Thursday, April 27, 2017

Exploring Lost Cane and Big Piney Creek

White form of Trillium sulcatum

Exploring Lost Cane and Big Piney Creek

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Monday April 24, 2017

30.5 mile ride

Pictures are here starting with frame 152
Lost Cane and Big Piney Pix

Hearing from my Muse 

     Before I begin to write this trip report I am going to briefly touch on a subject I've
mentioned before.  I have referred to "following my muse" or "listening to my muse". I have referred to something "calling me".  I do not pretend to understand it, but
I do have some insight.  It is the internal gift of inspiration that is part of my spirit.  It is also intuition. I am a dreamer, creator, seeker.    My gifts in this life are imagination, intuition, creativity, faith, and the ability to march to the beat of a different drum.
When it calls me I heed the call as soon as possible. Sometimes that means getting up out of bed and writing, drawing, reading, researching.  Sometimes it means silent, still thinking. It can mean dreaming.  It can also mean following with faith the voice inside that leads me.  I don't know how I know some of the things I become aware of.  I'm just glad it happens. 
I have learned that several things help promote this gift of inspiration and knowing.

  •  Learning to recognize the call
  • Knowing to always heed the call
  • Writing down moments of inspiration to bottle them for the time they are intended for (not all inspirations are meant for that precise moment, but can be for a time in the future)
  • Not questioning the leading I feel but trust it and follow 
  • Tell another and trust them to believe me when I know I'm supposed to 

  Why is this relevant to this trip report?  Because it  is yet another example of a time following that call  proved true, beautiful and rewarding.  Part of me wishes all people would experience this, but I know it is not meant to be. It is a gift and not something you can learn or bestow on others.   I am very grateful to be married to a man who believes me, who understands me, and who I can believe in. I'm thankful to share these adventures and moments of wonder with him.
I am also blessed to have made  friends who "get it" and who believe in me. 
I have met very few persons over the course of my life who truly connected with me on this level.   To have a gift of vision or intuition, have another understand it and believe in it and you..... is a rare thing indeed. To the ones who understand and believe in me.... you know who you are.  I love you for it.  I always will.  

Something is There-- Lost Cane 

   I had become aware of that call telling me  something more was there in Lost Cane.
On March 3, 2015 we were in this area and took the Upper Bill's Creek trail to head  to the truck.   I remember that evening  looking to the left and seeing a trail take off sharply downward.  I had that spark of recognition in that brief second and knew "that's it. "  I did not know then what "it" was, but I knew it mattered.  I was at home later and took a look at the map realizing that to have taken that turn would have brought us into a part of Lost Cane we had not visited before.  Kenny had been looking for a trail he saw on Google earth.  He explained to me telling me what he wanted to  do.   It hit me shortly after I knew where it was. I looked at the maps again and there it was.  The turn I had spotted a few years back was the one he was hunting.   I also knew  something was there and we needed to go find it.    March 24th this year.. I was on a ridge with Kenny when I heard that little inner voice again. I looked across the ridge and down to the stream below us through the bare trees.  It was as plain as someone standing over there shouting to me "I'm here."  I told Kenny we need to go up that creek and back into that holler regardless how we have to do it.  He never questioned me, but grinned and agreed.   

    Our plans finally worked out to go back to Fentress County to explore this past weekend.
The weather did not cooperate and it poured rain all weekend long. Kenny had a follow up appointment on Monday to get his staples out.  It was going to be the first sunny day in awhile. 
He decided to take the day off work so we could play.  I was joyful at the idea of an extra day with my best friend and exploring partner.   We set off as soon as he was done with his doctor visit.  We stopped to visit with Sharon. We had planned on meeting up with Nelson Matthews to all visit Will Wright Tunnel.   He had come down sick and so we would wait on that.  We'd go straight to the two places we knew something waited for us.  Lost Cane first. Big Piney second.   We tore out the dirt road toward Bill's Creek to start our ride.  
Bill's Creek after leaf out. Lots of water in the stream.
 Getting to Bill's Creek I was thrilled to see the stream with water in it.  I was disappointed  to see  the usual display of colorful Spring wildflowers was done.   I admit that every place we went that morning seeing the wilting, drooping trilliums made me sad.  Yet the day was cool, sunny, blue skies with puffy clouds and the streams everywhere were flowing!
Butterflies filled the air in one spot along Bill's Creek.   How can you stay sad when the world greets you like this?  On a very positive note.. the Nature Conservancy now has possession of this area.  The logging that has chewed up the slopes of the mountains is over for good. 
Logged area along Bill's Creek.  I believe timber companies or land owners should have to clean up their messes and replant trees and shrubs just like coal companies are supposed to.

