Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 Sink Hole Research Continues

Turkey Tail fungus grows on a log in Hell Hole

2017--Continuing Sink Hole Research


Dana & Kenny Koogler

Sat. Feb. 18, 2017


   I finally got a chance to get out with Kenny to try to do something fun on a Saturday.
I had to fight and claw to get anyone to help with the baby.  I was very frustrated with the situation.   Not at the baby.... but at the adults.  I find that when I have to contend that hard to 
get something it diminishes my enjoyment of it.   I was upset most of the day and did not really feel better until Sunday.    It was not a good time, but Kenny loved on me and encouraged me and put up with me.  He got a few laughs out of me despite the funk I was in.  Going through one of those times in life when I feel "Snake bit".  Just waiting to see what else will mess up.

      I had a hard time even getting interested in anything.    I got the maps out and decided 
it would be fun to find out if a very short squiggly blue line I saw in a sink hole was an interesting water feature?  I figured it was something good that was there year round.
I believed I knew how to reach it.  The sink hole had no name so I gave it one. It is the one that the blue line is near. It looked like it began at the sink hole per the map.  I named it Long Branch Sink.   It is near Long Branch which is a tributary stream of the Caney Fork River.

       I was interested in revisiting Hell Hole.  I was interested in revisiting Big Sink. I was interested in seeing if we could make it to Wilson Ridge and Dry Creek Falls.  The day was rainy, but not cold.   The sun finally came out in midday.   We got started by unloading the RZR.   We went to try to find Long Branch Sink first.   

     We started from the lower trail down nearer the parking at Big Bottom TWRA.
It did not pan out.  The trail was good until it wasn't!  We got to a place where it was so grown up in sapling trees there was no getting through them or around them.  We'd be there cutting trees now if we'd  tried to cut them all down.   We turned around and went another way to a trail that came in above it.     We felt like we were aimless wanderers there for a bit.
We were in such a pretty area that we did not care.   About that time we started seeing and hearing water.   We realized from the GPS we were nearly there.   One last wrong turn and a quick back up and turn around and we arrived!  

          Long Branch Sink did indeed have a pretty and interesting water feature. It runs year round.    It is the terminus of the headwaters of Long Branch.   Long Branch starts out above this sink hole as several headwaters springs scattered around.   Looks like some of them come in at the terminal rock pile. Others come from both sides of the trail above this.   It is a short stream. It ends in a split swallet.  Some water goes left and some goes right. The one on the left has a lot of action and flow. You can see it actively disappear underground.  The right one is just a hole of water where it slowly percolates through.   Eventually all this water comes out and joins the Caney Fork River.    I love a headwaters area.   They are just magical. 




Long Branch Sink.  It is not a real large sinkhole, but it is attractive. Full of mossy green rocks and a babbling small stream that ends in a double swallet.  You are looking over the rim of the sink when you look up at the top of this rock pile!  The stream bed is sandstone. Lots of conglomerate rock chunks filled with tiny white pebbles. I picked up a few of the white pebbles in case I have to leave a trail marker.  ;^D You know like Hansel and Gretel.  


 The stream flows on away from the rock pile edge of the sink.
 Lots of small fallen trees and debris in here.
 stream rounding the bend to end at...........



The left swallet..  it moves fast and you can see the water going away.



Right side swallet just ponds up and sits.  Percs under the ground finally.

  
      We continued past the sink and the massive moss covered boulders and copper beech trees were quite pretty. The sun was filtering down through the trees.  The terrain back here is gentle and rolling.   Springs of water cropped up and flowed to join Long Branch forming the main stream body.    The trail continued back here, but we had no idea where it came out so we finally turned around.   

