Thursday, November 12, 2015

Exploring Doc Rogers Country-- A Forgotten Corner of Tennessee/North Carolina

 Bottle gentian growing along Joe Brown Highway today

Exploring Doc Rogers Country

A Forgotten Corner of Tennessee/North Carolina

Dana Koogler
Thursday Nov. 5, 2015

Pictures are here starting with frame 114

        Yesterday I woke up with the original idea that I was going to hike to the Doc Rogers hospital ruins.  I got up and got going.  I thought I had prepared myself fully for the experience and thought it out pretty well.  I was oh so wrong.    I started off having difficulty locating the trailhead.
I was not going to be so easily outdone and I kept after it. I never got perturbed about it.  Turned out that I missed an important turn, but a forestry worker helped me figure out what I'd done wrong.
The drive was incredibly pretty so I enjoyed being in the mountains.   I knew it was hunting season and had even worn some blaze orange.  What I was not counting on was what came next.

     I pulled up to the intersection of Basin Gap Road and the lookout tower road.  I encountered a
large crowd of bear hunters, dogs, trucks, and a sea of blaze orange.    The hunters were very decent and pulled their trucks out of the way making a path for me to drive through.    I felt my heart sink.
I got out and spoke to the first man I saw.  "Ugh. I'm having second thoughts about this" was what came out.  He responded by saying "You're driving a jeep. You'll be fine!" He thought wrongly that I was worried about traveling that narrow mountain road ahead of me.   I answered him back "Oh its not the driving that concerns me." I briefly explained to him that looking around me at the crowd of hunters decked out in proper blaze orange I was feeling under dressed for my adventure.
I was to hike the Benton MacKaye trail from Waucheesi Mountain to Tate Gap. I was not worried about hunters close to the trail.   I knew I'd have to leave the trail and go down into the forest
off trail to find the hospital ruins.  I knew there would be hunters in the woods off the trail.
He said to me that I was correct and that while he could not tell me what to do he did agree I was not dressed in enough blaze orange for being down in there off the trail.   About that time it began to rain.
I decided I'd best be reasonable about it.   I was down hearted about it, but getting shot would be a far worse bummer.   I never felt threatened by the men I encountered. I never believed anyone would shoot me or hurt me intentionally. I just felt like it was smarter to avoid putting myself in the position to get shot accidentally.   I felt foolish, but on the drive back out of there I remembered hiking in Citico with   Kenny.        One  Autumn we hiked the Mill Creek Trail to Big Stack Gap surrounded by the sound of gunfire.     We were dressed head and chest in blaze orange, but that had me shaking and not enjoying the hike.   I knew that if I was barely able to cope with it accompanied I was not
going to have fun alone and in the woods with guns.

              It didn't take me any time to figure out what else I'd like to do in the area.
I had made a couple recent trips to what I call Doc Rogers country.  A corner of Tennessee
and North Carolina that is tucked away and much less visited than others.  I'd left there having run out of daylight and energy, but not out of curiosity.  I had found a beautiful stone chimney while I meandered around the backroads looking for the trail head.  It surprised me and was the last tiny
bit of motivation I needed to change gears and cheer up.

     I found a twenty foot tall chimney and the foundations of an old home place.
Prettiest stone chimney I've ever seen and still very solid!

Misty view and colors from the back roads of the Cherokee National Forest.

           I headed back down through Tellico Plains instead of taking the short way that I could have taken to arrive in Coker Creek.  I was not sure what I wanted to do for lunch and I wanted choices.
I ended up getting so excited about all the scenery and what I really wanted to do I forgot almost entirely about lunch.   I headed down Joe Brown Highway and was enjoying the incredible views and Autumn colors.   Rusty red pine needles dusted the gravel road in places.   Other spots opened up to great views of blue mountains, gray mountains, sunshine, clouds, mist, sunbeams, and fiery reds and glowing gold and copper leaves.   Interspersed among the Autumn leaf tones were pines of deep green.  What  a pretty and quiet place.  I was fortunate to find some bottle gentian still in bloom along the road.   It was bright, bold blue and easy to spot on the roadside.


Brilliant flashes of Autumn color against a threatening sky.  The day was like this off and on all day.  Cloudy, misty, drizzling rain then bold bright sunshine!

        I continued round the mountain to Poindexter Chapel first.   It was the first thing I came to besides the flowers that I had really hankered to check out.  It was quiet and still and pretty.  Very old.  The graves dated from back in the mid 1800s to the most recent burial being 2014.   I am not known for being fond of cemeteries, but something about the remoteness drew me here.  I think because I didn't know anything about it and neither did I know anyone else who did. I felt I had to find out.  I saw one Brooks couple laid to rest here with their headstones being among the more modern.    Brooks is one of my family names.    I was absorbing exactly what I had craved today. 
Quiet. Solitude. Beauty.  Recharging my batteries.  Sometimes I just cannot cope with anymore humanity.   I need to get away from everyone.  I need time to think and just be to myself.   
Gorgeous Autumn colors and peace at Poindexter Chapel.  

