Saturday, November 12, 2016

Woo Hoo Holler in Autumn--Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Stiff Gentian still in bloom by the river

Woo Hoo Holler in Autumn--Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Sunday Nov. 6, 2016

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sharon McGee

    Sunday we slept in and wallered.  I got up and started the coffee and set out the orange juice.
Kenny fixed bacon and pancakes. Yummy!  I love my tupperware husband. :-D 
We packed us a quick peanutbutter sammidge and grabbed our stuff. Out the door we went.
We met up with Sharon and planned out our strategy for the day.  We'd go first to find
Will Wright Branch Tunnel.  Once we had completed that we'd figure what to do next.
I did not feel super ambitious, but just wanted to be with my friends.  John was working today on their house with their carpentry helper.  We figured we'd ride over and check out their house later.
We started out in the direction of Pall Mall to find the tunnel.
Pretty spot we passed on the way.
    I knew the trip was going to involve going north on Hwy 127 through Pall Mall and past
Alvin York State Park.   I also knew we had to turn left onto SR 325 Moodyville Road.  Past that it was guess work. We had the GPS coordinates, but if you plug those in you can rest assured the Tom Tom will take you around your ass to get to your elbow.  Kenny and I had our usual navigation spat.
He thinks I should automatically know with 100% certainty where this stuff is even when I have never been before and he KNOWS I haven't.    We found it without any real trouble.  One real pretty, but unnecessary shortcut was all.  Soon we were sitting atop the arch on the road where it drives over.
"You have reached your destination." said the TomTom.  We turned around and parked at the only
reasonable place.  We sat looking at a cow pasture with sparse woods.

     We got out and entered the woods.  We saw a single strand of fence wire which looked like it might be electrified.  I just stepped across it and went on.   We ambled through the pasture and followed a path that lead down and swing right at the base of the hill.  Before us was the tunnel entrance in the side of the hill leading under the road.

What you see when you first round the bend. You can see the flat spot that is the road up there.

 Tunnel entrance.  Will Wright Branch Tunnel is the largest naturally occurring tunnel in the state of Tennessee. 150 ft through passage that is listed on Tennessee landforms as "complex". It is not a straight shot through.
Kenny stands at the opening on the other side.

    The creek flows through the tunnel and out the other opening.  We followed it. The tunnel itself was interesting with lots of formations and little side passages.  We easily found the second opening which leads to the other side of the road.  We did not want to try that one just yet and went into the dark one wearing headlamps.  It was a tight squeeze and duck down and watch your head.  It curved  back and forth and we just kept following it. It didn't take long for us to see a tiny bit of light above some rocks.  We were wading in mud so thick it would nearly suck your boot off.  We just stayed in the water as the creek bed was slightly less muddy.  We went over there and found we could climb out that hole, but it was not going to be easy.  It involved a slimy crawl up a slanted boulder the size of a Volkswagen.  We were able to tell it came out in the same general vicinity as the other hole.
We back tracked and on the way back saw some bats, spiders and cave crickets.  Sharon doesn't like spiders.   We wandered around and checked out the interior a little more.  Once we were satisfied with that we went to hole #2 and took a look.  We were out on the other side the road.
What is neat about this is that the scenery is pretty.  We must come back after a good rain.  Why? Below the opening of this tunnel is a waterfall.  It is not huge. Only eight or ten feet high, but it looks pretty cool.

 Looking out of the tunnel on the far side we are at the top of a waterfall.
 That black hole in the center of the photo is where hole #3 comes out.
Mo in the tunnel.  I am so thankful I have a best friend who likes to explore!  She is hilarious too and puts up with my nonsense.

    Once we got done exploring the tunnel we started our short walk back. We stood looking at the single strand of fence on the return trip.  I reached out my finger and touched it. It was electrified. I felt a little zap!  Sharon held the strand down for me with a large stick. I held it down for her.  We stopped on the drive back at the Forbus store in Pall Mall.  My boots were caked with thick mud. I was stomping them off in the parking lot when an old timer stood up and addressed me. "Gal, you stompin' that off 'fore you go in thar? Don't worry bout it. Go on in." I grinned and told him thanks that I had been under the ground in a tunnel.  His eyes got big and he questioned me as he wasn't sure he heard me correctly.
"Tunnel?!"  Yup.   Forbus Store is quaint.  I finally got to see it.