           One of the better looking T. grandiflora... aged to pink, and wilting. 

         We had been trying to decide which route to take to our destination.  Seeing the usual great wildflower display was past I was  ok with taking Upper Bill's Creek trail.  I hoped it would yield a few wildflower finds seeing that it was at a higher elevation. I also hoped it would be cleared of all the downed trees by now.   We started up  and I was immediately struck by how I had forgotten just how pretty it was. We climbed up the rocky red dirt grade with the forest falling away on our right.   We crossed a lovely spring that cascaded down the mountain side.  It formed baby waterfalls as it dropped across limestone rock.  The trees shushed in the breeze and rustled their new green leaves.   The air smelled wonderfully clean and clear.  A nice break from the drought and the tons of pollen we'd endured lately.
         I did see a few wildflowers in spots.  Yellow trilliums, a few Southern red trilliums, rue anemone, and now and then a fading great white trillium.  Weedy clumps of multiflora rose and blackberry brambles dotted the woods.   The roses may be the varmints of the botanical world, but they still smell sweet.
Humble pasture roses are still pretty and smell fantastic

    We ambled through the woods and finally the forest changed slightly.  The area seemed more green. The ground was damp and the slopes were starting to have a few more wildflowers.   We came to the first place a trail headed down in the direction of Lost Cane.  We tried it.  It split a short way down.  I told Kenny I believed it went on, but that it was below Frank's Flume. We'd be stopping short of the area we were trying to reach.   He walked down the hill and we could hear water below us.  We cut a few trees and moved them out of the way.   We'd have to clear more if we planned to continue.  We decided since this was not it we'd go on ahead and come back to finish clearing  if we had time.    We rolled along and could see the ridge narrow. We could see off to our right and I knew we were close.  We came to another trail leading down. I gave a shout to get Kenny's attention. "Thats it!"  He was not sure he believed me and continued a bit further. He had to turn around and go back.   We went down the sides of the mountain with the temperature dropping as we went.  The mountain  below us was terraced beautifully.  It grew greener, shadier, wetter, and more lush as we proceeded.   We would again have to clear some downed trees to continue.  It was not bad though.  Kenny walked ahead to see if the trail continued and was it worth starting to cut it out?  I used the opportunity to walk around and take pictures and see what was here.   The forest was filled with magnolia trees, buckeye trees, and the mountain side above me had the thickest growth of blue cohosh I had ever seen.  It was past peak bloom, but the plant is easy to recognize.   Interspersed with the cohosh plants were wilting white trilliums way past peak.  

 Trillium luteum --yellow and red form of Trillium sulcatum
 Cluster of Southern Red Trilliums amidst masses of blue cohosh plants! Bruce Roberts does this prove your theory or what?!
Yellow Trillium luteum and two very faded white trilliums.  

T cuneatum vignetted
I have only seen this color of Trillium sessile in one other place.. Maryville College Woods.
It is very pretty. 

     A very odd greenish bronze shade of trillium cuneatum.   

Kenny was not back yet so I kept prowling.  Something caught my eye among the flowers.
It was a white trillium sulcatum!  I was seeing it for the third time ever and the second time this Spring.  I was tickled to find it.  I saw a couple of them.  One was wilted. I had found at least one thing that was here waiting on me.  

White Trillium sulcatum

Faded prairie trillium.. Trillium recurvatum.  

I found six different types of trilliums in this one area!  

