Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I Could Tell You About the Time....... :-)

There she is.. that picker upper of germy, un-kosher objects.

I Could Tell You About the Time....

Dana Koogler

Tuesday April 7, 2015

  I have been hiking and camping since I was three.  I am now fifty.  I did not know to call 
what I was doing "hiking" until I was in my thirties.   I was just taking a walk in the woods back
then.    I grew up fortunate enough to have parents and grandparents who took me hiking, camping, fishing, mushroom hunting, out with them to cut firewood.  Any time in the woods was good to me.   I started really "hiking" and hunting waterfalls when I was in my thirties.
It was purposeful at that point.  I usually had a destination in mind.    Just because I'd been 
out walking in the woods didn't mean I knew what I was doing.   I did not start traveling off trail until about thirteen years ago. I did not start backpacking until 2004.  Learning was and is a process.  I made many mistakes along the way and so did my husband Kenny.  We learned together and sometimes we learned the hard way. 


Hooting and Hollering at Hazel Creek      
   My first hiking goal was to hike to all the guidebook waterfalls of the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park.    I began in 1997 prior to moving to Tennessee. I'd come down
from Virginia two or three times a year for about a week and work on it.   We moved to Tennessee
in December 2001, and by the time we moved here I had made a pretty good dent in it already.
I realized that a couple of the waterfalls were beyond the physical limits of my ability at the time.
I knew that Hazel Creek Cascades was about a fifteen mile round trip hike. I began conditioning for it and worked on it for nearly a year.   I could not talk anyone into going with me so I was prepared to go solo.  Kenny could not stand the thoughts of me going alone so at the last minute
he decides he will go along.   I appreciated the company, but had my misgivings about it. 
We tackled that together and thank the Lord we made it.   
 No more Little Debbie Cakes for Danabeezah... Hazel Creek Cascade

Victory Cheers at Hazel Creek Cascade.   Take yer shirt off. Throw ya hands up. Wave it round ya head like a helicopter!  I finished! It was my last Guidebook waterfall in the Smokies! 

   My victory cheers and elation at making it were short lived.   The journey was not over.
We had to get back out of that hole, and the return trip was going to be mostly UP HILL.
I was physically ok.   Kenny was not.  His knees began hurting him on the way back and we began
to see how woefully unprepared we were.   I gave him some ibuprofen, but that was not relieving
the pain.   We would go a short distance and then he'd have to sit or lay down again.  It became apparent to me just past the Double Spring Gap shelter on the A.T. that darkness was going to overtake us.    We had no light sources. We  had no space blankets. We had no matches.
The best thing for us to have done was probably stop at the shelter and weather the night there.
We continued on instead knowing there was only about two miles back to the vehicle at Clingman's Dome.   It was November and the wind was howling up there.  The dead hemlocks were groaning 
in the wind. We crawled in the dark out that last stretch of trail.   I knew I'd recognize the feel and sound of crush run under my feet when I got to the part that went up to the parking lot.  Darkness did overtake us and we were both in tears. Kenny from pain. Me from the terror of trying to crawl out of there in the dark.   Finally back at the jeep I loaded him in the back and took off down the mountain toward home.    The lessons learned?  Know your limits.  I was alright for a fifteen mile
round trip hike. He was not.   Neither of us had sense enough to take along a light source, rain gear, matches, space blankets, emergency supplies for a night caught out on the trail.  Last of all 
I learned that some hikes are best done as overnight backpack trips.  We learned to take along prescription pain killers too for situations like this.  Having along a percocet or some strong pain killer might mean the difference between whether you can stand to hike out or not. 

