Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Last Day of Camping at Davy Crockett Campground-- Athawominee/ Bledsoe State Forest/Little Falls


Trout lily blooming in Bledsoe State Forest


Last Day of Camping and Exploring

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Monday April 10, 2017

Pictures are here starting with frame 568
(Not all the photos were taken in Bledsoe SF but most were)






Monday Morning 


   We had taken a nice long weekend and had a Monday to add on to our exploring.
It was a great feeling to wake knowing we did not have to hurry home. One more day to play.
We got our meals and chores done quickly around the camper so we could get going.
We planned to explore several areas today to satisfy our curiosity about them. It feels good
to finally do what we have talked about for so long.  We discussed do we take the RZR or leave it behind?  Invariably if we do not take it we end up regretting it. On the down side.. it can make finding parking a real pain. It can also end up being a lot of trouble for nothing.
It can attract the kind of attention you don't want. We also risk having it stolen when parked and hiking out away from it.    We recently made it road legal for Tennessee.  You have to add a horn, brake lights, signal lights and get it tagged for either low speed or moderate speed roads.  The fee is not expensive, but the additions can be especially if  you are not a do-it-yourselfer.
I have posted a link to a write up on what it entails.  


  We finally decided we'd take it and use it because we'd have the truck.  The last time we tried the roads through Bledsoe State Forest we had my jeep and thank goodness! The road we traveled was red dirt, slick, had branches encroaching and scraping the sides of the vehicle. It went out across a pasture field and ended up at a prison!  Another place we planned on trying to park later in the day  would not be good for the truck. It would scratch the paint off the sides.  We loaded up and started down the interstate.  We had not gone far when  we felt 
an odd shimmy.   Kenny looked in his side mirror to see what was wrong. I looked in mine and could see chunks of  rubber flying off one of the trailer tires. I told him to pull over right away.    We were within sight of the Crossville exit.  We pulled over and he put on the spare.
I loaded the flat into the back of the truck. I went round and looked at the opposite tire which was ok at the moment. I had misgivings though. We had no more spare tires. What if the other trailer tire blew?  I looked up tire places and ended up calling Wal-Mart tire center which was closest.  They put the new tire on the rim and it was $97.  Our plans were delayed 
about an hour, but the day was saved.  

             Athawominee


   The first place we visited was a rock formation in Bledsoe County. I am calling it Athawominee which is the name it was given by the friend who shared the directions.  It is
not on the data base.  I had noticed some cool photos from a trip this friend took to this spot.
I asked about it and he was reticent to share the knowledge.  He is usually very helpful and we trade info back and forth. I respected his right to hang on to his secrets.  One day I happened upon an interesting feature on a map of Bledsoe County. I posted a question  asking if anyone knew what in the sam hill it was?  The name was interesting, but the spot on the map looked ordinary.  He pinged me  letting me know that I had happened upon his special spot.  I had found Athawominee.  Since I found it on the map he shared the directions with the caveat that I not blab the location.  It is fairly pristine and it would be nice to keep it that way.  The name 
means "place where they go armed". It refers to the great Indian war path. 

       We found it and pulled over to walk into the woods to check it out. 

Here is Kenny among the boulders.


Sun shines down into the boulders

Looking straight up
Balanced rocks
 Kenny in the middle of a four way intersection. This place is massive and very cool!

On the other side of the four way.  Wow! 
I am not naming the person who told us how to get here, but he knows who he is. 
Thanks friend! You da best! 

Kenny in one of the cracks ahead of me.

  We spent some time exploring the formation. It was fun and very interesting.  We finally wrapped up our visit here and went back to the truck. We went onward to our next destination.  It was a good thing too since it took us a minute to get oriented.  


Bledsoe State Forest 

   I had always wondered about Bledsoe State Forest when I'd pass the signs or see it on the map.  Kenny was also curious about it.  After my "short cut" lead us into such a funny, pretty adventure a couple years back we were sure we needed to go explore the state forest and learn more about it. Be warned if I take a short cut it will get us lost, but no worries we'll find civilization again. The only problem is it will come out at a prison!  All roads lead to jail when it comes to me.  Hal Wilson was right. I have the soul of a convict. 



