Friday, April 29, 2016

After the Wildflower Pilgrims... Comes the Wildest Flower

Small yellow lady slipper orchid

After the Wildflower Pilgrims... Comes the Wildest Flower

Dana Koogler 

Thursday April 28, 2016

    Today I had to get out and enjoy the wildflowers while they lasted. I figured the orchids would be bloomed out by now.  I was going to do this Monday, but was depressed and just didn't want to do anything.   Thankfully today I was in better spirits.  I knew a walk would do me good.   I had slept well the night before and hit the trail by 7:45 a.m.  I liked to get an early 
start.    I was hoping that an early start and an odd day in the week I would encounter less 
people.  Now the Wildflower Pilgrimage was ovah wit'.   I ain't no pilgrim. 
The wildest flower in Tennessee is me. 

      I went round to various places I had wanted to check on orchids and said a little prayer that  I would get there and find them in bloom. I prayed no one had dug them up.  I was pleasantly surprised to find them all ok.   It had rained last night so the day was fresh and cool. The
forest green was still new and light, but the green was deepening.  The air was perfumed by
lots and lots of foam flower!  

Foam flowers have a very sweet fragrance. Smell one sometime.  It is intoxicating.

      Close up view of single yellow lady slipper

Group of three yellow lady slippers 

            I enjoyed seeing all the various types of ferns and lots of solmon's plume.
The streams were running well thanks to the rain.  The only persons I encountered today on the trails were a long jogger and two trail maintainers.  Only the trail maintainers vehicle near me when I left.  A quiet day so far!  

           I headed out to check some more areas and enjoyed the forest trees that were 
blooming out. Dogwoods are finishing up.  Tulip poplars, fraser magnolias, cucumber magnolias, sweet shrub are all blooming now. They look pretty and smell good! 

            Frasers Magnolia blooms on a low hanging branch on the banks of Little River near my house. <br />
Magnolia fraseri<br />
Magnoliaceae<br />
Blount County, TN 4/08
Fraser magnolia bloom along Little River

Cucumber Magnolia bloom
Cucumber magnolia blossom. 
Magnolia acuminata
  There are several types of native magnolias that live in our area.

Cucumber Magnolia<br />
Magnolia acuminata

Yellow Cucumber magnolia.. Magnolia subcordata 

Tulip Poplar Bloom along Crib Gap Trail<br />
Liriodendron tulipifera<br />
Magnoliaceae<br />
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 5/08
This is a fallen bloom of a tulip poplar.

    Along Laurel Creek Road heading to Cades Cove I saw great clusters of maidenhair ferns that looked like shelves they were so thick!  Cinnamon ferns and ostrich ferns and other types lined the road as well.  I also saw lots of purple phacelia,wild columbine, and a few sweet white trilliums left.
Yellow trilliums were still abundant and grew in clumps like yellow candles. Some were like perfect yellow Christmas bulbs!
Maiden hair ferns are so delicate and graceful. They are some of my favorites!

    Traffic was light on Laurel Creek Road which was a welcome surprise!  
I got out to Cades Cove in short order. Once in the cove the loop road started off reasonably well. I had a few snags where I got behind someone real slow. I also had a few spots where I had to barely squeeze through a spot where folks parked too close to the road on both sides!  They had volunteers out today helping to keep people straight.  I saw one volunteer calling down a photographer in a field chasing a turkey.  He made the guy come back out to the road. The photographer of course was using the old "I didn't know." ploy.    Another place I saw volunteers keeping traffic moving and making folks get out of the road, and use pulloffs.  It was a nice change, and I appreciated it so much. It didn't take long to get round the loop and once I got to my destination for hiking I went off trail.  
I went back in the woods in a couple spots looking for orchids.  I didn't find any at all in one spot. I did find one lone pink lady slipper in another.  It was still a pretty walk though, and I was seeing areas new to me!

 Great big patch of some type of fern. I don't know what these are called.
 Sea Branch in the morning sun.

Lone pink lady slipper orchid.  

