Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cumberland Plateau Camping Trip--Mountain Glen RV Park Part 3-- Touring White County with Marvin and Cumberland Caverns


Bright orange butterfly weed behind the Rock House



Cumberland Plateau Camping Trip--Mountain Glen RV Park Part 3-- Touring White County with Marvin , Cumberland Caverns & Hemlock Falls

Kenny & Dana Koogler
Marvin Bullock

Saturday June 15, 2019


Meeting & Touring With Marvin 

  I am always on the lookout for the obscure and interesting things of the world.  Several years ago I went off on one of my tangents.  All I can say for sure is that I was looking for historical information when I ran across a blog called CragrockUSA.com.   It was written by a fellow named Marvin Bullock.  His blog began to be the first and sometimes only   info that turned up on odd places in my searches.  I've had lots of experiences with searching for off the beaten track places in the Great Smoky Mountains and Western North Carolina mountains where Jenny Bennett's blog.. Endless Streams and Forests was the only info out there.    Marvin was becoming my man with the answers in the plateau.  His blog would pop up more and more.  
I liked what he had to say. I shared  similar interests as well as views of the world with him.    I later encountered some fellows at Welch Point who invoked his name and shared his positions on many topics.  Over the years he kept popping up on my radar screen.  It takes me awhile to get the point, but I began to get it.   I needed to meet this gentleman to avail myself of his knowledge about life.   Finally he reached out to me and invited myself and Kenny to go touring round the county with him.  My heart and mind were quick to grasp the opportunity. I said yes at once.   It just so happened we were going to be in his area that weekend.  We quickly made plans to meet up on Saturday morning at the Sparta Chamber of Commerce where he works.     
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Above: Historic Rock House was a stage coach stop from the 1830's.  It was built by Barlow Fiske . For anyone who is interested the area history here is a link to the Bon Air Historical Society.     and the Bon Air Mountain Historical Society Facebook Group is a great place to get answers and info. 

      The morning we met Marvin there at the chamber it was very relaxed.  He is one of those folks who is easy going. He is so chill and so friendly he makes you feel like you've known him for a long time.   The four or five hours we spent with him flew by.  He imparted much wisdom to us during that brief visit.  Kenny and I both felt very blessed to meet him and hear his stories.    He took us out to his place and showed us round.   It is beautiful and quiet.   
The tour answered many questions, but it raised new ones.  I am sitting here as I type this trying to cipher how many more trips that one visit generated?!   I'm guessing at least seven.
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      Above: Marvin and Kenny way ahead of me.  I had been lagging behind taking wildflower photos.  This is the old road behind the Rock House.  


Some of the things we saw were the Rock House historic site.  Cragrock Geyser.
Old U.S. 70.    Bon Air Mountain. Coal Bank Road and the railroad grade.   Acid run off from former mining operations.  Capped mine shafts.  Rocking Rock Overlook or at least where to find it.   I got to meet Tom Lee.. the "father" of Dog Cove.  It is one of the state's latest acquisitions.  Calfkiller Brewery.  The chamber of commerce itself.   The old Bon Air spring.
The France Cemetery and the grave of Champ Ferguson.  We were able to buy the updated version of the Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness map there at the Chamber for $10.
Kenny had just told me Friday night he believed it was inaccurate. He was right!

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Above: Marvin looking at Cragrock Geyser.  It was not flowing the day we were there.   Now that we know where it is we can try to catch it flowing.   It is behind the old Rock House and is an artesian well.  It  was used to get water to the trains on the mountain. 


        I had been feeling lately like the things I had believed important just did not matter to me so much.   I felt like I was bouncing round like a pinball.   I chalked it up to a return to having more free time.   I'm sure that was a factor, but I felt a pull to the plateau.  I had a pang in my heart that was the Lord's voice convicting me saying "if you love it........ devote yourself to it."
I knew what I needed to do was to focus up.  Put my talents to use visting and promoting the area I hold so dear.   Use Cumberland Gal to help others see the beauty and wonder of the plateau.   Use it to spread the word about great places to dine and shop in an area striving to become more.    It is always easier to just do what I am supposed to do than to resist it.
And so with Marvin's guidance I shall endeavor to improve this blog.  Expanding it to include directions to more places if they are on public lands.   Expand it to include dining info and shopping info.    I am only one voice, but I will do what I can to try to make a difference.

