Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fentress County Get Aways-- Part 2 March 22 Weekend

Bloodroot in bloom along the trail

Fentress County Get Aways Part 2--Do-Overs With a Twist

March 22, 2014

Dana & Kenny Koogler 
Sharon McGee & granddaughter Lydia

Pictures are here: Get Away Pix

      We had planned all along to meet up with Sharon & Lydia at Woo Hoo Holler.
We were both working Friday and had to be back at work Monday. It made for a short weekend.  Kenny had a late day Friday. The camper was still not home from the repair shop.  He begged off on making this the first camping trip of the season.  It makes the trip
more work for him.  We decided instead to drive over and spend the day. The Jordan Motel had no vacancies.  The Maple Hill RV Park had all their cabins rented out.
We got up early Saturday and headed to Jamestown.  

        We stopped by Duncan Donuts for a dozen to take to our friends.  They were rousing when we pulled in. We took time to look around and have a cup of coffee with them.   Lydia and I walked down to the river to check that out while Kenny and Sharon talked and got the machines ready to roll out.   Before long we hit the trail.  
We decided we'd first head out to Bill's Creek to see how the flowers were coming up.
Next stop would be to show them the natural bridge we'd located a year earlier.

    Bill's Creek was still drab and gray and not anywhere near the vibrant greens of Spring.
No wildflowers blooming at all yet.   Last year it was like the Garden of Eden.
We continued up the trail in the direction of the top which would get us to the Natural bridge.   We stopped long enough to show Lydia Stinging Nettle Falls since she had never seen it.  We also picked up a Plott hound gyp and thankfully she followed us. Rich knows
I have a soft spot for dogs in general. Hound dogs in particular.  She was a hog hunter's dog.   We wanted to get this nice girl home to her family.

Stinging Nettle Falls emerges from the ground and falls immediately into a cave.
Every time I'm here I try to get a different or better perspective on this falls, but
it never comes out any different.

Here is the lost dog. Very blurry shot because she was in constant motion.

   We encountered a hunter up on the dirt road with a dog box on his pickup.
He helped us out by putting this hot, tired, lost dog in his dog box. He called the phone number on her collar out to Kenny and we were able to leave her owner a message as to where she was, who had her and how to reach the man. He promised he'd make certain she got back home.  We thanked him and headed on.

    Soon we arrived at the natural bridge.  It was cordoned off and something was going on here.  You just won't believe this mess.  Ya can't make it up.
Kenny and Sharon on the natural bridge. We found this spot a little more than a year earlier.   It was amazing and we wanted Sharon and Lydia to enjoy it.  Something was taking place here.  They had pulled the ladder to reach the bottom and put it at the base.
Look here.  this one goes in the WTH category! 
Someone has decided to build a house or hideout under this arch! They are ruining it!
During the course of the day we saw ANOTHER arch.. not on the database .. where
someone had begun building a concrete block foundation under it!   It was a slightly disappointing
start to our days adventures.  

      We headed over to Tay's store for a snack. I visited with some old timers there.
Everyone is very friendly.   We next decided to go to Hoodtown and see Xanadu Falls.  Sharon
had been to Xanadu Falls before, but there was not much water coming over it that day.  Lydia had never been and was keen to crawl into the underground portion to check that out too!

Xanadu Falls

We hiked above Xanadu Falls. This is a shot of what that area looks like.

Dutchmans Breeches were in bloom along the sink floor.  We stopped to check them out as we
were leaving.

Rock with ladder at the swimming hole.  We headed back toward Woo Hoo from
Hoodtown.   We stopped by this spot to check it out.  Just below here the river was running so fast
it was tough to get across. The river level was really too high.  We hoped as we continued the levels would be OK.   It was not okay though. The next ford was just as bad.  We finally came to one that was just too much to cross. Long story short... we were going to have to come up with another way out of here or turn around and go back the way we came.  Taking the Looonng way around.

    Kenny left us gals sitting by the river bank chatting and snacking. He went to check out the situation on a side trail that might find us a way out more safely and comfortably.  It was not long until he returned with great news. He had not only found a better way out with no river crossings.. but it was a trail we had not checked out before! It was a short cut to the mountain top. It also brought us up Panther Branch proving my theory first hand that the reason we'd never noticed where it came out to join the river was that it went underground before it got there!  It was a pretty part of the ride.
Proud of Kenny for figuring out a better way.

