Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fork Ridge Hike

Hybrid Wake Robin along the Fork Ridge Trail

Fork Ridge Trail Hike

Monday May 19, 2014

Dana Koogler solo

5 miles RT out and back.

Pictures are here: Fork Ridge Pix

   I got up feeling good on Monday. I was busting to get out and get some exercise.
I packed up my stuff and headed out to hike a new trail for me.   I am working on hiking all
the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I had a vibe about Fork Ridge
being a good Spring wildflower hike and wanted to see if I was right.   I got a later start
than I had planned.  My drive over was slowed way down by road construction on Newfound Gap
Road.    I did not get on the trail until 9:50 a.m..   I would have to hike it as an out and back since
I was solo.  Completing the trail all the way down to its intersection with Deep Creek Trail would
mean I'd be making a 10.2 mile round trip hike.  I was pleased to find not another vehicle at the trail head parking spot.  

      I got going and was thrilled that the trail was pretty right from the start.
It is always a plus to me to hike a trail that is just beautiful in and of itself.  I used to be a total destination hiker. I am less so now and just enjoy being in the woods if the scenery is good. 
 The trail begins in the balsam zone of the Smokies.  Fir trees are abundant as are birch trees.
I was borrowing another Spring time at this elevation!  I saw lots of purple wake robin, white wake robin, and hybrid wake robin.  I saw lots of corn lilies lining the trail.  

Trailhead for Fork Ridge

Purple Wake Robin trillium. I just noticed this flower has one purple streak through a part of the tepal.

Fork Ridge Trail looks like Riding Hood's forest.

     The day was sunny and mild.  The air smelled fresh of evergreens.  Mosses and lichens lined the path and rocks.  Old rotting logs and rocks dotted the way.  I find something primeval about a balsam forest.  Witch hobble's bright papery white blossoms were seen along the sides of the trail in a few places. Birch trees stood on stilted roots their nurse logs having long since rotted and been absorbed.
I saw a lone trout lily still in bloom along the entire hike. Twisted rosie was everywhere.  I had not seen this pretty flower in bloom except once many years ago.  I was fortunate to see lots of it today.
It was the wildflower of the day.
Twisted Rose Stalk

One of my favorite spots along this trail

     I hiked along the ridge through various shades of color and mood.  Partial views could be had at points along the way.  I watched the mountains and the light change from bright and sunny to deep, dark and gloomy.  Off in the distance I could see the clouds leaving deep blue patches of shadow
over the slopes lined with black green  fir trees and birches of bright pea green. Where the sun could get to the trail there were tall clumps of grass along the edges.  I came to a spot where I saw my first
painted trilliums of the year! The foliage on some of them is chocolate like a hothouse begonia!
They are so lovely.
Trillium undulatum or Painted Trillium

Above are two photos showing how the trail changed from moment to moment.  Reminds me of the old Smoky Robinson song Daylight and Darkness

  My hike so far was very easy but of course it was all downhill or level.  It was also well maintained.
I encountered a few seepage areas on the way out.  Three springs seeping over the trail. Brook lettuce grew there in the seepage.  Even with the water the trail was in good shape. I had to crawl over one blown down tree but it was not bad. The bark was all gone so it was easy to just slide over it.
I noticed still more Spring ephemerals such as spring beauties, fringed phacelia, and toothwort.
I also spotted turks cap lilies growing which promises to be a pretty display in July.

       I entered a stretch of trail where the forest was a beech flat above the trail with lots of grass.
It was quite pretty. I sat down on a log to eat lunch and drink something and rest a little bit.
I checked all around me for snakes before I sat down.  It was so nice and cool at this elevation it was hard to believe there would be snakes, but I knew better than to be lulled into that false sense of security.   Around me birds sang and called in the trees.  Mostly juncos and chickadees and sparrows.
Fir cones and hemlock cones littered the trail. on the  way to this spot, but now the tree cover had changed some. I saw basswood, striped maple, yellow buckeye, and Carolina silverbells.
The trail in a couple places looked like someone had a wedding! It was dotted with the white blooms of Carolina silverbells having fallen.