       
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Above: The Bon Air spring is extremely pure water.   I took me a big drink and had no ill effects. It is delicious water and very cold.   I could immediately taste limestone in it.   Our water in Virginia came out of a limestone well.  
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Above: Marvin is showing us the rock cribbing along the former railroad grade.   It has been used as an illegal dump site in the past.   People can sure be trifling. 
 
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Above: Marvin studying the grave marker for Champ Ferguson who was supposedly executed for war atrocities.   Ground penetrating radar has shown the grave to be empty.  A fair case has been made that perhaps he was not executed, but somehow escaped to start over in Oklahoma. 


Below: Kenny and Marvin checking out inscriptions on the old grave markers in the France Cemetery.  

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    We enjoyed our time with Marvin and look forward to the next chance to visit with him. 
He had a three p.m appointment with someone back in Sparta so we had to head back. 
He suggested several places we might have lunch.  He also provided good information on 
places I had wanted to check out.   We finally settled on Yanni's Grille in Sparta.  It was marvelous!  We will definitely be back.  It is attractive, fairly priced, clean as a pin, beautifully decorated, relaxed atmosphere. Most of all the food is delicious and fresh. They have quite a menu selection and the service couldn't have been better.    It is so nice to have a good choice of places besides the usual Wendy's, McDonald's, Sonic and other fast food joints.   After lunch we headed toward McMinnville with just enough time left to catch the last tour of the day. 
  

Cumberland Caverns 


   We had long known of Cumberland Caverns, but in the eighteen years since moving to Tennessee we had never visited.   I have been feeling lately that I needed to remedy some of these oversights on my part.   We wound round through the countryside until we arrived at the caverns visitor center.   It is worth mentioning that Mountain Glen RV Park and Campground gave us a free coupon that saved us about eight dollars on the total admission price!  
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Above: First look at the outside of the building.

  The grounds of Cumberland Caverns are very attractive and welcoming.   Inside the visitor center you can pay for your admission, wait in air conditioned comfort, get something cold to drink. They have clean restroom facilities.  Outdoors is a spacious porch with a neat gem mining sluice and koi pond.    A nice view is had from the shady front porch.    We saw kids down at the sluice trying their hand at gold and gem panning.   I had not been aware they had other activities besides the cavern tour.    I knew they offered camping, hiking and wild cave tours.   They still have entertainment at a venue inside the cavern, but it is now called Cumberland Caverns Live.  


Below: Koi pond and mine sluice at the caverns.
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Below: Comfy relaxation on the front porch of the caverns. I liked this chair so much I ordered us one!
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  I had read many things about the caverns regarding the history of how it was discovered.  I knew from a guidebook or two that I own it has waterfalls inside it.   I also knew from another guidebook about the trails on Cardwell Mountain.    It is part of the historic Trail of Tears.    I have not hiked it, but that doesn't mean I won't one day.  I've read reviews and seen photos that don't make it high on my list of places to hike.   It sounds rather mundane.

  At four p.m.  our tour group gathered and set off to get started with our guides.   We had two young ladies one of whom was training.    They did a nice job and were very cordial.  We had a cavern tour in Arizona that was just the worst.  The guides were at the end of their season and totally burned out.
They gave us the bums rush. We were the last tour of the day, but got an enthusiastic tour as if it were the first of their day.   I have much respect for that after having something to compare to!
The grounds continued to surprise.  This was the first time I'd ever seen a cavern tour where the entrance to the cave was not attached to the visitor center!   I asked them how many entrances there were to Cumberland Caverns? I was told there are three known.