  I walked over and looked down the slope below us.  I could not believe how the mountain was shaped. It looked like it had been terraced on purpose.  The topographic maps show the slopes being extremely steep.  We saw places on down where that was certainly true, but not here.
Below us was a vernal pond created by all the rain and the seeping springs from up the hill.
Springs were flowing pretty much everywhere today.   

The glimmering white in this image is the shine of water on a seasonal pond.  Great places to 
look for salamanders, frogs, frog eggs. 

 Kenny got back and I had to help him clear some of the logs across the trail.  It did not take long.  We got under way again.  The trail was surprisingly good. It was rather open, but you can tell it is not being used much.   It curved around the end of the ridge and started down along a holler with a side stream coming out.  It was very pretty. Milky water with lots of dissolved minerals in it flowed down the creek.   It joined with the main creek at the bottom.  A small cascade dropped into the main stream.  Kenny stopped and got out to eat lunch and while he ate he prowled looking for which way the trail continued? The map showed it going onward, but it was hard to spot.   I went walking along taking pictures and soaking up the scenery.
This is the REAL Lost Cane Creek.  The stream coming down off Skinner Mountain with all the waterfalls on it is not it.   Lost Cane Creek flows probably six months out of the year.
Frank's Flume empties into it and flows year round, but that is down near the point where the stream disappears underground.  

Lost Cane Creek bv 1
  I stood looking at the incredible beauty of this mysterious, seldom visited stream.  Green leaves filling the forest.  Sun shining down.  The clarity of the water flowing over a chalky white stream bed was surreal.  The stream bed is nearly flat in most places.   I had found yet another something that waited for me here.  I felt a pang go right through my heart just from the sheer beauty and wonder of it.  The sound of the stream murmuring by was so nice.  The woods down in this area had more wildflowers, but nothing that I had not seen on the mountain above this. 
I stood watching the water for a long time.  Finally I made myself walk back to the RZR and eat lunch.  I get so excited about the trip I forget to eat.  

     Kenny had reached the conclusion that the only way out of here was to stay in the stream itself and drive the 1/2 mile down to Frank's Flume.  He told me he had walked it all the way up to where we were now and there should not be any impediments to our getting through.  I saw some logs laying across the stream and he seemed to recognize that as a landmark.  I believed him.  Below is a photo of the three logs across the creek.  It is the multiple trunks of one tree! 

Below is a short video of Lost Cane Creek Part 1 

     We got in the RZR and crossed the stream.  I helped cut more logs out of the way.  I realized this might not be fun and that quite possibly we'd have to clear trail for 1/2 mile until we got to Frank's Flume.  From there down we'd have open trail though.  We had no idea what we were in for.
The drive in the stream started off pretty regular.  We came to another spot a tree had to be cut from across the creek, but that only took a minute or two.   We kept going and came to a bend in the stream. The creek banks got high and rocky here and the stream had a deep hole of water. I could initially see the bottom all the way across it.   Kenny still got out and took a long sapling and checked the water depth.  It was only 2 1/2 feet deep all the way across.  We could do it.  Water would come in the floor but we'd be ok.  We made it through that and it was kinda neat. A little bit of excitement.
The stream banks continued to be narrow, taller and steep.  We came to a more open part briefly.  We then came to another tree to be cleared and a deep, rocky hole to go through.  It took some doing, but we got through it and proceeded.  Kenny tested the depth of water here too.  We went a bit further and came to a beautiful waterfall cascading in from the side.  We pulled out of the creek onto the stream bank where it was flat.  Kenny walked on ahead of me and I took photos of the side waterfall.  He came back pretty quickly and indicated I needed to bring the camera.  I got closer he laughed and said "This is the end of the line for us."  A ten foot waterfall with steep sides was next.  It was pretty. It was yet another something to find down in here.  I was gathering treasures as I went.   I enjoyed the sight of the new falls while Kenny scouted a bit more to see if any of the side trails we'd passed would let us work around this?  The side trails ended and the slopes to either side were too steep to do anything with them.  We'd have no choice but to go back the way we came.  I was dreading it.
I wondered if we'd be able to make it back past the obstacles?
Below is a video of the second part of the creek ending with the waterfall.

