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.
   IMG_6693


     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.
IMG_6711

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

IMG_6732

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.***

         

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