Below:  The entrance to the caverns sits a short, easy walk from the building.
The massive doors look tiny in this rock face.
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      It had lots of interesting and beautiful stone formations inside.   Kenny really had a fit over it. I still felt like Luray Caverns in Virginia has this one trumped, but it is more touristy.  This cavern is wilder and more natural.  It is very dramatic.

Flowstone formations lit up in Cumberland Caverns.

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Below: The sparkling clear Henshaw Falls comes from the cavern ceiling.
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Below:  lines of stalactites ran across the cavern ceiling in this room 
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Below:  the start of the stairs up into the Hall of the Mountain King
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  Hall of the Mountain King is a three room affair.  It is multileveled.  three or four levels.  It is a steep little haul.   Slippery too, but they have railings.   It was one of the highlights of the tour.
It was a cool fifty-six degrees inside the cave. I felt great for most of the time,but toward the end I had a massive hot flash. I said to Kenny "I am the only person I know who could burn up at 56°"
I felt like I was going to spontaneously combust.   Time to change my personality patch. (thank the good Lord for estrogen!)    I was relieved on the way out to see another fifty-something lady who had a huge hot flash at the same instant!  I got to talking to her and laughing with her. I could tell she was relieved she wasn't alone in her discomfort.  Both our faces were flushed and our hair wringing wet.
The breeze outdoors was fresh and helped cool us off despite the fact it was seventy outdoors.
The humidity inside the caverns must have had something to do with it.

            The Volcano Room where they have concerts is an amazingly beautiful venue.  I will at some point in the near future attend a concert there and enjoy a meal or beverage.   I miss being able to have a drink of alcohol now and then.  I have several regrets. I wish we'd done this sooner, but at least we have done it at last.   It was great fun.   I regret letting the tickets to the Allman-Betts Band sell out before I could get some.   I regret not purchasing a souvenir light  bulb from the chandelier.
I think we should go back soon and take the grandkids to see it.   Make a day of it and get me a light bulb! 

Below: a photo of the great chandelier in the Volcano Room of Cumberland Caverns! 



 Saturday evening was great back at the campground.  We grilled out.  We relaxed and got cleaned up.   We enjoyed just being together.   We took a walk outdoors under a full moon down to the pond. We watched the lightning bugs flicker and glow.  We watched the moonlight  on the pond.  I listened to the frogs and cicadas sing.    I practiced a little trying to take better night time photos.   The wind was soft and cool.   I could hear the murmurings of other families and kids in the distance.  
It was  exactly what my soul needed. 

Below are some shots of the full moon I took that night.  It was magic.   I am a romantic fool.  
In my mind at times like this I will always hear some old song from the past.  Tonight I could hear Boz Scagg's Sail On White Moon in my head.    We went to bed and slept so good.  

 Sail on white moon Across the dark and starry sky.........


  Sunday morning we woke and got some breakfast.  We wanted to get out and do at least a small hike. We would have to check out by 1 pm so we didn't want to waste time driving.   Kenny had never hiked to Hemlock Falls in Camps Gulf. It is the addition to Fall Creek Falls State Park.  
It is a 5.4 mile round trip hike.   It is rated moderate.    I hoped the falls would be running well thanks to the recent rains.     We had a hotter day on Sunday than we'd been spoiled to the previous several days.   We were the only ones hiking to the falls, but we saw lots of cavers.     We made it to the falls and they were a little bit of a let down.   The hole of water is still very pretty and I got in to cool off. 
The forest is pretty, but it was not as fun as when the streams flow.   I want to go back when the water is gushing to get better photos.  Kenny was glad to see it though and was a good sport about it.  
We got some exercise in before the long ride home.   I saw a few Summer wildflowers. 
Synandra, Indian pinks, fringed loosestrife, and purple phlox were a few flowers I spotted.  