             I continued on around the ridge and the sun began to shine down on me in some spots.
Other places were like a rhododendron tunnel.  I had lost some elevation. I was heading out with Deep Creek to my left and Thomas Divide to my right.

Beautiful blue skies surrounding black green fir tree

Grassy section of trail

Large trees were on this trail .  This is only one tree. I passed through a section of old growth giants!

    Now came a section of trail that concerned me a little.  Briars and thorns began to cover the trail in
great tangles.  Blown down trees covered it.  It had been cleared enough to get through, but in some spots it was a cluster of both blown down trees AND briers.   I was having misgivings about myself.
Was I going to be able to make it down to Deep Creek by a decent time and get back UP the trail
in time enough to at least be past these spots before dusk? The dim light would make negotiating this
even harder to watch for snakes amongst all the trash.  I was uneasy.  It was bright bold daylight now
on this ridge and still I wondered if I should try to do it all today or make a return trip?

Bad area to try to go around.

   I was lost deep in thought when I heard something to my left and behind me. I swung around to see
something coming at me from out of the brush. It was low to the ground and furiously attacking me.
It was making guttural sounds. It was a blur of brown, white and black. Too small to be a bear.
Too fluffy to be a snake. What the heck lives in the Smokies that could be this size and angry?
We don't have badgers here but that is what it reminded me of in its rage!  It was a mother grouse protecting her nest! She was highly upset at me and all I had done was dare walk down her trail.
I  wasn't even aware she had her nest nearby!  She came at me low with wings spread out fully and her ruff flaired out.  She danced and hissed and keened. When the attack did not work she changed tactics. She went to keening and trying to lure me away from her nest. I was tickled at her once my heart stopped thumping.  I got a blurry photo x 1 of the attack and a short video of the end of the attack.   After seeing this I understood why the Native Americans dressed like grouse or prairie hens
to don their war garb in defense of their homes.  Cherokee Dance

She was determined to save her babies!

 I continued on and saw more briers, narrow trail, places where I had to step down off the trail to get around.  I also saw one patch of pretty bluets.  These are usually done by this time, but here they persisted.

Bluets growing thick here.

      I came to a rhodo tunnel and the trail was open again.  It was much easier traveling. I  still pondered what I should do? Try to finish it all in a day or return and re-hike it in July with someone?
We could set a shuttle and hike Fork Ridge to Deep Creek and come up Deep Creek trail to Newfound Gap road in 9 miles as opposed to the 10.2 I'd hike today if I tried to complete it.
Plus I'd have no repeat scenery doing it that way.   It would give me a chance to see the turks cap lilies in bloom.  I was still on the fence about it.

Fork Ridge thru the rhodo tunnel. Notice the dappled light pattern on the ground here?

         I was deeply concerned with the interal dialogue as to finish it today or come back
when I heard a shout from ahead of me. I came around a bend and looked down the trail.
A man and woman stood stock still in the trail a good distance off. They shouted to me warning me
that there was a rattlesnake in the trail between us. I could not see it.  The lady instructed me
to look at thus and such and I inched closer. I could see it finally.  A large timber rattlesnake lay there
and I don't believe I'd have spotted him had I not been warned.  She had nearly stepped on him  herself.    I took pictures of him and a short video clip.  They were shaken a little and so was I.
I decided that was enough for one day. I was already a little jittery from the grouse attack.
Now my adrenalin was really going.  They went up the bank and into the woods and around him.
He refused to give way on the trail.  I pulled a long stick out of the ladies way in trying to assist her.
I tossed it down the bank and it hit near him. He coiled up and went to buzzing.

Can you see the snake?

Do I have your attention now?  He is pissed and buzzing.

Here is a short video of what that was like.