     We got back in the RZR and back tracked.   We had two places that worried me. 1. the hole with the rocks and 2.  the deep hole with the steep sides.  Long story short we got to that first bad spot and got the RZR hung up on some rocks.  Time to winch out of here.  Kenny crawled out and hooked it up to a big beech tree.   I was sitting on a slant with the creek gushing past me murky and brown now.  He hollered to me to hit the IN button on the winch.  I did and nothing happened.  He cursed and crawled back over there and messed with the button under the dash.  It was supposed to reset it or something.  He got out and tried messing with wires under the hood. Nothing. " Keep trying the winch button" he said.  I did.  Nothing happened. He asked me to get out. I climbed out and stood on the bank. He was going to have to try to get it out and did not want me in there in case it turned over in the creek.   Without me in there he was more aggressive and it came on out.  I admit I thought we would end up having to walk the 3.3. miles out to the main road to get help.  It  hit me that there was no way on earth he had walked this or he'd have remembered the waterfall and that we could not go down that way.  He only thought he'd walked all the way up from Frank's Flume.

10 ft falls on Lost Cane Creek

Ten foot un-named falls on Lost Cane Creek.

   We had gotten past one obstacle. Now the next deep hole of water knowing the winch was not functioning.   We made it through without a problem thanks to Kenny gouging on it!  I was relieved to be back on a trail which would be open from there back.  Once we were back up on the next to the top terrace I looked overhead and was surprised by what I saw. I got Kenny's attention asking him to stop. Above my head was a small tree with deep maroon blooms.  Pawpaw blossoms! I had looked and looked down along the Hiwassee River for these. I found them in the innards of Fentress County.
They were so pretty.  Yet another something that was waiting for me.

pawpaw blossom

Pawpaw blossoms! Pretty maroon flowers that grow into fruits in the Fall.

Something is There-- Big Piney

 We made it back to the top of the ridge and headed toward Manson Road.  I was glad to see it. I figured if we did not get out of there in some reasonable amount of time the rest of our day was shot.
We still had time to visit Big Piney.  I knew there was something there waiting also.   I wondered as we proceeded toward the trail head to go down into the gorge if we'd find it gated?  We were thrilled to find it open and no trees down across the path.   We did have to push through heavy hemlock boughs in several spots, but that is just getting your hair brushed.   The woods here are different.
We came to one point where there is a huge two level rock house on the right.  I thought I'd make myself go over there and walk up to it.  Lathern Hull had warned me about how snakey that place was so I thought better of it.   I'd do my exploring of the rock house in cold weather.  It did not form a waterfall coming over it the way I thought it would.   We went on down into the gorge and beside us a stream gathered volume and strength.  I asked Kenny to stop and let me listen.  I could hear waterfalls just about where I thought they should be.   I walked down the bank and could see one smaller falls.. it was about twenty feet high and not much flow. The other one I could barely glimpse. It was a prettier one with lots more water. It was about twenty-five feet.  It was choked with rhodo around it and there appeared to be no way down without vertical rope work.  We did not have the time or equipment for that today.    I had found one of the somethings here, but they'd have to wait for another time to be fully appreciated and photographed.

        We kept going past an old cemetery.  We wound our way down, down, down.  The trail got steep  and the view of the plummet below you was really something.  It made me gasp.  Once we rounded the bend and the terrain softened a bit we stopped.  I wanted to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.
Everything down here was wild and wooly. Covered in deep green moss. Vines hung over many places in the forest.   Prairie trilliums, great white trilliums , yellow trilliums, wild geranium, appalachian bug bane, blue cohosh, nodding mandarin, bloomed around me.  
This nice cluster of four prairie trilliums was the best ones of the day.  They were freshly opened and their colors still bright.  Trillium recurvatum.