  We packed up and said good-bye fondly to the Mountain Glen RV Park knowing the Lord willing.. we will be back!   We made it home and Gabe talked to me on the phone and wanted to come stay with us so he did.  We asked Crystal, Adam, Michael and Tessa to come visit, but they had plans.  
Kenny got to see Jared, Lydia and Gabe for Fathers' Day. He is the worlds sweetest daddy.  I'm glad he's the father of my children.  It took me all week to unpack and clean up from the trip, but it was more than worth it!  

 Above and below:  Two shots of Hemlock Falls. The water hole here had fish in it and frogs! It was sparkling clear and cold! 

Below is a short video of Hemlock Falls in its loveliness.  

Last but not least here is a link to directions on how to reach Hemlock Falls. 

Cumberland Plateau Camping Trip-Mountain Glen RV Park Part 2 -Rock Island

White Avens blooming at Rock Island, TN


Cumberland Plateau Camping Trip-Mountain Glen RV Park Part 2 -Rock Island 

Kenny & Dana Koogler

Friday June 14, 2019


(Click links above for websites)

We got up Friday morning, and prepared a nice relaxed breakfast.  Pancakes bacon, and coffee.  We left in time to go by The Daylily Nursery in Rock Island,but it turned out to be a disappointment. It is not a display garden, but a wholesale nursery.  We continued  to the state park to meet our friend, Jay.  I had time to see and photograph Great Falls, and the spring castle  before he arrived.   It was  good to see him, and catch up a little.  He is a fun person ,and is now hosting Tennessee Trails. It is what he describes as a" low budget production",but I got to see an episode.  I really liked it.  He and I  plan to hike to Window Cliff very soon. 
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     Above: Spring Castle at Rock Island State Park

Below is a short video of Spring Castle

 Jay left for work so  we went found to see Twin Falls.  Today was perfect weather.  We woke to a cool 48 degrees.  The day was clear and sunny.  It warmed up to seventy.  We walked  down to view the raging Twin Falls.   It was as pretty and powerful as ever.   We saw one water snake in the rocks.    We  turned going back to the trail to continue far enough to view Little Falls.  It is a cool place. The falls is a grotto of tufa.  Plant matter has absorbed calcium from the water  to form a small cave or  arch with holes in it!  We walked all around and through it. It was hard to believe we'd not been to this.    We tried to find Ice Hole falls half -heartedly, but will need to try that again.  IMG_2453 - Copy
Above: Twin Falls

Below is a short video of  the powerful Twin Falls 


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Above: Kenny standing beside Little Falls 
  Below: Looking out of one side of the cave/grotto behind Little FallsIMG_2523 - Copy



   Below is a short video of Little Falls that better shows the lay of it 


  We  ended up driving to McMinnville for lunch at Collins River Barbecue.   It was a nice place, but the pork barbecue was not good.  I'd go back, but order something else.   McMinnville is a charming town.  It is like Mayberry only prettier!  After lunch we doubled back to Rock Island to resume our day of hikin. 

   Below are a series of photos of the beautiful downtown square in McMinnville.  I want to go back  to check out the town more.  It is very attractive and interesting.








    We had visited Rock Island many times.  The very first time was just a day trip.   It was probably about 2004 when we visited so it doesn't stand out real clear in my memory.  I do recall  seeing more waterfalls than just the main ones, but I do not believe we saw the real Blue Hole Falls.   If we did we didn't do it correctly.  We must have gone down the path and to the river and seen only the portion at the bottom corner.  Why?? .. I don't know.   We drove round there  to hike  it today.    The trail is signed in the parking area as 0.5 mile one way strenuous.    We went down wooden steps at first just like many other trails we've hiked anywhere.   At the bottom of them the trail changes over to metal stairs fastened to the  bluff.    Down two flights of those the first thing you come to is a falls. We had read Gregory Plumb's description of the hike so we were expecting lots of water.
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First glimpse of many portions of Blue Hole Falls. It is not one waterfall, but many.
         