     I turned around and followed them back out. I did finally part ways with them and was able to sit down and eat lunch. I sat flat on the ground in an open patch of terrain where I could see everything near me.  I was not in the mood for anymore sneak attacks.   I hiked back to the vehicle.
I felt better once I had passed the blown down and briery sections.  I was disappointed at not having completed the trail today, but was grateful I didn't get snake bit.   I had two trail angels to warn me.
I took the hint and went my way.  The Fork Ridge trail isn't going anywhere. I'll finish it this Summer with company and help.  It was a grand hike and one with lots of new experiences and beauty. I can't complain!

Old growth trees along Fork Ridge

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tackett Creek via Carr Gap

Wild Coreopsis along the trail

Tackett Creek via Carr Gap Ride

Kenny & Dana Koogler

Sunday May 18, 2014

Pictures are here: Tackett Creek Pix

starting with frame 197

      We needed to get out of the house after a week spent piled up indoors and in hospitals
with the flu.   We headed north to Lafollette, TN in Campbell County to do some four-wheeling.
We wanted to explore today.  Kenny had visited some areas of Tackett Creek he wanted to show me. He also wanted to get in some practice navigating.  We are alike in this way:
It helps to learn a place if  you go over it more than once  when you are the one doing the navigating.. not just following someone else.  He studied up on it Saturday evening and
we headed out Sunday morning.  I had never been to Tackett Creek this way so it was exciting.

        We parked by the old store and turned in to go up Carr Gap Road.
It is a very rocky old road that goes back past someone's house.  You would not even see it if you did not know first that it was there.  It literally goes off the end of someone's driveway.
Here is this house and yard with the drive running alongside it.  The leaves on the trees and the gloom created by the forest setting make it hard to spot.  Unless you knew it to be there and OK to access you'd never notice it and even if you did... you would not dare go there that close to someone's house.

              We started up the rough, rocky road under cool temperatures. It was Blackberry Winter in Tennessee.  What is Blackberry Winter? Well, in Tennessee we have some changeable weather.
Still there is a pattern to it.  We have Dogwood Winter where it has turned cold again after the first signs of Spring .. and a few warm days or weeks.. we'll get a dip down into Winter again about the time the dogwood trees are in bloom.  Blackberry Winter is when it turns cold and nasty again after
the blackberry blossoms are out.   Up the road we went with the blackberry blossoms hanging thick drooping down onto the road.  The temperature was fifty-nine degrees. The skies so blue and sun shone down warmly. Dragonflies and damselflies darted and zipped like tiny bi planes or gliders
near us.  Bold black, blue, and yellow butterflies flitted and coasted around us. The road was so steep
at times it seemed we were driving straight up into the  blue yonder! I love days like this.
Finally we arrived at a spot where the mountain seemed to crest and we sat looking at a beautiful view. We were at Carr Gap. 

Carr Gap. Red dirt gravel road under the bluest skies. The fresh spring greens of the trees.
I love these bluebird days! 

     We went down the other side of the mountain and upon reaching an intersection turned left on the old railroad grade.  Tackett Creek is a mining site and the site of numerous gas wells.   The
old railroad is gone with the tracks having been taken up and the train tracks moved.  The old grade
is fun to ride and is elevated above the creek and its marshy terrain.  The ridge rises high above us to the left. Below us to the right is a vast swampy area near the creek.  Ferns and hemlocks and every manner of green growing thing abound here.  I love the wildness of this place. It helps ease me from the groomed, tamed down for tourist feel of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here there is none of that.  A fact I am most grateful for.  We came today for me to hunt wildflowers.
I did not have much luck in that department today. I did not care though. It was just great to be out with Kenny and both of us be feeling better.  We went on to the overlook on another gravel, rugged road.  Steep climbs made slow by the rough terrain.   We came to the overlook at this view.

View from the first overlook.  Beautiful Campbell County, Tennessee. 