           We were pleased to have found it.  We continued on in the general direction we believed Hell Hole should be in.  I had a memory of following a trail down down down into it like a corkscrew.  
Kenny's recall of it was better than mine.  You'd never know the path was there if you were not looking closely.   It is hidden by lots of sage brush.   We were tickled to find our way back to this special place.   Sure enough the trail does spiral down into it.   It is 122 feet deep, but seems deeper to me.   It is a very large sink hole.  The largest in the state of Tennessee for surface area is Grassy Cove coming in at some five MILES worth of surface area.  It is also the largest sink hole in the U.S.  The deepest sink hole in the state at this time is Big Sink at 261 feet deep.  I finally found a way into that last Winter.  It was a cool experience.  I had a feeling as we hiked toward the waterfall in Hell Hole we were in for a surprise.  I suddenly knew there would not be a pond anymore.    Sure enough the first little blue pond was empty.  Next we could hear the falls, but the pond was bone dry.    No pretty blue hole of water.  Ah well. It appears the falls runs year round, but the pond is seasonal.    Last time we found it looking good we were experiencing some flooding.  The usually dry stream beds around Lost Creek were ALL flowing. Your Falls was flowing really good.   Hell Hole is 122 ft deep.
 Dry Pond now at Hell Hole--wonder where it got the name? 

Looking at the trail across the floor of Hell Hole. 

Below is a short video of Long Branch Sink.  



Below I have included the video of Hell Hole's waterfall and pond how it looked on our first visit. It was quite pretty.  What a difference!

Benton Falls Hike

Benton Falls Hike


January 14, 2017
Kenny & Dana Koogler
Hiked 4 miles RT 


   I am way behind in writing this blog entry. I could not even recall the date of it. I had to look it up.  I am going to make it more perfunctory since it is so far behind the date it took place.  
  We managed to get out in January for a hike to Benton Falls.   We planned to start there and continue to Silver Creek Falls and Elora Falls at least.  We figured if they were running really good we'd push on to see Rim Rock Falls and Oasis Falls.  

        We have only hiked to Benton Falls twice before.  We were there 14 years ago and eight years ago.   Just when you think you know exactly how to get to where you're going........ you find out you don't.   We arrived at the trail head parking without any problems. It was a pretty Saturday. It was sunny and warming up.  We had a general recollection of how to start the hike.   We headed in the correct direction and crossed the earth dam at McKamy Lake. 
Once past that the trouble began.  The problem was we had only the most general recall of what direction the falls was in.  The trail sign was knocked down and propped back up.  I looked around for where it was knocked over from.  We never could figure out exactly where it had been.  We decided since it seemed to be pointing in the right general direction we'd start off the way it indicated.  We had not gone 100 yards before I began to realize it was wrong.  Kenny disputed me at first.  He then realized I was correct and all we were doing was circling back to the same spot we started from.  shoooes! We hiked that extra needless quarter mile as a "warm up" he said.  I got the map out and between the two of us we got oriented. We laughed and set off again. Same general direction but downhill.  If you hike to Benton Falls... hopefully the sign will have been replaced and be correct. Just in case.... go across the dam and at the intersection turn LEFT and follow the blue blazed trail.  

      We were still not absolutely sure we were right until we were halfway there.  We passed several signs, but not until we got to the middle of the trail at an intersection did we see one that pointed to Benton Falls. Thankfully it is a very easy hike and a short one.  We made it to the falls in no time despite our initial struggles.  The falls was running pretty good and was as pretty as I remembered.   We saw three other folks there while we were there. Not too bad.

 Benton Falls flowing so/ so today. I was surprised. We'd had recent rain, but it did not completely ease the draught.

 Elora Falls--Not much water.
 small plunge pool at Elora Falls
Then the water just goes underground for a ways... it comes out again about 50 yards down from here.  

      We enjoyed Benton Falls for awhile. It was beautiful and quiet today.  We went on down the trail with the waypoints and Brian Solomon's directions to Elora and Silver Creek Falls. 
We found Elora Falls without a lot of trouble.  It was a short bushwhack.  It was disappointing.
Not much water at all.   Kenny went down and could see where Silver Creek Falls was, but said it was even worse.   We decided to end our hike here and come back another time right after a heavy, very recent rain.  

         It was a beautiful day to get out and exercise.  It did us both a world of good. We decided to head on back home. We stopped at the picnic area on the way back and sat by the lake having lunch.  A few more people were straggling in.   We wrapped things up and decided to go home.   Good thing we did  head back early. Driving home my new jeep threw a Transmission Error and got stuck in eighth gear.  We had it happen off and on a couple times.  The message went away,but the Check Engine light never went off.   I called the dealership and found they were open until 5:30 p.m.   We made it back in time to get it down to Kodak for a check and a repair.  I was without a vehicle for a day or so, but Monday night I went down and picked it up. It has been fine ever since.  I hate vehicle trouble, but at least it did not strand me somewhere, and it is resolved.  