Forbus Store in Pall Mall.  It is not far from Static, Kentucky.

     We decided we'd go see the view from Rick and Lorelle's new house.   They were not home, but she took us up there to check it out and see the view. It really is something. Pretty house that still smells brand new.  View from their back yard that just won't quit.

View from Star Point

            Next we all went in the direction of Woo Hoo Holler so we could see the new house construction. We also planned to do some four wheeling and go back to the Hood Cave.   We stopped and visited with John and saw the house. It looks great and its going to be marvelous when it is completed.   I was standing in the area that will be the kitchen when it is done. I found myself overcome by emotion.  My friends dream and plan and it is coming to reality!  What a great feeling of joy.  Good friends who share common interests are the best.  They help restore my soul and are a source of comfort and joy.

      We scarfed down a quick sandwich so we could get going with our adventures for the rest of the day.    Sharon went ahead and Kenny and I hung back to avoid the dust.  It was dry and powdery.
We met back up at the cemetery. We continued up the river in the direction of Zarathustra's Cave.
John had said the river was nearly dry, but we were pleased to find many of the springs and holes of water still flowing.  Sharon was on a four wheeler and after a time holding the throttle with your thumb wears your arms and hands out.  Kenny put me behind the wheel of the RZR  with Sharon riding shotgun.  He drove her four wheeler to give her a rest from it.  I don't usually drive it especially in areas where there are lots of obstacles.  I did it though and he said he was very proud of me. I took my first mud hole and slung mud ALL OVER Sharon.  It was a total accident. She threatened to get me back on the return trip.  Dry as it was and we were still hitting mud holes!

Swift Ford is beautiful as ever.

 Autumn colors reflected on all that blue water at the Big Rock swimming hole.

Copper Beech leaves and the river.

      We drove several miles up the river to Hoodtown and finally found ourselves across the river from the cave entrance.  The cave has numerous entrances.  I found another one today!  I think it is the one the cavers call Dragon's Breath.  The wind was rushing out from under the ground at shoe level and rustling the weeds around it.   Getting to the main entrance requires fording the river, climbing the bank, walking along a narrow ledge, and climbing into a small hole.  That is what it takes to get to the first cave entrance.   Sharon had been before, but missed most of what we showed her today.  It was very cool.  We got across the river easily thanks to low water.  The bank scramble was tricky, but we did it.  Now we had to odd man to see who was going in that small hole first?
I just volunteered so I could get it over with.  Once you are in the room opens up and is larger.
Lots of laughing as we squeezed in the hole like dogs.  The air was nice and cool inside.  It was prettier than I remembered!  Lots of formations. Columns, stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flow stone, rim stone.  It is gated at the back.  We did see one bat and some guano.  We also got further back in another passage than we did before. It had been filled with water the first time. Today it had water, but it was a lot less.

 Looking back out the hole we crawled in.

This cave column looks like "This is a stick up!"  

Sharon and Kenny have made it in too. 

 Sharon in the part that has just enough head room in the center
Pretty cave formations, drapery, soda straws. 

  We enjoyed this cave so much. It was far prettier than we recalled from the first trip.  We spent more time in there and saw more this go round.  What fun!  Sharon had missed this one when Howard brought them here years ago.   Next we crawled back out the hole one by one.  We had to crawl a ledge 10 inches wide or less for about 20 feet in order to reach the next opening to the cave.  That doesn't sound so hard, but it sure isn't easy.  A fall from there might not kill you, but you'd sure be dinged up.  No one got photos of it as we were all too focused on getting across safely.  The next entrance is seen below.  
Looking out of Zarathustra's Cave entrance #2

This entrance and cave Sharon had seen before.

