Saturday, December 19, 2015

Rock Castle Gorge and Other Places........ and Birthdays!

Hepatica blooming in December near Rainbow Falls and Pit

Visit to Friends in Jamestown for Fun & Birthdays

Friday Dec. 11 -Monday Dec. 14, 2015

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sharon McGee, John Ungerer
Klaas & Betty DeJong

Pictures are here: 

    We had scheduled a trip for a pre-Christmas get away.  Kenny wanted to use up some remaining vacation days before he lost them.   We made reservations to rent the studio cabin at Maple Hill RV Park & Cabins.    We would not have to haul the camper which would be less work for Kenny. 
We would do a combination of four-wheeling, visiting, and hiking.   I had a list of potential places
we wanted to see. Many of them included finally getting John & Sharon back to see places we had told them about, but as yet they had not visited.   

     I had an appointment Friday morning at 10:15 am for my doctor visit for a yearly physical.
I had already rescheduled it once because we had made plans to go out of town to play.    I was not about to do it a second time.    I took Michael to school and afterwards I came home and finished packing.    I made it to my doctor visit and got a good report on my health.   My blood work, vital signs and everything was great.  I am healthy.   I was home at about 11:45 or so.   We finished packing the truck and off we went.   We stopped for lunch on the way over.  It was about 2:30 pm when we arrived.  We checked in with Betty and Klaas at their house and visited.  John & Sharon showed up next and we all talked and laughed.     We got checked into the cabin and Betty reacquainted me with how that all went. We had only rented the cabin once before and I could not recall everything about it.    It was simple and easy.

          I wanted to try to squeeze in one activity this afternoon before the sun went down.  
We headed out to try to visit Magendanz Falls before sundown since it was not far off.   It was over in Allardt.    Sharon had said she wondered if we'd have enough daylight to do it?  I believed we would,but I don't accurately gauge the sunset in the central time zone in Winter.   It gets dark fast.
We pulled into the first spot we thought we might hike to the falls. It was a different spot than we had ever tried before.   Parking along here was not going to be a problem, but it was not great. 
Before us lay a huge thicket of briars, brambles, and scrubby undergrowth.    Kenny refused to go through it.  We went back to the power line we had approached before. We'd hike in from there and make a turn where the track from the first spot today came down to meet it.   We found the gate locked and chained.  Additionally it had fresh signage POSTED. NO TRESPASSING right on it.
It is a power line easement so I doubt they can legally do any of that, but it was not a good indication.
It was getting dark very fast.   Kenny said we'd have to do something else.  I suggested we go down the road and visit Mountain View Arch and Falls.   That is what we ended up doing.   I was feeling rather negative and expected to find access barred.  Thankfully it was not.

            We did find the very back part of the old abandoned golf course gated, but no matter.
It was a very short walk round there to where the arch was.  We pulled over and walked the old golf cart paths toward the arch.    It gave me a chance to see something that I had not noticed before.  I believed the water source for Mountain View Falls was a pond above it.   I believed it would never have much water on it because of the pond controlling the flow.   It turns out the falls comes from a stream and a spring.  We could hear it as we approached!   We found the arch with no trouble.
Today we would prove it was possible to reach it by way of the North corner of the arch instead of going further out and down the slope.   We had rope with us, but did not need it.   Plenty of rhodo and trees to hang on to.   Once we got down a certain distance we were in no danger of falling. We just walked under the arch and over to see the falls at the other end of it.     It was too dark down here to get decent photos.  

Rock Castle Falls 001
Looking back up through Mountain View Arch 100 x 30.   

Rock Castle Falls 007

 Mountain View Falls is 25 ft tall.    

         We did not linger too long because of the growing darkness.   We crawled back up the slot at the edge of the arch.  One tricky spot where a rope would have been nice, but we made it.  I got very dirty.   Back at the campground we visited with John & Sharon.   The cabin looked nice where it was decorated for Christmas!   We decided to get cleaned up and go to Mana Fresca  grand opening night to eat.   It was fantastic! Authentic Mexican food that is a great value and a fun dining experience.
The Garcia family runs it and they are extremely nice folks who have not lived in Fentress County long.  I'm sure it is a shock to move from Los Angeles to Jamestown.   I can't even imagine.
We lingered over dinner.  Finally we were weary and headed back to Maple Hill to turn in. 
We decided what we'd do in the morning and went to bed.  


