Monday, February 29, 2016

First Attempt at Reaching Sugar Cove Branch Falls --Off Trail with Mike Maples

First Attempt at Reaching Sugar Cove Branch Falls --Off Trail with Mike Maples
Saturday February 27, 2016

Dana Koogler and Mike Maples

4 miles RT off  trail approx. 

  The best way to describe this adventure is with a little scripture. I apply it to me.. not Mike.

Proverbs 16:18 says: 
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

   Sometimes I need to be schooled. Today I got schooled. I had it in my head to go to see Sugar Cove Branch Falls by way of the old wagon roads behind the Lawson place. The original plan for today was to bushwhack to Marks Creek Falls. The heavy rains the previous days made us decide it was not the time to try it. We were planning on fording Lynn Camp Prong to go back there and consequently it was as Mike calls it "Big water" today. ;The fall back plan was ok with Mike Maples love his heart. He agreed so sweetly that we'd give it a try. We met up at the Townsend Wye early Saturday morning. I was really looking forward to this adventure and was so hopeful we'd get to see that beautiful falls that not too many visit.

   A week earlier Bobbie and Ron Hubbard had shown me the way to start in there.I reproduced that part of the journey flawlessly. Our day was off to a good start. We were both having fun. We saw some old pioneer junk and some home sites. The day was warming up and was blue skies and sunshine and fresh air. The woods were opening up and making the travel easier once we were back in there. We had maps and waypoints and the GPS. I had been concerned about some nebulous things prior to setting out, but I was so sure we'd find it. Once back in there and into the unknown, unexplored territory for me the concerns in the back of my mind began to take shape and make themselves known. I was concerned about being able to tell with any certainty if we were in the correct drainage. Without any major mountain peaks and landforms to anchor you ... all of it begins to look the same. The terrain back there is a maze of small hills, gullies, and low ridges that interlace crazily. The map cannot show all the streams that emerge from those hills and truly some of them were not on there since they are headwaters springs. We got to the top of a ridge and I remarked that I felt like we were not in the right place.The old wagon trace or manway is shown being slightly to the right side of a ridge. We were almost directly atop the ridge. Turned out to be right. Mike Maples was so wonderfully patient with me.I finally got upset and said I was beginning to feel like we were just wandering around aimlessly. Yes, I wanted to see the falls, but I was not willing to become lost in the process of trying to see them. We were back in the terrain where Mike Gourley got lost. That had been on my mind strongly and the thought was gnawing away at me. I did have the sense to put a way point on the spot where we stopped and decided to turn around. I figured I could look at it later and perhaps it would help me figure what had gone wrong? I had also taken Tom Dunigan's advice and put a way point in the GPS at the spot where we parked and named it simply JEEP. I began tracking us back to that JEEP waypoint.

    Once we were back into the gap where we lost the wagon roads and old trails..... I felt better. We decided to wander down Whistling Branch toward the Cades Cove Road in order to at least see something different. It got really snarled up in rhodo so Mike turned us down a gully and then another with his amazing sense of direction. I knew what way the loop road was and generally what direction to aim for in order to get back to Cades Branch, but not like him. We came out exactly where he said we would. I had placed a couple ribbons of neon orange survey tape at a home site.We came out right at those ribbons. I was quiet. I was relieved but I felt like a whipped cur.  It is going to take me a spell to get over this. I know Mike Gourley well enough to say while he would never judge me ........ He knows how to deal with me gently. Usually the best way is to just let me do my thing however wrong it may be........ and I will learn. I enjoyed hiking with Mike Maples. He never says an ill word about anyone at least not that I have heard. He is funny and interesting. I feel blessed to have him as a friend. We stopped by one roadside cascade and took a photo. There really wasn't time to get into anything else. I hope he'll go with me again sometime and things will be better.

       Later that evening at home I plugged in the way point for where we stopped and turned around.
I sent it to Mike Maples.. we were off.  To his tremendous credit........ had I listened to him we'd have come out in the correct drainage though.  We were along Whistling Branch above Whistling Gap.
Mike Gourley ultimately was correct though.  The route up into the main drainage from Forge Creek is the best way to go.   It may not be as close as the crow flies, but we aren't crows.

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