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.  


  1. Wow! I love your descriptions and I would love to see this beautiful place some day! I feel the calling's just this feeling I get, like I'm being guided to different places and I love it and I believe you for sure Soul Sister!

    1. Thanks so much. I am glad to know I have a Soul Sister in you! <3 It is good to know people out there who 'get it." The world is too full of mystery and beauty and sweet spirit to see it all go to waste on people who are too wrapped up in rushing around to appreciate what I call the "finer things" in life. Nothing created by the hand of man can compare to the beauty of God's creation.


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