Breathe in the air and soak up the view.

Kenny and our Polaris RZR at the overlook

   We continued along the ridge just prowling.  We found some areas with lush ferns and pink lady slippers.
Most of the wildflowers I'd seen previously were done for the season.  The woods were still dotted with purple wild geraniums and golden alexanders.  It was still beautiful and enjoyable.  I had to walk the woods enjoying the sun beaming down through the tree tops.  The forest smelled so good of green growing things and damp earth.  I trailed my finger tips along the tops of the soft fronds of all the ferns.  

Luscious ferns along the trail

Golden alexanders and purple geraniums.

Pink Lady Slippers were abundant

New overlook heading toward the gas wells and Valley Creek. 

   Once we came down off the main trail we headed out to try to find the "new" waterfall.
It was one Kenny had visited with the guys. I had not visited here. He had not been sure where to find it our what the name of it was.  I kept after it until I found a photo of it that morning and GPS coordinates!  It turned out to be named Motch Falls.   We were nearly in Kentucky once we arrived at the falls.  It was beautiful itself but the area around it had suffered at the hand of man.
It was the sight of an old house that was next to the road. It appears to have burned down.
Lots of trash is scattered around. 

Motch Falls is about 50 ft high or more. It is hard to photograph. The top part is
perpetually in shadow while the base is in bright sunlight!

Here is a short video of Motch Falls set to the music "She's Just Like Summer".

 We enjoyed waterfall #1 and set a waypoint for it. The ones I got were off enough that
had Kenny not known the way they'd have confused us.  We noticed the trail continued
through the creek and went on.  We had to see where it went??

We went on ahead and in about 100 feet from the first falls came to another un-named waterfall.
He had not seen this one either.

Spring fed waterfall past Motch Falls.

    We rambled on for awhile and thought we'd be able to make a loop here.
Turned out we couldn't so we had to return the way we came.  Valley Creek is really pretty.
There are lots of gas wells out that way.  We went back toward Tackett Creek and through the woods.
I had made Kenny promise to stop at a bridge we'd crossed on the way back. I wanted to go down to the stream and see what it was like.  I'm glad we did that!

Little Tackett Creek. We are sitting in the stream. It is peaceful. Below is a video of this moment.
It was lovely.

Little Tackett Creek on a pretty Saturday in late Spring. No one else around!

     We soaked up the scenery and peace of the stream.  We played. We gloried in one anothers company and aimless wandering for its own sake.  I feel like the luckiest woman alive on days like this.   We were well. We were happy and whole.  No place to be.

     We were ready to head home.  We headed back out Carr Gap Road over the rocks under the blue sky. The smell of wild roses was heady and sweet.  The birds sang.  The dragonflies still zipped around us and the butterflies still flitted around.  Springs of water seeped down the road in spots.
I looked up into the rock forms of the forest covered with moss and lichen.  I noticed the biggest
Fraser magnolia tree I'd ever seen on the way.  It was filled with massive pure white blooms in the crown of it.  It reminded me of cake decorations.  I love being a Southerner in Rural East Tennessee.
Its near to Heaven.    I climbed back in Kenny's truck after helping him strap the RZR back down on the trailer.    The truck was warm and comfortable.  What a great day with my love.

Trail near Valley Creek. The Road Goes On Forever.. and the Party Never Ends

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jamestown Camping Trip--Day 3 Bombing Out and Heading Home :-)