You're Never Lost As Long as You're Somewhere You Wanna Be! 

   Yep. Truth.  It is one of KT's missives, but it remains relevant. Trying to find your way BACK to where you were lost presents its own set of problems!  No one ever thinks about wanting to return to where they were lost. Only we would do something dumb like that.   We tried ciphering it out by using a map and backtracking from where we came out. We did not want to go IN that way. We wanted to go back round the way we went in before. We finally figured it out.  We pulled over, parked at a wide spot and ate lunch. We were both hangry. Once we had some brain fuel in us we could think more clearly. We started out.  Later we would come to realize what mixed us up even more than usual. The road has been graded, graveled, and the 
original entrance moved!  It cut off a big corner and some landmarks! No wonder we struggled more than usual!  

      We passed a forest ranger and a few vehicles.  We passed a couple on horses.  
We came to the first place we really liked that was familiar.  We have learned it is called Old Rocky Ford.   It is where Newton Lane crosses Bee Creek. It is near the confluence of Bee Creek and Little Cane Creek.     Bee Creek is a pretty stream. The water is that pretty aquamarine color most of the time.  I have decided in my mind that is the official color of the Cumberland Plateau.  The maple trees were sporting their bold red buds. Oak trees were showing their bronze early leaves.  Hemlock trees dotted the stream bank with deep greens.
We crossed the stream and enjoyed the scenery and the splash through the water.  
Old Rocky Ford.. the road goes right through the creek! What's not to love? 

Bee Creek in Spring. Looking downstream from Old Rocky Ford 


  
  Once we crossed the creek we turned left down a side trail. It is just a rutted old dirt track that heads upstream along Bee Creek.  It is very pretty. Lots of bright yellow trout lilies bloomed on either side of the trail.   Rue anemone, wild geranium, and a few blue violets bloomed there also.  Wood anemone was seen here also.  The trail ends at a camp site with a pretty swimming hole and rope swing.   It goes uphill to the right but dead ends at some rocks.

Trail heading to the camp site by Bee Creek. 

Bee Creek rope swing and swimming hole!

  Once we'd seen what was down this path we headed back to the main road through the forest. 
We had passed a couple side paths on the way out before the ford.  We decided that any side paths we'd go out on  the way back.   We'd just go out them as we came to them.  We followed Newton Lane what turned out to be a short distance until we got to where the road is back to red dirt and crosses the edge of the pasture field.   Knowing that from here on out there wasn't much to see and we were nearing the dreaded prison..... we turned around.   The first side trail lead to another camp site.  It is in a hemlock grove and very shady.  It sits by Bee Creek but this part of it looks like a lake. It appears Beavers have dammed up part of it.   It looks like folks use it to paddle canoes and fish.  It is real pretty.  
 Hemlock forest and camp site
 Bench by the stream

 Steps leading down to the water. Very neatly done!  


   We enjoyed the look at the water and the forest.  We kept going until we crossed the ford again and came to the next side trail.  We went down it and finally came to downed trees across the trail.  It did not appear this trail lead anywhere good so Kenny opted to turn around and head back to the main road.   I later learned we should have cut them out and kept going! Oldfield Lake is down there! We'll have to check that out next time over there.  
I am underlining stuff that is meant to be reminders for subsequent trips.   The next side path was Old Scotts Gulf Road.  It was ok, but nothing great. If there is anything real good down it we did not see it.   We also turned and went out  what ended up being Bledsoe Park Road.
It goes past someone's house.  Not much to see out there.  Going that way did take us across a ford of Little Cane Creek which was quite pretty.  
Ford of Little Cane Creek under the hemlocks. So pretty!


   I wanted to try to see the Glade Creek and Braddens Creek area, but did not know how to access it. Kenny was not in the mood to spend all day trying to figure it out.  We'd already done a lot of finagling trying to find stuff.  He wanted to get going to see something more.   We loaded up and headed toward Spencer.  We thought we'd hike back in to see Sullivan Creek Falls and Laurel Creek Falls.   We had no idea how the rest of the day was going to deteriorate.