     We kept going until we reached the creek level.  I had wondered if we'd even be able to cross Big Piney Creek today?  Upon seeing it you could barely see the bottom all the way across because the water was so clear.  It was running really well and the color of it was gorgeous.  It had that aquamarine snow water cast to it.  The rapids were foamy and fast.  The slower spots in the stream showed off the many colored smooth pebbles in the bottom.  The pea green new Spring growth and deep black green hemlocks made the woods charming. Sun shone down into this deep gorge.
All in all it was one more something waiting for me.  It was worth the trip down here just to see this place. Just to see the stream itself.  IMG_1674
Upper portion of Big Piney Creek just above the ford.

Below is a video of Big Piney Creek in different spots along it. Once more I felt a tug on my heart strings.  I am glad that I can see and experience places like this. I am also glad I can experience it with the person I travel this planet with.  Seeing him enjoy it and revel in it does me a world of good.
Seeing Kenny healthy again after being sick and facing surgery is great.  I could tell that today was exactly what he'd needed. We both did.  I cannot imagine being married to someone who looked at places like this and it was wasted on them.

     We crossed the stream at the ford and once on the other side the terrain was just as pretty and flat.
I knew we didn't have a long ride down here, but I could not remember exactly how long it was or how many creek fords.   I got out and looked for wildflowers. I checked out the stream entering Big Piney across the river.   I sat down on the forest floor in the sun and had a snack.   It was quiet except for the stream and bird songs.   I saw some lilies down here that make me determined to come back to find out what they are when they bloom?

   Kenny had been fixing a fender flare while I rested.  We talked a little and then went on down the stream.  We forded twice more. Both fords were pretty.   Once past the second creek ford the terrain gets rugged and the trail goes up and out of the gorge steeply.  The trail was a side stream today with a pretty cascade on it.     We walked down to the main river and looked at the color of the rocks and water.  So clear.   So blue.  
Second ford of Big Piney Creek

Second creek ford of Big Piney Creek.  I did nothing to change the water color. It is just that way.

     A small side stream flowed down here and was mossy and beautiful.  It had a pretty round baby falls on it.

Yet another pretty small cascade today.

   Finally we had made the last ford and were just checking out the scenery and wandering around.
We don't get down here much so we were in no hurry to leave.   We got back in the RZR and hadn't gone any distance til I looked up and saw a dot of bright yellow ahead of me.  It was a pretty yellow lady slipper all by itself.  We stopped and walked over to it to admire its beauty.  It was freshly opened and perfect.   I'd found another something waiting and I was quite aware of what a gift I was being given.   I felt fortunate indeed.    
While I took photso Kenny walked around and soon called to me to come to him. He found another yellow lady slipper!  We found three spots in all today and six plants. Three of them blooming. 
YLS with a view of the creek

  I wanted to take a different photo of a lady slipper  besides the usual closeup.  The scenery here is so great it seems as if it has a front row seat to the view!  
Below is a closeup of the final one we came upon today.  

The trail out is steep and wet today.   It is pretty though and it is not a long ride out to the dirt road.

   We saw one more pretty cascade today on the way out.  It was small and picturesque.  I'm sure it doesn't flow year round.  

Cascading down into Big Piney
Un-named wet weather falls. 

          I was feeling mighty fine at all the treasures we'd been  privileged to see today.
Kenny was too.  It was good to have his company in the woods.  He takes care of me like all husbands should take care of their wives.  He makes me feel safe.   We made it back round to Skinner Mountain to where the ugly logging had taken place.  He was concerned the loggers had messed up the trail where it would not be open, but it was alright.   It is always a longer ride back across the mountain top than I think it will be.   We came down off the side toward Woo Hoo Holler. We stopped to see Sharon again.  I did not want to leave, but we had a long drive home and were tired and dirty.   I hope we get to go back soon to spend some time or they come over to see us here in Murval.   :-)  We had brought along dry clean clothes but tonight it was McDonald's fast food wearing our mud and dirt and leaves up in my hair.  Fentress county is used to me by now.  

        I left knowing that I had found the things I was meant to find.  I do not believe it is over though. 
I am sure there is more and that is a great feeling.  When the time is right we'll be back and find whatever it is.  

