Friday, December 18, 2015

Hiking with Anne-Cherokee National Forest

Its the 4th skillet in my Skillet Collection
Found at Ballplay, TN.

Hiking With Anne in the Cherokee National Forest 

Thursday Dec. 12, 2015

Dana Koogler

Mary Anne Brewer

Hike distance for the day 6.75 miles 

     I had hiked with Anne before, but it was at a Smoky Mountain Hiking Club function.
It worked out that we went hiking together last Thursday.   Discussing it I tossed out suggestions for her and sent her some photos of places we might venture. I told her to decide which ones she liked.
I also told her that we should be able to fit them all into a day.    We met at the Tellico Plains Visitor Center on Thursday morning a little before 8:30 am.   We made a quick stop at a local convenience store for a bathroom break and last minute touch ups on provisions.    We took my jeep from 
Tellico Plains for the remainder of the day.  At least two of the spots we were heading to would be rougher roads and one in particular I was concerned about.    

           It was a beautiful day. It warmed up to nearly 70 degrees, sunny with a light breeze.
Our first stop was the pull off for Fall Branch Falls.  She had not seen this one yet, but had heard someone discussing a waterfall reachable from the Rattlesnake Rock area.   We hiked down to see it
and it was flowing fantastic.  We forded the stream by rock hopping.   It is a wilderness trail, but pretty good condition.   I have been numerous times and I really see the difference in the tree canopy cover with the dying of the hemlocks and the damaging wind storms the past several years.   The falls is gorgeous and she really liked it.   
 Anne taking photos of the falls.
Fall Branch Falls, TN Southern Cherokee National Forest. 

    We headed back up and boys howdy.. it was up up and more up. But then it leveled off and we were back at the jeep!   On to the next stop!   We headed in the direction of Ballplay Falls.

                Ballplay is along the old Buck Highway way out in the country. It is in an area one doesn't typically expect to find waterfalls, but there are some in there hiding.    The extra good thing is the drive is pretty and the setting is pretty too.    We parked and sat down on the porch of the old house to eat a quick lunch before hiking.   The stream flowed past and it was quiet.     The day continued to be nice and mild.   Curious cows watched us from the nearby fields hoping we had brought hay for them.    Once we had finished eating we grabbed our hiking gear and hit the trail.   We picked up a trail behind the house.  You can see it from where we parked, but the first hundred yards of that old road are choked with rhododendron.    It is best to walk on back of the house and pick it up at another spot avoiding all that mess.     

          The hike to the falls starts out as a gradual uphill grade.  Part of the trail is narrow and crumbly.
We just took our time and eased past the bad spot.     Long way down if you miss a step here.
There is another spot where you go under and around massive tree stumps.  Another bad spot in the trail has been repaired by logs building it up and keeping it from sliding off the hillside. 
Far below us the creek murmured.   We had glimpses of blue mountains and skies and deep green pines across the gorge from us.   It was not too long until the trail made a sweeping right turn and leveled off some.     The pine woods we hiked through smelled so good.  It was quiet other than our conversation.   What a good day this was turning out to be.  

        We began our gradual descent toward the stream.   Below we could hear the creek talking louder now.   The falls were close!    I had previously warned Anne that this trail was not well maintained and some of it might be rough. I anticipated that the only place which might be tricky was the last couple hundred yards to the stream level at the base of the falls.   Anne had not been concerned about anything we'd run into up until this point.  We were in for a nasty surprise.  We were faced with a snarl of downed hemlock trees of large girth.   They were peeled of their bark and very slippery.
Anne goes off trail with Tammi Layhue, but she looked like she was dreading this mess.  I entered the  tangle and scouted it to see what was going on?  I could see it was not as bad as it looked. 
Once through it the trail was on the far side once more.   We were within feet of being at the falls.
I described to her what we were going to have to do to reach the base.  I also told her that if she was not comfortable with going into this stuff we'd turn around and do something else?  Tough as iron and twice as determined she refused to give in!  "We're this close to the falls! They are right there!
I'm no quitter!" True to her word she is no quitter.  She is instead a determined, great humored, strong hiker.   We wriggled over those downed trees, through briars and down the bank.   We made it!
We stood at the base of Ballplay Falls high fiving one another! 