  Nothing could prepare me for what we encountered.   The cliff face was bursting forth not only with water, but vibrant green life of every sort.   Ferns of all shapes and sizes dotted the cliff face.   Wild hydrangea and vines of all types hung down along with alum root's delicate flowers and frilly leaves.   Big leaf magnolia trees along with many other sorts of trees populated the slopes below the bluff.   Once we were off the metal stairs the next portion was 
where the stream and the trail are the same.  They have installed metal and wood grating ramps to help make the terrain less dangerous.  A cable is there for this portion of the hike to hang onto.    The challenge of the terrain, and the dramatic , beautiful setting will make this forever a favorite hike.    I was sure then we could not have done this hike properly for it would have made a  lasting impression on me.   
Below: I am looking back up the second set of metal steps from the first section of the falls.  You can barely glimpse Kenny's orange t-shirt behind the steps. 
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     I am morbid or crazy or both.   Going down the metal steps the image of the rusting out set of metal stairs still clinging to the bluff near Curtain Falls and Great Falls entered my mind.  Those are no longer in use, but still hanging there for all to see and fear!  
I hoped these stairs were securely fastened. They sure looked to be.  I couldn't help wondering if one day these stairs would end up in similar shape?    I'm betting they do.  You can see in the photo above the big blur caused by a water droplet.  No amount of wiping or positioning can eliminate all the spray here.    

        We went down the grating provided with water gushing all around our feet.   The soil is  squishy.  We approached various portions of the falls,  and saw freshwater mussel shells.  I also saw whole, still living mussels.  They are up on an bluff.  They don't live there normally, but the Collins River's flow through the bank is so powerful it carries them with it and out onto the ground they go.   Thankfully for them it stays wet enough they are making it.
They are easy pickings for any birds or predators.    All around us were different large boulders and rock mazes strewn with vegetation.   Moss grew on nearly everything.   The slope where you hike is extremely slick.   Care is needed, but it is still enjoyable. IMG_2580
Above: Shells of freshwater mussels along with some still closed and alive.

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Above: A cascading portion of Blue Hole Falls surrounded by green. The plants to the left of it are southern maidenhair ferns.  (binomial of this fern is Adiantum capillus veneris  adiantos referring to unwetted and capillus.. hair and Veneris = Venus.  ) 


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Above:  A particularly scenic drop of Blue Hole Falls. It looks like a singular waterfall, but it is one of many. 
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Above:  Kenny called to me from slightly ahead to keep the camera out.   This scene here is why.   It just kept getting better!

Below: I turned around and shot the bank behind me.  Water, water everywhere. 
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Above: Northern Maidenhair Fern I like the binomial for this one Adiantum pedatum 
I looked up the binomial meaning. In Greek adiantos means "unwetted" because the foliage is water proof.  Perhaps that is why they can thrive in these settings that would rot many other plants.  
Pedatum refers to cut like a birds foot.  

   We finally worked our way down to the river level.    The trail there is actually blazed, but still a crazy thing to try to follow.   Blazes are nailed to trees and downed logs and wherever!
You are climbing up and over obstacles and around vegetation. You'd best watch your step. Now it is both slippery and snakey.    We saw a copperhead.  Thankfully Kenny did not step on him.  The snake was fleeing to avoid being crushed.     IMG_2599