First Ford of Big Piney Creek
One final look at Big Piney Creek at the first ford.  

Spring Hike With Michael ---Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Showy Orchis Closeup

Spring Hike With Michael ---Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Dana & Kenny Koogler & grandson Michael Lindsey

Saturday April 22, 2017

Pictures are here: Spring Hike Pictures

   We had not done any hiking with our eldest grandson lately. We asked him if he'd like to go
do some hiking with Nanny & Papaw in the Smokies? He jumped at the chance like we thought he
would.   We decided to do something fun and easy so we could play, eat lunch, and get out of the woods before the late afternoon rains in the forecast.   We started our hike near Elkmont.
The usual crowds were around, but we found parking and got our hike under way.
Michael is eight now and makes hiking look super easy.  His long legs and healthy little self find much of what we do not too challenging.   He ambled along asking questions and noticing lots of little things.  We stopped once near a trail intersection when we saw a group of fellow hikers.
They had a confused look we recognized very well.   I asked them where they wanted to go route
wise? They told me and I helped get them oriented.  They were appreciative and friendly.
Another group of ladies went on ahead of us.  We soon ran upon them again at the next trail intersection looking at the map and checking guidebooks.  I stopped and asked them if they needed help?  The one lady gave me a go to Hell look. Another one of the group affirmed they did need help.
In about a minute I confirmed for her they were going the right way. That was that.  

Eastern Blue Star was seen near the start of our hike.  I have come upon it several times before, but never in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park until today.  
  The day was mild and the skies clear and sunny so far.   The woods were beautiful and green.
The sun filtering down through the leaves was lovely.   Wildflowers were abundant, but we had missed the peak bloom on this trail.  No matter. We'd have to make the best of what was left. 
We let Michael play in the creek. We wandered off trail a little.  Michael was not too sure about that part, but he was a sport.    We used the time on the trail to instruct him on things relating to nature and navigation.   He paid good attention. I am glad he shows interest in so many aspects of hiking and the national park.  
             Michael being my sherpa. He is strong so he is helping his old nanny carry her stuff. ;-)


We were lucky to find Carolina silverbells growing near the ground.  It is one of my favorite flowering trees.  The very first time I ever saw it was on my first ever hike to Chimney Tops in the park.    IMG_1336
Time to play on the rocks and in and around the creek. 

Millipede in the trail. He has coiled into a defensive spiral.  


Michael and Pawpaw


Cluster of yellow trilliums


Showing Michael his very first Yellow Lady Slipper.  

YLS 2 closeup front on
Closeup of small yellow lady slipper.
We were blessed to find them in more than one location today.  
We took time to educate Michael about watching where you walk to avoid squashing wildflowers and plants.  We explained they are NEVER to be picked, dug up, or moved. We also explained to him that some unscrupulous folks will poach orchids. We must always be careful about revealing locations of wildflowers to people. Only take along folks you know and trust.  

Kenny had never taken this hike before and was hooked! He said he wants to go again!
Go ahead.. twist my arm. ;^D

     Once we finished up the first part of our day we were hungry.  We had planned that if 
the rain held off we'd do some more exploring after lunch.   We stopped at Elvira's Cafe' to eat on our way back through Wear's Valley.  It was tasty, but a little on the pricey side.  Kenny was not impressed enough to return.  $40 plus dollars for regular lunchtime fare is not going to lure him back.
The skies had clouded up, but it was not raining.  Everyone was still having fun and not ready for our day to be over.  We pushed on toward Cades Cove. Ordinarily we avoid Cades Cove during busy weekends.   We wanted to drive Rich Mountain Road today. It had only opened up Friday. 
It is a good place to play in the creek and hunt wildflowers. Last time I was there I saw a couple bears!  We hoped to see wildlife and have fun.   We were not disappointed.

