Monday, February 15, 2016

Big Sink 123" --Round Two! Finishing It Up

New RZR 1000

Big Sink 123" --Round Two! Finishing It Up

St. Valentine's Day Ride 

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Sunday Feb. 14, 2016

   We visited Big Sink a few weeks ago for the first time.  We had wanted to make a return trip to finish exploring that area.  We made it back yesterday in the snow and sleet and wintery mix in 27° temperatures. We bundled up. Kenny even thought to bring me a pair of clear safety glasses and both of us full face masks.  I wore all of it and was glad to have it. I brought us Hot Hands packets. Kenny did not use any, but I stuck some down in my mittens and they felt really good all day.

         Questions we had wanted answers to were:

  • Are there any waterfalls up Little Sink Branch?
  • Is there a trail along Little Sink Branch from top to bottom? 
  • Are there more waterfalls up the un-named stream at the very back of Big Sink?
  • Where do the trails go that head RIGHT at the mouth of Big Sink?
  • What is back in the hole/cave that is in Big Sink where the way point pings?
  • Is it possible to get to Perrys Branch Falls via the trails off Long Rock Rd?
  • What is in the small sink hole shown near Suggs Branch?

   Kenny wanted to park somewhere different this time and go a different route. 
I was fine with that so we went in via Sally Gap.   We headed out and started seeing wildlife right away.  We saw deer, turkeys, ducks, a pileated woodpecker, a coyote, signs of hogs, a squirrel.
The RZR handled like a dream and the new fender flares and back windshield kept the mud out.
The new, tough skid plate under the machine protected us against the very rocky trail which at times smashed up into the under carriage.  Thanks Buck for helping Kenny install it so well.  You are a fine friend to have and we love you for it.  Great advice from you always!  

        We stopped once to check out the Caney Fork River and the bluffs along there. 
We had always gone flying past and we both wanted to see them today.    We were glad we stopped to check out the view. Pretty scenery and some interesting rock forms. 

Kenny made these bars to keep the machine protected from stuff mashing up against it. 
He did a beautiful job.  Fabricated them himself from scratch and had NEVER used a pipe bender before to my knowledge.  He painted them with that paint that is bed liner/rhino liner paint!  Makes them even tougher.  

 Huge icicles hanging off the bluff
 Aquamarine waters of the Caney Fork River

Mini arches and passages under the river bluff.


           We continued on toward Suggs Branch and went up the hills until at last we found a tiny sink hole pond I had noticed on the map.  We wanted to see if it was a pit cave or some cool water feature?  It was not.  It was a dry sink hole that looks like it must hold water now and then.   It was nothing, but at least we have the satisfaction of knowing now.

Its hard to see, but this is the curving bottom of a small, dry sink hole.  

       We continued to another sink hole that has a couple waterfalls and caves in it. 
We decided to stop there and crawl in one of the caves and check it out.  We knew it would also give us a preview of how the water levels were today elsewhere.  The waterfalls were running, but the flow was low so we kinda figured that our search elsewhere for falls was not going to be as fruitful.    We enjoyed the sight of the falls and icicles and being down in the massive basin.
We also climbed up into the cave for a look. I was surprised to find that while you can hear water in the cave the floor is dry!  The falls emerge from source springs below the cave.

One of two waterfalls in low flow.  

 This shows a glimpse of how far down in a hole we are.  And it is another 50 ft to the bottom of the basin at least.
 Looking out of the cave entrance
Only photo that came out from inside the cave. The rest were so blurry and dark.

Kenny in front of the massive cave entrance in the side of the sink hole basin.

      We climbed back out of the cave and the basin and headed for the four wheeler. Kenny was ready to eat some lunch.   On the climb back down and out I got this side shot of both falls.

Two falls side by side...... they come from underground springs.  The stream flows a short distance and disappears back into the ground all within the sink hole.

        We ate a sandwich back at the RZR.   It was done moving around and standing out in the sleet falling.     It seemed like it was growing colder, but we were at least down out of the wind in here.  That always helps.   We finally got going again as we still had plenty we wanted to check out.    Kenny made all the right connections today in finding a route across Big Bottom Unit.  It was much easier than last try.  

       We could see Little Sink Branch below and a trail continued up it.  We had to stop and saw one or two trees out to continue. When we do that we always walk ahead to scout to see does the trail keep going and are there more trees down ahead?  If it isn't worth it.. its better to just walk.  The trail was continuing and there were no more trees down so it was a pretty worthwhile investment. Little Sink Branch is a pretty hemlock gorge, but the water flow as practically non existent.  It was good to get to check it out, but disappointing that we found no more falls.  I'd still like to go back when we've had a good hard rain for I think there would at least be some pretty cascades in a lovely deep green setting.   The rock forms in the gorge and surrounding it were amazing!   We finally made it to the top... and at plateau level..... the trail dead ended.  On the map it is shown having a connection with the bottom, but it was not the case.   The trail is shown as foot travel sized. I felt like we were fortunate to have found it in as good a condition as it is.  Clearly it is not being traveled. 

