Friday, March 24, 2017

Back to Skinner Mountain

First bloodroot flower of the season 

Back to Skinner Mountain 

Sunday March 19, 2017

Dana & Kenny Koogler 

Pictures are here starting with frame 467
 Skinner Mountain Pix Spring 2017

  We got home at a decent hour on Saturday evening. Even after eating dinner out it was only around 6:45 p.m. when we got home.  Kenny was particularly tired from work on Friday so I told him to sleep on it before making any final decisions as to what we would do Sunday. 
We had planned on going to Jamestown to explore, go four wheeling and visit friends. 
He woke on Sunday and felt froggy so we got up and headed out. I knew how this was going to turn out. It never matters how much we say we need to wrap things up at a decent time and get home.. if we are with John and Sharon it won't happen. Why? Because we get to talking and having fun and don't want to leave.    

      We got over to Fentress County by 10 a.m.. We stopped at John and Sharon's house to say hi to John before we hit the trail.   Sharon was in North Carolina and not to be back until later.
John was in the house relaxing.  We greeted him and Otey the pup and we went on our way.
We thought we'd go into Buffalo Cove and try to find Garrett Falls.  Several years ago we went up to see Deer Gap falls from way down in Buffalo Cove. It was novel because we had never come in that way.  On the way up the trail we got to a spot that was deep and rocky. I remember saying we needed to go down in there to explore because I knew something was there.   Turned out to be correct because I later learned from Tennessee Landforms that there is another falls back there we have not seen yet!    

      We got down in the cove and found the intersection of Buffalo Creek and Garrett Creek.. a tributary stream.  We started up from there.  The terrain was steep, rocky, and slippery in places.   It was not long until I began to have trouble with my right knee.  I was protecting it with each step. It was taking me forever on account of that.  I felt like I was one false step away from seriously injuring the knee.  Kenny and I talked it over and decided we'd best tackle this another day.  I was not wanting to end up with knee surgery or off my feet.  We were also not focused because we were trying to cram way too much into the day.    We headed back over toward Skinner Mountain. I was so in hopes some wildflowers would be in bloom.  
Below are a few photos of what the terrain in Buffalo Cove was like.  

Open woods, but no trail here and rocky ground. Holes in between rocks! Kenny stepped in one that was rather spooky.

W e started trying to go up the stream bed. It was very rocky and slick.  Then we'd come to places that would force us to go around and get up on the bluff. then back down! 

Looking back up the bluff before I had to climb up again here.  Up and down we went.  In a very short span we were all over the board.  Pretty view of that glorious blue sky and sunshine!  Sun spot on the photo, but I kinda like how it looks. It is like a mini rainbow.
The un-named creek has some interesting features. That water chute looks small here, but it is about twenty feet high.  I am way up on the bank for this shot.   

Onward to Skinner Mountain

One nice thing that helped us hurry up and changed plans toward Skinner Mountain and exploring?  We tagged the RZR to be road legal on secondary roads.  No more loading it up and moving on short trips. We can just go from one point to another without any worries of getting a ticket.  It really saves time and energy.  The road up to Skinner Mountain is always rough, but today was the worst I've ever seen it.  Deep ruts cut into it from water erosion.  We decided to hold off on eating lunch until we got down in Lost Cane.  Once we arrived there we stopped and had a quit bite of something before taking off exploring.  I knew I was still going to have to be careful of that right knee. We started seeing water flowing down the trail right after making the left turn to head down.  Despite this the first three waterfalls barely had a trickle coming over.   It had rained the night before, but it didn't help out with that.  The fourth and fifth falls were flowing though!  The fifth waterfall comes out of a cave and re-enters the ground in two swallets.  It was the most water we'd ever seen shooting out of it!    We were seeing a few Spring wildflowers now.  Today was the earliest we've ever been down in Lost Cane.  The forest was still pretty bare.    Once I got to the edge of the sinkhole I could start to see trout lilies!