Balancing the Universe--- We Done Let the Deal Go Down

    I am a dark minded someone at times.  My sense of metaphysics and humor are warped.
The way life has been in the past decade I have developed a new philosophy.  Only so many angels can dance on the head of that pin we call life.  One too many and things crumble. 
We must have added one too many today.   Once things go along too well for a bit.. something will always happen to restore order to the Universe.  Some devils with pitch forks will come and start jabbing at us to keep things even.   

              

       Sullivan Creek Falls Access Update--Devil #1 

   We pulled in to the area where we were to park and walk to the falls.  It is off Hwy 30 west of Spencer.  We found that it is badly overgrown with briars still.   Someone has been picking up some of the trash.  A strand of barbed wire is strung across the road.  They have also felled seven trees across it.  One right after another.  It would not be impossible get in there on foot.  All of it taken together made us feel unwelcome and uneasy.   I expect it has to do with trying to keep out the litter bugs more than anything, but we decided if they went to those lengths to keep out intruders we would not go.   Another reason is that while I do not think they'd care if we walked to the falls they might care about folks riding ATVs back there.
We were not riding, but if you happened to have one in tow that can give folks the wrong idea.  
We left and decided to go see Little Falls.  We would wrap up our day after that and go back to the camper.    We'd get cleaned up and go out to eat in Cookeville.   

              Little Falls Access Update  Devil #2

    We knew from the trip where Jay and I tried to hike to Little Falls via the Turkey Scratch Road trail head that we needed to go round the other side.  Chuck Sutherland told us that the access was now from the Little Falls Road trail.  We went in that way and as we neared the back where we should park it was apparent that a lot has changed.  TVA is back there putting in power lines.  The road has been graveled.  The entire area around the trailhead has been torn up.   We had never hiked in from this side so we were unsure what to do.   I got out and looked.
The GPS said the falls was 0.2 miles away.  We decided to set  off in that direction using a path near the truck.  It got us there, but that was not the real path.  Little Falls is a sixty foot waterfall that was flowing great today and looking beautiful.   It is on public land deeded to Van Buren County by Maurice "Judge" or "Peckerwood" Taft.   It drops over a rock amphitheater.
I am happy to say someone has done a clean up and all the old tires and trash are gone from the area at the base of the falls!  It looks good.  We hiked back out on the real trail.  There are several small but attractive cascades above Little Falls that you see as you walk along here.  
Little Falls minus old tires! 


    Once you pass the cascades you are out in the power line cut.  They have created a stream buffer using wood chips that go all the way up to the road.  We followed the obvious spot where folks were trampling down through that to the trail and the falls.  It was a short, steep, uphill climb, but then we were back at the truck and done.    So if you go to Little Falls just remember
to park near the power line and go down the power line cut through the wood chips. You'll see the creek at the bottom of the hill.  Turn left and in 100 feet you'll be at the falls.    Greg Plumb's directions say the hike is 0.4 miles one way.  Thanks to the disruptions of the road and hike it is now 0.2 miles one way.   

               Last But Not Least... Devil #3

   We  got in the truck and prepared to leave.   The truck started, but then died. It refused to turn over anymore.    Kenny fooled with it and kept trying to get it started.   It was not going to budge.    We seldom have vehicle trouble so it is upsetting and surprising when we do.  Despite everything Kenny tried it was not working.   He called Jason. He called Adam. He tried the diagnostic run by one of the devices he has installed.   I got out a book and began to read and eat a snack.  I was just trying to remain calm and cool and not do anything to set him off.
He was angry at the situation and very upset.   Long story short he talked to Jason again who suggested he uninstall the Bully Dog chip and see if that was causing problems?  Kenny did that and waited and it would not start.   I finally had enough and said he needed to call a tow truck.
He got to work on that.  It wasn't easy finding someone who could tow a Duramax Diesel towing a trailer and a RZR 1000.   At last he found someone named Damien who tows for Ed Rogers car dealership and got him on the way.   For whatever reason he tried getting the truck to crank one more time.  I was in the process of putting stuff in my backpack to take in the wrecker.  The truck fired to life and we were both gaping in surprise!  We jumped in and closed the doors and took off out of there.   I got out to close the gate and latch it for TVA. 
Kenny called to try to stop Damien from making a wasted trip. He was already at the Dollar General along Hwy 111.   We stopped and Kenny paid him for a service call and we both thanked him.  He went out the road with us as we headed back toward Cookeville so if we broke down again he could stop.     No more problems thankfully, but we'd had a plenty by then.     Kenny still wanted to go out to eat. I did not. I just wanted to go be quiet and safely back at our home away from home.  He went to grab some fast food. I went to the camper and got cleaned up and ate warm ups and read a book and watched tv.   