Dwarf Larkspur
Jamestown Camping Trip Part 3--The End
Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sunday April 27, 2014
Pictures are here: Jamestown Camping Trip Pix
   We had discussed what our plans for Sunday would be on
Saturday night before going to sleep.  We thought we knew what we wanted to do. We woke Sunday morning with misgivings about
the plan. We had agreed Saturday night to avoid certain areas as it is  also horse riding country. We had gotten by with visiting there during the off season, but were not willing to press our luck this
time of year.  We formed the plan to go into Rockcastle Creek to
attempt to find the Rock Castle Natural Bridge and a couple last falls we had not seen.   We now both agreed it just did not sound like fun. 
     We had some romance and took time to fix a big breakfast of pancakes.  We hoped a leisurely breakfast would help us make up our minds about what to do.  We finally opted to try to visit the last falls back above Blue Hole Falls.  It is a really neat area.  Nearby is
East Fork Obey Falls. We had tried to reach it a week or so earlier without any luck.  We figured we'd get those two done and wrap it up and head home. 
      We could not really enjoy the river trail this weekend.
The crossings were deep and flowing fast. We ran into this Friday.

 Top-- Swift Ford crossing
Bottom-- the rope swing swimming hole

      We headed all the way across the county to Overton again.
We had no GPS coordinates for the first falls we wanted to visit.
We drew near the place and I began to get a bad vibe.  We arrived to find that someone had put a log chain around the gate and welded the hinges.  I'd say they were serious about keeping out interlopers.  We talked about it for a bit but we both had this feeling
our luck was fixing to run out.   We were disgusted but moved on
to the next part of the days adventure.

       We parked the truck and planned to use the RZR simply to get across the river here.  It had been so deep a few weeks earlier we about got into trouble.  Today we managed to make it across the river! The plan was to park the four-wheeler and hike from there.
We had the GPS coordinates.  It was less than a mile up there.
The day was growing hot.  We  were able to continue on an old logging road for a short distance.  Finally the trail played out and there was too many downed logs across the trail.  The logging road had been there for so long, but out of use for long enough that large trees had grown up in it!  We got out and hiked.

Top -- Laurel Creek merges with the East Fork River. I am guessing the rusty rocks comes from iron oxide in the stream or rocks?
Bottom-- Golden ragwort against a green moss background on the river bank.

    We found we just had to follow the path of least resistance.  We hiked along the river bank. We followed the old road when we could. The further we went the rockier and more difficult it got.
The saddest part was that the further upstream we went the less water there was in the river!
We were putting ourselves through all this work to get to a falls that might be dry or have barely any water coming over it. 

Top.. logging road with tree growing up in the middle of it.
Bottom--Kenny hikes the old road through a hemlock forest

 Here is what the river looked like

Not much water in the East Fork River.

We saw a few wildflowers along the way, but most were done for the Spring.
Here is a dwarf crested iris.

 Kenny said he was done with it. We climbed up the rocks and finally found the way back to the logging grade and back down the river we walked.  We will have to try this again.  We spent some time checking out side roads that might take us down a drainage toward the falls that may be closer.
Kenny had said we should have done that to begin with.  I hope he is right. I won't care to be wrong if we can find the way to visit those falls.   It is going to be rough due to the steep, rugged terrain.

It will be tough because we'll have to find a way to see them when the water level is up in order to make the trip worthwhile.  The high water level will add to the difficulty if we have to ford.
 His route .. if it pans out would have us not needing to ford the river.

    The take away from today's bombed out plans?  Sometimes we're blessed and it all falls together.
Sometimes we've got the deck stacked against us and it all falls apart.   Sometimes... the past comes up from behind us and bites us in the butt.  And that's all I'm gonna say about that. :-)

    We went back to the campground to fix lunch before heading home.
We had time to visit with Betty.  I grow to like  her more all the time. She has a lovely spirit of fun.
We stood talking to her a truck pulled through the campground. It was another nice couple. They are the new owners of Cherokee Campin N Cabins.  They wanted to come by to speak to her and introduce themselves.   We got to meet them as well.   We told them we wanted to come check their place out to have options in case Maple Hill was all booked up. They agreed we should.
They have advertised waterfalls to hike to on their brochure.  We asked about that and what size falls etc?  They said the falls were 3 or 4 feet high.  I asked if they had access to Sharps Branch Falls or
Stewart Creek Falls at the back of their property.  They said no. They did not even know where those were.   You know bells were going off in my head.  We'll have to see if a day pass there could get us a way to hike in to them legally from there. 