   Once I had checked out the spots I came to see I tried to decide if I could move on with the next part of my plan?  I had planned on driving part way round the loop again and taking Rich Mountain Road out to Townsend.  I had not driven it in a couple years. I wanted to look for wildflowers along it.   I was tempted to give up on it and go home.  I then thought what if the loop and all those people and tight squeezes are gone?  I decided I would chance it. I am glad I did. Second time around all the people and cars were gone! I made great time.  I turned onto Rich Mountain Road and I hoped no one else would get behind me.  I got my wish! I saw exactly one other vehicle on it the entire time.
I had no one behind me pushing me forward.  I could pull over as much as I wanted to see flowers!
The first part of the road was so so, but it got prettier as I moved along.   Once on the back side of the mountain in the shadier, moister coves I saw more flowers!  I ended up not finding what I hoped for. I looked for and found spotted mandarin, but it was not bloomed out yet!  I kinda guessed once I saw the lingering large flowered white trilliums that it would not be ready yet.  

 Beautiful winding Rich Mountain Road
 Large flowered bellwort
 Pair of yellow trilliums

Specimen of Sweet White trillium.

 There are not real significant streams on this side of Rich Mountain,but this is the most water I had ever seen in this little creek! It is a pretty area.
 Clear blue skies.. the view off Rich Mountain Road toward Dry Valley
I saw a bear lumbering along looking for things to eat on the side of the road.  I got a picture of it!

     I took my time and enjoyed the day.  I was getting hungry. I had brought snacks, but planned on being back by lunch.  It had not happened so I  decided to make one last stop at Bull Cave to see what was there.   I would then go by the Townsend IGA and grab something for lunch and stuff to fix a good supper.   Bull Cave was ok, but the best flowers were done. I still saw a tiny bit of  phlox, dwarf larkspur, green violet, and some showy orchis.   All in all, I had a successful day of wildflower hunting.  I got my hearts desire even avoiding most of the crowds and traffic.   It didn't hurt to wait.
I can't cope with pilgrims. I would have to scalp them.  

 One of several showy orchis I saw today. Another kind of native orchid in bloom now.

Dana the Savage scalps a wildflower pilgrim on one of her bad hair days.  She is a heathen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Murphy NC Camping Trip

Found lots of purple wake robin trilliums at Fires Creek

First Camping Trip of 2016-Murphy, NC

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Friday April 22 thru Sunday April 24, 2016

Pictures are here: Kimsey Highway Pix

and here: Murphy NC Camping Trip

   We decided to take our first camping trip of the year and go some place very different.
We'd long wanted to get more serious about exploring the Murphy, NC area.  It is a good central hub to branch out .    We stayed at the Peace Valley KOA Kampground., and it was excellent.
 It restored our faith in the KOA brand name.  I grew up staying at them.  Later in life Kenny and I have used them to take our kids camping. We had good experiences.
Back last Spring we stayed at one that was a hair away from losing its franchise.  I would highly recommend this place.   They also have those little cabins so if we don't want to bring the camper we can book one of those.    They let us check in two hours early which was great. 

        We no more got set up than the rain began to pour down.   We ate lunch and took a nap.
Upon getting up the sun was out and the rain had stopped!  We grabbed our stuff and headed out.
I had wanted to take Kenny back to see the nearby South Shoal Creek Falls.  Me and Mike visited
that in the Autumn.  I was interested to know if it was a good Spring wildflower hike? 
It is a short hike of maybe 3/4 mile round trip.  The rain had the creek muddy and raging.  
We figured at least the falls would have plenty of water.  The trail was a bit muddy in places, but 
well graded and we could see someone has been bringing a four wheeler down it. Someone else had a horse on it.    The forest was shady with sun filtering in.   The stream flowed past muddy and full.
Catesby's trilliums dotted the edges of the woods. Some white and some deep pink or pale pink.
Some had aged to an almost red color.   We saw a few pink lady slippers, but only one or two were fully bloomed.   Eastern Bluestar, sweet white violet, and fire pinks were a few of the other flowers.  Ferns were abundant.   Carolina silverbells were dropping their blooms over the path.  In short order we arrived at the top of the falls and continued on the trail which curves round to the base of them.

