Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rogers Creek Falls--Another One Off the Bucket List!

Vernal iris growing in the forest on the 
way to Rogers Creek

Rogers Creek Falls 

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Total hike distance 3 miles approx.

Saturday April 18, 2015

Photos are here starting with frame 137

   I had found a web site about Scotts Gulf after moving to Tennessee thirteen years ago.
I had no way of knowing then just how this place would capture my imagination.  I had no way of knowing
how I'd grow to love it. I did not know how much time and energy I'd spend exploring it.   I knew I was
going to be an off trail hiker. I'd already begun doing just that in the Smoky Mountains.   I began my hiking exploits in the Cumberland Plateau on the trails.  I started at Virgin Falls. I hiked off trail in the mountains
of Western North Carolina.   I don't really remember my first off trail expedition in the plateau.
I just know that my love of off trail exploring and waterfall finding has pushed my limits and given me the opportunity to see things not everyone gets to see.   It has caused me to forge an even stronger bond
with my husband.  We are a good team.   He is my comfort, my joy and helps my confidence.  
The trip to Rogers Creek Falls today was a tough but successful one that brings us both joy and makes us
an even better team.

               Rogers Creek Falls was one of two waterfalls in a far flung corner of Scotts Gulf that
I determined I would visit.   Back about a month ago I visited Puncheon Camp Creek Twin Falls.
It was very beautiful and the trip involved bushwhacking and rope down over the cliff.  We had been going to tackle Rogers Creek Falls after that on the same day.   We opted not to when it began to pour rain.
We did not want to make it into a more dangerous trip and have it become a miserable experience.
We were very glad we waited and did them both on separate days.  Either one is hard, but together
they are that much harder.  

         Preparation involved a lot of time spent studying maps and checking out Google Earth.
We returned home from attempt #1 and got on Google Earth and began seeing a potential better way to
 access the falls from a different approach.   It ended up being much better.  Rogers Creek Road by the time we first tried to reach the falls was no longer a through road which meant a longer hike to even reach it before going down over the cliff.     Tom Dunigan had visited the falls and told me it was possible to wait until
the Caney Fork was down for Summer and then ford it and walk up the gorge to see the falls.   The problem becomes that by the time the Caney Fork is down enough to be safe to ford... the falls will be nearly bone dry for Summer.     The only part of that trip which involves a trail is from Polly's Branch down to the river.
From there you'd still be off trailing it.   We decided we were not going to visit the falls to have them be
dry. We'd find a way to access them from the same side of the river that they were on in Spring.
Winter or Spring is usually the time to try this stuff.  Snakes are less likely.  Vegetation is a little less.
Usually plenty of water coming over the falls to make all that effort worthwhile.

            I had narrowed my focus down this season and was determined to see this falls.
Puncheon Camp Creek Falls was a good primer for this one.  Rogers Creek was harder since the rappell down to it was worse.   It was steeper, a lot less defined, with tons of downed hemlock trees.  I knew
that I'd be scared, but I'd have to feel the fear and do it anyway.   Do it afraid, but do it!

           Here are two views above of the first place we came to.  We realized at once we had not gone
far enough and that we were making this harder than it had to be.  We continued further out along the plateau
paralleling the way point for the falls.

   We did see some pretty wildflowers on the way, but Rogers Creek area is also not a great wildflower hike.    It is greatly disturbed because it is a pine plantation.  We finally came to a place where we could go down toward the creek.

 Above--Confederate Violet


 above... our first glimpse of the stream we had to follow down

  I don't know what kind of moss this is, but it is the prettiest and most different I've ever seen! I saw great carpets of it! I had to touch it!

     We had to bushwhack down stream.   We encountered lots of rhodo and downed trees, briers.
We have done worse though. That part of it was bad, but by comparison to other places the rhodo was not as terrible.   We finally could tell by the lay of the land that we were approaching  a side stream.. This would be Rogers Creek.  We walked up it to see a cascade and make certain nothing more was above this waterfall wise. We did not see anymore falls up above this small cascade area.  We had to cross here and continue downstream.  There is a pretty cascade on the branch down through the main gorge.   We got to a
vantage point to see it, but there is too much brush to make it a good photo op.  We could tell we picked the  correct side of the stream to be on. Across the gorge the terrain was even less forgiving.

 Kenny ahead of me. We traded leads and took turns scouting the way.
 First look at Rogers Creek. We forded here and continued down along the bluff.

Nice deep hole of water and a cascade that is six feet tall and about 30 ft wide.  Too much brush and downed trees to really get a better view of it.  If you got right in the water and swam to it there is still too much crap in the way to see it much better.

        It was not too long until we came to a point we could hear Rogers Creek Falls below. It was crashing and thundering.   It is not the most massive waterfall we've ever seen by a long shot.  It is the challenge of reaching it that is the draw.   Being one of a few persons to make it is appealing to idiots like me.
I know of three men who have been here. Tom Dunigan, Mike O'Neal, Mike Gourley.   I know there have been others because I know none of these guys left behind the 2 liter Mountain Dew bottles and other
debris.  Some of it may have actually traveled there on its own in a flooding situation.  Not a lot of trash, but
a couple cans were the only thing we saw down in the gorge.  