        We went back to Woo Hoo Holler and got cleaned up just a tad.  We all piled in the truck
and went to KFC to eat dinner. The restaurant selection in Jamestown is rather limited.
We were too dirty to go out to eat at Bacarras.   After dinner we took a notion to stay the night.
We were unprepared.  Sharon recommended the Overton Motel.  We called them and they had some vacancies!  We booked a room. It is only 16 miles further west  from Woo Hoo.  We took Lydia's advice and shopped for "an entire new wardrobe" from Wal-Mart.  We shared a toothbrush & deodorant. We bought a change of clothes.   We slept on more hard lumpy beds in a different hotel!
But it meant we could come back to see our friends again on Sunday!

      Sunday we headed out to Buffalo Cove and Deer Gap Falls.  I will not go into some of what we did to approach Deer Gap Falls here.  It would be....evidence. I will say we found a different way to visit it and tie the terrain together in a way we'd been wanting to for a number of years.

Deer Gap Falls from below the 5th and final drop.  Sharon and Lydia really liked it.
I enjoyed it more today too since I was better than I'd been a week before!
It was fun seeing that our friends were impressed with the beauty and scope of the falls.
It was fun today because we roped up and climbed to see this.  It worked out perfectly.

   We climbed around through the rocks.  We got wet going behind the falls.
Kenny helped us all climb up to see the 3rd drop of the falls.  It was awesome! 

Third drop of Deer Gap Falls. Finally an unobstructed view up close!

We ate some lunch on the rocks.  Sharon thoughtfully packed us ham sammidges.
Yummy!  We headed up to the top to check out the view. 

Lydia talking to her folks about her adventures! Buffalo Cove far below us.
We enjoyed the view for awhile then went to show them the fat mans squeeze through the rocks.
Lydia discovered a garter snake trying to get up the stone steps to sun himself.
He was harmless, but she was not a fan of snakes.  We had a grand time. Already looking forward to the next Ed-Venture!

Garter snake

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fentress County Get Aways - Fern Camp -Deer Gap Falls and Xanadu Falls Part 1

Fentress County Get Away Trips--Two weekends of fun!
Dana & Kenny Koogler
March 14-16th & March 22-23rd, 2014
Part 1

Blue hepatica blooming in Overton County.
One of the earliest Spring wildflowers.

Pictures are here: 

      I am combining two trips together since they include do-overs on two weekends.    We went the first weekend. The next weekend our dear friend Sharon McGee and her  granddaughter Lydia were up so we were fortunate enough to spend time with them. It was great! I love Sharon and just loved her little granddaughter too. 
We wanted to make certain they got to see some of the pretty places we'd visited the previous weekend.  It is important to me to share with those who care about seeing this stuff.  Seeing the enjoyment they get brings a fresh perspective so a do-over is never a 
waste of time.  It is made more special by seeing someone else's reaction to great beauty
and adventure.

       The original plan was to spend Saturday doing stuff near the Jordan Motel where
we stayed. The plan for Sunday was to head up to Pickett State Forest to go four-wheeling .    We arrived at the No Tell Mo-Tel Friday night and were greeted warmly.
The office was the living room.  No kidding.   We hit the sack in those hard lumpy beds and were glad to be there.   Saturday morning dawned and we headed out to find the elusive Fern Camp Falls.

       We parked near along the highway and walked back there on the trails to
locate the falls.   We had the GPS coordinates and I had figured about how far it was to the falls. I was right on target for the distance.  We came first to Fern Camp Cascade. It was not spectacular in size, but was rather pretty. It was satisfying to finally get to see it for myself.  

Fern Camp Cascade is about 15 feet high. It is not super hard to get out here for this view.

Next we continued toward Fern Camp Arch and Falls.   It was on a path most of the time, but we had to just strike out through the woods across country at one point.  Well.. that's what we thought and did.... If you follow the old road.. it takes you right to both.  You know us. Always making things harder than they have to be.

Fern Camp Arch is on the rim of the gulf.