                      We left Tuesday morning early because Kenny had to be back in Maryville at the surgery center for a pre op visit.  He had gall bladder surgery scheduled the next day! 
At least we did not have anymore vehicle trouble and he made it in time to get his surgery.
What a weekend.  Good. Bad. Everything in between.  


Below is a short video of Little Falls.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Big Sink in Springtime


Blue Cohosh closeup. See the sweat bees? They are 
pollinators for this plant.  


Big Sink in Springtime 

Dana & Kenny Koogler 

Sunday April 9, 2017

Pictures are here starting with frame 67

BIG SINK PIX

Here is a link to a page I have put on the front of  my blog
It contains directions how to access this area from either side.
Big Bottom WMA Access Points

    We woke Sunday morning with a plan  stuck to it.  I had been wanting to see Big Sink in the Spring.  I just knew it would have great wildflower blooms.  I also hoped the falls would have more water  since our drought conditions are improved.  We did not get in a hurry.
We took time to fix breakfast and enjoy coffee and conversation.  Kenny got out and inspected the job site which is  within walking distance of the camper!   We packed  lunch and headed out for Big Bottom WMA..  It is on the south side of the WMA. We approached from here because it does not involve fording the Caney Fork.  Spring water volumes might wash you away.   The area is in rural Van Buren County.

         We got parked, unloaded ,and set out on the trail.  The day was perfect. Sunshine and blue skies. Warm temperatures with a light breeze.  The air smelled good and the views were clear.  Driving out across the plateau seeing those pretty green pine trees ,and smelling their fragrant needles is a treat for both eyes and nose.  I began seeing clusters of lavender birdsfoot violets growing along the road.  I also saw one or two clumps of white birdsfoot violets! I had previously only seen that color  at Pickett State Forest.
 The start of a bluebird day! Heading out Flowing Well Road .

White birdsfoot violet.


    We continued out Flowing Well road.  The only things blooming were the violets we'd seen, redbuds, dogwoods, and a few vernal iris.  Our elevation dropped and  there were more flowers and greenery.     The forest here is always pretty. The advantages of seeing an area with leaves off the trees is that you can notice things usually hidden during leaf out.  Down around Shop Gap we began seeing rue anemone, and purple phlox and some Christmas ferns and a few buds on the trees.

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

         Shop Gap is interesting. It is shaped like a saddle.  The trail for ATV's goes off the left side of the saddle while the hiker path goes off the right!  Both are rocky and rough.  If you go down Graveyard Ridge Road access and stay straight you come out at Sally Gap which is a single track path.  We got to the bottom of Shop Gap and followed the ATV trail down to the Caney Fork .  It follows the river and in a couple places you can see the river below. Eventually you are at river level and can walk over to it.   We stopped at a particularly pretty area along the river. I always like to stop here and see the color of the water, the rocky bluffs and the moss that lines the banks. Today the moss on the tree trunks and banks shone an almost neon green.  The sun shined down through the forest canopy warming the day.  The wildflowers grew in profusion on the sandy river bottom land.   Golden ragwort grew on the far shore as far as the eye could see.  The trees were just beginning to have some green leaves and leaf buds.  Dwarf crested iris and phlox grew on the banks. Butterflies of black and yellow flitted by.  Today the Caney Fork was full and aquamarine.  Worth the stop for sure.