  Below is a video of clips strung together from that day.  It shows some of the various features we saw.  I am trying to learn how the trim and split tools work on movie maker. I am learning, but it is a slow process.  I get angry and have to set it aside then come back to it once I've cooled off.  Try try again! 

Here is a glimpse of one of the prettiest patches of wildflowers on the slopes today.
 Here is my short cut hole.  I used this to beat Kenny getting to the waterfalls the first time we came down in this place. Race to be First.. thru the rabbit hole
 Waterfall #5 above.. it runs year round.  It is a cave spring.
Waterfall #4-- It only flows when we have rain heavy and recent. It rained hard last night.  Usually when the river trail is too high to ford these are a good place to go visit.

      We enjoyed the dirt ditch climb...and time down in the sinkhole.  It was glorious. It was the most sunlight I have ever seen down in there!  It is usually dim.   By the time I got to the bottom my legs especially my right knee were like jello. Very shaky.  Having a rope today helped.
We climbed back out which is always easier than going down.  We headed on down the trail. We could see very quickly that below this part of the sinkhole there was no more water flowing.
We pushed onward toward waterfalls #6 and #7. Falls #7 was running, but six was dry as a chip.
Waterfall #7 is another spring fed falls and runs year round.  The flow from it enters a swallet.
 Huge mossy boulder on the way to the waterfall.
Waterfall #7 looking good today.
Some botrychium .. grape fern species.. down in Lost Cane.
Spring beauties in bloom. 

toothwort just opening

  Today it was good to be in Lost Cane, but having seen how marvelous and abundant the wildflower display down there can be... all this visit did was whet my appetite for more. Hope I get to go back and see them at peak.  I also love how the area is so wild and wooly and looks like a Southeast Asian jungle in warmer weather.   I love knowing that there are people who fear Lost Cane and won't go down there.  I hope they keep on feeling that way and stay out! 

       Back to Frank's Flume

      We wanted to visit Frank's Flume today since we bet it would look really cool with lots of water coming out.  It flows year round, but it does vary depending on rain fall amounts.  We headed that way and it was open, but rough going in places.  The trail is narrow and there is always lots of vegetation to fly back in your face.   We started seeing mossy green rocks and logs. We passed the old shack falling down.  We could hear water flowing.  Soon the trail and the stream were one and the same.  

           The trail is on the right and the stream is on the left.  Water coming down both.  See the pipe in the stream?  That goes way far back in the holler.  It was a water source for someone at a point in time. We do not know anymore than that.  Below is a video of Frank's Flume. It shows the swallet where it disappears, the flume itself, and the stream below it and above it.  We have seen water in the creek above the flume before, but not like this.  Today was the first time seeing it go all the way back the holler further than we could see.  I plan to follow it back for I am feeling that pull I get when something is waiting on me.  First time I've heard from my muse in a spell.  I'm following the call even if I get back there and all she tells me is that she was trying to find out if I could still hear her. 

       We enjoyed exploring back in that holler a bit.  We checked out several particularly pretty places along the stream.  Small cascades and rills coming down. I saw a few wildflowers beginning to bloom as well, but less than in other areas.  I can hardly wait to go back to see what is waiting for me to find it.  I had no idea when I first heeded the call of this siren just what lay in store for  me.. for us both.  Friendship, joy, sorrow, beauty, laughter, and life. A new chapter of life was waiting me.  It is not enough for me to see my own life turn out well. It blesses me to see other people's dreams come true also.  

    We headed up the hill on that wild trail that takes us out.  We wanted to go down Bill's Creek next. 
See how things looked back in there.  We'd make a big loop out of today.  I just told Kenny I did not want to go on any snipe hunts today. I was not in the mood for that stuff.  We didn't, but then things did not go exactly smooth either.  Once up on the trail leading out we found lots of downed trees. 
Downed recently enough they were not going anywhere unless they were cleared by us.  Kenny did most of the work, but I got out and helped him a little. Mostly I just prowled around.  Good thing too because I found an access point to the side holler I wanted to explore next. No time for that today, but that is next trip to be sure.  We also spotted an old house site.  It has a big chunk of the dry stone wall foundation and the tater hole still there.  It also has fencing still around it.  I checked the quad map once I got home to see if it showed up on the map. It doesn't.  That tells me it is REALLY old.  A lot of times when you look at maps a current house or old home site will be indicated by a tiny black tick mark.  Looks like this one is so old it is unknown and unseen by most.   Once all the trees were cleared to where we could exit we finally made it to the main trail and out to Manson Road.  

