Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lower Higgins Creek Falls Trip

See the Betty Butterfield Video HERE for 
the significance of a SKILLET* found out on the trail!  Mmmhellooo!

Lower Higgins Creek Falls Hike

Sunday Jan. 11, 2015
Dana & Kenny Koogler

Approx 3 mi. RT

   Kenny and I decided to visit some place we had not been for awhile.   I used to do all kinds
of hiking and bushwhacking and camping in the Northern Cherokee National Forest, but had really
slacked off in favor of other destinations.   We sat down together and perused my lists of possible trips.
Lower Higgins Creek Falls had been on our list for awhile and that is what we set out to do.

      We had to go through the usual logistical wrangling.  Being married to Kenny Koogler or 
best friends with Cathy Howell means one thing will alway happen prior to trips.    We're going to
go over all possible route permutations.   Folks like them have one built in assumption for getting to a place.
"There HAS to be a better way!"  There has to be a shorter route, more direct route, one with less chance of
getting caught in traffic, etc.   So I have learned if I want to make my life a little simpler to do the math on the route options before starting out.   Dana just looks at the map and says "Eh, this will do." but I have  help satisfy the rest of the party that the best possible route has been chosen.    My tomtom navigation system and google maps had both said that going up I-81 and down I-26 through Johnson City to Erwin was the best way.   It was and so that is the route we chose.     

     It was cold and we had bundled up for the hike as it was cold, but clear.  The day warmed up to about 40 degrees.  We found the place with no problems.   We saw only one other vehicle at the trail head.
A deputy dropped on patrol and we spoke to him and began our hike.    It goes over a rotten looking 
bridge constructed of boards and maybe logs.   We followed the stream up.   It was not very hard, but the
trail was icy in places and rocky.   The stream was quite pretty and so were the woods. 

     About the time we arrived at the falls we saw our first fellow hikers of the day.
What a happy meeting that turned out to be.  We had been aware there were more falls along this stream and had the waypoints for the upper falls, but lacked any firsthand knowledge.  Our meeting of people included Martin Garrett and his pretty daughter.  He is as crazy about waterfalls as we are and is a wealth of knowledge about the area.  Both of them shared their knowledge freely. It was most fortunate. 
Instead of the plan we'd had to hike to Lower Higgins Creek Falls and go down to Rocky Fork... we spent 
our entire day here!  We made a new friend and hopefully it won't be the last time we are on the trail with him.   He gives accurate, easy to understand directions and the waypoints for the upper falls were 
no longer needed.

        Lower Higgins Creek Falls was partially frozen, flowing very well and beautiful!
It was one of those moments we wondered why we hadn't come here sooner?  

      Lower Higgins Creek Falls

Upper Higgins Creek Falls.. somewhat smaller but just as grand. 

      Today was practice day with my camera equipment.  Becoming so ill last December and spending three months recuperating played heck on many areas of my life.  Double vision was making my life rough just 
getting around and doing normal every day things.  I knew better than to tackle learning camera equipment during that time period.   Once I was well I found I still gravitated toward the easy way. Use the old, familiar Nikon or just use the new camera to point and shoot. I've been getting more serious about working on my waterfall photography skills and mastering the new camera.   I am still fighting with the ND filter as you can tell above.  Its improving though.

       We had to ford the stream twice to get to the Upper Falls.   Martin did a good job describing that as well.    The first crossing was easy and got me a standing ovation and applause from some lady hiking with Martin and his buddies!  Too funny.    The second crossing was icier and trickier, but Kenny helped me and 
it wasn't bad.  I can tell my balance and creek crossing skills are getting much mo' bettah.  My balance is
improved.    Higgins Creek has two other nice waterfalls between Lower Falls and Upper Falls, but there is no trail down to them.   We could glimpse them from the trail, but roped descents to them will have to be done on another trip.   We sat and ate our lunch at the upper falls.   

     We continued up a little further to satisfy our curiosity about what else might be up there?
We found a nice little slide and a small cascade in addition to the rest of the falls.  No trail to these either,
but you could tell other folks have walked down through the gentle slope to view them.  It was very easy.

       Top--upper cascade
Bottom--Slide below the upper cascade.

     We headed back down the trail.  We decided we'd see how we felt and what time it was as to 
what else we'd try to get into.   We had the GPS coordinates for the Rocky fork tract and thought maybe if
we were feeling froggy we'd hit up some of the roadside attractions.    
We had seen a side logging road taking off near a side stream on the way in.  Martin was over there exploring and shouted back that he had not been up there yet, but would get up there to look for falls at some point.    We later realized that was Burchfield Camp Branch and there is a waterfall up there, but it is small. It is on Tennessee landforms. Its about a 12 ft falls.    Further up the trail is part of the Rocky Fork Tract and the hidden lake. The name of it is Birchfield Lake I think.   It was a manmade lake used by the timber company who owned the land.  They built it as a reservoir of water to help fight forest fires.

       On the way back was when I saw it... the SKILLET hanging on a nail on the side of a tree.
We hiked the Rocky Bottom Gorge in NC for New Years many moons ago. There was a skillet hanging
in a tree that day too.  I launched into being Betty Butterfield with her whole whole lotta emotional problems most of which is existential.   The 49 second video on the link at the beginning of this blog entry 
tells about her being woke up hit in the back of the head by a 400 lb man with a skillet.  Her ex husband
is a double amputee Vietnam Veteran with PTSD and OCD.   She had to leave him because he was POW in his own mind!  My dark sense of humor flaring up again.

       We made it back to the jeep and it was 3:30 pm.   We are getting old and worn out.
We just wanted to go back to the house and flop down and be warm and together.  So that is what we did.
It doesn't take much to make me happy.  

Skillet on a tree. Word up... watch for Vietnam Veterans armed with skillets! 


  1. Thanks Mike. I know you'd enjoy it. It is a beautiful area and an easy hike. There is a ton more stuff in the area. The next thing I have on my mind in that vicinity is Delsatch Falls. 85 ft and right now you know it'd be running like mad!


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