  Above:  First glimpse of river level and there is a blaze upon this tree. 
Below: The portion of the falls that drops directly into the river.   It is quite beautiful, but my photo doesn't do it justice.  The bright sun made it tough to get the exposure right.
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 We  worked our way down to the end and viewed the river. 
The scene below shows the view off into the distance down the river.   You can enlarge the photo and see that on the left there are still more falls dripping into the stream. Blue skies , water willow, sycamore tree leaves rustling.   It was serene.   We had our first encounter with any other hikers on this trail here.   We ran into a group of three folks. One man and two women.   Otherwise we had the trail to ourselves on a Friday afternoon.    
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    We turned and worked our way back along the blazes.  We followed them back up toward a part we had missed.  I think this is the final, main falls that is probably Blue Hole Falls proper.  
It was the largest and most impressive of all the drops we'd seen thus far.  It would be hard to select a favorite since each part has its scenic charms.     A large maze of moss covered boulders is near this part.  Below is a photo of one square boulder the size of a room!  
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Below: Blue Hole Falls
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 Once again Kenny and I stood open mouthed and gaping in wonder at the sight of the Collins River escaping its banks  forcing its way through to the Caney Fork gorge.   I looked straight up. I saw great ruffles on the cliff overhead of  alum root so thickly growing it was packed in there.  Ferns of various types.  Virginia Creeper vine and dutchmans pipe vine along with wild hydrangea drooped down over the falls.     I thought of the words John Muir used to describe the Hiwassee and how apt it was for this scene also.  
---its surface broken to a thousand sparkling gems, and its forest walls vine-draped and flowery as Eden. And how fine the songs it sings!”   John Muir
Yes, this falls was a thousand sparkling gems and vine draped and flowery.   I know he did not see this spot, for it did not exist back in his day.  The dam had not been constructed on the Caney Fork which raised the water level of the Collins River allowing it to flow through the caves and form these falls.   I bet he'd have something sweet to say of it. 

    It was hard to tear ourselves away from the beauty, but  finally we did.   We trudged the short distance back uphill to the parking area.    Kenny asked me as we got back to the truck what I wanted to do next?  I told him I was done for the day and ready to head back to the camper.   He agreed.  I do not enjoy feeling like I have the devil behind me with a whip driving me to run and cram stuff into the day anymore.  Trips like this are supposed to be relaxing and fun.  Not work!  So back to the camper we went.     

    We passed Amish folk wrapping up their day and riding their horse and buggies or bikes back to their homes from their jobs.    The day was clear and fresh and beautiful still.   We spent an evening relaxing and having a nice leisurely dinner.   I walked around outside later and looked at the stars and lightning bugs.   We were having the most perfect weather for this weekend trip.   I felt blessed indeed.   


Below is a short video of Blue Hole Falls

Friday, June 21, 2019

Cumberland Plateau Camping Trip-Mountain Glen RV Park -Part 1

Daylilies were everywhere this month! 


Cumberland Plateau Camping Trip

-Mountain Glen RV Park  Part 1



Dana & Kenny Koogler

Thursday June 13 - Sunday June 16, 2019








  We planned a long weekend get away out in the Cumberland Plateau.   We fooled around until Tuesday evening to try to book reservations. The original plan was to stay at Fall Creek Falls State Park.   We did not particularly have anything on the main park campus we wished to see or do, but it was a convenient location for camping.     Unknown to us was the fact that Bonnaroo, Cave Fest, and a motorcycle rally were all in the area at once.   We had a tough time booking reservations anywhere.  We were almost at the point of changing plans and staying somewhere else, when I decided to give it one last try.   I sat down at the computer and checked Google maps again.  Mountain Glen RV Park and Campground popped up.  I tried to book with them and found they had spots open for the dates we wanted.  Not only that it looked very nice! Great pricing, free wi fi, tv reception, and only seven miles from Fall Creek Falls State Park.     We were very relieved because we really wanted to visit our beloved plateau.

     We packed up and headed out Thursday morning.  The campground's website gave perfect directions to reach them.   We arrived early, but they let us check in ahead of time.  We had not told them we would be arriving with a trailer hauling the RZR.  The fellow let us use an unoccupied campsite next to us for the weekend free of charge because he didn't have anyone coming in to that site at the time.   We were blown away at the loveliness of the area and the campground itself.
It was right in the heart of Amish country!  They live there off the grid with their horse and buggies and immaculate homesteads.   They have beautiful fields full of healthy crops of vegetables.  You see them going to work in their community on bikes.  Healthy, fresh faced little kids riding bikes.  The natural beauty of the area itself located up on Baker Mountain is exquisite.   The added charm of stepping back in time thanks the the wholesome Amish community makes it all the more appealing.
Our camper on the site
        Mountain Glen RV Park and Campground turned out to be a gem.   It is clean as a pin in every regard.  It was like spending a four day weekend in Mayberry.    Hard to imagine the world's problems being real when you are in such a place.   The world's problems could be solved if everyone would step back into this realm.    Live more simply and sustainably.    We got set up and
ate some lunch early so we could go riding.  We decided to enjoy this bluebird day by taking a ride on the RZR through Big Sink in Van Buren County.  We had never visited it in Summer so we were curious what it would be like.  I figured it would take about three or four hours tops.