South Shoal Creek Falls with lots of water
 Here is the view of South Shoal Creek Falls we found today.   Wow!  Lots more water than back in Fall. About four times as much!  We crossed the stream by wading back then. I wouldn't dare try it today.    The stream flows down below this, rounds a bend like an oxbow and enters Appalachia Lake.   No more falls below this, but a few rapids. 
Lone pink lady slipper. Perfectly bloomed.

The sunshiney path  on the return trip.  It was cool, but the sun felt so good.  

Beautiful meadow of dogwoods on the way to South Shoal Creek Falls.  You can see the red maple in there too.  Such a nice place!

         We strolled around the other parts of the place on some side trails, but didn't really find anything more. It was just interesting and pretty.  We decided to head over to Fires Creek next to scout that area and see what we could get into.

            We got to Fires Creek Recreation area and continued on FR 340 way on past Leatherwood Falls and the picnic area. We had never been further than that.  I had a low opinion of that waterfall and of the rec. area in general.  I'd had it in mind from reading North Carolina's Mountain Treasures that I was missing a lot. I determined I would be checking the area out far more closely.  I knew there had to be more waterfalls, views, wildflowers and good scenery to be had.  It was a bigger area than I realized.  I believed then as now that the area is poorly known, and what is known is not well documented at all.   I have a  comprehensive map of the Nantahala National Forest which includes Fires Creek.  I also have the guidebook written about it and the trail system here thanks to Emily Felty.    Today was about scouting and figuring out the road system.  Roads are often shown gated, but today we found them mostly open to travel!   I was looking at an off trail adventure in the area
that I wanted to do.   We had to do a reality check to decide which way was going to be best to approach it.     We found two additional waterfalls today that were undocumented.   Fires Creek is full of scenic cascades all along it.  We saw a few wildflowers, but not a lot.
Profile view of a good sized waterfall far back in the Fires Creek area.

 Fires Creek running great today.
 Un-named waterfall we found. It has quite a bit more up from this.

  Found the forest around the un-named falls filled with these purple wake robin trilliums, ferns and appalachian bugbane.

              The sky turned dark on us while we were way up in the mountain on a back road.
The rain began to pour down in buckets.  We finally found a place to get turned around and start back down the mountain.  We were pleased that down near the start of the rec. area the rain quit.
It was getting dark and we realized it was very late.    The sky at twilight was a soft pale cotton candy pink over the Valley River Mountains on the drive home.   We had found what we were searching for.   We would try to come back Sunday morning and do our off trail hike.

    It was so late on the drive home that Kenny wisely suggested we stop and eat somewhere rather than try to go back to the camper and cook.  We'd been planning to have hamburgers and hashbrowns.  It was 9;30 p.m.  Oh how time flies when you're having fun!   We stopped at Arby's and had fast food for supper.  Went on home and cleaned up and got ready for bed.  We had a full day planned for Saturday.   We figured we'd best rest up.  Kenny stopped and got a movie at Ingles, but ended up falling asleep instead of watching it.

               Saturday morning I fixed breakfast of biscuits and gravy. We had some hot coffee and started laying out our gear to go hiking.  The phone rang and it was one of those heart up in your throat ... this is going to hurt like Hell moments.  We were sitting here in Cherokee County, North Carolina and getting some very upsetting news from family back home.  All at once nothing else mattered. None of our plans made any sense. We didn't want do what we had planned. We just sat down on the couch and cried.  Once we regained some composure we held hands and prayed for the Lord's peace and healing and wisdom in the situation and in the coming days.  

          Kenny said we should try to get out and at least do something. Sitting around crying wasn't going to fix it. I knew he was right, but we both felt ill.   Neither caring at all for the original plan of going to Rock Creek and climbing around in the gorge looking for waterfalls. We both felt we needed something milder since we were not focused. Something we could bail out of easily if we became distraught again during the day.   I suggested we go ride the length of the Kimsey Highway for a start.
Kenny agreed so we took a few things and set off to try to salvage the day.