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Coker Creek After Christmas Hike

Coker Creek After Christmas Hike


Monday Dec. 26, 2016

Dana & Kenny Koogler 



  We had a good Christmas. It was Gabe's first Christmas and we were here together with him.
We had fun watching him open presents.  Once Christmas was over and stuff put away Kenny and I decided to get out for a post Christmas hike!   We've had a lot going on in our lives. My tolerance level for lengthy drives or disappointment is at an all time low.  We picked Coker Creek area to visit because it is not too far to go, and it is a sure fire hike.  

     We hiked out to the falls and back. We took time to climb down to several of the ones that are not easily reached by way of the trail.  Several of the lower ones you have to scramble down a steep embankment and then climb up the creek to them.  We figured out where our spot was to go down and were pleased we made it to the drops we missed on another trip.  We had our pregnant daughter and grandson with us that trip so we weren't about to have tried it then.

      It was a beautiful day.  Sunny and cool, fresh air with a nice breeze blowing.  It was such a quiet day. We encountered a few other hikers and a couple gold panners, but everyone was real friendly and nice.  We talked to several of them.  The gold panners were the most interesting fellows. I wanted that one old fellow to adopt me. A waterfall enthusiast like me would think she'd won the lottery to have a daddy like that! He knows were all sorts of waterfalls and caves and interesting features are!  


      
 We had to bushwhack to reach this falls.
 Coker Falls 
 Coker Creek Falls two
Interesting striped rock.


   We were very relaxed and mellow after hiking to Coker Falls.  It was just about perfect.
We thought we'd drive by Towee Falls which sits by the roadside and head home after that.
We found out what happens when you are in the negative not ONLY for your waterfall hikes, but your "I'm lost!" moments.  Holy schnikees! We had to make up for several months worth of not wandering like the Hebrew children in the wilderness. We crammed the entire forty years of wandering into one day.  We covered ground on roads I did not even know existed. I'm sure we took some sort of interdimensional vortex from Polk County to somewhere in North Dakota. I don't know no one in North Dakota!  Finally we admitted defeat and realized if we kept following the road we were on we'd come back out on SR 315.  
We stuck with it and emerged on a familiar road.  We'd just follow this back to Tellico Plains.
Along the way we passed a sign and Kenny exclaimed "Look! Towee Falls Road!??"  
My response?  "Shut up!" 

Then we both burst out laughing like two mad bastards.  We are crazy as hell.

      

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Murphy NC Weekend Get Away--Hiking and Exploring Waterfalls

Murphy NC Weekend Get Away--Hiking and Exploring Waterfalls 


Dana & Kenny Koogler

Sat. Feb. 4 and Sun. Feb. 5, 2017



   
    I am way behind on blogging and hiking for that matter.  I've got two previous trip reports still unwritten.  We are helping raise a grandson at the moment. It has turned out to be a blessing, but a challenge.  At 52 years old I thought I was done having and raising babies.  I have not quit hiking or blogging, but when you've got someone waking you up at 3 am hollering "Bah-bah bah bah bah!" (Gabe's word for bottle) your priorities change.  

         I took Gabriel over to his other grandparents home on Friday afternoon.   I used Friday to decompress a little.  Saturday morning we left early and went prepared to either stay in Murphy or drive home... whichever we preferred.  We spent Saturday just hiking and enjoying Fires Creek WMA.  It was a perfect day for hiking. Sunny and warmed up to fifty degrees by midday.
We found Bald Spring Falls without any real trouble. Kevin Adam's directions were very good.
It helped being somewhat familiar with the area, and having a map.   We sat at the falls and ate lunch.
The waterfall is actually three falls on the same stream. We only went to the first one.   We did not
try to bushwhack to the other two.  We will do that another time.  There was enough water coming over to make it pretty, but not enough to have made Bald Spring Falls.. the furthest one up... really pretty.   The stream was nice and clear.  A few patches of ice and ice bats hung from limbs in the creek.   I have found that my frustration level has been so high at home that I cannot tolerate much
when things go wrong.  It has been so bad that while I want to get out and hike I prefer sticking to sure bets instead of gambling.  My nerves just won't handle any more right now.

 Lower Bald Spring Falls  Here is a link to the video of it.  Bald Springs Falls video
Icicles under a log in the stream.