Fern Camp Falls is high and there is NO WAY DOWN from here!
I figured on this view from here, but at least I got to see it and was satisfied at finding it.

  The hike back to the car was much more satisfying and far easier!  We just stuck to the roads and before we knew it we were out.   The hike back also took us through one particularly lovely spot we'd missed before. Check this out! 

Moss carpets the forest floor around the trail

     We headed on to our next stop down in Hoodtown to see Xanadu Falls.
It was still pretty, but the Spring wildflowers were just barely up.  The falls had more water coming over it than we'd seen the previous year.  It was gorgeous!

Xanadu Falls.  My balance is still not perfect, but it is getting better.
Kenny crawled into the cave to see bats and found the underground portion of this waterfall. He helped me get down there to check it out too! Below is a short video of it that does it more justice than photos can show. There are also several other videos of the various falls we visited on these trips. It felt unbelievably good to be back at this sort of fun and adventure for me! My vision was still sketchy, but coming around.

We hiked back to the RZR and ate lunch.  Then we decided to try to find
the falls on the East Fork Obey River.  We tried fording the river in the RZR only to have
serious problems.  We were filling up with water, getting stuck on rocks. It was too
deep and rocky for this.  It was too cold and too much water to be trying it at all.
It would have to wait for another time.  We headed on to try to locate Panther Branch Falls.   We did find it and got some pretty views from the overlook, but Panther Branch Falls is directly behind two houses!  One is still being constructed but the other one looks occupied.  No one was home to ask permission. It looks like it might not be that great a
waterfall anyhow. We will check back on future trips and if we can catch someone home we will ask.  

View out over the gulf

We decided since our other plans had fallen through we'd go ahead and visit Deer Gap Falls today. It was close by and was a sure bet to be accessible and beautiful.
We headed back to the motel and parked the truck and walked the lane back to the trail.

    We came to this beautiful view out over Buffalo Cove.

View out over Buffalo Cove from the hike to Deer Gap.

    We began our climb down to the waterfall through the narrow squeeze of rock.
Fatman's Squeeze at Deer Gap. 

    It is just a matter of taking your time and descending carefully around the sides of the gulf to reach the falls.  I have been several times before, but today there was lots of water.
It had been a long time between visits.  The falls is 120-130 ft high with five drops.
The best you're going to get in a photo is three.  The upper two are best viewed from the road level.  It was good to see this pretty place again.  Just challenging enough for me
with my vision and balance what they were.

The fourth drop of Deer Gap Falls. You can walk behind it so I did!
I got dripped on but I did not care. 

Behind Deer Gap Falls  Click the link to see a video of the trip. It was great fun.
The video shows the falls in its entirety much better and gives perspective on how huge
it really is. My joy was exponential at being here and able to go!
I crawled through the jumble of boulders and worked my way up trying to find
the way to view the 3rd drop of the falls. It had been long enough that I was uncertain.
I knew you had to go up to see it and so I tried to recreate the route.
I got there since climbing UP is much easier for me.  I could tell I was getting better
and better.  I managed to get up there to view the 3rd drop, but the view was not totally unobstructed and I was becoming fatigued.   I did not take many photos of it and left that part to Kenny for today.  He made it look easy.

View of the third drop from Kenny's better vantage point.

 I realized I had just enough energy left to get me back out of there and to the motel.
We eased on back out and the climb up was not too bad. It was steep but short.
We encountered a young couple on our way out. We stopped to talk to them. It was a fortunate and informative conversation with a couple locals who were able to 
answer some questions we'd had about the area.  The next weekends trip would hinge on 
this conversation. :-)  

    Back at the motel we got cleaned up. I had to rest. I was wrung out.  
We went into Jamestown and tried the Garden Grill which was OK.  It was different.
The restaurant selections in Jamestown are limited and we were glad to try it out.
We both prefer taking the camper and cooking our own meals most of the time.

Back at the motel we slept good on that old hard lumpy mattress. Before turning in we 
checked the weather forecast which was pretty bleak.  It called for a settled in, hard rain.
We decided that if it came to pass we'd sleep in the next day and go on home.