The Kimsey Highway

    I love how these old dirt roads are named "highways".  The first one I experienced was the Joe Brown Highway.  I had long heard of the Kimsey Highway, but never tried it out.  I had loved the first one, so I figured I'd best check out the second one.    I did some reading about the history of the place before going.   The dirt track started out as a path the Cherokees used to get from point A to point B.  Later settlers used it too.  Once the Copper Road was built the old trace fell into disuse.
I don't have a real clear understanding of the circumstances, but because of the lack of a good road
a postal worker froze to death and a little girl died in a house fire.    Dr. Lucius E. Kimsey, an area physician, paid for the renovation of the road himself , and so it was named for him.   He was a civic leader and a compassionate man.  He had a brother who was also a doctor.  He built an area junior college which was never used in that capacity, but was used as a high school.

          Kimsey Highway runs from SR 68 in the east at Harbuck across Little Frog Mountain
in a winding path all the way to SR 30 at Greasy Creek.   We wanted to see some things at Reliance
which is up from Greasy Creek.  The road begins just behind a store and eatery in Harbuck.
It has a few homes along the very beginning.   It climbs upward to the Cherokee WMA.  Side roads intersect it at intervals.  Trails begin and end along it.   It is narrow, but is actually two way traffic with pull outs.   We met a mere three or four vehicles the entire trip across it.  It is popular with hikers, hunters, and nature lovers.     The scenery once you get on up toward the top is much prettier.

Directions to Reach This Scenic Road can be found here or on the What's on the Cover page for now.

Kimsey Highway Directions: 

Heading down SR 68 South from Coker Creek drive 4.60 miles  from the junction of 68 with Rt. 123 on the left.   Turn right on a road that goes up and behind the 68 Diner.   The drive is 15 miles across
to Greasy Creek at SR 30. No gas, bathroom facilities or other amenities are available on the road, but stores are at each end of it.  

Heading north on SR 68 from Hwy 64 drive 4 miles and turn left just after the 68 Diner on the road that goes behind it and starts uphill. It is residential to start with,but it is not someone's driveway.

The route goes winding across Little Frog Mountain. You will see various roads joining it, but unless you specifically need to go on one of those stay on the main road.

Once in Greasy Creek a right turn will head you toward Reliance and a left turn will head you back down toward Parksville Lake and Hwy 64.

 Winding dirt road through the mountain
 Slopes loaded down with wildflowers and plants. This is false hellebore, rue anemone, and yellow trilliums.
Brilliant yellow trillium freshly bloomed.

 We began seeing flame azalea. My first ones seen this year. Lots of it too!
 Cinnamon Ferns in a hanging valley I got out and explored.
 Two shades of pinxter.. deeper pink and palest pink.  In the same little hanging valley.
Seepage spring flowing out of a hanging valley. I walked right in the creek, but it was possible to walk beside it in places.  Lots of pretty stuff back in there.

        Once across the Kimsey Highway to its far end in Greasy Creek we turned right and headed toward Reliance.  We hiked up to Lowry Falls and Left Prong Falls.  We were surprised how low the water volume was on these falls despite heavy rains!   Still pretty.  Wildflowers still blooming in the area, but toward the end of their bloom time.  Left Prong Falls was choked with debris today.
Lowry Falls is always pretty and an easy hike.   The rock here has some interesting bands of color and is very smooth and slick.
 One of the tallest drops of the multi level Lowry Falls
 Huge patch of Jennison's trillium.
 Great big cluster of wild columbine growing on a bluff.

The historic Higdon Hotel. It sits right next to the road.  I had never taken time to go see it, but I didn't know it existed until a few months ago.  

Short video of Lowry Falls set to Tennessee Rose.. it's beautiful

   We checked out the wildflowers and waterfalls. We drove down the road and I looked for pawpaw blooms, but found none.  We also stopped by the branch that Spring Creek Falls flows from. It was so little water on it, we did not put the effort into going back there.  It is a new falls added to the database by Brian Solomon. We will visit it, but when it is worth the energy.   We stopped at Webb's Store and had a popsicle.  I spent a fair amount of time at my Poppy's store eating popsicles and walking the grease rack outside.  I also would go down to Cash's store on foot or on the bike and sit on the cooling board outside and eat a popsicle with my buddies. Life's simple pleasures!