         We do a lot of planning, scheming, scouting, and studying and sometimes the reward is immense.  Other times... not so much. We  had a good camping trip and a much needed rest and change of scenery.  
Here is a link to the falls we were trying to reach that are listed on the Tennessee landforms database.

Here is a video of the incredibly beautiful Big Sunk Cane Falls.

   I'm glad God made me Daydreaming Dana. :-)

Jamestown Camping Trip--Day 2--Pickett State Forest and Kentucky Four-wheeling

White form of birds foot violet @ Pickett State Forest, TN

Jamestown Camping Trip Part 2
Pickett State Forest & Kentucky Four-Wheeling

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Sat. April 26, 2014

Pictures are here: Pickett SF Pix

    We woke up Saturday morning and opted to make breakfast simple so we could get on the
trail.  We just had cereal and coffee and juice.    We gathered our belongings and set off for the day.
We had a couple things we wanted to scope out on the way to Pickett State Forest to ride.
We had been hiking back in the Fall to the new state natural area.  Pogue Creek.  We reached it from
an access we found on the west side.  I wanted to find an access from the east side as it would be much closer to where we'd be today.    The landforms we hoped to see were more on the eastern side.
We also wanted to find access to two waterfalls on the Tennessee landforms database which lacked
 photos.   I had a feeling we'd been looking too far north for the road to reach these.

       We headed up the road and I realized we were passing through an area called Sharps Station.
I called haw and Kenny turned us around.  I put in the waypoints for those falls since they'd be the closest thing to us.  Sharps Branch Falls and Stewart Creek Falls lay to our west.
 We found an access alright but it is restricted owing to the fact it is a gated community.
We also found Basin Road which we'd been looking for too far north.  We tried an assortment of ways to reach the falls. No luck.  All had to cross private property.  We set that aside for now and continued on checking for an eastern access to Pogue Creek.   Long story short that did not pan out either after multiple variations on the attempt.  Private property. Locked gates.    The lay of the land at another place Kenny wanted to try was not going to work and I knew it.  A cliff lay between our
position and the land forms with no way off.     However... It appears the DCNR is working on a parking area in the vicinity so that may be coming. I will share whatever I learn.

             We had plenty to do today.  Kenny had been hankering to ride at Pickett and practice navigating the trails here.   I had been busting to get back to see a huge arch in Wayne County, Kentucky.  I had been there before but I wanted to go back and go in the cave.     We unloaded on
Blackhouse Mountain Road.  The forest here was looking more like the month of March!
It was still not leafing out like back home.  Birdfoot violets lined the road in great patches.

Top--Sandy trail winding through Pickett State Forest, TN
Bottom-- Masses of birdfoot violets along the road.

   We crossed over the top of Carpenter Rock House and swung on past it and down to go check it out. Just past that is the pretty arch pictured below.  We talked to some very nice fellows there.  They were from Somerset, Kentucky.

Top-- Looking up at the sun shining through the trees along the bluff. 
Bottom--arch and sunshine.

     We departed from the first small arch at Pickett and continued north west toward Kentucky and the big arch.   It was further out there than I remembered, but it was a pretty ride and enjoyable.
Pickett is getting overused to the point the main trails are rutted, wallowed out and eroded.  They stand in mud and more mud and more mud ..... It is a stark comparison to Royal Blue who actually maintains their trails. They re-route and give an area a chance to rest and recover.  We began seeing
the trails have less people and consequently less wear as we got further out.  We managed to find the big arch.  It was so overgrown with trees and greenery this time of year it would be very easy to just
miss it!  The waterfall flowed from the top falling down the far side of it.  

 Top--The arch is here, but hidden!
Bottom-- the un-named wet weather falls flows from the top.