Upper Grotto Falls

Nell is Looking for Upper Grotto Falls 

   Grotto Falls was the very first waterfall we ever hiked to in the Smoky Mountains.
I loved it.   It was easy.    I found Ken Wise's book with all the off trail hikes in it and it was
like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  I was determined to see Upper Grotto Falls and all 
else that lay above.   Kenny had an unexpected rainy day off from work in March 2002. 
I talked him into trying to help me find Upper Grotto Falls and whatever else was up there.
We went and what a mess that turned out to be.   We did not bother taking along any rope.
We were clueless about off trail hiking in the Smokies.   We got up there and did succeed in finding Upper Grotto Falls.  We were going to continue on up the stream hunting for Twin Falls.
It cut loose and began pouring rain.   It turned cold.  We were soaked.  We had sense enough to turn around and head back.   I was faced with down climbing the rocks I'd gone up over to reach Upper Grotto Falls.   I refused to do it.  I went over in the black, loamy soil and vines at the edge and held on to dog hobble and rhodo and whatever I could get to in order to lower myself gradually.   I was soaking wet and filthy by the time we arrived back at the truck.  Kenny said there was no way in the world he was going to let me in his truck with that mess on me.  I removed
all my clothing and threw it on the back of the pickup.  I donned one of his spare shirts from 
the back seat and that is what I wore home.   That and all that black mud. Down through Gatlinburg we went with me looking like a wild animal rather than a human.  I decided it would be fun to mess with the people on the streets of Gatlinburg.   I looked and acted like Nell.  I was hollering, gesturing, and generally acting a damn fool.   It got some very shocked looks and most people turned away from me not wanting to hurt their eyes.  Tay hay in da win-hin!  

UN-Necessary Risk Taking 

North Cackalacky Crimes and Misdemeanors

   We began spreading our foolishness around by starting to hike in the Western Carolina mountains in 2003.   We stacked the deck against ourselves by starting hiking there with known
lawbreakers, trespassers, and escaped convict types.   We spent time circling the wagons, 
wandering like the Hebrew Children in the Wilderness, and then... running from the law.  

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time  

 See this sign above?  Yes. I see it too.   Warning about the dangers of climbing on waterfalls.
I have never climbed  around Rainbow Falls unless you count stepping off the constructed trail just far enough to get a decent photo.  I have been one of those fretting and fuming about person or persons climbing on waterfalls. I  have at times been the one climbing on the waterfall and scaring others.  The first time I ever did it I blame ignorance and peer pressure.   Kenny, myself, Cathy and KT were at DuPont State Forest when it was newly opened.   We climbed High Falls.  We got in trouble for it.  Someone called the law on us and we ended up literally running out through the forest and then back down the trail to evade capture.   It is funny now, but at the time it was not funny at all.   A sign had been posted saying NOT to climb the waterfall and on a later trip we found that sign laying in the water where it broke and fell.   We really did not know it was illegal.
It was Summer and the rock to the far side was sloped and completely dry.   Some lady with a cell phone called it in.   She was probably pissed off because we were scaring her and ruining her good time.  I had been skinny dipping earlier when I thought no one could see.  I then had the audacity to speak to her college aged son being the brazen hussy that I was.  Don't climb on waterfalls in DuPont State Forest.  It may lead to your arrest!  

I Thought I Was Here.... But I was There!

     We had never hiked in Wilson Creek Wilderness before. We tried to be prepared by purchasing a map.   We brought along Kevin Adam's guidebook.   We talked to rangers at the visitor center.   We found our first waterfall there which was Hunt Fish Falls.   
We decided next we'd visit Lost Cove Falls.  We found the trailhead and followed the directions.
We did find an upper and lower waterfall as described following those directions AND using the map.     We passed a bare dirt track that lead out to the edge of a cliff. That was all we found available to reach the base of the lower falls.  During times of normal water it would have been possible to walk down the rock or scoot and reach the base.  Right now the water levels were too high and the rock wet and slick.  I'm going to make a long story short as possible.
We ended up deciding this had to be the way down.  We climbed down a dead pine tree using it as a ladder.   It was leaning there against the cliff.   It did not look as stout as the one pictured below or it might have been ok. It was flimsy and small.   We made it down.  The rock at the base of the falls was dry, but stood up in fins like little triangles.   Kenny was fine, but I was so upset looking back at what we'd just done I did not enjoy the experience. I was shaking and burst into tears.
He calmed me down.  I snapped a photo or two and all I could consider was that now we had to get out of that mess and back UP!   The gorge there was high walled, narrow and filled with a deep hole of water beyond where we sat.  

