Monday, December 7, 2015

Attempt at Reaching Fall Branch Falls 130 footer

Amanda gazing across Lake Tellico

Attempt at Reaching Fall Branch Falls 130 footer

Sunday Dec. 12, 2015

Total hike distance 2 miles 

Kenny & Dana Koogler
Paul, Shawn, and Amanda Gamble

        Twelve years ago we were in the habit of camping at Notchey Creek Campground and boating on Tellico Lake.   We would venture out and hike to some stuff that was nearby.  
I tried to stay on top of what was new or fresh or to be discovered in the area.    One of my searches back then yielded information on the existence of a waterfall on Lake Tellico.  
The only "Lake Tellico" I knew of was the one we went boating on and camping on.  I didn't find out much else about it so I put that aside.    Years later I learned of a Lake Tellico in Tellico Plains.  It hit me then what if the waterfall in question was on this little lake?  I later found out from Tom Dunigan that there IS a 130 foot waterfall that goes by the name "Fall Branch Falls" dropping from a side cove into that lake.   I had finally figured out where it was. 
Accessing it was going to be the problem now.  It lay on private property back Quarry Creek Road past the Tellico Round House.   

            Long story short I finally figured out from Nathan Yarbrough and Paul Gamble that Mr. Larry Hamilton owned the area where the Tellico Round House was.  Nate helped me and 
shared his phone number. I called and spoke to him and he gave me permission to walk back there.  Sunday we gathered up myself, Kenny, Paul, his wife Shawn, their daughter Amanda.
I invited Nate and Angie to go,but they were back at Green Cove and didn't get the message until too late.    We were very excited and hopeful about being successful this time.   
We met them at the Ingles in Madisonville at 9 am Sunday morning to make our attempt.

         I had kept up with Paul and his family through Facebook and through his Forest and Stream Photography Page.  I had wanted for some time more than anything to get to be real time friends with Paul and his family.  They like similar things to me and Kenny and like us are rural Americans!  Finally I got my wish.   It felt like we had known them forever we hit it off real well.   We all got along great and the best thing about the day was their company!

           We found the first gate pulled too, but unlocked. I got out and opened it letting both vehicles in then put it back in place.   The second gate was locked. I found that a little odd, but did not think much about it.  Something funny hit me that Mr. Hamilton said on the phone when I spoke to him.  He had remarked " I don't know of any waterfall back there, but you're welcome to go back there and look."  I had thanked him and brushed it off. It would not be the first time I'd met someone who was not fully aware of their surroundings if they were not hikers or explorers.   Kenny asked me about it and I told him that to the best of my knowledge we were good to go and had permission. We backed the vehicles up to the nearest spot we could find which was beside an old barn.  We parked here and hiked the rest of the way.    


We parked near the old Tellico Round house.  

      The hike back the road along Quarry creek was  pretty.  Amanda is quite the photographer and videographer. She stopped to take photos of beautiful frost flowers along the road in a field.   We did pass a small, attractive cascade on the creek we had not noticed before.
Cascade on Quarry Creek. There are water lines going over the top of it, but they are not currently working. One end of them is unhooked.    This is about 10 ft tall.  Sheer banks on all sides at this point. No good way to get a view of it without starting in downstream and walking up the creek. 

          We didn't have to go far until we came to the houses and Lake Tellico. 
One house stands empty and must be a vacation home. The other is the caretakers residence Mr. Jim Campbell.  Shawn knew him and said he was very nice.   

Boats along the shore of the lake on our side.  The waterfall is on the far side.

  We had studied the terrain on google earth including satellite view the previous night and believed it would be possible to go round the lake shore to reach the cleft the falls is hidden in.   The topo map made it appear the far end of the lake would be more passable.  A quick survey of the near end of the lake shore and we knew we weren't going to get there from this end.    We continued to hike the short distance round to the end of the lake.   We passed some neat looking primitive style cabins on the way.   We could hear the waterfall roaring across the lake.  It was just far enough back in there we could not even get a glimpse of it.    We went on down to the tailwaters of the lake where there was a marsh and a small, stagnant stream.  It was partially frozen and hoar frost was on parts of it.  
Paul went one way and Kenny went another. I did like I usually do and followed after the tracks of the big man.  Shawn was right ahead of me.  It was mere seconds until we both wished we'd followed Paul!   Shawn sunk in the mud over the top of her boot. I fell to my knees in it!  Oh! It was wet, cold and so smelly!  It was a long way from the heart though and I got up and just laughed.   I found a handkerchief and at least wiped off my hands a bit.   Paul was taking pictures of me. Black mail!  
We eventually realized that our efforts were in vain. The ground was soft and soupy.  The banks of the lake over here were no more forgiving than they were on the other end.  Rather than waste a bunch of time we decided we'd head back and see if Jim would allow us to borrow a boat and some oars and go across the lake to it?   Shawn said she felt comfortable asking him since she knew him pretty well and he was friendly.  

