Saturday, April 15, 2017

Belle Ridge Retreat --Verble Hollow Falls(Vanishing Falls) & Spring Wildflowers

Blue hepatica on the ridge near an unnamed falls.

Belle Ridge Retreat--Verble Hollow Falls at Last! 

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Saturday April 8, 2017

Pictures are here: Belle Ridge Retreat Pix

   Life at K├╝gler Haus has been gradually getting back to normal.   We finally all got over 
being sick.  Jared & Lydia got the results back on their hair follicle drug test showing 3 straight months plus completely clean and sober.  Gabriel took another  big step toward getting back to staying with his mommy and daddy full time.  The weather was clearing up. We finally had something work out right for us.  We planned a camping trip for this weekend and it went mostly as planned.   We stayed at the Davy Crockett Campground for our first camping trip of the year. 
I recently learned that the property where Verble Hollow Falls lies had been opened to the public as a
resort area.   It was immediately moved to the tip top of our list of places we Gotta Go! The folks who bought the property and turned it into a resort call their place Belle Ridge Retreat.
They also renamed Verble Hollow Falls "Vanishing Falls".  

        It did not take me long to pack the camper since when it was put up from last season I 
made sure it was clean and stocked.   It is so nice to be able to pack only your clothes, food, and hiking gear and be ready to go.   We took Gabe back to Jared & Lydia on Friday evening. 
We got up fairly early and set out for the plateau.  We found the Davy Crockett Campground without
any trouble. It is right off I-40 West at exit 311.   It is perfect because it is just far enough off the main highway you cannot hear it at all.  Yet it is convenient to Monterey, Cookeville, Sparta, and Crossville.   Kenny has a job coming up that may have him staying there for a week or so.  I am crossing my fingers it goes through so I can go back and stay again.

         We would have camped at Belle Ridge Retreat, but they are not open for camping or cabins just yet.  They will be ready for that around May of this year.  We had been wanting to try Davy Crockett Campground anyway and we were glad we did.  It is a family owned and run outfit and they have an excellent place.  It is attractive, fairly priced, and secure. They have thought of just about everything.
The only down sides are that they do not have a great wi fi signal and the only tv is via antenna.
I was 100% ok with that.   I was there for a get away and unplugging was part of it.

     We registered. Got set up. One of the owners met us and helped us set up.   Another fellow got us oriented.  We were done and ready to hit the trails in no time!  Belle Ridge Retreat was a mere 10 miles away and just off I-40 so it was a quick trip there.  We had no problems finding the place. It is that close to interstate, but you cannot tell it because of the layout. You can neither hear it or see it!
They have signage up that directs you perfectly.   The campground and cabins, their house, office , etc is atop the plateau.  The trail system starts there and quickly descends into the hollers below.
They have good maps and trail signs and take time to explain things to you.   One of our first stops on our way down was this grandstand overlook.   The weather today started off cool, but was warming up.  The sun shone down on us from bluebird skies.   The forest was greening up and the Spring wildflowers were popping.
View from the first overlook. You can see the trail system winding along to the left of center.  If you click on the photo and enlarge it you can see just to the right of that the glimmer of water. It is Verble Falls.. the thirty foot waterfall.  One of several on the place.

     We enjoyed the view, but our excitement and anticipation kept us moving along.  It wasn't long until we started seeing some nice clusters of wildflowers along the trail.  Kenny stopped to check them out and let me get some photos.
        Start of the trail.  They did a great job with them!

 Golden trillium
 Bronze trillium
More typical maroon/red trillium.  All beautiful! All within a few feet of each other!
Other wildflowers near these were chickweed, phlox, canada violets, blue violets, spring beauties, and toothwort.