   
    We went on out one of the gravel roads in Fires Creek and found a long, sliding type falls we had seen last Spring.  We did not go down to the base of it then, but today we came prepared with a long rope.  We tied it off and used it to go down the steep slope to get to the base.  We were able to get some fair shots of it.  We named it Long Branch Slide since it was on Long Branch and was like a slide. Very original and well considered, eh?  :-)   Taking photos of it from the base eliminates the view of the upper parts of the slide in the photo.  It is about 60 feet long or better.  Plenty of water coming over it today.  

Long Branch Slide Long Branch Slide video on You Tube

I set these videos to gospel songs of praise and worship.  Don't watch them if you are offended by God and Jesus.  I am leaning hard on the Lord during a tough time.  Psalm 61

           We left with the sun dipping low on the horizon.   We were tired and happy and hungry.
We found a motel room in Murphy and opted to spend the night. We tried out Brothers Restaurant.
It was very good and they have several locations. Lots of good reviews. We were not in the mood to get real dressed up tonight for dinner.  Country casual was just right.   We did a little bit of shopping in Murphy before we turned in for the night.   Kenny had me laughing at dinner until I thought I'd pee my pants.  It was a fun evening.  Much needed night away from home and the routine.
We both slept well. I remember waking at 5 am to go pee. I felt good and thought I was done sleeping for the night.  I woke up two and a half hours later!  It did not take long to pack and check out.  We grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and headed out to do some more hiking and exploring.

      We headed toward Andrews to try to find Cover Falls.  A friend had given me great directions.. PERFECT directions! We also had a way point in decimal. I was thrilled that I converted it just right. I had not converted a way point in so many months.  Cover Falls lies on private property, but sits below a forest service road that provides a chance to drop down to see it without tromping through the homeowners property.   It is worth the stop.
Cover Falls is a little over 30 feet high.  It is quite pretty.  There is some sort of little grotto up above it to the left (facing the falls).  There is also an old water pipe going past it!  If you trek on by the falls a bit further there is a valve sticking up out of the pipe in the middle of the trail. It was leaking.
Britton Creek is the stream it is on. You drive Tatham Gap Road to approach it.  Tatham Gap Road is part of the Trail of Tears.  A sad thing to remember, but an important part of history to recall lest we forget and repeat it.    We have driven the other side of Tatham Gap Road when we went to Teyahalee Bald fire tower.      We did not drive it through today out of concern we'd find it gated way out near the bald, then have to turn around.   We went on toward Robbinsville to head home.

Here is a link to Cover Falls video

       We stopped in Robbinsville at Ingles to buy a few groceries before heading home. I did not want to get home and have to go back out again.  We just put the cold stuff in the cooler until we were back home.   It was not much to fool with.  The weather had been cold and drizzly this morning. It was warming up and turning sunny!   We decided to try to find Burgan Creek Falls from Atoah Road on the west.   We had made a futile attempt from Long Creek Road on the east several years ago.  Kevin Adam's description of it being confusing and difficult was dead on.   His directions are perfect and you get a good start, but then as he promises.. all evidence of a trail disappears leaving you to guess your best.  Casey Marcum had bravely found it from that direction and warned me to try it from the west. On his bushwhack he spied a trail coming in from the west!  I had already figured bushwhacking in from Atoah Gap side would at least be shorter if not easier.   We were blessed in that someone has created an actual trail from that road all the way to the falls. It is flagged the entire way.  Easy to follow.  Whomever did it..... Thank you!

I put directions to the falls on the front page of my blog. Burgan Creek Falls Directions
Please feel free to print them off and make use of them.  It is an extremely pretty waterfall and now easy to reach.  We were very pleased to find it at last.   We were tired,happy and ready to head home. I napped in the car all the way home so I did not have to deal with the Tail of the Dragon today.  I am not a fan of that road.  It was easier to go into a coma and wake up near the house! Good to go. Good to come home.  We were both grateful and recharged to face life again.
*Note to self* I am already planning a return trip to Murphy to shop.  I am a Thrift Shop junkie, and I saw at least four I need to check out.  A day of shopping and a day or two of waterfalls would not hurt my feelings!

 Two views of Burgan Creek Falls.  It was exquisite in my opinion.

     
Here is a video of it below. It is about 60 feet tall.