  We made a quick stop across the river to check out the old Higdon Hotel.  Once we had done that we headed back round to Farner to visit Turtletown Falls.

Turtletown Falls

  The very first time I went hunting for Turtletown Falls I was with friends. We finally found it, but struggled with the directions in Greg Plumb's book Waterfalls of Tennessee .   I had been back several times since. The most recent time was seven or eight years earlier.  You would think between the two of us we'd have sense enough to find it with ease.  We struggled today with the directions as if it were the first time we'd ever been.   Local yokels take down signs and vandalise things for one.  The directions are as convoluted as the system of roads through the little village of Farner.  Farner's U.S. Post Office is in a trailer.   I am serious.   I entered the GPS coordinates for Lower Turtletown Falls thinking that would help. It didn't.   It just caused the Tomtom to try to take us in on the nearest road access possible.  What we didn't know until later was that there IS a road that comes in much closer to Lower Turtletown Falls on the opposite side of the river.    We pulled over as soon as we saw a lady out on her porch.  We knew we were close, but still not having much luck. The lady was kind enough to help us.  Sure enough the vandals had ripped down the sign for the Scenic Area.   
Someone has put up a very small handmade sign and the road number sign is way back the road out of view.     We finally got there and began our hike.

          Turtletown is a popular hike.  We made the fourth vehicle in the parking area.
The hike is only 3.8 miles round trip if you do it in and back out.   The trail is lovely and travels through a pine woods.  The stream is seldom far from view.  We got to see lots of pink catesby's trilliums, pink lady slippers, vaseys trilliums, and other pretty wildflowers.   We saw two other groups of hikers.  One man and woman and their blue heeler were fishing.  A dad and his three boys were vandalising the trees  by carving them.   Oy!  We passed a point where the wide four wheel drive type road split off in a V.  We dropped down to the path on the left where it followed the creek.  The other trail continued up the hill and was blazed.  

       We soon went down the three or four sets of switchbacks and steps to get to the bottom of the trail and the first falls.  Turtletown Creek was raging today and this was the most water we had ever seen coming over it even counting Winter trips!  It was beautiful, but the spray off the falls made me have to stay back to get decent photos and video.
 Turtletown Falls
 Pink Lady Slippers were blooming in the woods!

Below is a video of Turtletown and Lower Turtletown Falls set to Bruce Cockburn's
End of All Rivers.  

  Once we finished checking out the first falls we turned and continued down the trail along the stream toward Lower Turtletown Falls.  I knew we'd have to climb back up some and then come back down to the next falls.  The trail was mild and pretty. The forest was fragrant of pine and green. growing things and the scent of the mist coming off the stream.  The evening was settling to a soft golden light over the pines.   We passed a section of good wildflowers in the forest just before the Lower Falls came into view.  I saw some freshly bloomed, beautiful Vasey's trilliums. So deep red they were almost black.  Also in the area were more lady slippers, foam flower, and dwarf crested iris.

Top: Vaseys trillium
Bottom:Dwarf Crested iris

Lower Turtletown Falls.  It is an interesting shaped waterfall.  Most water ever seen by us on this falls or on this creek.

  We arrived at Lower Turtletown Falls.  It looked awesome.  The dying light of the day was beautiful by itself.   The light here in these forests of the Southern Unaka mountains is different than anywhere I have ever seen.  It is powder soft and so easy on the eyes.  Golden evening sun in what was left of a blue sky intermingled with the mist off the stream and the deep green pines.  Pure Heaven.

 Soft golden glow as the light fades here in the forest.  A picture never does it justice.
Turtletown Creek flows ever onward below the falls.  Another view of the pale, soft light in the woods here.    

