Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fentress County Camping, Four-Wheeling and Hiking Trip

Cave Painting? 
I don't know. Looks like it to me!
And NO! It is not one of my infamous
Fake Ole Ass Cave Drawings.
Look for them on King Mtn!

Fentress County Camping Trip 

Kenny & Dana Koogler
Oct. 17-Oct. 20th, 2013
Pictures are here:   

    We took a much needed get-away long weekend to go camping, four-wheeling, exploring and hiking.    Kenny was worn out from working a month straight.
I was bored from lack of his company and having been laid up for a while.
We ran away to our beautiful Cumberland Plateau. We stayed at Maple Hill Campground
run by Betty & Klaus DeJong.  It is a great place to stay run by a terrific couple. I had 
thought after living in our camper for a month Kenny would not want to go. He told me
it was not the camper it was the working all the time that wore him out.  He was all about it so we went! 

       We set up camp and took off to go ride.  We wore it out riding on Thursday and Friday both.  The river trail has to be low water to be able to ride it.  We did not get to ride it during Spring or Summer owing to all the high rain fall we'd gotten.  Today we saw the river the lowest I've ever seen it. We covered a lot of new ground. New trails ridden. We also connected a lot of new trails with previously ridden ones to learn how they hook up.   There was not a lot of Fall color, but some.  It was pretty. I stood in the middle of the rock, dry river bed picking up gum tree leaves of purple, black, red, yellow, orange and red. I announced to Kenny that if I could be a tree.. I'd want to be a gum tree.

Obey River

Another pretty spot along the Obey

Dry patch of river bed. This river dries up to holes of water or areas that are mostly dry.
This past Spring it was at flood stage. A raging torrent that would have swept us away in a heartbeat.  You could not even get close to this spot.

A blue hole along the same river.

Deliverance Bus sitting in the woods looking out at the world with vacant eyes.

Another blue hole along the river. I loved the look of the azure water with copper beech leaves floating on it. Surreal.

Patch of color in the forest on the trails. Up high the beech trees, sourwood, black gum, sweet gum, persimmon trees, poison oak, and sugar maples were putting on a good show!

One of a few caves we went in.

View from the newly discovered overlook on Skinner Mountain. It faces west/northwest.

RZR on the dry river bed at the Swift Ford

Down in the wild and wooly Lost Cane exploring. Downed trees, vines, briars, this time. Still looks like Saigon. It was bone dry this trip. No waterfalls.

Golden autumn sun on the black gum pond on the mountain

    We spent Thursday and  Friday on Skinner Mountain, Lost Cane  the River Trail and King Mountain.
Saturday we were tired of riding and since it was so dry and not a good time to waterfall hunt ... we went arch hunting!  We visited the Clarkrange Arch at last. We had looked
for it once before unsuccessfully. Today we found it.

Clarkrange Arch

     Next we hunted up the Mountainview Arch. It was not far off and was a big one.
We found it with no problem.

Patch of Autumn color near Mountainvew Arch

Mountainview Arch with Kenny under there for size reference. He looks tiny! The dimensions on this are 100x30

   We'd gotten along great so far. It was a pretty Fall day with perfect temperatures for hiking.  We'd found what we were looking for easily thus far.  Our day was about to change.  We went to hunt for Price's Arch next north of us.  The day turned rainy and cold and windy. We ran out of luck.  We were heading in the right direction but the bushwhack turned out to be longer than anticipated and I was over it.  I was cold, tired and hungry.  We went back to the camper ate lunch, dried off and took a nap.

     The next day we took a gamble on finding an access to Conatser Hollow and the waterfalls back there. It did not pan out.  We also tried to find an access to Catpen Hollow Arch and that did not pan out.  We went north and explored Pogue Creek and ran out of time, but we did get to find how to reach it and saw State House Rock!

View from King Mountain

State House Rock. Next time we are bringing ropes and climbing this bastage!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Frozen Head State Park Play Day With Michael

Frozen Head Waterfall Hike With Michael

Pictures are here: 

   My grandson Michael spent the night at our house and the following day we 
went hiking at Frozen Head State Park.  We spent a wonderful day playing. We came home tired.  He slept all the way home. He played so hard he was still ready for some time on the couch watching cartoons when we arrived back at his house. 

       We picked Frozen Head because our marvelous state park system was still operational while the government shut down the National Park system! We stopped by
Middle Fork Falls on the way to Frozen Head.  

Middle Fork Falls.. first time Michael had ever seen it! He liked it so much he did not
want to leave to go on to the next thing!