    We got up Saturday morning and Kenny fixed breakfast.    We packed lunches and met up with John & Sharon over at their property.  They have begun the house building.   They ran into problems with the block layers and suppliers and contractors creating stress. I felt bad in that I did not want them to feel obligated to go if they did not want to.  They ended up going anyway as it appeared after several attempts and phone calls there was nothing for it.    We visited Rainbow Falls & Pit Cave and then on up to Blue Hole Branch Falls beyond that.   It is a relatively short, easy hike and the rain
had them running.  Sometimes they dry up to where they are not flowing.   Today was fine.  It was warm and pretty outside.  Just right for hiking.  I figured a short hike and we'd head back so if there was any business open for a solution for their block supply problems......... there might be a way to work it out today.    

 Sharon and Kenny looking down into Rainbow Falls Pit. It is 110 ft tall.
 Kenny checking out Blue Hole Branch Falls.  I was pleased this was running.
Big smile on John's face despite a lumpy start to the day.  Making the best of things.
We're standing in the right side approach channel to Blue Hole Branch Falls. It is very cool.

 We hiked through briars and brambles back to see all this.  It was a rewarding hike. Worth the effort to see these things.    It felt very good to finally bring my friends here to enjoy these spots.
We went on back toward Jamestown and more efforts were made by phone to try to remedy the building supply situation to no avail.   Frustrating.   At last Kenny and I went on a short ride since we couldn't fix the situation and the day was wearing on.    We were right there at the base of Skinner Mountain.  The only thing either of us really cared about going to see was taking the "back way" in to Frank's Flume.    That would be just right to fit into the amount of time we had left for the day.
We passed Ricky Roysden along with several other dirt bikers on their way out as we were headed in!  We spoke to him briefly and they had to scoot.  He said a lot of the kids with him had a birthday party they were supposed to attend later.  

           Kenny did an awesome job of finding the other way down to Frank's Flume.
It was rough and parts of it really did not look like a trail.   I am trying to decide about leaving it in the Skinner Mountain Guide or taking it out.  I am leaning more in the direction of taking it out.
Even with Kenny's knowledge we missed a turn on it and the "trail" is practically non existent in places.  We were just running over saplings and to me that is just making a way... not riding a trail.
I kept insisting something was wrong when we stopped losing elevation and the conditions kept growing worse.  Kenny is like a beagle after a rabbit sometimes. He won't quit but keeps going despite the lack of results.  We did not go very far at all until he stopped and admitted I was right.
I asked him to just back up which he did.  To our right and heading down the hill we had gone past the turn.  I knew we had to go DOWN the slope to reach Frank's Flume.    We had a fun roller coaster type ride the rest of the way to the flume.    It was flowing , but not a lot different than last time.
 Frank's Flume

Old shed below Frank's Flume.

   I refused to go back the way we had come down.   I wanted to just go round and back up Lost Cane.
That is what we did.  On the way past Frank's Flume and back toward Lost Cane I noticed Kenny kept watching the woods to the right.  I asked him what he was looking for?  He said he was watching for a road to intersect on that side. He said he believed there should be one, but it was probably very over grown. I knew that Bill's Creek was near by and just on the other side of the ridge. Between the flume and just before the wooden shack we did see an old logging road coming in from the right!  It was extremely overgrown not being traveled in a long time.   He said he will come back and cut it out so we can use it.  We shall see.  :-) Today Lost Cane was open with no downed trees covering the trail.  Two of several waterfalls were flowing. #5 and #7 were running. They both come out of the ground and go right back in the ground.