   We woke to cold, gray, heavy rain with no signs of let up.  We slept in late.
You appreciate it when you dont get to do it often.  We made love.  Always a bonus.
It is the cure for any ill I tell you.  We stopped at Shoney's and ate breakfast bar.
We headed home to spend the day leisurely resting in our own warm, dry, Kügler Haus.
The disappointment of the messed up plans tempered by the knowledge the next weekend
we would be back. Sharon & Lydia would be there. We'd get to have more fun!

Bathtub type creek in Overton County

Hepaticas blooming by Bathtub Creek

Xanadu Falls from March 14th trip

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Saturday in the Park

Saturday in the Park

Saturday April 12, 2014

Dana Koogler
Crystal Lindsey, Michael & Tessa
Bethany Lindsey, Averie & Walter 
Pictures are here: Park Pix

My grandson Michael age 5 on the teeter totter. 

   I  decided since I was going hiking on a long hike on Sunday to take it
a little easy on Saturday.  I slept in until 7:44 am for the first time in weeks. I got up
and had a leisurely breakfast.  I went for my walk along the river for exercise.  
I then met up with my daughter Crystal, my grandkids and other family for a 
picnic and play day in the park!  We picked up Firehouse Subs and Crystal brought 
goodies from home in the cooler.  We had a wonderful satisfying lunch in Springbrook 
Park in Alcoa. 

     We played on the playground with the kids.  It was so perfect.  
The weather was sunny, clear and warm.  Lots of other families were out.  
We saw cute dogs.  The birds were singing.  I saw an indigo bunting fly down and
land on the ground out from where we sat.  The redbud trees were in peak bloom along
with the dogwoods.  Everyone was in good spirits.  We had a nice time together.

Bethany and Walter twirling Averie on the spinning chair.

Michael showing me he can climb the dinosaur spine.

Here is a stock image I found of my favorite dinosaur .. the kind I want to be.. a stegosaurus!  Kinda like the one in the park!

Crystal totes Tessa in the front carrier.  My beautiful daughter and sweet faced happy granddaughter!

    Tessa is almost always happy. She did not know what to think when Crystal got on the swings with her in the carrier.  She was more excited watching Michael and another child
swing than she was being on there herself. We will have to put the infant swing up for her at my house.  She is big enough now.

Walter liked running UP the slide more than anything else.  Crystal is trying to help
keep him from getting hurt. He is fearless! What a daredevil!!

      We went to an Easter Egg Hunt at Asbury Acres but missed the egg hunt part.
We still got to see the senior citizens Easter bonnet contest which was wonderful fun.
I love me some older folks since I grew up with most of my great grands still living!
They had the place decorated so beautifully.  We got to meet the Easter Bunny and get candy and hugs from him. The kids got their photos taken with him for free.
We got to meet real rescue personnel, firefighters, police, and they had lots of freebies.
There was Bing Crosby singing Zippety Do Dah, Easter Parade, and Happy by Pharrell Williams! Something for everyone.  Those old folks know how to have a party!
We thanked them for inviting us.  The kids made friends with other kids, old folks, and dogs.   It was grand.  We were all worn out and decided to head home.

     It was time to go home and rest our legs.  What a glorious day!
Plus we get to look forward to the egg hunt at church Wednesday and at Grandmothers on Sunday! Easter is coming! Jesus is Risen! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

River Trail --short hike on Saturday

Saturday April 12, 2014

   I got out to take a short walk along the Little River near my house on Saturday.
I wanted some exercise and time outdoors this beautiful day.  The weather was perfect.
It was sunny, light breeze blowing and warm.   We have some pretty flowers  there
along the river.   I always like going to see them.

Little River-- it flows out of the Great Smoky Mountains and makes its way through Walland Gap. It flows past my house in the foothills and it continues on its way
to Knoxville.  It empties into the Little Tennessee River there.

The river trail just as it crests Ellejoy Plain. The plain here was a hunting grounds for
Cherokee Nation.   Folks still walk it regularly and find arrowheads.

Sea of Bluebells. I have climbed down the bank and am surrounded by these beauties.

The river splits around a small island of land here.

Bluebells close up

Huge patch of violets in the sandy soil along the river

Golden Bumblebee and red buds also along the river bank

     The river here gives life and takes life away.  It is part of all we are.
I have always lived near a river or stream.  