Middle Fork Falls

    Next we hiked to DeBord Falls at Frozen Head.  It was a short, easy hike of about a mile round trip.  He ran for part of the way. He did not find it much of a challenge so its time to increase the difficulty level and the distance! 
Michael at DeBord Falls

He liked DeBord Falls and played in the water. He climbed on the rocks and made friends with two sisters who were also visiting the falls with their parents.  They were a bit older but he liked them so much! He told me they were so nice he wished they were his cousins!    He wanted to keep them.  We ate a snack on the climb back out.

    We had passed a playground on the way in to the park.   We went back to that and spent a long time playing hide and seek and tag and other fun games on the play sets.
We were hungry now! We had agreed to stop at Chik-Fil-A in Oak Ridge on the way back to eat lunch.  We would play there too.   We did eat lunch and then got in the playground indoors and for the first time... I got to see Michael climb all the way to the top!
He made it!  I was so excited I squeezed my big butt in there and sneaked all the way to the top before the management could find me out and stop me!
We had a grand time.  I love spending time with my grandson.  He is fantastic company.

 I look forward to longer and even more fun hikes to pretty features and exciting places like caves, overlooks, waterfalls, and forests.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kentucky Life, Recovery, and Hiking--Beaver Creek Wilderness

First of the colored leaves for Autumn 2013.

Kentucky Life, Recovery, and Hiking

Pictures are here:
Kentucky Pix

     I had been suffering with some health problems and had surgery September tenth.
It has been a chaotic and exciting time for our family.   Our granddaughter Tessa was born September fourth.  One week later I was in the same hospital having surgery.  A week after that Kenny left for a job in Kentucky that was to last three weeks to a month.
Our house was like a revolving door for awhile.  My mom and sister came to look after me.  I enjoyed their TLC so much!  Words cannot express it adequately.  My Dad and stepmother came to visit just as my mom and sister headed home.  A week later my best buddy Cathy came to help keep me company.  My son Jared came to visit. Finally the stream of company and visitors died down and it was lonely.    

   Kenny was being lonely in Kentucky. I was being lonely at home.  Once I was able to drive I packed and headed to stay and finish my recovery by being Kentucky Trailer Traysh!   The first week up there I stayed Monday, Tues. Wed. night and had to head back to Maryville on Thursday morning to pick up Kenny's checks, take care of business matters and see my doctor for a follow-up visit.   I took care of all that. Spent the weekend at home and headed back up the next week.

      The area we are staying in is nice. It is an RV park that is clean as a pin. It has a driving range, indoor pool, fellowship hall, free wi-fi, cable tv hookups.  The nearest town is Burnside. The nearest city of any size is Somerset.  I went shopping in Somerset.
I cleaned and cooked and enjoyed my hubby's company. I was overjoyed to see him.
I played games. I read books. Watched movies.  Rested. There is not a lot to do in the area unless you have a boat.  It is by Lake Cumberland so fishing and boating are the big things to do.

    I did bring my hiking guides and once I was worn out with being a 'townie" I went hiking.   I had to drive about 15 miles down the road, but it was worth it.  I hiked Three Forks of Beaver in the Beaver Creek Wilderness. It is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.    It was not the most dramatic hike, but it had a beautiful overlook. The forest was quiet and serene.  I hiked the 3 miles or so of this short hike and it was exactly what I needed.  There is a little more hiking in the area and if I go back I hope to do some more. I expect after the long working hours and weariness of the past month or more.. Kenny will not want to revisit this area for a LONG time for work or pleasure.  I can certainly understand that.

Butterfly on Ironweed. One of many pretty fall wildflowers.

Fall color just beginning at the overlook

Orange leaves and it is raining on me!

Red Riding Hood Forest of deep hemlocks and tall cliffs.

Royal Ferns are a type of fern that is found in the Cumberland Plateau. Its binomial is Osmunda regalis
I am standing in the middle of the Freeman Fork. It is shallow. I saw sucker fish, small native trout and water spiders.

Beaver Creek shallow with lots of pretty spots along it for wading.

Orange shelf fungi on a tree. The sun has come out again now that I have emerged from
down in the hollers. I am back up on the plateau! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pisgah Forest Camping and Hiking Trip--Waterfalls on Laurel Fork and High Falls South Fork Mills River

Crimson Bee Balm growing near Dill Falls.