     We got out by climbing back up the pine tree. Kenny helped make sure I got up on the ledge. I got another sapling and handed it down to him.  I locked my feet and legs around a tree behind me. I used all my strength and a heavy dose of prayer and pleading the blood of Jesus to get him UP on the ledge with me.   Once he was up there safely I took off like a scalded dog up the bluff.
It hit me about halfway up that he was not right behind me.   I was terrified.   I began hollering Kenny, Kenny! He yelled back "Shut the hell up!  If you were so worried about me why'd ya take off and leave me?"  Back on the trail I finally calmed down and we said our apologies to one another.   It was not until Monday or Tuesday with the help of friends we figured out we'd been at Gragg Prong Falls and NOT Lost Cove Falls.    The guidebook clearly said of Gragg Prong "There is NO ROUTE TO THE BASE!"  Goes to show you... even WITH preparation you can still mess up real bad.   
We later did make it to Lost Cove Falls pictured above.  The two falls look nothing alike!
A rope is an item we should always take along.  Nearly 100% of the time because in this situation
it would have made all the difference in the world.  

Core Temperature After Drop

   Another way I've messed up before is not going prepared for the weather.  We took a Winter hike to White Oak Sinks with friends.   I wore jeans, a flannel shirt and a jacket.   My problem is
that I am one of those people who can ignore a lot of noxious stimuli as long as I'm having a good time.   I stay in the water swimming until my lips and fingers and toes are purple.  Long after other folks have said "This water is too darn cold" and gotten out I will still be in there having fun.
Being that way on a Winter hike is not a good thing.   I did not eat enough. I did not drink enough.
I got hot and sweaty then cooled.  I knew I was chilly, but I felt fine.  About the time I began to be uncomfortable I was back in the vehicle and figured no big deal.  I put on a heavier coat.  
We went to eat a hot lunch at Smokin' Joes BBQ.   During the course of lunch I began to get worse.   I got incredibly drowsy and my mind was slowing down.  Even with hot food in me and in a warm setting with drier, warmer clothes I was struggling.   I began to chill and shook all over.
I later talked to an ER physician who said that was a case of After Drop.  My body temperature was already too low.  Once I stopped moving about the cooler blood in my limbs mixed with my core circulation.  Once I ate my blood supply was pulled to my stomach to digest food . All these things factored in to dropping my core body temperature just enough that I was miserable.
I was not in any real danger, but it took me several hours to feel normal again.  

I am more careful now. I do still wear cotton frequently when I hike.  I eat. I drink. I pay more attention to body signals like discomfort. Starting to pee more frequently when you're out in the cold is also a sign of your core temperature heading downward.   Did I learn from it? Yes.  
Could it happen again? Yes.    

But It Looked like Such a Nice Waterfall from Over Here!

    Another case of taking a foolish, un-necessary risk was to be experienced up on the Road Prong in January.   We hiked with KT and Cathy up Road Prong. We took our shoes off and waded the prong at Standing Rock Ford.    Up to our thighs in cold water.   Once up the Prong to Trickling Falls we saw something that intrigued us.  Off in the distance through the rhodo was a glimmering white foam and the sound of a waterfall.   We scooched over a log to cross the prong to that side.
Once across we found the rhodo at the edge of the stream so impenetrable we had to swim in it like people body surfing a mosh pit.   I looked below me at one point and about five or six feet down were large white quartz boulders! Falling through would have been dangerous, but that wont gonna happen.  Once across and hiking up the side stream.. the waterfall we saw was merely a three or four foot high cascade. The risk not worth the reward.  Back we went to endure it all again.    Did we learn from it? Yes.  Have we repeated it again?  I'm sure that if we haven't we will.

Add Insult to Injury

   Other forms of unpreparedness and outdoor foolishness?  Oh yes.  I am a bottomless pit
of that sort of thing.   Unpreparedness?  Take along extra deodorant and baby wipes on 
backpack trips.  Not every backpacking partner has lost their sense of smell like one dude I 
went with.    Always wear life jackets when kayaking. Even on the EASY stuff because it would be EASY to drown.  Don't take your backpacking partner on too hard a trip the first go round if you want them to ever go again.  Not if you want them to like it.  Also if you want them to like it... be prepared enough to take along the appropriate sized tent to accomodate you both.  Don't try to stuff 1 1/2 men into a 2 person tent.    Sorry Kenny.  