     We continued down the trail system and came to a beautiful little stream in a hemlock gap.  Redbud trees were blooming. Dogwoods were flowering.  Looking out across the forest we could see the deep hunter greens of hemlocks intermingled with the gray branches of bare trees. Pea green fuzzy leaf buds shone almost neon against the blue of the sky.  Adding to all that eye candy were the red maple buds and bronze leaf buds of oaks.  I have said  before and it holds ever true... I love how springtime in the Bright and Sunny South looks so different because it has Autumn hues mingled in!
Down in this hemlock gap was a right healthy stream flowing amid large mossy boulders. We got off the machine and climbed up the bank among the boulders.  Wildflowers were everywhere.  Prairie trilliums, yellow ragwort, purple phlox, hepaticas of blue and white lined the banks of the stream. Above us was a waterfall cascading down the slope.  It is not on their maps. I have a strong feeling it is a wet weather falls.   It was pretty, but encroached heavily with brush and lots of fallen limbs and trees in it.  It did not make for a pretty photo.   The rock forms in front of it were interesting. One boulder was a fin of rock.
 Looking out through the gap at the view. Pretty redbuds.
 RZR pulled off the side of the trail while we  explore.
Waterfall, but heavily laden with downed trees and limbs. 
Fin shaped rock in front of the falls. 
 Prairie Trillium
 Showy orchis
Two toned hepatica

    Once we had satisfied our curiosity we climbed back down the bank to the RZR and took off again.
We pushed onward toward the main attraction... Vanishing Falls!  We were getting near lunch and decided we would stop there and eat a sandwich.  It turned out to be a good decision, but once we where there I lost all interest in eating.  I was entranced by the beauty of the falls and the surroundings!  They have the area set up with picnic tables and grills.  You can sit right there by the falls and have a picnic with that beautiful sight to behold to entertain you.  You won't find a prettier spot for Spring wildflowers either.  The forest surrounding the falls is covered with every color and sort of flowers.   Bluebells, prairie trillium, toothwort, southern red trilliums, phlox, and too many dutchman's breeches to count.  Ferns and mosses cover practically everything.  While we were there I also had the good fortune to see a snowberry hawkmoth among  the bluebells.  Vanishing Falls drops out of the cliffside, down among the rocks and enters the ground at a swallet.  
 Above and below Vanishing Falls or Verble Hollow Falls whichever you want to call it. It is gorgeous!  The sound of it is soothing and powerful at the same time.

 What a pleasure to have lunch here! But with this scenery who can eat?
 The mossy green slopes down to the falls are covered in dutchmans breeches and bluebells.
Sunshine, blue skies and spring green surrounding the falls.  It is storybook perfect in my opinion.

 Virginia bluebells and toothwort.. blue and white.
 Snowberry hawkmoth drinking from the flowers.
One of many Southern Red trilliums around the picnic area and falls. 

   I finally sat down and ate lunch once I had taken lots of photos and done lots of snooping around.
I was in my seventh Heaven here.   Kenny walked down the trail and was checking out an area down toward a cave.   We were going there next so I did not get in a big hurry.  He came back and met me and was real enthused about going in the cave.  

Below is a video of Vanishing Falls.  It doesn't do it justice.  You need to go see it for yourself at the first chance.

           We were a very short distance from Family Cave and Verble Falls.  It is a thirty foot falls that is listed on Tennessee landforms also.  It is pretty, but it is hard to figure out how to access it.  I don't know of anyone that has.  It is in a steep gorge. In front of it are massive boulders that block much of the view of it and prevent one from getting too close.   We did not have time today to spend all day obsessing and trying to figure how to reach it.  We did check out several options, but I am not sure that it wouldn't be about as simple to try a front approach.  Try that first and then move on to option #2 or 3 if that fails.  A stream flows down Verble Hollow, going through many pretty cascades and ends at Verble Falls. It must enter the ground at the base of the falls for there is no water leaving the hollow.

       We went on in Family Cave which is signed and is an easy, horizontal cave walk for amateurs like us.   It has a spring inside it that is pretty.  Saw a few bats, but we did not bother them and they didn't bother us.  It had the usual cave spiders and crickets.
 The forest around Family cave had lots of white flowered trilliums.

 Dutchman's britches
 Beautiful wild columbine near the cave

 Approaching Family Cave
Entrance to the cave

 One of the cave passages

Kenny in the cave

Small spring of water in the cave

   We enjoyed the cool air in the cave and took plenty of time to see it all.  We came out into the bright light of day again. I heard another machine approaching.   A fellow had pulled up on a new looking Can Am.    Kenny greeted him first and they struck up a conversation.   I came on over there and got to chatting with him.  We made a buddy today when we met Lee Craighead.   He is a cool guy.   I think we both look forward to getting to know this interesting fellow better.  It was already a good day, but making a nice new friend is bonus!  It had warmed up a lot so I changed into a short sleeved shirt.   While the fellers were visiting I walked down the trail and snapped some more wildflower photos.  This part of the forest had lots of bright yellow wood poppies!  I walked back and we wrapped up our visit with Lee and traded some info to be able to keep up with one another. 
Facebook is good for something!  
Wood poppies! 