Chilogatee Creek Falls --Making it to the Base!

Old warsh tub.. pioneer junk.. along the trail.

Chilogatee Creek Falls --Two Attempts for One Falls!

    I have been lucky enough to become friends with that intrepid off trail explorer.. Mike Gourley!   He is good about sharing info and what a blessing that has been!
We learned of a nice waterfall near home in our own county. Reading Mike's trip report
we realized there was a big waterfall close to the house.  We were busting to go see it.
We took a look at the maps. Got in the truck and headed that way following his directions.

 We found the spot to enter the woods and start the trail. There is an actual trail for part of the way.  It is a very short hike.  We passed an old homesite and some pioneer junk along the way. We saw daffodils at the old home site.

    We found the top of the falls.  The bluff here was a sheer drop.  We had known from reading the topo map and his description that reaching the base was going to be tough.
The terrain here is super steep and it is one of the narrowest gorges either of us had ever seen.   Dark down there. Reminds you of the line from the Patti Loveless song "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" where it talks about the sun coming up at 10 in the morning and going down at 3 in the day. That is how it is there.   We foolishly listened to MY idea and followed the trail down and the creek back up. It was horrible.  We bushwhacked up through there slipping and sliding and not making much real progress.  The terrain forces you into the creek as the only semi level ground to walk on.  Kenny was not having it.
Finally he said forget this we are out of here.  We began the steep climb back out. 

This is the only view of the falls we had on the 1st try.
This is the top portion only with no way down from here.

And here is the creature I found on my climb up.
My eyes are still working well enough to spot a snake!
This is a harmless northern water snake. 
Any snake with round pupils is non poisonous. These are often mistaken 
for copperheads who look similar.  My balance was not ready for this.
I fell and injured my shoulder and ankle today on the way in.  
I did not realize until the next day how badly I had bruised my shoulder joint.
I was also limping on the injured ankle for several days.

Try Try Again! --The Second Attempt.
 Saturday March 29, 2014

Balance is better.  Vision is better.  Gonna try this again.
We needed something to do that did not involve a long drive.
We'd finish this today!

We took rope. We decided to learn from the previous mistakes.
We hit the trail and picked the exact right place to go down over the bluff.
The last thirty feet were too steep though. We roped up and rappelled down.
It was fun. I never had a moments hesitation or fear. My balance in performing
this was perfect.  We got IN the creek and waded.  It was not easy, but it was
shorter, more direct and relatively level.   We make two bends in the creek which is wedged between high gorge walls and we were there!

Chilogatee Creek Falls. It is about 70 ft high! Plenty of water coming over it today.
Well worth the effort ... thus far!

You can view the entire falls from the left side of the creek near the base.
We had to climb up onto the slopes of the bluff to see it. Today was good
practice for my balance and with the new camera.

The bluff was loose slate. It was a choss and scree pile.
 Remember this because its going to be on the quiz!

 My 19th Nervous Breakdown--Climbing Back UP!

Kenny took a notion we would not go back the way we came.  
He realized that just above the bluff where we were now... was the place we 
had turned to start down.   No point going back. Just leave that $3 poly rope.
Climb the bluff back to where we came in.  Easy for him to say.
The next thing I knew I was foolishly but obediently hauling my 
Big Booty Judy self back up there to where he was.  He is like a monkey.
He found a way up in no time flat.  Then he had to come back to get me and help me.

The bluff above us

Climbed up here. Never never again.  At least not without a rope!!

The climb up here was horrifying to me.  Remember.. I'm dealing with proprioception problems.  I can't tell where my body and limbs are positioned in space real well yet.
So climbing here on a slope that is allowing me to slide back down every second or two was a nightmare.
 I was terrified and crying by the time I was back on the mountain above this.  I was pissed off, but glad to be alive.  A roped climb controls the descent or ascent.
It provides a fixed anchor and position in space for my focus.  A slate bank... with no rope
allowing my body position to constantly change is not the ticket!
But we made it.

I grumbled all the way back to the truck. Siggin friggin... never doin' that again.. shoulda gone back the way we came and climbed the &^%#* rope......