 Nice cluster of bloodroot blooming in the sink of Frank's Flume

 This is where all that water goes.  No water at all flows from the area of Frank's Flume into the other hollow of Little Saigon. 
 Massive sycamore tree with lots of beautiful moss on the trunk. Several of these down here.

         Frank's Flume at high volume flow. 

      We did not mess around long on our way through Bill's Creek. We were running out of day light.
We were supposed to meet up with John and Sharon for supper.  The area was not very pretty as it was dead and wintery still. Kenny slowed down once to leave Sharon a voice mail as to where we were and what time we'd arrive.  He also stopped briefly to eyeball a spot he thinks is a trail he has been hunting.   We wished we had time to check it out more fully.  No time for Big Piney today either. Bummer.   We did stop before the end of Bill's Creek for Kenny to look about some things in one final spot.  I got out and waded through the weeds and up to 55 Gallon Drum Falls. I thought it might be flowing better today, but it was about the same. Still pretty.
Drum Falls.  The essence of Fentress County, Tennessee.  A testament to people's ingenuity.
Folks round here come up with all sorts of ways to get water for homes. I expect that is what went on here.

        We made it back to the cabin and Sharon was home from North Carolina.  We visited some and finally decided on a quick, easy supper in town.  She was exhausted from her long drive.  We just went to Pizza Hut and had salad and pizza. It was wonderful.  I was so hungry. I think we all were.
We always get to visiting with them and cannot tear ourselves away.  We ended up having a marvelous, much needed time with good friends. I talked to Cathy on the way home too!  Great to hear from her.   So much catching up to do.  By the time we got home we were so tired we brushed our teeth and went straight to bed.  I had leaves and sticks in my hair. That meant I sat in Pizza Hut with all that mess in my wig! hahaha! No one there would be surprised or think it odd.  They are used to seeing me muddy and dirty, but happy.   Looking so forward to the next visit.

**Edited to Add**
The following Monday night I was studying the maps of the area where we went riding and hiking.  I was looking particularly the best way to get into that side holler on foot. In doing so....... I found the trail Kenny has been looking for!  Now that we have a little better understanding of the lay of the land it made more sense to us.  We hope it is there in reality. Satellite images seem to indicate it is real!

Here is a final video of 55 Gallon Drum Falls in the waning evening light.  We did make it out before sunset.  Hard to tear ourselves away.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Waterfall Hunting in the Cherokee National Forest

Sweet Betsy trillium first one of the season

Waterfall Hunting in the Cherokee National Forest 

Dana & Kenny Koogler 
Sat. March 18 2017

  We are making a little headway in getting our life back to normal.  We had a weekend to do as we pleased.  We ran off to Tellico Plains to do some waterfall hunting.   I had been studying up on a couple of places through the week. I had caught Kenny up to speed on it, and we both believed we'd have good luck finding the falls.  I also believed I had come up with a plan to avoid making it harder than it had to be. We are so bad about that.  We came fully prepared.
Brought rope just in case. 