 Anne at Ballplay Falls.
 You can count every pebble in the bottom of the stream today. It is so clear!

Ballplay Falls is forty feet high and river wide.  You cannot really get a good vantage of the upper drop of the falls. The terrain is so dramatic there is no place to stand to photograph the upper falls on the far side of the river.  On this side the rhodo has choked the bank thickly leaving to place to stand.
Our spot at the base of the falls is IT!

             We enjoyed the falls here.  The stream below where we stood rushes over stones standing at odd angles.  It pretty quickly makes a bend and disappears around it.  The stream makes several turns before merging with another stream on the next ridge.    I thought about Paul Gamble today and hope to return here with him or him and Kenny so we can find the other falls he told me about. I found the creek it was on back in Spring, but talk about being clogged with rhodo!  He says he knows a better way to access it by taking the right side of the trail we passed earlier.  Says that will take you up to a point where you can just drop off to it!  

               Eventually we headed back up the bank.  I went stupid for a minute or two.
I tried crawling up the first open hole I came to. I encountered more briars and snarled vegetation that I had on the way down?  I backed up and tried again at a slightly different spot.    I still didn't get anywhere.   It hit me "I'm making this way harder than it has to be."  I told Anne to let me take another gander at the terrain and we'd figure this out.   I turned around and upon another look realized my mistake.  Before us was the hole we'd come down.   I remembered Anne remarking on the way down that getting back up it was going to be more problematic. I agreed with here in that instant and I agreed with her now.   Yet we struggled our way back up it.   We made it.  The wet, mushy bank here is also made up of small rocks and loose chunks of dried red clay.   It isn't the surest footing, but we found that it was short lived.   I thought of Jenny and narrowed the focus to the most immediate task. Get that little thing done....... then move on to the next step in the rhodo dance.   Before you know it.... You're out of there! It felt great to get back in the clear.  We shed layers of clothing and got a drink before hiking back out.   Once back at the old house we took time to photograph the house, barn, and outbuildings.   It is a place with lots of history.   We also took a few minutes to stop off at the Williamsburg Cemetery on the hill on our way out.   

 Old home place at Ballplay
 Anne walking along the muddy lane
Barn on the left and Ballplay Creek. You can just see the edge of the house and the wrap around porch.  The bridge is constructed of old fuel tanks.

          Ancient hog pen and old tires on the far side of Ballplay Creek.  I had never walked round here to check this out until today.

A look at the Williamsburg Cemetery.  It is pretty modern and very well kept.

I stopped on the way back out the old dirt road.  I wanted to get a photo of this scene.  We had passed it on the way in.  It was still the same on the way out.   Anne asked me "How does stuff like that happen?" and it hit me that based on where I am from......... It didn't have to be explained to me.

Shades of Vesuvius and driving in South River after SOMEBODY had too much to drink and decided to not only ford the river, but drive up the river with the mower on the back of the truck.
Not naming any names.   It wont me.   Mowing the yard works up a powerful thirst though. 

        We headed back toward Tellico Plains.   We by passed the visitor center and Anne's car
so we could go to Conasauga Falls which is not far off.   A fellow had described the condition of the road to Anne as being way worse than what it truly is.   I told her to take note of it today on the drive in to see for herself.    It really wasn't that rough.  Long as she is just going to the falls and back ought to be fine.  One turn down there takes you to a drive through the creek place and that could be rough in high water.    We passed one vehicle on our way in.  A fellow in a pickup truck who appeared to just be driving round enjoying the pretty weather.

              We hiked down the trail 1 mile to Conasauga Falls. It is a pretty hike again through a pine woods.  The trail is in good condition, but it does have a few rocky sections.    It gives you more glimpses of blue mountains seen through green pine trees.   We also saw some small cascades above the main falls which are scenic.    Conasauga Falls was running great today!   
Conasauga Falls rolling along!  

          We enjoyed the waterfall and when we were ready we hiked back out.  It is downhill on the way in and uphill on the way out.  The switchbacks make it a lot easier to take!
Anne is a great hiking companion and an interesting person to converse with.   I had an awesome day with her and I very much look forward to our next adventure.    She hikes at a similar pace to me.

      We parted company and said our good-byes.   Thanks Anne for spending time with me.
It meant a lot to me.   

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