Trail Sex Antics 

"No More Num nums for Kenny"

    We are very much in love as a couple and while we will never be like one of those couples
on the cover of a Harlequin Romance novel.. we are more like a Ron Jeremy skin flick.  
We have some good times being frisky.    We showed up late to meet Rich, KT, Cathy, Harry, 
Bill and Emmett for a day of hiking to Big Falls on the Thompson River.    We got fussed at
by the gang for being a good thirty minutes late.   We were embarrassed, but Kenny decided he'd make excuses.   He told Rich and the rest of them that I was busy styling my hair and make up.
That I was primping in the bathroom too long. He shot me a look and laughed.  I stuffed my anger down.    Later in the day he took his chances and brought it up again.  Not once more, but a couple times.  Finally I couldn't stand it any longer and shouted "Shut the hell up. It was not my fault. I was not working on my hairdo.  You had to have a piece of tail before we went out the door!"  
Rich's eyes got big and he laughed. "Oh! No more num nums for Kenny!"   Don't put your 
last minute sexcapade excuses on me boy.  I will take the love, but I won't take being blamed
falsely.  I hardly ever wear make up! 

Sliding at Big Falls KK and DK.. those freaks and perverts. 

Dana on rope. Big Falls down from the top of the gorge. 

Shagadelic Trip Down Bonas Defeat 

   We hiked down Bonas Defeat with Rich and Kevin Adams.   It was an adventure and one
I would not have missed, but it was not as bad as anticipated.   We found out we did not like taking
direction for being in movies.  We got way out ahead of them two and decided to make our OWN movie.. a porn movie.    We found us a spot in the bushes way downstream and were in there just getting it on. Woo Hoo!  A great time was had, but man alive... we just barely got our clothes back on when here came a group of about six people up from the far end.   Wont nobody else supposed to be out here today!  
Down on my knees begging. Bonas Defeat Gorge.  The crux of Bonas. Perhaps the reason for the 
sex adventure was the relief over having this part done?!

Don't Have Sex in the Middle of the Trail! 

   Kenny had bought a motorcycle.   We took it down to the Cherohala Skyway for a ride
on a hot Summer day.    The very first time we went we took a picnic, we got off the bike and hiked. We found an out of the way spot and put a blanket on the ground and had one of those magical lovemaking sessions that is a Seeing God Experience.    The second time around we 
got caught in the rain.   We missed our chance for the super great make out spot but just picked 
the next pull off we came to.  We found a place away from the road and just figured it was one of those old pull offs from back in the days when the Skyway was being constructed.   We had our
fun and were clothed once more.   We came strolling back down to the motorcycle carrying a blanket and me with sticks and leaves in my hurr........ to be met by a man and a woman HIKING up this old "access road".  They were giving us the some odd looks for sure.  I was nervous at once and gave out my best "Heller! How u durrin?" They did not look impressed but kept on hiking.   I went home and checked the guidebook.  We were having sex right in the middle of a trail. YES.  That IS a trail.   Don't do that again.  That could have turned out much worse.  
Not every pull off on the Skyway is just some old abandoned parking spot for heavy equipment. 

 Weird Shit

  We've had an assortment of other weird shit happen over the years.  A man tried to grab me
in the St. Mary's Wilderness in Virginia.   We've run into drug camps. Narrowly avoided hiking into meth labs. Run into Unabomber type stuff.   Encountered Human Dog Hiker on Mt. LeConte. 
I have been swimming with copperheads in Little River.  I have been kayaking and swimming with snakes. I have narrowly avoided being bitten once or twice.  I've ended up finding a dude lurking in the bushes along the Cataloochee Divide trail. I have had a man and woman run and hide from me at Gold Mine Gap Trail.  I've ended up with dog poop on my hiking boots.  I have found a
Winter coat hung on a sapling in the middle of nowhere in the Smokies.   No trail anywhere around.  No person either. I was just sure I was going to find a corpse.  Creepy stuff.

   I have learned from mistakes. I have gained experience.  Doesn't mean I'm through making mistakes.   The point is I am not perfect. Far from it.  Experience helps, but it doesn't solve
everything.    Long as I am human.......... 

   Experience: Something you gain just AFTER you needed it. 


  1. A good message for being out exploring - but now I've got a whole new image of you!

    1. Never put me on a pedestal. I'm far from a shining example.I am a Wicked old sinner.

  2. It is easy to sit in front of a computer and judge others. Most of those people have never done the kind of hiking we often do. Or perhaps they are perfect and never make any mistakes in life. Yeah Right.

    1. I hear you. I try to temper my judgement with "There but for the Grace of God Go I" I don't always succeed, but most times I do. I live with my flaws before me daily.


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