Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Solo Hiking Van Buren County, TN -- Hiking Potpourii

Blue hepatica blooming in Camps Gulf 

Solo Hiking and Exploring Van Buren County, TN

Dana Koogler solo hike

Total hike milage for the day = 10 miles 

Photos here starting with frame 107
Van Buren County Hike Pix



   Our lives in the last month or so have been insane.   A death in the family.  Illness. Sadness.
Travel for work. I had hoped since this was my first Springtime as a retired person it would be awesome. It has been anything but awesome.   Going through one of those patches where we are feeling snake bit.   Like I always say.. The bleeding always stops. :-)
I had to stay home on a pretty Saturday waiting for Kenny to get back from Georgia with Adam's help.    Thanks to our son in law, grandkids and Mike Lindsey for helping bring the K├╝gler Mobile home.  A few hours later I deposited Kenny back at the airport to fly to Wyoming.   

    Sunday I was determined to get out and exercise and see something pretty.  
I went to Fall Creek Falls to hike the additions to the park. I also wanted to check out another sinkhole nearby.  It has a name.. and that name is Millstone.   It was the first one I've checked out
that was NOT pretty.   It was good practice with the GPS and solo bushwhacking.  I found it by following the ridge line out.  I parked and walked down the road, picked up a rudimentary trail and 
began my journey which I figured would be 1/2 mile bushwhack to a pretty sinkhole with a waterfall or a sinkhole pond in it.   I found it, but no such luck.  I got whacked in the eye by a switch on the way for my trouble.   I found it and it was very ugyly. No pretty wildflowers. Nothing but what looks like a bathtub with the plug pulled.   No pond, but what appeared to have been one previously.  I found only a sinkhole full of downed trees, a few rocks, a muddy bottom and a bare trickle of water from a tiny spring branch.   

         I decided I sure was not going back the way I came so I picked up a logging road and followed it back out. It was longer, but easier and more open. I did see a few wildflowers on my way.   I then took my vehicle and put it in Grandmaw Low Gear to come back off Turkey Scratch Road.  No shoulder. A steep grade.  Right over the top of someone's house at one point.  
I was glad as gold to get down off that road.  

       
Trillium cuneatum blooming along the logging road walking back out from Millstone.
A view back up toward the ridge I traversed. This is what the terrain was like. It was ugly.  It is better down here than it was up there. Lots of greenbrier up there and saw brier.   

      

                I decided I was interested in hiking in Camps Gulf to see what wildflowers were blooming.   I parked and headed back there and was pleased to start seeing stuff blooming almost immediately.   I had thought I'd go back to Hemlock Falls today since the last go round we found a waterfall, but it was not Hemlock Falls. I also found out today that the home site ruins near the
start of the hike are NOT the Prater Place that is mentioned.   The first time we hiked here we
went looking for both. We thought (wrongly) that we had found both.  We passed a homesite.
We found a waterfall.  It was within the stated 2.7 miles one way.    We liked the hike and thought
that was great.  I have since figured out through a series of events that NO we did not see either one. We've still got it to do.  I have no way point for the waterfall we found the first time.  
I was alone.   I determined today that I'd just go straight back and not take that left hand turn
following survey tape that lead us to find the cave waterfall the first go round.   I knew what Hemlock Falls looked like from a photo.  I was NOT going to make the same mistake twice.

      I got back there and continued following signs.  I started making the same turns and twists as
last time.  I was seeing survey tape.  I thought OH Hell no... I'm doing it again.  I stopped and considered what to do. I decided to phone the info desk at Fall Creek Falls State Park and ask someone before giving up.  What ended up happening was I got two different answers from two different staff members.  I was told they now have a map with info on it regarding this hike. 
I had already gone about 2.5 miles back and yet I had misgivings about the distances they 
stated for how far the falls was back there.  I measured it on google maps as almost a mile further back to where I gauged the falls must be.   My instincts told me this was probably not the place to 
be solo hiking with no way point especially.  I decided to turn around and save it for another day.
I met a ranger on the way out. He was very nice, but he was not happy about  me solo hiking back in there.   He was also not forth coming with a lot of particulars on the trail.  I could tell he was avoiding sharing any details that might have me going back for try #2 today at it. I could understand his position, but I admit I found it patronizing and it annoyed me.  

            
 Allegheny Spurge blooming in Camps Gulf
 Camps Gulf Trail near the start
Toadshade trillium along Camps Gulf trail. Saw lots of these.

One of many caves along the trail. 

       I was disgusted so I ambled back to the jeep. I ate lunch.  I tried to decide what I'd get into next.   I decided rather than drive a considerable distance elsewhere I'd head up toward the 
Wheeler Farm and hike the loop trail.  I had never hiked the entire loop proper so that would be 
interesting.  It has three waterfalls, an arch, lots of beautiful rock forms, lots of Spring wildflowers, and the ruins of the old homesite down in there.   I was also wanting to scout to see what the gorge floor looked like. I'd only been down there a couple times total.  Just thinking of future plans.

     I hiked the loop clockwise.  The waterfall behind the arch was barely a drip so I did not bother going down in there. The wildflowers were pretty, but not as pretty as the first year we visited there.  The cold had burned a few of them last night.   I enjoyed seeing the rock formations around the loop. I'd definitely like to hike  this again after a significant rain event.  It would be great to see those dry streams flowing with water!   
a poor photo of Medley Arch 

The one lonely blooming trout lily I saw along the Wheeler Farm Loop. 
They are just getting going.




The loop trail is well marked and very easy to follow. This is a little of what Cane Creek Gulf looks like down in there.   I did not get any photos of the cane breaks, but I should have.   It looks like Saigon down in there in places.

Top portion of Wheeler Falls. I sat down under a hemlock tree and enjoyed these waterfalls before starting my trudge back up the gravel access road to the jeep.   It did not seem hard today to do this loop.  
I salvaged what had otherwise been a screwed up day.   

Below is a short video of Wheeler Falls.


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