             We ended our day dirty, muddy, briar scratched , tired and happy.  We wanted something quick for supper and were so dirty.  We enjoyed the balmy evening by grabbing a quick bite at Sonic.
Santa was there along with a tiny puppy, an elf, and a dancing Tater Tot.  Saturday frolic in Jamestown! Yippee!


Rock Castle Gorge

   Sunday morning we woke and I had a hankering for a biscuit and gravy breakfast from Hardees.My way of celebrating my wonderful cholesterol level at my doctor visit. The great news? I'm made like my Dad. My cholesterol ratios are such that it isn't a problem for me now and is not likely to be ever.   I'll live to be 100.   We had time constraints because unknown to John and Klaas we were planning a joint birthday party dinner for them.  It was Sharon and Betty's doings.  We were just along for the ride on that deal.   We had to be back, cleaned and dressed and ready for a birthday dinner at 6 pm Central time.     We decided to hit up Rock Castle Gorge to take Sharon and John down to see the falls in there. It was nearby and a relatively short adventure. Another motivation for me was that I had lost all my images of that except for one video.

          We met at Hardees and had a leisurely breakfast.  They followed us through town and we pulled over at a power line easement and parked and walked from there.   Something about it was different than before. I knew there had been some change, but after some hemming and hawing we figured out we WERE at the correct spot.   We later realized the dirt track was changed because of a nearby church purchasing land and the road was moved over a bit.  It was a short, easy hike to the rear of a housing development. It lies at the rim of Rock Castle Gorge.  We found a split in the bluff
and descended.   It was easier than I remembered and no ropes required.  

        We worked our way gradually down hill and among the boulders.  In no time we were within sight of Rock Castle Falls.   It was flowing great today!  The setting in that beautiful deep green hemlock gorge was just perfect!

Rock Castle Falls.. the one that is on the Tennessee landforms database.

Below is a video of this falls and additional ones we found in the gorge below it.  We had been here several times, but today was the hardest and most fun, most rewarding!   Having friends along to visit it for their first time gave us inspiration and courage to keep going!  We found so much more below the first one.  The weird thing is that the waterfalls while impressive appear dwarfed by the house sized boulders surrounding them!

  The best part of today for me?  Climbing around the boulders and checking out various views of waterfalls I climbed up on a huge fallen hemlock tree trunk.  I walked the entire tree out to its end and THIS vantage point that made me gasp.
The last four feet of the log stuck out over a house sized boulder beside it with a huge drop below it.
I was not able to shoot video steadily from a stance here, but did manage to stay steady enough to get photos!  Great progress for this brain damaged old lady!  My balance and coordination are improving!  There is hope for me yet!  I laughed and said Jay Walker would swear my carrying on at Medley Arch and Sinking Falls was fake and it was just for attention! ha!

       We crawled around here checking out an additional five waterfalls below the first one.  Two of them were twins that emerged on either side of a huge boulder!  The photo below illustrates part of that, but again...... it makes the falls look puny compared to the rocks!


The terrain down in Rock Castle Gorge.  400 feet deep.  We were all dreading the climb back out of that hole.  I missed my perfect chance for one of Marlene's "Dead" poses after completing only a fraction of this climb.     There was not enough level ground to lay down for a photo! What's funny when you're in the midst of something like that? The thought crosses your mind Well if I die doing this at least I don't have to hike anymore!  I can rest!

  Moan, groan, huff and puff as we did ...we still managed to make it out and once up at the bluff line it was easy from there.   We had the worst behind us.  Sharon kept telling me how many times I'd already said that.  I lie to myself to try to feel better.  We sat on the tail gates of the trucks and ate lunch.   It was a beautiful, warm day.    They went back to Maple Hill worn out but happy.
We wanted to squeeze in one more something?  Kenny said we'd try to ride out Darrow Ridge Road and see Christian Tunnel.   

