Thursday, March 24, 2016

Galivanting Around Starr Mountain

Peach blossom on an ancient tree on Starr Mountain

Galivanting Around Starr Mountain

Dana Koogler 

Thursday March 24, 2016

Pictures are here starting with frame 134:

   Today's forecast called for a high chance of rain.  I got on Weather Underground and checked the 
forecast for an assortment of different areas. I wanted to see which direction gave me the best chance of having a good day to hike and explore before the rain hit.    It was supposed to be mainly in the afternoon in the Etowah area so I went that way.  One of the vehicle access points to the top of Starr Mountain was closed very recently.  It was the shortest way and the best road.  I thought I remembered how to get up there via the other road, but I wanted to be sure. I decided today would be a good day to make certain.   I headed down the road toward Reliance and braced myself for a long drive on a curvy road.

             I stopped for a restroom break at Quinn Springs.   I began checking all along the road
and the various picnic pull offs for Spring wildflowers. I didn't find any to speak of.  I saw  a couple along the road real high up where there was no way to get a good look at them. Also no place to pull over.   I continued on toward Bullett Creek. On my way I did see a great big cluster of bloodroot
growing on a bank. The shoulder of the road was wide so I pulled over for that.
 I like it when I am driving and I know when I want to pull over and don't have to tell Kenny or worry about who might not like it. The slope was covered in bloodroot! Worth a stop.
 Above and below: Bloodroot blooms

          Note to self..... go back and get pictures of the old church I passed. I had never paid it any mind before.   It was near these flowers along the Tellico Reliance Rd. It was just before them.

    I continued toward Starr Mountain and I flagged down an old timer in a pickup truck. He was very hard of hearing, but I finally got it across to him that I wanted to know for sure if the road was open all the way to the top?  They had been doing controlled burns and I didn't know if they closed the road for that.  He assured me it was open and I thanked him and continued.   The road going up to the mountain top is narrow in places with no guardrail and a sheer drop off. It is one of those roads where you would not want to meet anyone coming the other way.   I didn't have any trouble though. I only saw one other vehicle all day in the area.   I saw no other hikers.
I went up to the mountain top and checked out some of my favorite wildflower areas.  The controlled burns had the mountain looking frazzled, but the flowers did not mind. They were coming up right through the ashes.

 Peach blossoms from an ancient tree. We had a couple peach trees in our yard as a kid.  They were volunteer clingstone peaches.  The trees looked just like this one. Very very old.  We canned peaches every Summer from them. Sticky work for sure!

 A pretty day so far on Starr Mountain. You can see the burned over areas above and below.
Controlled burns help maintain ecosystems and animal habitats. They reduce the fuel load by burning it off a little at a time. If this is not done a forest fire can easily get so hot it kills all life on the mountain including the microbes in the soil. It sterilizes the area once it gets so hot.  It takes a long time for  the land to recover from a fire that hot. The land recovers rapidly from a controlled burn.   Some types of pine trees need fire for their cones to open and for the seeds contained in them to germinate.  Woodpeckers depend upon tall pine trees for nest building.  I could smell the pine smoke from here all the way at my house several counties away and see the haze yesterday.  Today it is all gone.

 Redbuds were in bloom. Dogwood trees, Sarvis berry trees, and the hercules Club tree had lime green tennis ball looking leaf  buds!
 Green tennis balls on these attractive shrubs. 

The creek is sandy and clear today.  Easy to cross here.

These gorgeous trout lilies were carpeting the area around the creek. They were growing the BEST in the burned over areas!  These are Erythronium umblicatum.  The other sort.. Erythronium americanum were also here.  These I liked best though.

I went all over the mountain top looking for flowers.  I had a good time. I found everything I hoped for.  I was also pleased at finding the road open and no beer hounds up there with me today.  

Closeup of an Oconee Bell.  I found these today, but they were fading very fast.  Only a few left blooming and most of them had shed their bloom.

      I found me a spot to sit in the sun and eat lunch. It was 12:45 and I was ready to eat.
I had me a peanutbutter and nanner sammige with homemade strawberry jam. It was delish!
I had some energy now so I was ready to get down off this mountain and continue hiking at the foot of it.   I wanted to check out some of the falls while they should have plenty of water on them.     I  leisurely drove back down taking care on the narrow parts of the road.  I turned on the iPod and sang along as much as I wanted to.  

    I passed the only two persons I saw on the mountain today.  Two Spring break fellows who had taken their dogs out for a walk.   They waved at me and I kept going.   I passed Upper Yellow Creek Falls on the way.  I am going to climb down sometime and get a better image of it.  It would be worth it during good water flow.  

Upper Yellow Creek Falls is a short distance down from the road intersection and camp site.

  I pulled over where I knew Kamama Falls was supposed to be. I could see it down there in the distance. I had rope with me, but I thought better of it. I could not tell how the approach would be. I did not think it wise to do it solo.  It is steep terrain and lots of rhodo. It has been photographed from the base by all of ONE person.  I will hope to get to the base of it sometime, but it was not going to be today.  

        I pulled over at the widest parking area near the manway for the falls. I grabbed my gear and began the gradual downward descent to the stream. 
 This is a massive rock formation that is like a wall you have to go along on the way down. It is once you get closer to the creek.  

Got a good photo of Yellow Creek's main falls today. Overcast and plenty of water makes for good photos. 

     I went down further until I clambered to Bullett Creek Falls.  I could hear it roaring long before I ever got near it.  
 It was looking great today!  Not much hot rock in the shot and great volume. 
While I was at Bullett Creek Falls the wind got up and the skies turned dark and threatening. I mosied on over to the lower Yellow Creek Falls. I call it Deer Horn Falls. The rope swing used to have a deer antler on there as a handle. 

Lower Yellow Creek Falls and its beautiful blue swimming hole. 

    I passed through Camp Crud on the way to the lower falls.  It is not quite as bad as it was the first time I went there. It did not have drugs or drug paraphernalia today, but the gear stash, graffitti, garbage and the excavation under the bluff was horrible.  Two legged pigs as Rich calls them. The kind of people our world can do without.  They can't go anywhere without destroying it.  

The images below are only a few vignettes of Camp Crud. Behold it in all its terribleness! 

This photo and the upper one both show the excavation under the bluff. WTH?  

   I never thought I'd have the nerve to come down here alone and see these falls because of this place here.  I did it though. Thankfully whomever is doing all this yuck-a-muck camping was not there.  This is private property and there is NOTHING the forestry service can do to put a stop to it. Alerting the landowners would be shooting myself in the foot too.  It would probably result in access to the area being lost.    This part is a depressing situation, but the property line is just below the lower falls of Yellow Creek. Everything from there down is private land and they can do what they want. I doubt the land owners are responsible.  I'd guess more of the type of lowlife that trashed and does drug deals on top the mountain.  I found  spent shotgun shells scattered round and wadding from them too.  Lots of beer cans.  A good combo, eh? Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers with shotguns.

   When I left I made that steep climb back up the mountain and out of that hole. The weather was windy and rain was coming soon.  The skies were dark still.  By the time I got to Tellico Plains it was raining.  I was pleased that I accomplished pretty much all I set out to do today. 
I love it when a plan comes together!  For once I gauged the weather right and had fun and managed to get going before the bad stuff hit.  We need the rain so it was good to get that too.

Below is a short video of the three falls I saw today at the foot of Starr Mountain.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your hikes in pictures. Since I can no longer do hikes to falls, I really appreciate seeing where you go. Happy Easter!

    1. You are welcome. Happy to share. Thanks to you for taking time to read and comment. It is encouraging to me. :^D Happy Easter!


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