Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Waterfall Redemption Hike in the Cherokee National Forest

Sweet Betsy Trillium just beginning to bloom

Waterfall Redemption Hike in the Cherokee National Forest 

Sunday March 4, 2018

Dana & Kenny Koogler 

Acknowledgement to Brian Solomon accompanied by Christopher Lewis
for helping find this one.

   Now and then we hunt for some super obscure waterfall, wildflower or place that doesn't work out like we hope.   Last year about this time we went on just such a snipe hunt.    I had learned of the existence of a waterfall in an area I was somewhat familiar with.  I had never heard ANY other source mention this falls.  My source also had some extremely rudimentary directions, which included a couple tantalizing photos.   It seemed legit. Kenny and I went hunting for this falls fully  expecting to find it. I read the topography and figured where the falls should be.   We had found falls working with lots less! 
I also correctly figured the approach.  We got there and hunted and hunted with no success. 
As usual we had too much on our plate for the day.  We began to grow both frustrated at not finding it, and we were worried we were wasting time on a futile task that we should spend 
looking up other falls in the area.   

      Sitting in the woods that day in the middle of nowhere we ate our sammidges for lunch and 
laughed and whined.  Kenny was put out at what we had to crawl through to get to this point. We were still traveling down the same stream searching to make absolutely certain we had not missed any falls lower down.   By damn he was NOT going back the way we came.  He left me there eating a tater chip and went hunting for a better route out of this hole.   He came back 
with a grin and said "Well, they'se one big briar patch between us and an old tree farm, but once you get through that it opens up and is MUCH better traveling."   Shortly we set out to 
clamber through the briars and back to the road.   It was a beautiful hike off trail and once that part was accomplished much easier.   We discussed our lack of success and began to wonder if
the falls was even real or perhaps was on a different stream? 

      I told Kenny that day I am going to share this one with Brian Solomon. He is my grasshopper and always eager for an assignment.   Have I got one for him!   I went on to say
that if the falls existed Brian would be the man capable and doggedly determined enough to find them.   Kenny never blinked as he had heard of other feats pulled off by this man. 
I had previously shared tough off trail gambles with him and all but one time it paid off.  I went home that day and emailed Brian. I shared all my information including what parts of the stream we'd searched and knew the falls wasn't there.  So he went in having a 
fair idea where to start and what I'd try on any repeat trips.  I don't recall how long it was, but within a few months anyhow he came back successfully having found the falls!  They did exist and were even prettier than the first photos I'd seen of it!  He had talked Christopher Lewis into going along on this fools errand.  They are hosses I'm tellin ya.  They got it done!  
He took a waypoint for me to go back to see it for myself.   I had narrowed the location down to within 300 feet.   It took months before the chance came for us to return to see it in person.

      It is really early Spring but I hoped to find a few wildflowers up.  I was not disappointed.
We'd had lots of rain. Much more than a year ago so I was hopeful that would aid us in being able to hear the falls as we got close.   I did see some pretty wildflowers. The day was cool and clear, but promised to warm up into the fifties.   Jacket weather.    I began seeing the first trilliums of the season. 
 Sweet Betsy trillium
 Yellow violet
We saw loads of hepaticas up!  All white form.   

  Our paths today were extremely muddy and squishy to begin with.   The start of the trail was one with the stream!   We soon got on drier footing and began our trudge. It was not bad.
We found our second path and followed it. It was good knowing that today I had an accurate way point and at least the journey would be shorter.   We then came to the part where the off trail begins.  Saying 0.27 miles .. ahead off trail sounds like no big deal, right?  Well, it depends on the 1/4 mile.   This one was certainly not the hardest thing we'd ever done, but it wasn't easy.
Uphill, rhodo, gushing stream, terrain that pinches you off to where you are forced to ford the stream.   We finally got smart and found a place to ford and then stayed on the far side of the stream.   It was easier going.    Lots of logs and vines, briars to contend with, but we did it. 
Slowly we made our way toward the spot the falls should be.  We had to go round a bend in the creek.   We began to realize how badly we misjudged the distance last time.   I was right about where the falls should be, but my mind nor Kenny's could picture the terrain or distance between points A and B.   We knew the falls lay in there somewhere.   

      We worked our way along upstream through the vegetation and over countless mini stream crossings.   I am sure most of those would not be there during normal flows.  Finally in one of the contortions trying to get from one point to the next we got a glimpse of white water through the trees.  We could see it. It was real!  
 Our "trail markers" today were rustic. 
 Old logging road
Kenny in front of the falls.  Not a very good demonstration of the scale, but it is a good sized falls. Top drop is about fifteen feet with a thirty foot lower run.  

   We were thrilled to have finally arrived to see this beauty for ourselves.  We were grateful to Brian and Christopher for making the trek ahead of us to confirm it.   We are getting old and lack the stamina we once had.   A second day in the woods seeing what few people will ever see.  Finding waterfalls, big trees, and wildflowers.   The air was fresh. The sky bluest blue and the sun beamed down.  God is in his Heaven and all was right with my world.   I savored the experience because they are fewer and further between these days.  

 The falls sits in a headwaters area.  Springs gushing here and there.  
A "bridge" across the stream just below where I am standing.  It would have made a fair perch for photos or clowning, but not got ya anywhere once on across it.  

Un-named Falls.. beautiful white water.   

Below is a video of the falls that shows it and the surrounding terrain much better.  

We ate lunch at the point just below the falls. It was getting to be 1:30 and Kenny was running low on fuel.   Once we found the falls and enjoyed it we were satisfied and ready to head home.
I was content.  I guess it is that contented feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that keeps me coming back for more challenges.   It is surely that which makes a nap leaned back in shotgun seat of the car using my coat for a pillow some of the sweetest sleep ever.  I am like a cat napping in a sunny spot. 

**Note to Self** Kenny talked about what he'd do on any repeat trips to this falls. I remarked I expected we would NOT be back so wont no use worrying about it.  Famous last words.  Got home and immediately promised Paul Gamble I'd take him back if he had trouble finding it.   Then realized after chatting with Brian that we had missed an upper falls. Damn. Do over! 

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