           Traffic moved along amazingly smooth on the loop road.  We soon came to our turn for Rich Mountain Road.   We started out the one way gravel track and came to the first view along the route.
It was astonishingly beautiful today.  I had to laugh thinking back on an old friend relating the first time ever driving this road. It was after a bad wind storm brought down lots of trees across the one way road. Fortunately he was not alone and they had a chainsaw along.  They'd have been backing up or stuck for a long time.  Only funny because it did not happen to me! View into the Cove from Rich Mtn Rd

Looking off Rich Mountain Road back into Cades Cove on a bluebird day.

 We found several places to play in the stream, but this was the best one.  Michael is a creek wading, critter catching, rock throwing kid like I was.  He loves this sort of stuff.

Below is a video of the pretty creek and playing around in it.

   We saw some good wildlife on this part of our trip.
Michael found a mole salamander. Can you see him in the photo above on the leaves?

 While Michael and I were messing round over here finding morel mushrooms Papaw hunted them on the opposite side of the road.   He came back saying he'd seen a copperhead.  We walked over there to see for ourselves.  It was most definitely NOT a copperhead. It is the look alike Northern Water snake.  Nerodia sipedon. Harmless and sunning himself on the stream bank.

If you click on this photo it will enlarge. You can get a better look at the snake. Round pupil and skinny head.. non venomous.  No heat pits.  No hour glass shaped markings. Here is a link to help differentiate between copperheads and look alike species. Copperheads and Similar Species
All snakes within the National Park are protected species.  Michael is the kind of little boy who would take off after a snake trying to catch it if he knows it is harmless.  Today this was the coolest thing he saw and liked the most!   He talked about it a lot on the way home.

     We drove onward and saw some great wildflowers.  One moist , shady slope was laden with great white trilliums still in bloom, sweet white trillium, yellow trilliums, wild geranium, rue anemone, early meadow rue, fire pinks, stonecrop, nodding mandarin. Amid the white trilliums on that slope I spotted something odd.  I saw a trillium that had the coloring of Trillium simile.. sweet white trillium.. but it had recurved petals like Trillium sulcatum.  Those are more common in red, but I had seen them before in white.  They are fairly common in the Cumberland Plateau, but to my knowledge did not bloom in the park at all.   Yet there it stood.  Trillium sulcatum. A lone specimen as far as I could see.  It was beautiful and a good find.  I checked the ATBI list and found it was not reported.
I am not reporting it.  Last time I made an official report it started a bunch of pool-pah.

sweet white trillium vs southern white trillium

Trillium sulcatum --white form.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  As we drove along we saw a turkey. We also saw a scarlet tanager taking a bird bath in the ditch!
They are such pretty birds and it is only the second time I've photographed one.
Scarlet Tanager

       We finally grew near the end of Rich Mountain Road.  I mentioned stopping near the end to let Michael see Bull Sink.  We parked and walked the couple hundred yards down there to see the cave entrance.  I had told Michael the story of how it got its name. I also told him about a more recent occurrence of a dog falling in the sink entrance and having to be rescued.  He was intrigued, but cautious and I was very glad.  I want him to be enthusiastic about outdoors, but not a fool.
He got where he could see the entrance, but did not want to go any closer. The slope was muddy and slick.  The cave had the most water running into it I have ever seen.


Papaw walking down to get a closer look. The greenery around the cave is beautiful. It looks tropical! It is very cool that we drove right over this spot!

   The area around Bull Sink is good for wildflowers.  We saw several kinds blooming.  The rocks around it are mossy and green. Wild oats, dwarf larkspur, and green violet bloomed all around.


Deep purple dwarf larkspur


Pale lavender larkspur.  It is so pretty!


Mossy stones on the slope before Bull Sink.

 Finally we had to end our days adventure.  Papaw is still getting over his surgery and was tired.
The rain held off, but was beginning to sprinkle now.  We drove home and discussed the interesting things we saw today.  Michael had a great time and so did we. We needed one on one time with him. We need that with each of our grandchildren.  Each one is special and fun and we love them dearly.
We talked about plans and trips we want to take and things we want to see.  I hope my grandkids all
become daydreamers and more than that.......... they make those dreams come to reality!

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.  


   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.