Pisgah Forest Camping and Hiking Trip

Dana & Kenny Koogler
and Cathy Howell
Labor Day Weekend 
Sept. 2, 2013
Pictures are here: Pisgah Forest Hiking Pix

Videos are  here: Pisgah National Forest Waterfalls

We've been going through some trying times as a family the last few months. I have been going through some especially trying times with my health. I have answers at last and I'm on my road to recovery.   I've got a way to go, but just knowing what's wrong and that it is fixable is a relief.   We had planned a get away weekend to try to de-stress and have a little fun.

We took the camper to Adventure Village Campground just outside Brevard, NC on Thursday.
Once we got set up we headed out to do some waterfall hiking. We had a short day so we chose Upper Dill Falls and Dill Falls.  We passed Camp Living Waters in the way there and decided we'd stop on the way back.  We saw lots of waterfalls 
in the time we had!  We had both been to see Corn Mill Shoals Falls and 
Bird Rock Falls before, but it had been a long time. We'd only been once. 
Today there was far more water flowing than when we were first there.

Dill Falls

Upper Dill Falls

Corn Mill Shoals

Shady trail at Camp Living Waters.

Bird Rock Falls

     We checked out all we could and headed back to the camper for dinner.
We were hungry and tired. We got a good nights sleep for the next days adventure.

   The next day  we fixed french toast for breakfast outside and headed out to hike to High Falls on the South Fork of Mills River.   It was supposed to be a 4 mile round trip easy-moderate trip.  Trail and bushwhack.  We headed to Pisgah Forest and parked at a trail head that has the highest privvy I've ever seen!

Oh High and Mighty Privvy in the sky!

     The day was clear and pretty and slightly hot and humid.  We had a breeze stirring. The creek kept us company the whole time.   The forest smelled wonderful and fresh.  The trail was mostly sandy and soft under foot with some rocky areas and some muddy spots.    We enjoyed the sights and sounds of late Summer wildflowers, birds and butterflies as we went our way.   We decided to hike up to Billy Branch Falls first.

Billy Branch Falls is 20-25 ft high and quite pretty.

View of South Fork Mills River on the way.

     We enjoyed the hike to High Falls which is only about 20 ft high...but was very pretty.
The entire hike is along the river and it is filled with numerous scenic cascades along the way.  Today the water level was just enough to call for caution approaching some of them.  Yet we forded S. Fork Mills River without any trouble in a wide, calm spot. It was a deep wade in water shoes.   Crossing back we saw a foot long hellbender in the river!
Kenny was stepping pretty high and jabbing at him with his trekking poles.  :-)

High Falls on South Fork Mills River

   We hiked back to the trail head and saw the onlyother group of persons using the trail 
all day. It was a group of four or five fishermen.   We had passed the trail for Barnett Branch on the way in and I knew there was a set of falls on that trail. I had directions to it from Rich's website printed off the computer this go round.  We were a little tired, but since we were close and it was a short hike we went back to check it out.  Barnett Branch is a nice falls. The area it drains is very small so while we were pleased with the view of the main falls.. the upper falls was not worth a photo today.  The higher into a headwaters you go.. generally the less water there is.  I also think a recent rain would have helped some.  
Barnett Branch Falls

   We had wanted to go up on the Blue Ridge Parkway today for some views.
We were camped near Hwy 215 so we went up Hwy 276 and turned and drove back in the direction of Hwy 215. It would be a varied and slightly closer way back to the camper.
The parkway was quite pretty, but the views a little hazy.   The Summer wildflowers were ample and mostly yellows of sunflowers, coneflowers, and yellow and orange jewelweed.

View of Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway. I loved how the sunflowers framed it and there were butterflies all around!

   We were surprised what a short jag it was on the parkway to reach the junction of route 215.   The few miles up near the top portion of the road were new territory with different sights to see, but we had driven all the rest of it on Thursday.   Still a beautiful drive to be enjoyed.  It is a residential area.   Camp Living Waters and the turn off for Dill Falls is here along this road.  I got a glimpse of something small and bright orange on our ride out.
I was sure it was yellow fringed orchids so Kenny looked for a place to turn around to let me get out to see.  It was quite a production finding a turn around, but we made it back and I was rewarded having found 18 or more plants in full bloom!  We had passed all these the previous evening without spotting them.  I had not seen any this year so I was thrilled.  We saw more on the way out, but just one here and there. No more big clusters of them by the road.
Here is a photo of the best one. I'm using it as a blog banner currently.

