Sunday, September 20, 2015

Plan B -- Cataloochee Elk & Western NC Waterfalls


Plan B -- Cataloochee Elk & Western NC Waterfalls 

Dana & Kenny Koogler 
Saturday Sept. 19, 2015

    I have a spouse whose work frequently cancels or changes my/our plans.
I have learned to cope with it by being very independent. I also cope with it by having 
many contingency plans.  I have given up a lot of my expectations which has helped avoid
a great deal of disappointment.    That being said........ I haven't given up ALL my expectations.
Once I get happy about something and I'm all in....... It is still possible to hurt me or badly
disappoint me.    Kenny told me Thursday "I gotta work Saturday".  which never ruffled 
my feathers.  I formulated Plan A.  Plan A was to hike Saturday morning to see the Mt. Noble Fire tower and if I had time left over I'd visit Waterrock Knob.   Sunday we would hike together to Green Camp Gap in the Smokies.  It would be a short day hike and have Kenny home in time to lounge around and take it easy on Sunday afternoon and evening.   None of 
original plans had anything to do with water seeing as how it is our driest time of year. 

      Kenny arrived home Friday evening elated. "I don't have to work after all! Yippee! Pack yer bags we'll leave in the morning. We'll go see the elk in Cataloochee. Bud from work is gonna be there with his family.  Then we'll go on over and hike to some waterfalls on your challenge list. We'll get a hotel room, spend the night and do stuff on Sunday. No, we don't need
a reservation. Let's just wing it!"  I got caught up in his happiness at having the weekend off
and let it sweep me away.    I would always rather be with my favorite guy than anyone or anything else.   
 Tom turkeys in Cataloochee Valley
 Cataloochee Valley
 View from the big overlook on the way into Cataloochee.   

Autumn creeping in on little cat feet. 
   Saturday morning went as planned.  We did get over to Cataloochee.  We did find Bud and his family and talked to them.  We did not see a single solitary elk.  The weather was gorgeous.  Clear sunny blue skies.  Perfect weather.    Bud and his family were sorely disappointed.  They had camped and had come over earlier this year since last year when they tried to see the elk the rut was all over with.   I told Kenny I had misgivings about it. The elk are not held captive in the Cataloochee Valley. They are free to roam and have been doing plenty of that.  I had seen an article in a local paper about teaching area residents to peacefully coexist with the elk which are wandering out into their neighborhoods.   None of this made me 
feel like sticking around and spending all day in the vague hopes that the elk would be there 
by around six p.m. that evening.   Kenny agreed with me. We ate our lunch at an overlook.
We headed back out of the dusty Cataloochee Valley. On to the next stage of our days' adventures. 

     We decided to stay in Franklin, NC. One of my waterfalls was kind of out there on its own.  
Pickleseimer Rockhouse Falls didn't have any others on the list I needed.  I have visited the other area falls to the point of being worn out with them.  I did some figuring and said let's just knock that one out. The hike was so short.  About a mile round trip.   I found that Brooks Creek Falls was close by.  We'd hit those two falls up.  I realized neither one was liable to be very pretty or have much water.   No worries. One is a shorty short hike. The other a roadside attraction.   We'd get done at a decent hour. Get a hotel.  We'd get cleaned up and have dinner.
We'd relax.   Next day we figured we'd either head toward the Albert Mountain Lookout tower
and the Wayah Bald tower OR we'd hit up some other waterfalls on my list toward Brevard.

          Pickleseimer Falls was easy to reach.  A super easy hike.  Very minimal water coming over.    The late Summer wildflowers were very pretty. The sun was bright and beautiful. The rock house itself was very neat.  The woods there remained deep green and hushed.  We never saw another soul hiking.  Tall spires of white pine trees lined the forest trail. It smelled spicy and wonderful. I had a fleeting episode of synesthesia and I could smell gold!  Been a minute since that happened last.    

 Weedy path through the wildlife clearing on the way to Picklesimer Falls.
 Ladies tresses orchid. I saw four of these.
 View out from beneath the rockhouse.

Pitiful trickle coming over Pickleseimer Rockhouse Falls 

 We were not real impressed by the falls but I was pleased to have it done with. Honestly, 
I would probably never have come to visit this falls if it had not been on my list. I've talked to too many persons who have only to wonder WHY did they bother.  No worries. One and done. Down the trail we went.    On the way out Kenny went to hollering that something was biting him!  I didn't even have time to process that thought when I saw a yellow jacket land on me.
I started yelling "It's bees! Yellowjackets! Run!" I dropped my hiking pole on the path and took off back toward the falls.  I felt something sting my right hip. I swatted at it furiously.
By doing that I got stung another three times on one hand.  I ran toward the cool water of the falls figuring to plunge my hand under the spray and at least relieve some of the pain.
I got my hand under the waterfall and looked down to see the boulder in front of the waterfall
was covered in too many yellow jackets to count.   I ran back toward the trail. I braced myself for round two. I made a mad grab for my hiking pole and down the trail we flew.  We trotted or ran a good bit of the way back. Swatting at everything that moved. We did see more yellow jackets on the way out, but no more stings thankfully.   

I am sure I looked like the guy in the video shown below. Bob Saget!!

         Next we went on to see Brooks Falls.   We had one little snafu on that one.  We tried to find it from the wrong end of FR 367 making the directions backwards. It only took a few minutes to realize our mistake and correct it.   Not a big deal. Brooks Falls was also pitiful, but we found it and visited it and it was only a roadside visit instead of a long hike to see this rather sad waterfall.

 Brooks Falls with little to no water.
Forest at this elevation is mainly green and it is very pretty.

       We made our way back to Franklin and tried to get a hotel.  They had a baseball tournament in town and NO VACANCY signs were everywhere.   We went to one hotel that had several one star reviews one of which made me laugh. It read something like "Owner is excessively liar".
My hand was thumping worse all the while.    Finally I was just over it.  Today sucked.
Should have stuck with Plan A.  Don't go see waterfalls when it is this dry.
We agreed that the spontaneous adventure was turning out to be a failure at every turn.
Kenny said "Something is trying to tell us we are not meant to spend the night here or away from home this weekend."   I could not argue with that logic.   We went and grabbed some dinner at Fatz which was so so.    We stopped off at Wal-Greens pharmacy for me to get some benadryl for my hand which was puffing up fat and the redness and itching were creeping up my arm.
I took a dose of benadryl and propped my hand up to try to get it comfortable.

         This weekend was a bust, but maybe next weekend will be fun.


  1. Sometimes you find gold and other times you feel like Charlie Brown - "I got a rock!

  2. Very true! Last weekend sucked. This weekend more than made up for it!


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