         The weather today was cool.  It never got above seventy degrees all day.   The day was sunny with big puffy clouds. A constant breeze was blowing.  All the rain had the air clear and pollen free.
We were in the Britches Winter, and enjoying it to the full.  It is the last of the five little Winter's of Tennessee. 


 Above and below some shots of the campground itself. It is very spacious.

        We headed off toward Mooneyham with the RZR in tow.  We parked on a side road that leads into the Big Bottom Unit Wildlife Management Area's plateau level access.  Big Bottom's other access point is down in the river bottom lands of the Caney Fork River.   The trail to see Big Sink can be reached either way, but for us would be a tad shorter from the upper end.   The area surrounding this entrance is pretty, but isolated and the roads lined with many houses that stand abandoned.
I have always wondered what exactly helped lead to this phenomena.  Little did I know that on Saturday we'd be learning yet another facet in that complex problem.    I will be writing up and publishing directions how to reach this area to ride.   I will also provide info on what the legal requirements are to ride here and keep you in the clear with the TWRA.
 Above: Looking back the gravel road toward Mooneyham and Hwy 285 on a clear day

Above: our rig in the parking spot
       We turned onto a side road across from Dodson Road and parked here.  We drove back to a wide spot on the right and unloaded.   The daylilies were thick growing along the ditches. Deep pink poufs of Japanese spirea decorated the edges of fields and roadsides.  Big creamy white splotches of elderberry blossom grew along the roads.    The pine plantation out here shushed in the constant breeze.   I felt like I was living a dream it was so perfect.   We got going in the direction of Big Sink and the trail that leads into the box canyon sinkhole.   We passed lots of tiny clusters of pink mini momos.  Sensitive Briar is the real name of them.  They fold their leaves when touched and have tiny spur shaped thorns on them decorated by the most delicate pink pompom flowers. I had never seen so many growing in one area!  The pink blossoms are tipped with yellowish green mist.  I had not noticed this previously.

   Below: Sign across from where we parked that outlines the terms of use.

 Ditch lilies
 Japanese spirea
 Creamy white elderberry flowers
 Close up of mini momos
Above: We saw sensitive brier in great patches along the trails.


  We wondered if we'd be able to recognize the turns we needed to take to reach our goal.  We did make it down toward river level and finally came to an intersection where things looked somewhat familiar.   We were passing through a thicket full of saplings that were about as big around as my thumb.   I knew we'd seen these on the way before, but  we were not sure.  We ended up at the bottom facing the mouth of Big Sink which is shaped like a box canyon. Open on one end, but closed and squared off on the other.   You can start up it from the mouth of the sink, but the trail dwindles and disappears.    In order to reach the back parts of it you have go higher and run along the slopes of it until you finally are able to come back down to sink floor level at the point where Moore Branch and Little Sink Branch come together at what I call Little Sink Falls.  It is not on Little Sink Branch, but it is just below where it enters the larger stream.  

       We had to double back and go up and around to access the correct trail.  Once on it we quickly recalled passing a rusted out hulk of a vehicle on the right.   On our way here we passed the first of two shacks in the area.    The first one is up on plateau level near Black Pond.