 Beautiful Spring day along the Caney Fork 
 Close up of the banks of the river.
 Golden Ragwort
  Dwarf Crested Iris 

       
     Once we took in the river view and soaked up some sunbeams we continued toward our main destination.. Big Sink.   We had to pass another sink hole on the way. It is to the left of the trail heading in and easy to spot.  It has a waterfall that  only flows part of the time.  We named it Lynnie Gal Falls for a much loved relative who passed away a couple years ago. I miss her terribly. We all do. Especially at times like Easter, Christmas, Halloween. Teresa was special. Her dad Lloyd called her Lynnie Gal.  He was a mess and so was she.  I can hear her laugh even now.  Sure enough the falls was flowing!  The sun rays and green tree leaves and wildflowers made it such a sight for sore eyes.  I had thought it had a real big upper part to the falls so today we hiked up there to see. It does have an upper cascade, but it is not large. 
It is  another 10 foot drop.


Here is Lynnie Gal Falls  and you can click on the link to see a video.

     Once we were satisfied with our stop at Lynnie Gal Falls and that sinkhole we moved on toward Big Sink.  Kenny asked me if I wanted to go right to the main part of it or did I want to see it all?  I wanted to see it all.  I'm glad I did!  It is all pretty!  Big Sink is 1.6 miles long, 123 feet deep, and 0.5 miles wide. It is  rectangular.  It reminds me of a box canyon out west.  We wound through the woods only missing our turn once. We passed a burned out old car sitting back in the woods. It has been there a long time.  You have to wonder  how it got there?  Why was it set on fire?  The trail  does not run neatly from the  mouth of the sink  along its bottom ,and out the other end.  We had to do some maneuvering to see it all either on foot or ATV.  You have to go round to the mouth  and come in. You  go back a fair ways then   have to back track and take a higher trail that runs along the rim. It goes back down to the bottom of the sinkhole just above Little Sink Falls.  There are some interesting views of the rock formations and the beautiful slopes of the sink from this vantage.

     
 One of the very first sights to greet us at the mouth of Big Sink were slopes covered  with trilliums!  Below is a photo of one just aging to pale pink.
 Trillium grandiflora turning pink.
 The sun shining  into the forest is beautiful.  You can see the trail winding through the woods.
 Once you get to this boulder you have gone as far as you can on this path.  You must back track and go up to the sink rim.  The boulder is topped with purple phacelia.

Here is a closer view of the phacelia.

  The map shows another trail heading away from Big Sink toward Dodson and the river. 
We finally found it today. We did not fully explore it, but will need to .   We jumped up a wild hog while ambling down this side trail!  We came upon the lap of a fallen tree.  Something began to rustle and out ran a hog! It is not the black Russian wild boar sort we usually see. This hog was a feral hog and brown! If you take a domesticated hog and turn it out in the wild within a fairly sort time it will revert to feral.  I have seen these on television, but until today had never seen one for myself!  He took off to the west and we did NOT follow him!
We also found that the trail headed west along the top of the ridge, but again we did not continue. It needs to be looked at because 1.  It may provide an alternate route to explore Big Sink and Little Sink Branch.  2. The Cal Topo map shows another structure where this trail dead ends on the rim of the sinkhole.  Checking satellite images I cannot see any man made structure there. 
 Above: Moore Branch just above its confluence with Little Sink Branch and Little Sink Falls. See the trail coming down to the creek on the left of the frame?
Below: Little Sink Branch

        We back tracked and got onto the trail at the rim to continue.  Across from us were slopes lined with mostly second growth sized trees leafing out.  Every so often we could see spots on the opposite side where it appeared a trail was over there.  Some of these may represent remnants of old logging roads, but I do want to check to see if there isn't a trail along the far rim.  I believe there is at least part way.   The trail turns down to the sink floor again at the confluence of Moore Branch and Little Sink Branch. Just below the confluence of the streams is Little Sink Falls.  It is about fifteen feet high. I am not sure if it flows year round. I think it does, but I imagine there is far less water in Summer.  A trail continues up Little Sink Branch. We have checked it out before. It is shown on the map  coming back out on Long Rock Road, but we found it dead ended.  It was a beautiful trail, but very rocky and rough.  No waterfalls down Little Sink Branch.   It is an interesting area because of the beauty of the forest and the towering rock formations.
    

Dwarf Ginseng was found  around Little Sink Falls. 