Christian Tunnel

            All the years we'd visited the area we had not once ridden out Darrow Ridge Road.  It is a very pretty area.  It is partly housing and residential and part outdoors opportunity!   Many of them!  Lots of land forms and trail heads out here to be discovered.  We had to follow the rough road all the way out to its end at Christian Cemetery. ( It keeps going, but only as a trail or bike path beyond that point).  We parked at the cemetery and I checked out a few of the old graves.  Many were marked by very old clay bricks.   Southern Clay Brick Manufacturing Company. I don't know if "Christian" cemetery denotes a religious affliliation or someone's surname?  One guy had a menorah on his headstone which appears more Hebrew!   There is no trail to Christian Tunnel. We had to off trail it to find it.   At least it was short.  0.22 miles from where we parked to it.   We found it first try.
I took land marks on the way there, but it was no use.  On the way back we got screwed up and everything looked the same.  Thankfully the GPS tracked us back safely to the truck.

           Christian Tunnel is worth a look. It is a rock house or arch that is 120 ft through.   Has a front and back door. It has the most liesegang weathering I've ever seen hands down!  Prettiest too.  It was all over everything. 

Front door of Christian Tunnel.  Kenny in the picture for scale.

 Back door of Christian Tunnel
 Liesegang Rings on the walls of the rock house outside

Another huge rock house next to Christian Tunnel with more split of chunks of liesegang patterns. 

The view of sunset looking out across Darrow Ridge Road on our drive back out.

           I grew up surrounded by sage fields in Barren Ridge.  It was pretty to me then as a child. I still love seeing those settings as an adult.   Darrow Ridge is such a place.   We saw a few folks out there besides us,but it is quiet and pretty.  No one else was at Christian Tunnel and it looks like it doesn't get visited much at all. 

           Back at the cabin we got showered and dressed and eventually went next door to Betty & Klaas' home for the birthday party.  It was John's birthday on Tuesday and Klaas' birthday Dec. 23rd.
Sharon baked cakes and breadsticks. Betty served wine and veggies and dip.  Sharon had made lasagna. We had a nice meal and celebration with friends and lots of good conversation.   It was fun.  None of us are real big party animals so we were all tired and ready to turn in by 8:30 or so.  
I know John and Sharon had to be worn out from that toiling up the hill in Rock Castle. I was worn slap out.


             We woke Monday to rain.  The weather forecasters had called it correctly. However they expected it to be out of the area by 10 am in Jamestown.  We packed up our stuff and tried to decide what we wanted to do?   We decided the only thing that really sounded appealing was to try to make it into the bottom of Big Piney Gorge to hunt for waterfalls and make trail connections.  We were fully prepared for lots of lumberjacking like last time.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the gate had not been put up again!  Even better the rain was gone and the sun was out.  Best of all? 
For the most part all the remaining trees that covered the trail were cut out!    We didn't have to fret with it today.  We made it all the way down into the guts of Big Piney.  We were exhultant!  
It is quiet, hushed,deep green pale aqua and beautiful down in there.  The stream flowed by gray and aqua.  The hemlocks were deep green. The velvet green moss coated everything.  
We hiked up and down the stream banks.  It is one of those places where little sunlight gets in and what does make it down there is glittering golden.  

Sunlight struggling to make it to the floor of the gorge.  
 Everything mossy down in Big Piney

Beautiful Big Piney Creek and gorge... no one down here but us!

 Ford of Big Piney Creek

Big Piney Creek.  This is not a normal stream. It comes out of a headwaters, flows and most times it goes into the ground before it ever makes it to the confluence of the East Fork Obey River.  

    We did not find any waterfalls down here today as hoped.   It was still neat and very satisfying to be here at last.   We did find a way to turn it into a loop ride and another way in and out  of the place.
I was ready to go home after a few hours.  I was weary.    
I did manage to go down the road and get a photo of Cravenstown Arch with the hog pen atop it.

Cravenstown Arch from the back.  It looks better round here than it does from the road.  Its 12 feet high here. On the other side it is a briar patch and only about 4 feet high.  See the hog pen at the far end?  Yes. It is built on the arch.   This is right down the road from Tay's Grocery.

A better look at the hog pen.

          We loaded up and headed home.  It was good to know tonight we'd sleep in our own comfy bed!    

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