       We found a place that was the possible spot to descend.   I knew no matter what I was not going to like it.   I went further out the bluff and found the terrain got no better.  Kenny went down ahead of me and scouted a place to set up a rappell to go down.   He was very discouraged and I began to reconcile myself
to the fact we might not make it down.   The dying and falling of the hemlocks is sad for sure, but I never
stopped to contemplate how the falling of the trees would affect me or anyone else.   Today it played a part.
He crawled through the branches of a massive downed hemlock and found on the other side of it... the way.
We had a lot of rope with us, but not enough to set two separate rappels.   We scooted down the first part
saving the rope for the last twenty five feet or so.  

     I found myself on the ledge looking at the upper cascade of Rogers Creek Falls.
It was so pretty!   I got to look down the cleft in the rocks where it was squeezed in a chute as it fell.
You could hear the sound of it as it entered the cave below.    I was thrilled to have gotten this far.
I did not think right then of the rest of the climb down.  I just wanted to enjoy the moment.  Kenny set the rope and I shot some video and took pictures of the upper part.  I knew we would not be back so I wanted to see plenty of it.

Upper cascade and slide of  Rogers Creek Falls 

 Squeezing into the chute!

Downed hemlocks on both sides of the falls!! 

           Once I shot the video and headed back toward Kenny he had the rope ready to go. 
He went down ahead of me.  He spotted me as I came down and was able to assist me by telling me  about foot placement.    We made it down past the point where it was dangerous and no slips. 
No injuries.  He was the first one to the falls. I walked over to them and as it hit me we had made it I let out a war whoop!  WOOOOO HOOOO!  Yes, Sharon McGee, I thought about you!  Stuff  like this is hard as hell for me, but it makes me feel VERY MUCH ALIVE!

       I was rejoicing that we made it!  

The gorge down here was coated in moss. Deep and green.   It is steep sided, rocky, craggy, and 
if you follow it down you arrive at the Caney Fork River eventually.    It is a hemlock gorge and many of them are dead or dying.   Recent ice storms have helped bring trees down in here.
Rogers Creek Falls is about twenty five feet high and it was flowing great today.  No stream leaves this spot above ground.  All the water is diverted into the ground or shunted to the cave on the left of the falls.  Two hundred yards down from this spot the stream resurges in a beautiful white ribbons coming up from the stone and all that moss.    

 Rogers Creek Falls

Kenny by the cave mouth. It shows you a little of the scale of the place.

 Resurgence of Rogers Creek 
A view of the craggy cliffs.  I am never satisfied with the photos I take in an attempt to show how 
steep these gorges are. 

              We stayed down there a little while and enjoyed it.   We had to climb back up out of this hole and up the bluff and back out of here.   We did not tarry too long since we wanted to get that part over with.     The climb up was uneventful.  Going up is usually easier than coming down!
Today I was kind of glad for that fallen hemlock to go through.  It was like a little security net over the treacherous cliff we had to climb out on to get back up.   One thing about it.. working your way through those branches it was hard to think about much else!    The climb out was tough. 
I sat down on my butt in the woods and ate an apple and drank some green tea.   I was hot and sweaty. I was muddy and had sticks and leaves all over me and in my hair.   We had made it! Success!   I could console myself all that way back up and out just realizing the worst was over.
I never have to do it again.   

           We grabbed some lunch in Crossville and boy were we hungry! We did not eat lunch until 2 pm or so.   We were drive thru material only on account of the dirt and stench.   I was wet and muddy and could hardly wait to get to the shower!   I felt myself growing sleepy even before I ate.  
Adrenaline highs are always followed by a crash.  I slept on the way home. The trip home was a fast one thanks to Eisen Fuß at the wheel.   (Eisen Foose= Iron Foot)

Below is a video of Rogers Creek Falls set to music Misery and Happiness by John Cowan.
Appropriate for describing my relationship with places like this.  I describe my relationship with hard to reach waterfalls like a girl with a bad boyfriend .



  1. Wow Dana, I wish we were YOUNG. Both George and I (at age 73) couldn't possibly do anything like that these days... Going on a trail is what we do ---and not too far. I have had two knee surgeries since 2010 (the last one being January of 2015)... SO--I'm VERY careful... BUT--if I were young, I'd love visiting a waterfall like that---as scary as it is... I used to be so daring... Makes me sad not to do it any longer. SO--my advice to you and Kenny: Keep on doing those kind while you are young and CAN do them....

    Congrats....Rogers Creek Falls is so pretty...

    1. Thank you Betsy. I feel like I'm developing a slight sense of urgency that any really difficult ones I'd better get cracking and get them finished! I can tell that my addled brain from the past illness is improving! My balance and depth perception are better. I will be happy as a clam to be out on the trails and still having fun at the youthful age of 73. maybe I'll smarten up by then? You reckon? haha! Lord, I hope!


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