Thursday, June 8, 2017

Cypress Falls Hike


Hybrid azalea bloom in Nana's flower garden

Cypress Falls Hike



Dana Koogler

Friday May 26 , 2017

2 mile RT hike



    Our family was planning a trip back to Virginia for Memorial Day.  I got bad news one week ahead saying my Uncle Bill Bradley had passed away.  About a week later I got word that Uncle Bobby
had passed away.   It was all just too much and I was overcome with grief.   I spent most of the day
Wednesday crying off and on. I finally got my emotions in check. Kenny told me that I probably 
should go on up ahead of everyone.  I agreed. I needed to go home.   I did not make it to Uncle Bill's funeral, but I was going to make it to this one.  
Back to Fairfield, Virginia and my parental units.  
       
  I left Thursday morning and drove up.  I got to visit my folks.  I stopped in Fairfield first since
my mom was working and so was my sister.  It is also the logical first stop since it is nearest to the interstate.   I was very glad to get off the interstate at Lexington.  I drove the rest of the way down 
Route 11 which is the old Valley Pike.  It runs up and down through the Shenandoah Valley with the Blue Ridge mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west.  The countryside 
looked beautiful on my drive.  All the lawns were green.  Trees leafing out.   The area where we are from is a very rural setting with half the population of where we currently reside.  I was happy to get out of the vehicle at the house.  I went in and greeted my folks. I spent the evening with them. Nana fixed a good home cooked supper.   The next day I went to Uncle Bobby's funeral with Daddy.
It was good to see my kin.  I got to see  most of the folks I hoped to see. I did not get to visit with Dennis, Elaine, Tony, or Ricky, but the rest of the family I saw.  I found my cousins Steve, James and Karen to be the same sweet people as always. Aunt Barbara is always loving and fun to be around. I feel blessed to have her.  I feel a special bond with Steve because he is so outdoorsy.  I am very proud of my family and I love them dearly.  It helped to be together.
Nana's sewing shop. Closed for bidness today.
 
  Friday I was waiting for the rest of my clan to come up from Tennessee. Mom had to work as did Valerie.  I decided to go hiking that morning. I picked something close to home. I drove round to Sam & Roxanne's house and went hiking to the falls.  I took along a short length of rope.  I pulled up and there was a man mowing. It did not look like any of the family was home so in order to keep out of the way of the fellow mowing I parked near the gate and walked from there.  I got to the renter's house.  His pitbull/cur dog mix greeted me with loud barks. He stopped and wagged his tail. He remembered me from previous trips. I called him over and he smelled me. I smelled right so he let me pet him.  I asked him if he wanted to go with me? He said yes. He also showed me the best place to go through the fence.  He stuck with me and was good company  until he finally tired of me and abandoned me going back to the house. 

         Sam & Roxanne Koogler's home.  This beautiful home place is typical of a lot of very historic Virginia architecture.   I think that is one thing I miss about where I live now.  The old houses.
Below is another glimpse of the old barn, silo and outbuildings on the Koogler Farm. Not typical of what you see in the way of hiking destinations in Tennessee.
   
    

 
         Above: I am looking back to the rental house where I crossed the fence and entered the pasture. The cows are in the pasture with me, but the property is fenced and gated to keep the cows out of the woods and from falling over the cliffs below.   Not every "hiking trail" looks the same.  I'm dodging cow piles, a muddy spring, and thistles.

