Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 Sink Hole Research Continues

Turkey Tail fungus grows on a log in Hell Hole

2017--Continuing Sink Hole Research

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Sat. Feb. 18, 2017

   I finally got a chance to get out with Kenny to try to do something fun on a Saturday.
I had to fight and claw to get anyone to help with the baby.  I was very frustrated with the situation.   Not at the baby.... but at the adults.  I find that when I have to contend that hard to 
get something it diminishes my enjoyment of it.   I was upset most of the day and did not really feel better until Sunday.    It was not a good time, but Kenny loved on me and encouraged me and put up with me.  He got a few laughs out of me despite the funk I was in.  Going through one of those times in life when I feel "Snake bit".  Just waiting to see what else will mess up.

      I had a hard time even getting interested in anything.    I got the maps out and decided 
it would be fun to find out if a very short squiggly blue line I saw in a sink hole was an interesting water feature?  I figured it was something good that was there year round.
I believed I knew how to reach it.  The sink hole had no name so I gave it one. It is the one that the blue line is near. It looked like it began at the sink hole per the map.  I named it Long Branch Sink.   It is near Long Branch which is a tributary stream of the Caney Fork River.

       I was interested in revisiting Hell Hole.  I was interested in revisiting Big Sink. I was interested in seeing if we could make it to Wilson Ridge and Dry Creek Falls.  The day was rainy, but not cold.   The sun finally came out in midday.   We got started by unloading the RZR.   We went to try to find Long Branch Sink first.   

     We started from the lower trail down nearer the parking at Big Bottom TWRA.
It did not pan out.  The trail was good until it wasn't!  We got to a place where it was so grown up in sapling trees there was no getting through them or around them.  We'd be there cutting trees now if we'd  tried to cut them all down.   We turned around and went another way to a trail that came in above it.     We felt like we were aimless wanderers there for a bit.
We were in such a pretty area that we did not care.   About that time we started seeing and hearing water.   We realized from the GPS we were nearly there.   One last wrong turn and a quick back up and turn around and we arrived!  

          Long Branch Sink did indeed have a pretty and interesting water feature. It runs year round.    It is the terminus of the headwaters of Long Branch.   Long Branch starts out above this sink hole as several headwaters springs scattered around.   Looks like some of them come in at the terminal rock pile. Others come from both sides of the trail above this.   It is a short stream. It ends in a split swallet.  Some water goes left and some goes right. The one on the left has a lot of action and flow. You can see it actively disappear underground.  The right one is just a hole of water where it slowly percolates through.   Eventually all this water comes out and joins the Caney Fork River.    I love a headwaters area.   They are just magical. 

Long Branch Sink.  It is not a real large sinkhole, but it is attractive. Full of mossy green rocks and a babbling small stream that ends in a double swallet.  You are looking over the rim of the sink when you look up at the top of this rock pile!  The stream bed is sandstone. Lots of conglomerate rock chunks filled with tiny white pebbles. I picked up a few of the white pebbles in case I have to leave a trail marker.  ;^D You know like Hansel and Gretel.  

 The stream flows on away from the rock pile edge of the sink.
 Lots of small fallen trees and debris in here.
 stream rounding the bend to end at...........

The left swallet..  it moves fast and you can see the water going away.

Right side swallet just ponds up and sits.  Percs under the ground finally.

      We continued past the sink and the massive moss covered boulders and copper beech trees were quite pretty. The sun was filtering down through the trees.  The terrain back here is gentle and rolling.   Springs of water cropped up and flowed to join Long Branch forming the main stream body.    The trail continued back here, but we had no idea where it came out so we finally turned around.   

           We were pleased to have found it.  We continued on in the general direction we believed Hell Hole should be in.  I had a memory of following a trail down down down into it like a corkscrew.  
Kenny's recall of it was better than mine.  You'd never know the path was there if you were not looking closely.   It is hidden by lots of sage brush.   We were tickled to find our way back to this special place.   Sure enough the trail does spiral down into it.   It is 122 feet deep, but seems deeper to me.   It is a very large sink hole.  The largest in the state of Tennessee for surface area is Grassy Cove coming in at some five MILES worth of surface area.  It is also the largest sink hole in the U.S.  The deepest sink hole in the state at this time is Big Sink at 261 feet deep.  I finally found a way into that last Winter.  It was a cool experience.  I had a feeling as we hiked toward the waterfall in Hell Hole we were in for a surprise.  I suddenly knew there would not be a pond anymore.    Sure enough the first little blue pond was empty.  Next we could hear the falls, but the pond was bone dry.    No pretty blue hole of water.  Ah well. It appears the falls runs year round, but the pond is seasonal.    Last time we found it looking good we were experiencing some flooding.  The usually dry stream beds around Lost Creek were ALL flowing. Your Falls was flowing really good.   Hell Hole is 122 ft deep.
 Dry Pond now at Hell Hole--wonder where it got the name? 

Looking at the trail across the floor of Hell Hole. 

Below is a short video of Long Branch Sink.  

Below I have included the video of Hell Hole's waterfall and pond how it looked on our first visit. It was quite pretty.  What a difference!

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