  It was noon when we got to the falls at Little Sink Branch. We pulled over and sat down and enjoyed a view of the falls. We sat on a boulder underneath a rock overhang and listened to the water.  We had a shady spot, but the sun was bright all around us.  Purple phacelia was on the rock above us.  The falls did have more water today. It was even prettier than  expected.  It gathers the flow of both streams and empties into the ground at the right.  Today there was enough water to make a small plunge pool.   On the far side there are massive boulders that form another small rock grotto.  I had forgotten my tripod this camping trip. I had bright sunny conditions to add to my frustration in trying to get good pictures.  I tried getting in different spots in the shaded grottoes to see if that would help. It did a little bit.  




Little Sink Falls Click the link to watch the video.


   Kenny had wandered down below Little Sink Falls on  an old road bed.  He came back saying "You need to walk down where I just was! Come see?! " I went with him and he was right.
The rocky shelves above us were coated with purple phacelia.   The entire scene was like something out of Paradise.  Prairie trilliums, southern red trilliums, toothwort, Canada violets, yellow violets, blue violets, dwarf ginseng, ferns, redbuds, dogwoods, all blooming .
 Above and below.. slopes lined with purple phacelia.





 It was such a beautiful spot we took plenty of time to absorb it. It is hard to tear yourself away from places like this.  Only the anticipation of what lay ahead motivated me to keep going.
Finally we climbed back in the RZR and motored on up the trail.  It is interesting to me how my mind edits hikes or rides.  It leaves out stuff. I guess I just cannot remember it all.  The ride was prettier and longer than I had imagined.  You'd think a sink 1.6 miles long end to end would be quick.  It is what is contained in that space that makes it count.  The forest down here is incredibly beautiful. I did not want it to end today.  Luckily there was more to come.  Soon we came to the biggest oddity in this sinkhole.  The house.  An old house still sitting in the bottom of the sinkhole.  Unoccupied for a very long time.  It is fascinating. I'd love to know the history of it.  Paper white narcissus bloomed in clumps near it.  It appears to have been someone's home long ago.


   We did not tarry long here. It is intriguing, but a little less so now that we knew it was here. 
It was just shocking to see the first time!  It will be interesting to see if we find more home sites down here.  Black tic marks on topo maps are supposed to indicate structures. 

      We pushed onward and soon began to see moss covered rock piles. More signs of human occupation.  We passed the mossy old chimney remains and the tater hole from under the house. A new sink hole... a small one had opened up a short distance behind it. I do not go in or near that sort of sink.   It is unstable and can swallow you up if it gives way.  Big Sink has been stable for many centuries I'd guess.  I did see yellow kerria blooming near this spot today.   I was less interested in the history of the people here than I was in seeing the natural features.  All of these things lay nearer the way point given for the heart of Big Sink. The area here is so much like White Oak Sink in the Smokies.   Wildflowers grow and bloom in profusion.  Purple phlox , cream violets, dwarf larkspur in deep purple, pale purple and even two pink ones! I have never seen pink larkspur anywhere before . Not a nursery as an ornamental and certainly not in the wild.  
 Above and below dwarf larkspur in purple and pink.


    Kenny went   to the center of the sinkhole.He began exploring the caves. I meandered around for awhile just enjoying the scenery and flowers.  Mayapples were all around like tiny green umbrellas.   The deep purple swatches of larkspur were really striking.  Now and then you'd have a lavender one thrown in. I was stunned when I saw the pink ones.  Naturally I had to get plenty of images of those!    The flowers continued on into the core of the sink.  Mayapples, dwarf larkspur, violet wood sorrel, ferns, lots of squirrel corn and dutchmans breeches all around the caves and the slopes.  The soil in the sink was very loamy and soft.   Moss clung to everything.  Kenny was nowhere to be seen.  He hollered for me to come on down. He had gone in the swallet that drinks up the stream flowing here during high water.  You could hear water down in the cave.  It was squishy and muddy and I swore I was not going in there.  Kenny kept telling me what was in there. Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and I went in.  I had no light, but he had a couple.  He came out far enough to light the way for me. I got filthy, scratched and bruised up, but I didn't care. I was not going to miss out.  No bats in here.  Only some spiders and camel crickets.  The underground stream was very cool. So were the rock forms and chambers of the little cave.  
 At the center of this frame is the mouse hole cave.   This is down in the very core of Big Sink.