  We didn't spend as long in the second part of the cave as it was not as interesting. 
We went back out and had to crawl the ledge back again.  Going back is sometimes easier, but not this time.  Kenny told me later he was really proud of me. My fear of heights and balance problems are gone!  I handled it like a boss.  Thank you Lord!   Once back out we had to go down and across to get to the next set of openings.  They were way cool.  Check it out below. 

Looking out of Bigalo Jingoist Hole.   Three views above.

This is looking back down at the river below the caves.  

  We were losing daylight fast after the time change.  We realized that we had a good distance to ride back so we needed to get going.    Lots of obstacles between us and the clear path to home. I had dinner in the crockpot at home for all of us.  We were all going to be tired and hungry after today's adventures and work.    Sharon drove the RZR on the way back. I knew she'd get the chance to sling mud all over me so once we stopped I saw a giant glob of black mud on the windshield. I could reach it. I got a handful of it and painted my face in a tribal motif.  I sat there while she and Kenny conversed. They paid me no attention. Finally she turned and looked at me and her eyes grew wide and she seemed a bit startled.  She laughed and said she would expect nothing less.   I wore it for a good while, but it got to stinking so I scraped it off once it dried.  We were all very dirty from dragging around underground.  We were also powdered with gray road dust. I looked like Ashy Larry.

Ashy Larry-- from the Chappelle show.

  We got back to the main path in great time. Sharon's four wheeling skills are excellent. She will tell you otherwise, but don't listen.   She is being modest.   We got back just before pitch dark to the Shabin and Baby Butt Lane.  John was already gone back to Maple Hill.  We had a brief scare that Sharon's purse was stolen, but it was located. We were all relieved and loaded up to get back to the campground to eat.  I wished I had time to shower, but instead I just took off my muddy boots and washed my hands and wiped my face off.  Kenny helped me and we got to cooking right away.
We could smell BBQ chicken when we pulled up to the camper.  Not a good sign.  It had overcooked.
It was eatable, but on the dry side.  We were all too hungry to care.  We sat down in our little K├╝gler Haus on wheels and shared a meal together.  Overcooked BBQ chicken. collards brought by Sharon, fried potatoes by Kenny, french style greenbeans and corn on the cob by me.  It was a good supper and a fine time of conversing with friends.  Very mellow.  We were all exhausted and finally turned in.  I had made coffee and we had cinnamon pound cake for dessert, but no one had room for it. 

      Kenny and I sat up and watched The Infiltrator starring Bryan Cranston. It is the movie about U.S. Customs and the DEA bringing down drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Meddelin cartel back in the eighties. It was good, but a bit depressing since it was too true.   If you don't know about the history of the CIA, the drug cartels and the DEA agents back during that time period.. read about the predecessor to Robert Mazar who the Infiltrator was based on.  Ernesto "Kiki" Camarena.  What a brave, dedicated man.  I stayed up yet a bit longer to get a shower and wash off the filth. And yes! I moisturized!   No more Ashy Larry.  We generated a lot of dirty laundry this trip.  We went to bed and slept like the dead. It was a good thought knowing our weekend was not yet over! 


      The East Fork Obey river in the gloaming. Evening shadows lie in the river bottom, but up above there is still a little golden sunlight left.   This place is restorative. It also gives me back a bit of my soul taken away by the daily struggles of life and the stuff the world takes away.

     Zarathustra was an ancient priest and son of a nobleman from Iran.   Not a lot is known with certainty about him. He followed a false god, but he was a loving, caring person and a gentle soul.
He wrote beautiful verses.  Here is an excerpt I particularly like from Zarathustra's Rondelay. It seems fitting in a time such as this when the world is filled with both deep woe and deep joy. 

“O man, take care!
What does the deep midnight declare?
"I was asleep—
From a deep dream I woke and swear:—
The world is deep,
Deeper than day had been aware.
Deep is its woe—
Joy—deeper yet than agony:
Woe implores: Go!
But all joy wants eternity—
Wants deep, wants deep eternity."”

*You can also find directions to the Will Wright Branch Tunnel on the front page of my blog at present. 

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