    Kenny was fussing at me that we had to get going and not linger too long. We didn't have a lot of daylight left. He had made up his mind we were not going back the way we came. We would take the wide four wheel drive type path that he was just sure would be a better, easier way out than returning the way we had come.  I did not want to fight with him so I just obediently went along behind him.
We hadn't gone far when I spoke up and told him I didn't have a good feeling about the way we were going.  "Kenny, I have hiked this before. I feel like I have. It comes out way up at the road and you have to then walk the dirt road back to the parking lot where the truck is.  I don't think the trails connect here." He insisted he was right and urged me on.    We passed another spot where the terrain was grassy and I knew something was not right.   Finally as we crested the ridge top I could see the Hiwassee River to my left. I knew we were heading wrong. I stopped and got the guidebook out and read what Greg Plumb had to say of it. He mentions the hike loop which goes like I said... have to walk the dirt road... or go back the way you just came.   I was mad.  I hollered for him to come back and when he did I showed him the book and the instructions.  I put it in gear and hauled ass.
I was  not wanting to fuss with him, but he had bitched and belly ached at me to hurry. Now he was costing us time and energy by hiking a long way in the wrong direction.   We came out of the woods just before it got pitch black.  

        He apologized for the mistake, but insists he is still right.  I didn't much care long as we were out of the woods and headed back to town. I was now hangry.  We were yet another late night getting back to the camper.   I was wrung out.   We stopped at Zaxby's and got salads to go.  I just knew I'd have a nightmare from eating salad this late.  I had to shower before bed, but I was barely able to keep my eyes propped open.  We fell into bed around 11 pm. I slept like the dead.  I slept in the next day until 9 am. I rarely sleep past 7 am.   I felt better the next day.  

     Kenny made breakfast to smooth things over for the mess up the night before.  
We laughed about our forced march. Its part of it.  Screw ups and Turtletown seem to go hand in hand.  I am posting some improved directions at the bottom of this entry.  

       We ended up just coming home Sunday morning. We did not have time to do anything before check out which was noon.   We got home at a decent time.  Both of us still shaken from the sad family news we had gotten.  Going to need lots of prayers poured over that situation.

         Directions to Turtletown Falls Trailhead:

In Farner along SR 68 turn and pass the front of the Farner Post Office which is located on the right hand side of the road in a white trailer. You will next pass a church beside it.  You will continue a short distance and cross the railroad tracks.   Turn left at the next two intersections. 
Then make the second RIGHT turn. You will pass Newman Road on the right  which is a paved road.
The second right.. your turn.... is gravel. It IS signed FR 1166 but it is not signed until you have made the turn onto it and gone a few feet.   There is a empty sign frame on the right that used to indicate Turtletown Scenic Area. There is a small wooden sign as you make your turn onto the gravel road that says Turtletown Falls. ~~~>.  Drive to the parking lot at the end of this gravel road.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Gold Creek Falls

Pinxter Azalea along Foothills Parkway yesterday

Gold Creek Falls

Sunday, April 17 2016

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Pictures are here starting with frame 618:

Gold Creek Pix

   Another one off the bucket list as of Sunday afternoon! I had long wanted to visit and see
the historic Gold Creek Falls in Blount County.  It is an off trail adventure and a tough one to reach regardless of how you approach it.  I had suspected there was a way to reach it from Foothills Parkway. It looked like a beast, but perhaps could be done.  I reached out to a friend who will remain nameless and shared my idea, and asked his opinion.  He agreed with me and shared some useful information with me.   Sunday we completed it.  

        Straight down from where we stood atop the parkway to the falls was 750 ft. 
The route we took was a modification of my pal's suggested route.  Six hundred feet elevation loss in 0.20 miles.  Extremely steep.  Hanging onto roots, rhodo, trees, whatever we could grab.  But we did it.  I did a lot of butt sliding on the way down.  Never saw any snakes thank the Lord. 
Did see a few pretty wildflowers.  The day was bright and clear and a little cooler to start with.

               We went down a gully or two.  We were fortunate enough to find an old logging road for part of the trek.  It helped make it considerably easier.  Finally we reached the creek level. 
We had been able to hear it from the parkway.  Water levels were on the low side. We need rain.
We made this far. Now we bushwhacked thru rhodo and over rocks and around all sorts of logs and obstacles to reach the falls.   It was a deep gorge with little sunlight reaching it in most places.
It was pretty and wild and very quiet.