    We also passed  two massive fields of  deep purple ironweed intermingled with goldenrod, sunflowers, coneflowers, spotted jewelweed, and pale pink Joe Pye weed.
I sure do enjoy the late Summer wildflowers. The colors are rich and varied.
Spotted jewelweed by the road

Fields of Late Summer wildflowers. What I call the Seaon of Purple and Gold.

    Back at the camper we fixed chicken quesadillas for dinner and relaxed. It was a great day.  I finally heard from Cathy. Cell phone reception down in this hole is sketchy at best.
We made plans to meet the next day in Brevard to do some hiking and bushwhacking together.

       We met Cathy the next morning at The Hub camping, biking, outdoor store and pub in Brevard.  We car pooled to the trailhead. We had first decided in the parking area to go see two waterfalls in one day. Waterfall on Laurel Fork and the one on the tributary stream not too far away.  We were feeling froggy and said once that was done.. we'd eat lunch in town at Hawg Wild BBQ and  go hike to High Falls on the Thompson River.
Remember that for later.  We reached the trailhead and parked and began trying to decipher Kevin Adam's directions.   We opted to try the upstream approach.
We  had to pull out all the stops with the women folk using their map orienteering skills to prove the logic of it.  Thank goodness we were correct. Kenny was of the opinion he could write a better guidebook easier to understand. Cathy set him straight saying probably so, but it would not be a book, rather a pamphlet! haha! Score one for the ace female bushwhacker.

    We came at last to this beautiful falls.

Twenty foot sliding cascade on tributary of Laurel Fork.

   Once down here to view this falls we had to back track. We were not going anywhere from this vantage point.  Back on the very rudimentary "trail" we found that we had missed the "sloping rock you have to climb over".  described in the trail directions.  We made it but it was a tense moment. This hike was less than a mile in distance.. I'd put it at 0.9 miles though and rated a 7- 10. It is challenging to be sure.  We hiked through lots of black mud where we sunk in.  Most times bushwhacking rhododendron and dog hobble are undesirable but by the time we finished we were darn glad to have it around to use as hand holds.   Both these hikes today were on steep, slippery terrain with lots of spots where you can see the way  you need to go , but it makes you want to cry.  Up and up and up. Knees to the shoulders. Through brush and brambles. Greenbiers.  Under logs and fallen trees and sometimes over them.  We followed the suggestion to go UP the first stream first and then double back to see the second waterfall. Thanks Kevin. Had we done it in reverse we'd have been put off from going to the 2nd one at all.  Hard bushwhacking  honey. Both these falls involved reaching headwaters split by a ridge. Each part was about 0.9 miles to reach.  Both hard as hell.   Both WORTH IT!

  We had moments of confusion along the trail as to which was which. I was of the opinion that the first trek was to the Waterfall on Tributary of Laurel Fork, but Kenny and Cathy thought otherwise.  It did not matter. We found both.  I turned out to be right, but it did not make a lick of difference or make the trips any easier.  None of us wants to be 'right" at this age. We all just want to see the falls and be happy.

    We finally glimpsed the falls on the first leg of the journey and Cathy pointed out something that was a revelation.  High in the trees you could barely see movement.
Water moving in the tree tops! It let me know this falls was going to be a doozy!

And was it ever! 75 ft high. If not higher!

Waterfall on Tributary of Laurel Fork. The photo doesn't do it justice. It had a pretty good amount of water on it today. The only thing that would have helped even more was a recent rain and we were glad for that to have held off!

    We made our way back down to the turn off to start the bushwhack to Waterfall on Laurel Fork.  We forded the stream and began working our way up the side drainage.  It was just about the same as the previous hike. Steep but not that bad yet. Through Summer growth,but mostly open woods.  Cathy by this time has recalled that she was already up to the first waterfall once before. We were not surprised. It somehow makes me disgusted that she has forgotten more waterfalls than we'll probably ever hike to.
We trudged along on this tough little leg of the journey.  Over and under obstacles.
Hunting for the way.  There comes a point on every tough journey where you have an epiphany as to just how bad a situation is. I had one.  We struggled and toiled along and I came to a point where I watched the longer legged Kenny and Cathy ahead of me. I saw a bend in the way as we climbed the drainage. Not a glimpse of white water yet. Can't hear a thing except the wind, ourselves and a gentle stream below trickling.