          We pressed onward having to lift one tree up a bit to make it under.  I got out and pushed and Kenny pulled the RZR on through.    We stopped to check out the next cave where the way point for Big Sink pings.  It is a newer looking smaller sink hole basin within a larger, older basin.   I had not wanted to go over there alone. Kenny went with me. Sleet still falling and getting harder now.   We walked the bottom of the basin then crept round the edge of it.  
The ground was stable and frozen solid besides.   We saw a large swallet for a wet weather stream.  We crawled into the mouse hole entrance to a cave at the back. It was so neat!

See how ragged the ground looks here?  Soft soil and lots of downed stuff and roots. That entrance over there drinks in the flow of a wet weather stream.

 Close up view of the entranc to the little cave. Kenny is going to get a light.

               Better view of the cave entrance from back further. The dark spot up above to the left is the top of the 2nd entrance which is hidden! 

 Once in the mouse hole front of the cave.. this is your view to the left.. another entrance comes in here!  I crawled over in that part.
 Looking back out of the main cave entrance.

Tight squeeze for a short distance to get inside. I'm inside looking back out.

Looking up into the top of the small cave. In looking at the full sized image I could see five bats. While there I only saw the one.

Spider in the cave! 

  Once in the room of the cave it was round with a pointy ceiling like being inside a stone tee pee.  Kenny guessed the dimensions to be 20x10x40 ft high.     It had some neat stone formations in side.   It also had some ice stalagmites.  Here is a short video of inside the cave.

 Once done with this part of our adventure we continued on toward the back of Big Sink.
We decided between us that if the waterfall visible from the trail was not flowing very well we would forego climbing up the creek in order to hunt for more falls. The waterfall had about half the volume it previously did and we decided we'd wait to exert ourselves when we stood a better chance of seeing something worthwhile. I still believe there are more falls, but they may not flow all the time.
Incidentally there WAS water on the un-named stream, but again...... half the volume as before.

         We rode up out of the basin at the very back.    We tried some new side trails today once at Plateau level.    It helped make the connection as to where some of those unknown paths lead.
Back to the main road and we went hard after it to get over in the direction of Perry's Branch.
We found it with no trouble but it turned out about like I imagined.   The area is a maze of trails going this way and that. Many of them go nowhere.  Some dwindle down to foot traffic only and some are so rough that even on foot it wouldn't be easy.   We cliffed out and could go no further.
Kenny hadn't wanted to admit it, but that was how it played out.

      Sleet was pelting us harder now.  It was beginning to sting when it hit me even with my bundled up clothing, face covering and safety glasses.   I was growing cold and I could tell based on how Kenny looked and sounded he was dog tired. He had not gotten enough sleep the night before.
We decided to head back toward Crossville for something hot to eat and get in where it was warm.

              I helped him load the machine up and lock it down for transport.   We were soon under way.
The roads were starting to get slick.   Every time we passed a house with the wood stove going and smoke coming out of the chimney and the lights on it made me long to be home in the warm.
I was really looking forward to a hot shower and fuzzy pajamas.  We pushed on til we got to Rockwood. The roads growing slicker by the minute.  Kenny was drowsy now and beginning to worry me with him trying to drive in that shape.  We went in and got a nice hot meal at Cracker Barrel.   That and talking to Buck on the way home pepped him up and we made it home.
We unpacked everything quickly and were glad to be home safe and dry.  I was wind burned and red eyed despite all the gear, but I was happy just the same.

             What an awesomely fun day!  The hot shower and pajamas and a soft, warm bed never felt better!

Here is a short video of the sink hole waterfall we saw.

****Answers to the questions ****

  • Are there any waterfalls up Little Sink Branch--No
  • Is there a trail from top to bottom along Little Sink Branch? -- 
  • From the bottom up there is, but it dead ends at plateau level. 
  • Are there more waterfalls up the un-named stream at the very back of Big Sink?--
  • Not sure. Have to go back and finish checking with more rain fall. 
  • Where do the trails go that head RIGHT at the mouth of Big Sink?--
  • Forgot to look-Have to do it another trip. 
  • What is back in the hole/cave that is in Big Sink where the way point pings?
  • Bats and a spider. And one very cool little cave.
  • Is it possible to get to Perrys Branch Falls via the trails off Long Rock Rd?
  • No. 
  • What is in the small sink hole shown near Suggs Branch?
  • Nothing. but leaves. and trees. Not even water. 

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