Mountain Bellwort

Mountain bellwort blooms in this sort of dry, piney woods.

Catesby's trillium along the trail to Ranger Falls. This was a lovely wildflower hike and would have been even better a week or so earlier!
Also Catesby's trillium which has now aged to pink.

Dwarf crested iris--the ones growing up on the dry pine ridges were plentiful! They are somewhat rarer than iris cristata<br />
Iris verna var. smalliana<br />
Iridaceae<br />
Tallassee, TN 2008
Vernal iris likes dry pine woods.
Below is a view of a slide area just before reaching the falls.  Once here we had 65 ft to go!
When you are off trail 65 feet might take awhile. This wasn't too bad of a crawl.  Under some rhodo across some rocks.

     GC Falls

Gold Creek Falls at last.   22 ft high. The upper drop is hidden by rhodo, logs and boulders.
We climbed up to a vantage point that let us see it clearly.  Glad we brought some rope along.

A unique vantage point near the falls that shows what a hole you're down in.   Neat rock formations.


Gold Creek Falls upper drop is five or six feet high.

       We sat down and rested. Took lots of photos. Kenny climbed up above the falls to decide if we wanted to try to continue up the stream where there are supposed to be more cascades? Also he wanted to see if he could find us an alternate way back out.   He came back saying no way he was doing that.  We'd just reverse course.

           Below is a video that shows the various parts of the falls.
It really is pretty.

            I was dreading the climb back up out of that big hole.  The grade was so steep.
I told Kenny in advance of starting up that he'd just have to remember to be patient with me.
I had a ton of anxiety about it.   I sat down and ate something sweet before starting and made sure my bladder was empy and I had plenty to drink.   I didn't want any distractions while trying to climb up that mountainside and watch out for snakes at the same time.  I broke the return trip down to segments in my mind.  1. back along the creek. 2. cross the creek.  3.  up the first gully to the old road 4. up the next gully 5. up the steepest slope. 6. across the flatter part of the mountain to the jeep.
It is worth mentioning that my balance and my brain's processing of my changes in body position is improving!  Kenny noticed it and so did I.  I still have a little bit of lag time in processing a change in body position sometimes, but the last time it was real noticeable to me was for a brief minute or two on Saturday.

         I just took my time. Rested frequently.  Set tiny goals on the way out. From this tree to that tree.
Rest.  On to the next rock. Rest.  Used the mountaineer step.  Did a lot of turning boots sideways.
Used the baskets on my trekker to dig in.  Halfway up I ate another cookie for some fast energy.
I don't like oreos, but I needed the sugar. I felt like gumby and I couldn't tell if it was from nerves, low blood sugar or exertion.  Maybe some of all of it.  Kenny was great in encouraging me.
We laughed and joked on the way up. I just kept my focus on what was the immediate thing I needed to get through.   I did not permit myself to look ahead much or assess how much was left.

       I only had one real upset spell on the way out and that was momentary.  It was a slope at the very steepest, worst part with little to grab. I was shaky now and it was from exertion for sure. I had sewing machine legs and gumby arms.  I was wishing we had picked the route back up that was suggested to us.  It would have been more gradual.   Once through that part I could see the last 70 feet to the flatter part of the mountain.  It gave me renewed energy and we pushed on.
I got up top and collapsed in the grass to rest.   Thankfully we made it down and back safe!  Success!
It took awhile for it to sink in that we did it!  We're a good team.   I can tell that while I am still struggling with my fitness level and my brain's healing that progress is being made!

Two tough waterfalls to find and reach in one weekend is pretty satisfying.  What a good weekend this had turned out to be!

Spring view from FHPW
   Here is the view on the drive home from one of the overlooks on Foothills Parkway. This is closer to the Walland end and looking toward the Smokies.

***Edited to Add:  I sat down and figured up the grade percent on this trip.  71%.  Way worse than the Porters Creek Manway, but shorter by far. So glad I did not know that fact prior to going.***