         We went on our way and began to realize how we were going to be pressed for time to 
see the rest of the place.  Initially we both thought a day was more than plenty to see ten miles of trails.  Quite often we ride two or three times that when I am along.  Kenny, Buck, Jody, Dan and the men ride up to eighty miles per day!  The difference is how much there is to see packed into those ten miles.   They had offered us a package deal for two days.  We turned it down, but were now feeling sorry we hadn't taken them up on it.  I'll tell you now I left feeling robbed and did not want to leave.
Miz Nosey here had not seen enough of it and was resenting it.  It will give me something to look forward to on any return trips.   Kenny was not to be so easily outdone. He spent some of our afternoon trying to figure another approach to Verble Falls.  We saw lots of pretty cascades and some more beautiful hollers and wildflowers, but we did not make it to the falls.   What was funny though was that in the midst of doing that we ran upon Lee doing much the same thing! Ha! We knew he was a kindred spirit.  I think this is going to be the start of many good things to come! 

 Purple Dwarf larkspur
Trout lily! Saw lots of these.
One pretty cascade seen while trying to cipher out how to reach Verble Falls
Jack in the pulpit 

    Finally we realized we were burning daylight and had to press onward.   Kenny chose a trail that would bring us round closing a loop ride today.   I do not recall the trail numbers, but it was one of the prettiest scenery rides and funnest we've done.  The trails have just enough challenge to be fun, but not terrifying.  Rollercoaster like in places to make it interesting.   At one point we drove down to the very bottom of the holler along bottom land.  I did not want to leave.  It was a veritable Garden of Eden down there.  I cannot wait to go back.  The entire bottom was coated with flowers.  Larkspur in different shades.  Kenny did not let me out for I think he knew if he did I'd be like a dog let off the leash. He'd never get me back in the RZR.   I have a healthy wanderlust that is true and wildflower season just adds fuel to the fire. 

       We finally came to another one of the signed attractions along the trail system.  Arrowhead Falls. There is supposed to be a cave there too, but we did not see it.  The place closes at five and we had two other things to see so we did not hunt for it.  Yet another reason to return. 

Looking up one of many such hollers.
 Arrowhead Falls is not huge, but it is pretty.

    We continued on back up the hill out of the bottom lands.   It was a very fun ride with lots of dramatic views to one side as the terrain fell away.  On the other side we could see massive rock formations towering over us.   Something to see the entire way.    Finally back up top we passed a muddy little pond.   We wound up back where we started.  We still had to walk over to see Bridal Veil Falls and the last overlook.   We finally figured out where to start the trail. It is near the Gazebo overlook.  You climb a ladder down and walk a short distance over to the falls. You can hear it from the overlook.    
Birdsfoot violet dots the area around the overlook. It is plentiful.
 Attractive and well constructed gazebo to sit and take in the view
and what a view it is!  Looking westward toward the Calfkiller River and farm fields

Bridal Veil Falls was not much, but it is such a short walk it would not be hard to come back 
and catch in with more water after a heavy, recent rain. 

  Finally tired and ready to head out we stopped by the office and visited with the owners. 
They could not have done more to make us feel welcomed and appreciated.  We certainly liked them and this place. I foresee us making many trips back here as a couple and as a family.  I certainly hope they prosper and don't see any reason they shouldn't.   We made plans in the past to try to visit Verble Hollow Falls and it fell through.   I'm glad now that it didn't work out then.  We might have missed today and I wouldn't trade it for gold.  


  1. Very thorough post on your experience at Belle Ridge. I loved all the photos and video! I do have good news though... That's not Bridal Falls :) It's a 15 minute hike to get there; you only went about 2 minutes in. I guess you'll just have to come back again to see Arrow Head Cave (more of an overhang), get closer to Verbal Falls and the REAL Bridal Falls!

  2. darn! gotta go back again! ;^D Yes. I see no way round it. I do remember being told 15 minutes. We were in a hurry. See what that gets you?!


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