             I walked down to the gate and let myself in to the woods.  A large boulder was there just outside the gate.  It is a chunk of limestone rock in the pasture field. It is positively coated with moss and stonecrop.  It was rather pretty.
Wild stonecrop on a rock in the field

     The forest here is fragrant with evergreens. It is a white cedar forest.  They like cooler climates and sweet limestone soil unlike many evergreens or heath type plants that love acidic soil.   That is where the name Cypress Falls comes from.  The white cedar trees are cypress trees.  The leaves are flattened and scaly compared to red cedar.  I looked for wildflowers today, but I did not see many.
I saw lots of trillium stalks with the blooms gone.  The hike to the falls is a short one.  Moore's Creek has a few pretty cascades upstream from the main drop of the falls. Two of them are about five feet high.  Today they were pretty because there was lots of water.  The hike consists of mainly walking through the pasture field and into the woods. Once in the forest you have a short scenic stretch by the stream. I passed an old road on the right. I later learned I could have followed the old road up to the top of the hill. It would have made it a little quicker and easier.  It is not that pretty though. If you stay with the main trail the terrain forces you to go up over the hill just past a cave entrance.

Cave entrance at the base of the hill.  The photo is deceptive as to the size of this thing.  It is about
fifteen feet high.

On down closer inspecting the cave entrance.  I did not go in today since I was solo hiking. No one really knew where I was for sure.  Aunt Dot told me that this cave drops off steeply not far past the entrance. She also told me that the cave surveyors never found the end of it or the bottom of it.  

   I made the climb up the hill and stopped at the top to survey the scene.  I saw the old road to my right. It went up and over the hill a short distance and ended.  The hill is tall and grown up with brush.  I had the dog with me still and I was glad.  I kept close to the dog and kept watch for snakes. 
I saw one all day and that was a very docile black snake at the end of my hike.  He was not in the woods, but in the driveway.   
Black rat snake about 2 1/2 feet long.  


  I took my time going down the hill and still managed to slip and bust my behind on a rock.  
The dog cut me a puzzled look as if he was asking what was wrong with me?  The ground was very muddy and the hill was slick from the rain the night day before.  The stream was churned up muddy too and I am not sure this wasn't the most water I've ever seen on this falls.   I could hear it roaring just over the edge of the bluff.   Once at the bottom of the hill I stood before the second drop. It is about 30 feet high.  I turned and walked up to the main falls. It is 120 feet  high. During leaf out you cannot see the upper sixty feet of it.  I am putting up a photo of it taken during Winter several years ago.  It shows how tall it really is.  

 Cypress Falls 120 ft drop over travertine into a large blue-green plunge pool. Located in Rockbridge Co. Va. on family property.

The majestic Cypress Falls 120 feet tall.  A tufa waterfall. 
The stream is so laden with dissolved minerals they leach into the surrounding plant matter. 
It then hardens and becomes stone.  It forms a brittle, light brown to white stone called tufa.
If tufa comes under heat or pressure it then hardens further to become travertine.. a type of valuable building material.  It is sometimes called marble, but is truly a type of limestone.


   I tied the rope off and donned my water shoes in order to climb down and ford the stream to get a good vantage point of the falls.  The stream flows across somewhat of a natural dam at the base of the bluff.  It was a wade today.   I had to be careful, because the water was flowing fast and the rocks are slippery. It sits about fifty feet above the brink of the next drop.  It would be easy to get swept over.
I made it across without any trouble.  I set up my tripod while the dog rambled around. It was sometime at this point of the hike he decided I was taking way too long and abandoned me.  He was goin' to the house.   He got bored.   The falls was lovely today.  The plunge pool is always muddy. It never clears up much.  The very first time I ever went here was in August. It was a whole family hike.
We got in the pool here and went swimming.  There is nothing like swimming and doing the back stroke up to a waterfall.  I felt like I was in the jungle!  Good memories.    Yes, it is a muddy old cow creek and who knows what is in it, but I don't care. 

Cypress Falls surrounded by Spring green leaves. 

Horizontal frame of Cypress Falls main drop.

Below is a video of Cypress Falls set to music. The track is Cedar Falls which is an apt name for these!   by Leon Hunt and Josh Clark 

Cypress Falls has three main drops 120 ft, 30 feet, 100 feet.  there is almost certainly more as Moore's Creek heads down to drop into South River, but I have never had time or opportunity to go find out.