     We headed out Saturday morning and arrived down along North River at a decent time.
It was around 10 am when we hit the trail.   We had never been to the Donley Cabin and would have to walk right by it today.  Only one other truck parked near us. It appeared the cabin was occupied at present.  We had perfect weather. It was cool and clear with bright blue skies and sunshine.  It was supposed to warm up which is nice too.  A real bluebird day.  Though the woods are still bare the trilliums are popping up. I saw a patch of sweet betsy along the creek bank.  I was very pleased to see it.  Other early wildflowers today were star chickweed, yellow violets, blue violets, hepatica, and toothwort.   
   We stopped at the picnic table aside from the cabin to get oriented.  We figured the path leading away from the cabin must be the one we needed so we followed it. It  intersected FSR 2417 which runs from North River Road up to Deep Gap.   The path leading to it may not be officially maintained, but it was easy to follow and tramped down.   North River is a hot spot for trout fishing and it appears these trails are seeing a fair amount of use.  My plan was to try to locate two waterfalls on Big Cove Branch. 
The trout unlimited narrative about the stream indicated they were "both over thirty feet high".  It also described bail out points along the creek for fishermen. Based upon the narrative I figured if the second bailout point was ABOVE the waterfalls.. then it made more sense to walk the forest service road that meets the creek at that point and work our way down.  Better than a total bushwhack or creek walk.   I also felt we could eliminate the need to check the first 0.6 miles of the stream based upon the description and the topo map.  You know what is said about the best laid plans. 

Donley Cabin on a bright Saturday morning 

Kenny at the start of the path between the cabin and the forest service road.

  We hiked up the forest road and it was not a bad climb.  Up up and more up, but it was gradual.  A few sections leveled off some.   The woods were pretty and the few Spring wildflowers along the way made it easy to keep my mind on something other than the effort. I had it in mind we needed to hike about 0.9 miles up the road to equal the straighter mileage it would have been on the stream.  We ended up hiking 1 mile up the road per the GPS measurement.   We checked the stream and the vicinity. The creek flattened out here above the road. Remember now.. the falls should be below where we are.   We did not see or hear anything like a waterfall. The stream was quite pretty.  Lots of rhododendron around.
We had passed a turn off road a ways back that lead in the right general direction. We wondered if we needed to try that road, but neither of us was willing to lose all the elevation we'd gained THEN have to go up again if we were wrong.  Better to try up the road first then come back down if need be.  

 Big Cove Branch is mossy green and beautiful. 
The road cuts through the ridge here. It reminds me of part of the Blanket Mountain manway only it is more open.  

           Having not found anything promising we went back down and turned right onto the side road that lead toward the stream.   It swung round the point of the ridge and down near but not all the way to the creek.  It dead ended to the right. To the left it continued. Very shortly it made a switchback and the lower logging road was not in good shape.  It was not traveled and had lots of briars and rhodo grown up in it.  We followed it onward.  It grew worse and worse as we went.  Finally we could see an opening ahead, but in order to reach it we had to struggle through a thicket.  We wrangled the rhodo, saplings, briars, and slogged through a spring in order to reach an open spot that may have been a home site in the past.  Lots of pioneer junk laying around.   We sat down to eat lunch and rest. We were worn out and growing frustrated.
We discussed whether we should go back the way we came or continue to bushwhack downstream?  The GPS indicated it was only 0.17 miles to the jeep so it was a no brainer. 
 Chunk of discarded guard rail bent into a ramp laying by the path. 
The guard rail is near the turn off road toward the creek. You can see Kenny ahead of me. This part of the hike was as good as any trail. 
 Looking back from the edge of the clearing at what we just wallered through.  No trail.
 The cussing bucket.  This was at the clearing.  It was our cussing place. 

       Kenny went ahead of us while I finished the last few bites of my sandwich. He wanted to see what we had in store ahead of us.  He came back reporting that we had a briar patch to pass through and then a failed tree farm with weeds and scrub. The good news was that past that was a good trail!   
These saplings were all over the place.  Laying around were the plastic sleeves that had been used to wrap the tree trunks.  

 You can just start to see a trail in this spot at the edge of those saplings.  
 More pretty trilliums
Saw several huge patches of sweet betsy.  