    I knew when I got to this point that when I drew nearer to where Kenny stood.. and could see...beyond it... that the track was going to go UP UP UP and more UP and that it was going to be ugly.  And I arrived there to learn it was so.  Kenny admitted later he thought I was going to say heck with it and that I was done.  I was not going to quit after coming this far.  I was just resigned to it.  We were at the crux of the thing now.  I've gotten good at reading the lay of the land.  Up to the base of a rock ledge then left would be the only way we could proceed. A strong, tough tangle through rhododendron and dog hobble would be next.  It was true. It involved the removing of packs, passing ahead trekking poles, dragging ourselves and wriggling through tight spots in rhododendron trunks and trees.  Claustrophobia begins to set in.  This is where physical determination, and a bull dog grip on your mind is necessary.  We finally got where we could glimpse the falls, but getting down to where we could really see it was going to be hard.
We tried first one way. Then another.  The vegetation was all we had to hold onto and it was slick with spray.  We all made it down to the base of the falls unharmed save a few dog hobble scratches.

Waterfall on Laurel Fork in Pisgah National Forest, NC  It is 55 feet high
and well worth the energy and struggle to visit.  I admit now that getting down to it
was so treacherous I had a reaction to it similar to Gragg Prong's base.
( some of you may remember that Gragg Prong vs. Little Lost Cove Falls trip)
I was dreading getting back up out of there so bad I did not enjoy it fully.
I did not feel relaxed again until we were back up and past the big rocks on this trek.
 It made me rather nervous.

The water here all channels down a gully, under a rock and emerges on the other side
in two streams. Then down over the mountain it goes. This stream has several other pretty falls and cascades, but I was too tired and stressed out to care.

We made it back out of there and I was absolutely filthy. I was grimed in black mud and drenched in sweat.  On arriving back to the truck I grabbed a bag of dry, clean clothes and a towel. I got under the bridge near the parking lot. I got under there and stripped off all my clothes and bathed in the creek. It felt great to get clean. I scrubbed off the stink and the black mud. I dried off and dressed in clean clothes. My hair was perfectly wet and wild, but I did not care.  I was at least fit to  ride in the vehicle and go in to the restaurant to dine.    Not one of us was interested in hiking to High Falls on the Thompson anymore.
We are getting older and slowing down.  I was once again ready for the nursing home.
A good hot meal and some rest was fantastic. We hugged and kissed Cathy good bye for now.  I always hate to see her go.  I love her dearly.  She is a great Christian friend. She knows how to have a good time.

     We had a tough task to face on this trip.  We tried to talk Cathy into going along but she politely declined.  We had to go to Jared's former residence and gather up his HEAVY lawn furniture and move it back home. He has moved and is better satisfied, but doesn't have a place for that anywhere.  He met us to help load it.  While there we finally met the local witch. Yes. I am serious. A witch... on a lawnmower. She was something to see.
We visited with Jared a little and did not tarry. He had to work that night and needed a nap.  We hauled all that stuff back with us. The witch still mowing the lawn furiously as we drove away.  I was sorry Jared had to move, but proud of him for having the gumption to do it. He was living with a couple of friends who were into some occult things he was not willing to accept.  Since moving he feels better and has been blessed for his obedience to God.  Way to Go Jared! Thank you Lord!

     We went back home and rested in the camper and had a good fire that night.
I read a book and enjoyed the quiet of the campground. It had quite a few families here and it was just right. Enough going on to be fun and lively without annoying anybody.
Just cozy and sweet.  Our bed in the camper felt great that night.  I slept like a log.

We woke in the morning and fixed a hot breakfast of french toast and bacon.
We did a short, leg stretcher hike to Moore Cove Falls and Little Moore Cove Falls.
We went early so there was only one other couple and their dog on the trail.
On the way back to the parking area we met the start of the thundering herds for the day!
It is a popular hike and is very easy.

Moore Cove Falls

Little Moore Cove Falls

   We went back to the camper and prepared a lunch of cheeseburgers on the grill and watermelon.   We enjoyed that and packed up.  We headed home. It was great to go and Kenny said something that really endeared me to him on the hike back out of Moore Cove Falls. He remarked pitifully that he wished we could stay a couple more days because he was having such a good time. I told him when he says things like that for me it is like the Heavens open and the angels sing!  It lets me know we will be back again and soon!
I love this man so much.

 The plans and dreams that appear in Magicmomma's Crystal Ball of the Future............
are this.         Return to Moore Cove Falls and bushwhack all the way up photographing and video taping all of it. There is yet another UPPER Falls!

Hike to *Upper, Second and Yellowstone falls.
Hike to *Shuck Ridge Falls.
Hike to Flat Laurel Creek and Sam Knob
Hike to *High Falls on the Thompson River.

* indicates which falls are on the list for the CMC Waterfall 100.