 Delapidated outhouse at Poindexter Chapel. Across the way there was one of more recent construction, but it wasn't in much better shape.
 Inside the Poindexter Chapel.  I got a tone out of the piano, but sitting there absorbing moisture has ruined it.
This headstone caught my eye it reads : 

Vinntr, Daughter of J.M. and S. J. Murphy
Born Nov. 3, 1890 
Died Nov. 12, 1890
Asleep in Jesus

I loved the name. Vinntr Murphy died little more than a week past her tenth birthday. 
Post civil war life. 

   I continued round the road a bit further to the Morrow Chapel and cemetery. It goes down and left off the Joe Brown Highway steeply.   It is a quiet place of beauty as well.  It did not have quite the pretty Autumn glow as the Poindexter cemetery, but it was deep and green and mossy instead.
More hemlocks, pines and various mosses, lichens and ferns were around the place.  The main autumn colors came from hickory and copper beech. 
 View back out from the Morrow Chapel on the approach road.
Morrow Chapel building with the cemetery behind it. 

 Inside of Morrow Chapel. Layers of dust. Piano locked up from moisture and a few old hymnals! No music notes in the hymnals .. just words.
Morrow graves decorated in the cemetery.  More modern graves here than in the other cemetery.
Lots of Morrows, Murphys and Coles buried in both.

   I finally realized it was getting late and I had not eaten lunch. I forced myself to eat a peanut butter and banana sammige.   It was good, but I just felt like I wanted to keep going. I had lots I wanted to check out. I did not want to be arriving home at 9 pm again like the last time.  Long drive home from back in here.  I pushed on toward the next thing.  Down the road were some abandoned old homes that intrigued me. I wanted to get photographs of them. 
 View back along Joe Brown Highway from the first abandoned home.
 Abandoned homeplace #1. Right against the side of the mountain.  This is the kind of place I come from.  I think that is what attracts me to this.  Nostalgia and a homesickness for my great grandparents and my kinfolks places in Vesuvius and the mountains there in Virginia.  It is not centuries ago to me.  It is a lot closer to me in time than that.  A few decades at most.  Places like this are where salt of the earth people come from.
Dry stone wall at home site #1

 Mossy stone wall at home site #2 which is just a few hundred feet from the first site.
 More modern home construction, but it stands empty just the same.
 Profile view of the porch on homesite #2.  Sitting on this stomp would have been a lovely place to be back in the day.  Quiet with an astonishingly beautiful view. Folks don't want to live in these places much nowdays.

If you look close you can see the barn in the lower left of the photo.  This is across the "highway" from  Home site #2.  I recall many mornings and evenings in barns like this feeding chickens, pigs, cows. I used to hope each cold weather that I would not get any rats in my chicken feed drum.

      I saw only one vehicle along here while I was around.   I did not tarry too long because I still wanted to check out Shuler Creek Road and see if I could find the waterfall Kenny said he saw down close to it.    I moseyed on in that direction.    I checked out Shuler Creek Road and Burrell Mountain Roads. I had to execute some "17 point turns in a couple spots"  At one place I packed the Reese  hitch full of dirt trying to get turned around.   It was funny. Worth pointing out that a later conversation after this trip with Nathan Yarbrough reminded me that I need to be very careful what my next vehicle is.  He reminded me how likely I am to be dissatisfied with anything that won't get me where I want to go.   I'm on the rough side.  
 Shuler Creek was pretty, but I did not find any waterfalls or significant cascades along it.  It is also hard to enjoy other than driving past it. No place much to pull over.
 30 ft high rock face near Slate Creek Falls.  Down in a  hole describes this pretty waterfall.

Slate Creek Falls is about 15 ft high and quite pretty. Not worth a special trip just to see it, but
if you're in the area visiting other things it makes a nice addition. Not on any database. 
  I drove the roads I wanted to explore and did not find anything real special. It was 2:30 pm. I had a long drive home and was growing tired and still had not located the waterfall I was looking for.
I eased back up the Joe Brown Highway very slowly.  I kept looking and listening. I admit I was starting to think Kenny had imagined a waterfall where there was none.  I came to a place where the terrain fell too far below the road for me to get a good look. I stopped the vehicle in the middle of the road and just got out to check. Soon as I got out I could hear it!  A few steps toward the edge and I could see it down there! He was right. There was a nice waterfall down there. No way down from here.  No place to park either. I went up the road and turned around. I was able to park about 100 yards down from the falls in a good pull off.    I oriented my jeep so I would be able to get out easily and proceed home once I was done.    I just hit the woods below the pull off and headed for the falls.

IF you go see it......... don't do that.  Just walk up the road and stop short of the rock cliff.   Just before that is a good manway down to it.   I was not the first person to be here for sure.   I saw there there were old car tires, the seat from a vehicle now rotten and an old stand ash tray.   It was one of the plastic cheapo jobs that was made to look like an old potbellied stove.   
I enjoyed the waterfall and the surroundings.  The stone cliff face was decked with moss and resurrection fern.   A very pretty setting and worth the short easy walk down here.
I was thrilled to have found everything I looked for today.  My plan B turned out to be most satisfying.   It feels good to find what you look for and to quench the curiosity about places.

     I eased on back home enjoying the pretty drive and made it home at a decent time.
Below is a short video of the pretty waterfall on Slate Creek set to music. It is the song "I Have Been across the Mountain"  by Continental Divide.   

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