            We face the problem of getting back across this soupy mess.  Paul had much better success 
than we did so we listened to him this time.  Kenny was saying to head after him and go round the way he was because the ground was firmer.  I was not willing to do it this time.  The trip back across the marsh was much less diastrous. He took my hiking pole from me and took my cleaner of the two hands and I was able to leap across. Next he made sure Shawn and Amanda got over ok.  Once we were all back over and headed toward the care takers house we stopped by those cabins to check them out.  It was obvious no one had stayed in them for a long while.   Shawn found a note from the electric company tacked to the front door that indicated they owed money and the power would be shut off after such and such a date. It was fairly recent!    

Pretty little cabin with Kenny and Shawn out front.
 Old claw foot bath tub on the back porch.
Tiny cabin on the hill above it. Amanda said it had a full bed in there with sheets still on it.  Extra sleeping quarters apparently.  

        We went back to the caretakers place and I hung back. I was very smelly and dirty from that nasty  mud.   I figured I'd put him off for sure if I got close.   We got the surprise of our lives. Shawn found out from talking to him that the property was not owned all by the same individual.  
Larry Hamilton's property ends at the second gate.  We had no idea.  He was very gracious about it, but said now was not a good time to visit the falls and so we left.  
We began our walk back to the trucks.    It was a pleasant, easy stroll with lots of things to see and interesting conversation.  A pretty, cold, clear day with new friends who I sincerely hope will become old friends.   They are interested in nature, outdoors and history.   They all have a great sense of humor as well.   

            Back at the round house we walked up the hill with Paul to see the Blue Hole. I knew there was an old quarry operation here, but I  thought the lake was part of it.  He said no that it was behind the round house which was a silo from the old operation. Doc Rogers had built the house in front of the silo.  The blue hole was pretty, but an eerie place.  It is an old slate quarry.  
Paul had just gotten done telling me about being up here with Amanda and hearing rocks falling into the water of the blue hole. He realized that Amanda came close to pitching down into the water.
I was across on the far left trying to get a better shot of the mine shaft Kenny had stepped into. 
He came out and was heading back to where we started when I heard the sound of rocks hitting the water.  I looked over and the bank was giving way and crumbling as he tried to walk back.  I was doing a piece of praying.  I did not want him to get hurt or take a cold swim in that deep, steep sided blue hole.  Shawn and Paul were closer to him than I was.  I put the camera away quickly in case I had to either jump in the water after him or go down to the Jeep to get a rope to toss him.  He made it back to the side and boy was I relieved. He took ten years off my life.   

   The blue hole above the Tellico Round House. You can barely see the black spot which is the entrance of one of the mine shafts.   That is where Kenny went in.  He says they only go back about 15 feet into the bank. Certainly was not worth nearly getting hurt over.

A better view of Kenny coming out of the mine shaft. It started off being ok.  The bank narrows and steepens to where there is almost no place to stand.

    We left the blue hole and went back down to the vehicles.  We visited a little more and then we finally parted company.  Kenny had worked the previous six days and did not want a long day of exploring he said.  I could not blame him.   We went our separate ways ,and I think we're all looking forward to more adventures. I know I am!  Kenny had a great time too.   What great fortune to meet folks like the Gambles.  Shawn said she'd work on seeing if we couldn't go back at a later date and take a boat across.  So she is working on the Two if By Sea Route. 

        Before we headed up the road home Kenny was determined to scope out the One if by Land route!  We went down SR 68 and just as he said he took us right to the spot where a rather overgrown trail takes off and heads in what appears to be the right direction of the waterfall.  
He said the first tries struck out, but the next attempt would be a HOME RUN!

Edited to Add**  Trying to google search for info on a waterfall like that which is rather obscure but shares the same name as another one in the area is incredibly frustrating.

Now we know why that trail exists.  Anyone trying to reach it is going to either have a water craft coming at it from the lake or going to have to reach it from the ridge line and work their way down.
I also know for sure now why Mr. Hamilton did not know of the waterfall. It was not on his place!

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