 Inside the swallet cave. One of the two chambers.
 Underground stream in the cave
Glad to be coming back out into the light! I was filthy dirty.  


   We crossed back over to the mouse hole cave. I had enjoyed going in this odd little formation the first time.  I was tickled to get to see it again.  It is even prettier in Spring.  Everything is green and mossy and covered in vegetation.  The rock forms are gray and convoluted. Kenny crawled in once more exhorting me to "Come on Down! " like some game show host.  I took a few photos of the Dutchman's Britches growing around the opening and went in.  It is a tight squeeze at first, but it is only a short distance until it opens up.  It is a single chamber shaped like a cone.  I have lost twenty four pounds since I was there last so it was easier to wriggle through this go round.  Once inside the cave we could see four bats way up in the ceiling.  We did not linger too long. We did not want to hassle them.  
 Dutchman's breeches growing outside the cave entrance.
 Mouse Hole Cave entrance


      We satisfied our curiosity about the caves at the core of the sink. It was very cool to finally get to see the inside of a swallet. It was a first!  We still had another waterfall at the back to see and possibly more falls up Moore's Branch. The stream there is so pretty coming down Moore's Branch, but it is really hard for me to call that a "waterfall" when the stream is dwarfed by the massive boulders.   I expected the wildflower display to be good, and was not disappointed.   Typical of some other sinkholes in the great Smoky Mountains and Cumberland Plateau.. this sinkhole contains lots of flowers including Virginia Bluebells!

 Virginia Bluebells in profusion at the back of big sink. Above this were shelves of purple phacelia , canada violets, and dutchman's breeches.  Butterflies, dragonflies, and bees darted in and out of the flowers.
 Some sort of swallowtail butterfly on Dutchmans Breeches
 Nice example of Southern Red Trillium at the back of Big Sink.
Trout lilies grew on the slopes around Big Sink Falls.

     We finally came to the back of the sink. The trail continues, but it leads up and out from this point.  We stopped to check out the beautiful Big Sink Falls.  Kenny went up Moore Branch, but I did not. It had a little more water than last visit, but it wasn't enough to motivate me to crawl up there.   I enjoyed sitting at the base of the falls and basking in negative ions.   
Southern Red trilliums, rue anemone, trout lilies and other beautiful wildflowers dotted the rocky terrain around the falls.  Moore Branch flowed down joining with the water coming off the falls. All of it disappeared into the ground at the base of the falls.  Interestingly enough there is another stream coming down beside the trail that we took when leaving.  It does not make it to the bottom of the sink. It enters the ground before it gets there!

              The afternoon was  warm.  A breeze was stirring.  The new green growth of Spring was all around us.  It was a really fine feeling to have gotten a chance to see this through.  Quite often I have things I say I want to do, but it never materializes.  It is not hard to change my mind into going elsewhere because there are so many things I'm interested in.   We were both glad we picked this today and kept to it.   I am filling up my mind and heart with the beauty of such days.  Hobbies and interests like we participate in are hedges against the night.  Everyone should have those in place.

   
Big Sink Falls.. a vertical composition.

Horizontal orientation of Big Sink Falls.  


   We followed the trail up and out of the back of the sink.  We encountered enough blown down trees and laps of trees we missed the trail in one spot.  Kenny got very annoyed, but he wrangled us out of there.   We came up on plateau level. He took off in the opposite direction of the truck.  We rambled around for awhile. We saw turkeys.  We saw a few wildflowers.  We rode along the rim of Big Sink before you get to Moore Branch.  We also saw some of the springs that make up Moore Branch.  Finally I had enough and called haw on him.   We headed back to the truck.  We passed two turkey hunters on the way out.    We had a perfect day.   Tired. Dirty.  Happy.  Ready to back to the camper and rest and get clean. We would dream of the adventures of the next day.  

Below is a video of Big Sink Falls.