Saturday, July 18, 2015

Four-Wheeling at Royal Blue with the Family

Canada lilies galore today!

Four-Wheeling at Royal Blue with the Family

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Chris Koogler
Matt Koogler
Allison Koogler
Mia Cole 

Saturday July 18, 2015

Total ride distance = 50 mile loop

Pictures are here beginning with frame 267


   My brother-in-law Chris, Kenny's baby brother, was down to Gatlinburg on vacation with his wife, Kelly. They also brought along their two children, my nephew Matt and niece Allison.
Matt has a special, steady girlfriend Mia Cole who also came along.   Matt has recovered completely from Ewing's sarcoma and Mia stood by him through it all. She is exceptional
for this and other reasons.  We were hoping to spend some time with them, but not wanting to 
take up all their vacation trip time.   We planned a get together for some trail riding. 
Matt got a Honda side by side from the Make A Wish foundation.  Chris is an excellent dad and  he purchased a Polaris RZR for Matt even before the Make A Wish foundation came through.  They brought the machines and came for a day of riding.  Virginia doesn't have
any really good places to go four wheeling aside from our farm or a few very small ATV areas.

      Tennessee has turned out to be Mecca for four-wheeling and off road adventures.
We set out to see some good stuff. We went to the Sundquist portion of Royal Blue Wildlife 
Management Area.  There are 130,000 acres plus to ride and explore.  

        We picked a loop that would be filled with beautiful scenery and provide a day of adventure for us all.  Kenny was there two weeks ago, but it had been a couple years for me
since I was there.   It has rained a lot recently so we were pleased. We figured there would be plenty of mud to make things interesting and the waterfalls should be flowing especially well for Summer.    We parked at the Oneida entrance and headed first toward Meadow Branch Twin Falls.   It is a pretty spot where two waterfalls come into the same gorge at right angles.

Uncle Kenny has dropped his reading glasses in the creek at the first falls.  I put on my water shoes and got in the stream and felt around to no avail. All we found was sticks and leaves and rocks. Bye bye glasses!
Meadow Branch Twin Falls with the two falls dropping in at right angles.  Really  gushing today!
Washing glasses down the drain...da dee dee dum...

     We had a lot we wanted to fit in today so we did not linger too long.  We headed on out the trail.
We enjoyed the forest how deep and green and shady it was.  The trails were an assortment of conditions.   All bad blown down trees cleared, but lots of mud pits to deal with and ruts. That's part of it.    We were working on our mud collection.  We came to a ford of the creek that was deep. It helps to wash off the mud.   We hit that and then later another one.  We all had a good laugh over splashing in the creek. Below is a short video of me hyena laughing as the others cross.

 We are all across on dry land
 That's a lot of water to cross. We crossed in one more place that had a foot of water in the floorboards!  glub glub glub...

      We kept on checking the map periodically to make all the needed connections to get clear round the WMA so we could get to the other side.    We stopped by a frog pond and ate a bite of lunch.
We continued on across the countryside through pretty forests. We finally reached our turn onto Hickory Creek Trail.  It is a pretty trail and I recalled alot of neat things seen along it in the past.  We were heading down a hill and I looked toward the drivers side on the left and saw red flowers in the forest.  I made Kenny stop at once. I knew it was Canada lilies and I was right!  I waded out through poison ivy to get photos of them.
Canada lilies are not real common in Tennessee. They are more common further north.

  We stopped by Hickory Falls aka Barley Falls.   It is a small, scenic waterfall which truly is on Hickory Creek instead of Barley Creek.   There were butterflies everywhere.  I had an Eastern comma butterfly land on my shirt, my head and my elbow and stay for awhile.

 Nephew Matt at the top of Hickory Falls.
Eastern Comma butterfly.

         We headed on toward Town Rock which was the next thing Kenny wanted to show us.
It was a pretty ride but the day was growing hot.  We passed lots of pretty Summer wildflowers.
I saw Joe Pye weed, woodland sunflowers, Saint Johnswort, rosebay rhododendron, and purple phlox.   The woods were spicy and green. I was soaking up sunshine, blue skies, sweet breezes intermingled with guffs of sulphur smelling swamp gas now and then from mud holes.  Getting flecked with mud and sunburned lips and arms. I could taste the grit and dust now and then.

     We got out toward Rock Creek and Kenny nor I was exactly sure which way to go next.
I remember that to our right Rock Creek lane dead ended. I also remembered that to our left was Rock Creek Falls a short distance further. I remembered that beyond that was a paved road and homes.   Kenny used his Phone a Friend for the day and called Buck Coward. Thank goodness for Buck! He saved the day.  He got us oriented and heading on the right track in short order.  While Kenny talked to him getting better directions .. the trail to Town Rock is NOT on the maps!..... we checked out Rock Creek Falls. I checked out yet more Canada lilies.

Top 2 frames.. Canada lilies
Bottom frame-20 ft tall Rock Creek Falls is a roadside attraction!

     We were hot and Chris was tired.  They weren't feeling it anymore and I was sympathetic with that.  We talked it over and decided to head back toward the truck the shortest, simplest, fastest way possible.    We trucked out McCormick Cemetery Rd and Flatwoods Road and before too long we were dusty and hot, but made it back in one piece.   I had a good time.  I hope they'll come back and do it again sometime.   We have a great family and I love them all. Like Betty Butterfield says "We're blessed, we're blessed, we're blessed, we're blessed! We don't deserve it but yes, we're blessed!"

View out over the Cumberland Mountains on our ride back to the truck.

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