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.