Saturday, May 30, 2015

Smith Branch Cascade Attempt #1

Bracket fungus along the manway

Smith Branch Cascade Attempt #1

Friday May 22, 2015

Mike Gourley and Dana Koogler

Total bushwhack distance?


Pictures are here beginning with frame #384

Smith Branch Cascade Attempt #1 Pix

Smith Branch Cascade on Tennessee Landforms

  We had planned to bushwhack today to a waterfall neither of us had visited if time permitted.
We headed to Kephart Prong Trailhead after leaving Barnett Branch. We opted to leave my vehicle
at Mingus Mill since parking can be a problem on busy days at this particular trail.   Mike hadn't slept well the previous night.  We were both weary from the earlier adventures in the day. About half of the mileage for the day would end up being off trail.   Yet, Mike was off the next day and had plans with his spouse, Shelley.      He said he so rarely had a Saturday off that and did not get over to the NC side of the Smokies as much as he'd like .  We both wanted to fit in a lot today.  

     Kenny and I were planning on going camping this weekend, but did not have to leave until Saturday morning.  If I got home this evening and we felt froggy and wanted to leave that was good too.   We'd go for it.   We both had checked out the waypoints and the track of the old manway to Smith Branch the evening before.   Mike had been in communication with Jenny Bennett who gave him the low down on where to pick up the manways start and a brief description of it.   Her trip report mentioned that she and whomever she hiked with  lost the manway at one point on the way to the falls.   We gauged it would be about a mile hike off trail one way.

          I really like Kephart Prong area. I had not seen the old CCC camp ruins.  I was looking
forward to the adventure.  I had not read Jenny's blog entry about this trip fully, but it was a small
matter.  We checked out the old CCC ruins.    We found the start of the manway without any real problem.   What transpired after that was a bonding of friends during a difficult experience. Self inflicted, but that's how we does.

Above and below.. ruins from the old CCC Camp. Civilian Conservation Corps back during the Depression Era.


    The woods were fairly open.  The temperature was perfect. We had a good day to do this.
We set out in the right general direction.   We saw some beautiful pink lady slippers on the way.

Clump of pink lady slipper orchids in the middle of the forest.

  We followed the old manway easily in places, but lost it in others. We'd pick it up again.
We were both experienced off trail hikers. Mike had the way point on the GPS.   We didn't have any real trouble until we trended down and began following Smith Branch on a side hill. I was running out of steam very rapidly.   I was hitting a wall physically and psychologically.   We did pass a pretty cascade down there which I wondered if that was it?  Yet we had not arrived at the split in the creek.
Finally I was  just over it. I was embarrassed and upset with myself, but out of energy. Still had to get back to the trailhead at least and not much to go on.    We rested.  I had that gut feeling from the lay of the land and the way the light was coming into the gorge that we were messing up.  Making this way harder than it had to be.    

          Mike lead us up onto the ridge top.  We did pick up a much better track up there.  We followed it out wide around the ridge and swung down and around.  The going was much easier.   Finally we began heading down since the terrain was getting worse again.   I saw the spring creek drainage we'd crossed and while we were now it is headwaters I knew we needed to trend down here.  
We followed it down and before long we re-crossed the spring seepage where we'd started the really bad stuff from there forward.     It was good to see it again. I knew we had the worst behind us.

          We made our way back out of there and eventually saw the Kephart Prong trail to our right.
Back past the hog trap and out onto the trail.   Ah!  It was a short distance to the vehicle.
Mike said something about me never wanting to go hiking with him again.  I reassured him that was NOT the case that we don't give up on each other. He accepts me flaws and all and I do as much for him.  That's what friends do.  Especially those of us who engage in this odd hobby. Our form of self flagellation.  We were hot, sweaty, dirty, scratched up. I found bruises upon bruises later.

          It will be done over.  I am moving this one up to the short list for Winter.
 Soon as the weather is cool and we have good rain fall we'll go back.    Its getting too snakey and hot and overgrown for this stuff.   Kenny says he'll go back and we'll make this a priority. It is a point of pride now to find that falls.    I am also going to print a photo to take along to recognize the cascade for sure when we arrive at it.  And failing to find it.. I will at least take photos of the one we did find.

           We lived to tell the tale and that is what counts.   Not the first time I've needed a do over.
Most assuredly won't be the last.

I don't know about Mike, but I arrived home sore as a boil and exhausted.  I was ready for the nursing home. We did not leave to go camping until Saturday morning! 

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