          I got done taking photos of the falls from this spot. I loaded up my stuff and walked counter clockwise round the plunge pool.  I checked out the tufa formations and the spring there.  It is always so pretty.  The spring gushes water over tufa and down into a bed of white gravel composed of crumbled up tufa.   I had ever intention of climbing up into the pocket cave to the side of the falls.
I found that the bank had badly eroded and the route up that I used before was no longer safe. I'd go u and slide right back down.  I tried another spot or two, but those were even worse.  The fall from there would not kill  you, but would bugger you up.  I just wasn't in the frame of mind today to fight it.  I was alone and had left my rope over on the bank tied for my climb back up.  It would have to wait for a time when I had company.   I really did not care having done it before.

 Above and Below.. a glimpse of Tufa Spring. It is a neat spot to visit.  Totally separate water source from Moore's Creek. This water is nice and clear, but still mineral laden.

Below--an example of tufa stone.  A few larger clumps. It is very crumbly. 

Here is a link to a short video clip of the spring and the far side of the falls.  Tufa Spring

     Once I had finished ambling around this part of the woods I decided to head back up the bank.
I clambered up the bank with the help of the rope.  I changed back into my boots and stowed my gear including the rope.  I went on down stream to see what I wanted to do next.  I was dismayed to see that the way I used before to tie the rope off and scramble down was gone!  All the heavy rains since last trip have badly eroded the bank.  I really wanted to get down there, but here I am alone and no one is absolutely sure where I am or when I'm due back.  I also knew that if this part of the bank was that bad.. the next part would be far worse.   In order to stand on the bank and get a clear shot of the 100 foot drop  I had a "trail" about one boot wide last time.  Sure enough it was in worse shape.
A future trip I need Kenny to go along and I need the longer rope.  We've done way worse, but this was not something I was prepared to tackle today.   I got a fair shot of the second drop, but there is no way to get a good picture or video of the 100 footer unobscured.  The only way to do it is come in Winter time and go round to the narrow trail.. now gone.  OR hike up over the bluff a long way round,.. back down to the creek.. come back up the creek IN the water.. and once you are at the 100 foot drop you have a big tree to sit on to take pictures. It is a lot of work. Last time I went home wet and muddy all the way up to my middle. I had been waist deep in that warm, muddy, cow pee water.
30 foot drop of Cypress Falls  I am getting down there next time for sure. I want to see exactly what the stream does over on that far side. It looks cool!
Below is an obstructed view of the 100 foot drop.
It was really thunderous today.  The woods here were thicker and the only way down was to go the long way around.  Below me was a big drop off.

Woods getting thicker with growth

    I turned back and stopped to photograph some jack in the pulpits I had seen along with some puttyroot orchids just opening.

 Jack in the pulpit
Puttyroot orchid just emerging

     I put away my camera gear and began the short, steep trudge back over the hill.  I found a little better way up than I did coming down and no more slips.  Going up is always easier.   I took a lung break and got a sip of something to drink up top and continued.  I stopped off by the cave again. I saw some interesting fungi and goats beard flower blooming.   I wrapped up my hike for the day.
I stopped by the rental house to speak to the gentleman who stays there. He is the master of the dog who went with me.  I petted the dog and wished them a good day.  Nice dog and nice man.
I was homesick for Virginia and family. I came back. I am here and yet I am still a little homesick.
I guess I just want my cake and eat it too.  I see the good in both places and wish to have it all.
Life doesn't work that way unfortunately.  Tennessee has more to do, but Virginia is also beautiful.
A person like me who comes from quiet places is used to having nothing going on. It doesn't bother me.  I learned a long time ago how to bloom where I am planted.   I am thankful that regardless of where I live.. either place I know how to have a good time.  Plenty of interesting places to see and things to do for a country gal.  I pity people who look at life and say "Is this all there is?" Cause yes.. this is it.  Let it be enough.

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