Above: Shack #1 

  We came out at Little Sink Falls. I had not expected much of today's trip.  I figured things would not be running great water wise. I also did not expect to see a lot of Summer wildflowers.   The falls was running, but it gets down to a mossy green trickle.  It was still beautiful and we were happy to see it.  
The boulders around it are interesting and mossy too.  The place was a deep green jungle!

Above: You can see the RZR tiny in the back of the photo as it sits along Moore Branch. It is parked just before the point where Little Sink Branch joins it.  

 Above: a close up of the rivulets of water going over Little Sink Falls
 Above: un-retouched image of Little Sink Falls in all its green glory
 Snapshot above of the massive boulder at the edge of the falls
 Above: Looking out from under the rock beside Little Sink Falls
Above:  Small amount of water on Little Sink Branch

  We walked down the creek bed and past the boulder to get a closer look at the falls. 
I had not been sure first that I wanted to even bother with it. I was glad I took the time. It was still pretty in its own right. The mossy greenness of it and the cool mist off the falls along with the many colored pebbles in front of it were very nice.  Below is a video of the falls. 


        We got back in the RZR and continued up the trail.  We soon passed the second shack.
There is something very odd about running into a structure this size within a giant sinkhole.  By the way.. I refer to this sinkhole as Big Sink 123' because there are several in the state listed on the database.   This one has an average depth of 123 feet.   It has points along it where it is deeper, but it is shallower in other spots.   I asked Chuck Sutherland how he selected the data to go with for marking depth on these? He said the simple answer was that he picked the point along the rim of each sinkhole where the water would flow out were it a bowl. The low edge of each one and went with that.   So you can be standing in a sink with one edge 123 feet and the other sides 265 feet deep.  I hope that helps understand the jargon and how it fits.

Shack #2 sits in the middle of the sink right beside the trail. No way to miss it. If you look on Cal Topo it is shown as a tiny black square.   Just past this is another chimney pile that is very mossy.
Several piles of rocks are lying round that are from where this area was cleared for farm fields in the past.   
Above: Crumbling chimney pile is all that is left of another dwelling in Big Sink.

    We went along toward the back where a trail leads up and out to plateau level.   We came to a badly blown down tree, but thankfully were able to get round it.   We had to go up over the bank at another point and once around here realized we were at the end.   We stopped and walked over to the pretty area at the back.  We heard water running. Big Sink Falls runs year round too!  It gets down to a tiny trickle, but at least we know it runs all the time.    It was still neat looking with all its carved out rock.  Water flows from the bank directly out of the ground, falls and re-enters the ground at a swallet.   While here we heard the sound of another vehicle, but instead of coming up toward where we were the sound fizzled out and went away.  We never did see another rider all day.

Below: Big Sink Falls
Below is a very short clip of Big Sink Falls 

    We did not linger too long at the back of the sinkhole.  We also did not dare crawl in any caves today.   The entryways for the ones we know about are tight and we did not want to roll up on any snakes.   You could not even see the entrance to the mouse hole cave for the vegetation.
Area near the back of Big Sink the trail such as it is.. is the open area. Very rocky.
   

   The trail at the back is a Buck Coward rated trail. It is very rough and rugged and difficult.
It presents a tough challenge to get up part of it.   I call this area in my mind the palisades. All around you, but especially to the right are huge rock structures.   To the left is a drainage that at times runs with water.  We need to check it out next time we are there and the water is flowing.  It has some photo potential.    We emerged up top today and made our turns to head back to the truck.
We popped out a very short distance from where we parked closing our loop ride today.

   Other wildflowers seen today were along the road and in the fields.  Orange butterfly weed, colic root, and purple phlox.    We loaded up and went trucking back to the campground. 
We had a nice dinner of broiled salmon, au gratin potatoes and french style greenbeans. 

    We slept like rocks since Kenny had fixed the bed.  No more trouble with rolling downhill for him.
He discovered the bed support was bowing in the middle and braced it after our Standing Stone trip.

 above and below Colic Root


 Above: purple phlox
above: orange butterfly weed


Big Bottom Access Points & Regulations Info Link