on what the entrance to it looks like. 

 Nearby this cool entrance was Mr. Copperhead.  I also saw a tiny green frog about 1/2 inch long!


      Kenny remarked when we stopped to check out the cave "Oo! This place looks snakey!".
I had to agree with him.  He went in the general direction of the cave. I was taking photos of tadpoles and checking out frogs.   I heard him yip from behind me and I knew something was wrong.  He was pale and backing away. He'd been right about the snakey comment.  He came an ace of stepping on that copperhead in the weeds.   We decided it was best for us to mosey on.

      We went further up the cove and saw the typical rocky, dry river beds of the plateau's karst land.   Swallets stood along the edges of some of these dry washes waiting like large open mouths for the water to return for them to drink.   We saw something move to the drivers side and it was a 
green heron!   Today we saw lots of wildlife.   Here is what we saw:
  • two deer
  • half dozen turkeys
  • pair of wood ducks
  • two hawks
  • lots of trout
  • minnows
  • frogs
  • one copperhead
  • one muskrat
  • a beaver dam but no beavers visible
  • two cardinals
  • one indigo bunting
  • one green heron
We turned and went up a side trail that did not look familiar just to see where it went. It was through an ugly area where they were logging.  Finally we turned around and headed back to follow the track we were supposed to be on.  We soon passed an old building.  Turns out is is the Bryant's Cove Church.  It had a big sign on it that said "No Camping", but right past it was a travel trailer.  I guess that is the manse.  Gotta love living in the Bible Belt.  Here in Tennessee you pass signs just anytime telling you things like "Its time to turn so you don't burn." and "Get Right with Jesus while its still time!"  I'm not making fun. I'm a believer in Christ.  It just tickles me some of the stereotypical sign hanging behavior.  I can't help having a fondness for preachers with nicknames like "Cotton" and "Mutt". It sounds like where I come from in Virginia.  Only the men there with those nicknames were not exactly preachers.  My Pawpaw was "Shine" Bradley.

Top: Bryants Cove Church
Middle: Placquard on the front of the church
Bottom: I guess the trailer is the parsonage.

    The river began having a little water in it.  We followed it along and eventually we came to a spot
where I got my first glimpse of something I had not seen in awhile.  The beautiful aquamarine color of the waters of the Little Sequatchie River.   The color I associate with the Cumberland Plateau.   It was hot out.  
The river was deep in shade and looked so inviting.  I saw two large trout and a school of smaller fish swim past.   A nice sunny, hot day and a clear stream of sparkling green water was too hard to resist so I didn't 
even try.  I shucked off and dived in head first.   The water was cold even for me, but once I got in and was wet it became easier to tolerate.   It was that spicy kind of cold.  Water so cold it feels hot.  Makes your skin turn red.  Steam was coming up and fog hanging in the valley over the stream. Rain drops fell now and then out of a clear sky and steam came up.  I was doing the back stroke looking up at a blue sky and dark green
leaves on the trees.   I rolled over and gathered a mouthful of water and sprayed it like a fountain.  I was a cartoon character.  Moments like this make lasting, special memories for me.  Times like this I feel truly and fully alive.   Glad to live where I do and be who I am. 
My swimming hole for the day.  

     Kenny reminded me we still had a long way to go.   I reluctantly got out and dried off with a towel and put my stuff back on.  We went further up the river and encountered some people.  All 
other riders who were out for the day.  We chatted with them a bit and traded info. They were nice men and very helpful.   The one man indicated we were heading the correct way to find a waterfall that was supposed to be along this loop.  We were hoping to see two falls today. I had read about them and had seen photos.  Kenny had seen both of them on his trip three years earlier and so far was doing a great job of re-creating the route.   

Kenny and me visiting with a couple other riders.  The fellow in the gray tee shirt was very helpful.

       He told us about Miners Path and said we would not like it that it was washed out.
 We followed our track on around to where the waterfall should be and we found it.  It was flowing, but
the typical Summer low water flow.  It was a pretty spot to stop and have lunch by the stream.   We saw
a few more people some of whom were camping in the area.  What I found disconcerting was all the beer bottles, beer cans, soda cans, and trash.  Someone had put out a plastic drum to collect trash, but
it was nearly overflowing.  The campers we saw were throwing their litter on the ground.   They had trashbags with them, but were not bothering to use them.  Two legged pigs.  Whatever we haul in... we haul out!


 Small scenic cascade in Bryant's Cove, TN 

     We did some more exploring and found a side trail that ended. We doubled back and hit Miner's Path and found out that it WAS indeed washed out.   We went up and down that rough thing.  We got down in the ditch at one point and before you knew it... we were laying over on the side.   Kenny winched us out of that predicament. I laughed like crazy.   It was funny to me.  
He had just fixed the winch the night before we left and boys howdy.. I was so glad!  We sure needed it today.    We finally made it to the top and back out on the dirt road for the next leg of the trip we were surprised to find the sky had turned black and a thunder storm was coming!

       Top: Seeing the world sideways
Bottom:  Darkened skies threatening a Summer storm.  It rained shortly after we saw this and it continued for a couple hours! 

   The next part of the trip involved red dirt and sandstone trails up to the top of the mountain.
Next we went on the gravel or hard top road a short distance and began closing the loop.  We saw several interesting rock houses and bluffs. We enjoyed the sight of healthy, deep green forests.
We had some views out across the plateau at one point.    We found the spot where another waterfall was supposed to issue forth out of the bank and drop into a sink hole. It was not flowing today, but it was still a pretty area.  I suppose it does not flow all the time.

      We had another loop to complete and I was offered a chance to NOT do that loop.
From the point where was sat it would have been a three mile ride back to the truck.  I was having a good time and not wanting to miss anything so I agreed we'd see it through no matter what.
No getting mad at what transpired after that, because I asked for it.  

    The next part of the trip was about another 11 miles with the last five miles rougher than a cob.
It was over river jacks and other rough huge boulders.  Reminded me of the end part of Lost Cane.    Dry wash from Hell.    It was so bad that we both had our doubts if we were even going the correct way. Kenny confessed that both times he was wishing Please please just get me out of here!  He did not bother to tell me that before hand, but there was nothing for it now.  
Shake my teefs out honey!  What it did.   The scenery was still pretty.  We stopped a couple times just to get some relief from the violent shaking and jarring of the ride.   The Little Sequatchie is down to holes of water on this part.   Some of the holes of water were clear and rather shallow and you could see fish swimming.  Other holes were dark to the point you could not plumb the depths.
The surface of these holes was like a mirror.  Aggravating and rough as it was... I'm still glad I went.   We made it out ok at last and we were both darn glad to see the truck again!

    It was a tiring, but satisfying day. A successful ride.  A safe ride.  And for all my bitching about the roughness of that one section.. I know I will go back for more.  The enjoyment and discovery 
far outweighs the discomfort.  The rain had stopped.  The sunset was pretty. 

That evening as we went to dinner in Jasper the valley below Monteagle was lined with wisps of cloud and the sun was sinking low.   We both know we have only scratched the surface of what this place holds.  We will be back.

Beaver pond and swamp along the trail. You can see his lodge out there!

Mirrored surface of a section of Pocket Creek where it has dried up to holes. 

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