   Next came a healthy, mossy spring that was very pretty.   The stream continued to be attractive, but no waterfalls along this stretch.   We had been able to see all but two spots between 0.9 miles and the start of the stream down by the cabin.   A few minor cascades, but that was it.    We passed a water monitoring device. Soon we were out at the other trail and 
had bypassed the cabin.   We encountered two of the fellows staying in the cabin and talked to them.  We shared with them what we'd been up to.  They both said they had also heard there were supposed to be two nice falls on the creek.  We had even seen photos of them!  
They said they were considering going hunting them, but after hearing of our poor luck they thought better of it.    We left disappointed, but still happy to be outside today.  

           We went on to our next stop which was the confluence of Meadow Branch and Roaring Branch.    Twin waterfalls sit right by the road.   We climbed down there to get a good look at them and take some photos and video.  Lots of water today as it had rained last night. 
 No path to these roadside falls.  Lots of downed trees to use as bridges. 
 Upper Cascade on Meadow Branch is 15 ft high. It is closest to the road. 

First falls on Roaring Branch is 10 ft tall and sits away from the road. 
Roaring Branch is said to be one waterfall after another in a narrow gorge.  No easy way in or out and no trail at all.  Not even a fisherman's path. 

    We enjoyed these falls for a little bit then got back in the jeep and headed to our last stop of the day.   A friend had shared with me the location of a nice falls with the caveat that I not divulge the location since it will be coming out in a guidebook.  It was a nice gift.  
We found the stream and started up it following flagging.  It was all ok except for one spot to start with and that was not too bad.  It was an odd place where you had to stand on a few inches of rock in the creek.  Very slippery.   The path we were on petered out as did the flagging.
We realized we'd have to go up over the ridge to continue so we did.  We were fortunate to see the falls just on the other side. We were also pleased to see we would be able to get down without a problem.  We found the falls without any trouble, but looking across the creek ... there was the trail.  The REAL trail.  Gotta learn everything the hard way. 
Below is a photo of the falls.  It is a nice one.   It was marvelous to be out taking pictures today and seeing waterfalls.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  

    We were worn out and had to face the drive home.  We stopped at Bert's restaurant in Madisonville to eat. It is always so good.  We were both ravenous. A great day in the woods.  If I am sitting in an eating establishment after a hike/bushwhack with sticks and leaves in my hair.. I consider the day a success!   

    Sitting over there in the red shirt is Kenny. He is on the trail we should have hiked up.
Oy! We've done it again. 

Gabe's First Hike--Lynn Camp Prong

Gabe's First Hike-Lynn Camp Prong

Sat. March 4, 2017

Lynn Camp Prong Video

  We have had a mostly mild Winter.  We took advantage of it one weekend finally getting our
nine month old grandson Gabe out for his first hike.   We were not sure how he was going to like it.
We picked something very short and easy in case he didn't care for it. He is not good about riding in
the car. He hates it.   Tremont is close and we figured that was about his limit right now.  It was a clear, pretty day and the temperatures were mild.    We packed up the diaper bag and the backpack.
Off we went.

       We got to the back of Tremont to start hiking up Middle Prong Trail.  Lots of people here today, but that was to be expected.  We still had no problem finding a parking spot.  We took very little with us. A sippy cup of tea, a pacifier, and Gabriel.  I toted him on the way in. He rode up there on my back like a champ. He never complained. He sang all the way out the trail.  I hoped he would. You could tell he was loving being outside. We stopped at every interesting spot and let him take a good look.  He was seeing all these things for the very first time in his life!  I would walk near the rock faces and let him feel the surface of the stone. I let him get down and feel moss. I handed him a stick.
He tossed it down.  He was very keen on the waterfalls and showed an intent focus on them. 

      We took him to see the first three falls on Lynn Camp Prong and went a tad further. 
We stopped by a pretty spot in the stream to look at that.   Kenny toted him back. He liked riding on Kenny's back even more because he was up higher and could see more! He seemed to enjoy it. He has proven he can go on longer hikes.  We'll take him again soon on a nice warm day.  I have to figure out how to tote along diapers and enough stuff for him and us! 

 waterfall on Lynn Camp Prong
 Above and below Gabe in the backpack