     We stopped to go check out the big arch.  We had come prepared with more lights to go in the cave this time.  Kenny went ahead of me and was already down in the pit under the arch while I was still fiddling with camera equipment.  I stopped at the lip of the pit to look around.  The waterfall in the cave was roaring. I looked ahead of me at the small path leading into the pit and saw something strange.  I had to do a double take.  I saw a ball of light.  It looked like a rainbow that was ball shaped.  Kenny was already down there and I shouted to him over the noise to look at it. I felt like
I was seeing things.  It could not be real. I felt that as soon as I moved closer it would vanish.  He called back to me that he saw it too!  I snapped a photo from where I stood to be sure I would not miss the chance.  Once I had that image captured I moved down the path closer to it. 
Ball of Rainbow in the pit!

  I was thrilled that instead of vanishing .. the closer I got the bigger and brighter the rainbow grew!
I got some better photos of it.  I finally was so far into the waterfall's splashing that I had to put the camera away to avoid ruining it.  I moved even closer and Kenny stood behind the falls. I could see a large double rainbow! He could not see it as he was behind it.  I just stood there and enjoyed it for a little bit.   Finally I got moving and went on down to the cave with him. 
Closest view of the rainbow I was able to get. 

        We crawled down in the cave.  The waterfall ahead of us roared. Kenny was behind me. I made a good start of it.  I entered the cave wading in an underground stream and was moving along pretty good.  Kenny went up to a passage that seemed to go to the top of the waterfall.  I was moving in tight quarters.  I had only an inch or two of clearance over my head.  Cave crickets clung to the cave walls.  I knew in my mind they were harmless and would not bother me.  I was overcome by the noise and claustrophobia. I went back out.  Kenny came down to join me.  He tried to help me focus and calm down.  I went forward again trying to remain calm.  I got within inches of the waterfall.
I felt consumed by panic. I had to get out! Kenny went ahead to see the falls.  He cried out with an expression of disappointment.  It was only about four feet high.  He laughed and said that I hadn't missed much. I went on out.  This place is something to see!

Top- Inside the cave. Odd looking rock and underground stream
Bottom-- view looking out of the cave. where I wanted to go!

 I backed up under the arch to get this view of the entire falls.  It is quite large and beautiful.

  I spent some time exploring the cave. Kenny went in the lower entrance. He finally came back out and said that the stream went through the whole cave.  He also said that it appeared while at one time you could go in one entrance and come out the other.. that the passage had collapsed making it possible only for water and light to go through.  At this point it is too tight for a man to make it past.
We went down the hill and I explored the stream area.  It was a nice setting. There are no major falls upstream that I saw, but a few pretty cascades. 

   We decided to head back toward the main trails section and check out some overlooks.
We stopped by one I had never been to before.  I felt an odd dragging sensation and looked down. Here is what I saw:
My eight year old worn out hiking boots. Kenny repaired them with shoe goo. Wading the stream in them caused them to just totally blow out. Here is what we did to help them hang on for one more day. I had a back up pair of boots back at the truck.
Black electrical tape! It kept them together until I was back at the truck!

Here is the view from that overlook. It was quite scenic.

  Next we ended up at the top of Car Hauler!  Kenny had gotten mixed up and we came out at the top of it instead of the base.  It was the only time all day the navigation got the best of us.   It was no big deal. Car Hauler is not something we do unless we're in a group.  It is a good place to get hurt and be a long way from help.   I realized for the first time today that a wet weather falls goes down beside the car hauler! 

Car Hauler

Wet weather stream falling beside Car Hauler

    We stopped and had lunch.   We soaked up the warm sunshine and pretty skies.
Here are a couple shots from the overlooks:

Top--Wagon Gap Overlook
Bottom--Yellow Doors Overlook

   We went just cruising around and went down to the blue lake for awhile.  Kenny had a notion we might be able to find an access for Pogue Creek out that way. I did not agree, but was game to explore.   It turned out I was sadly correct. The trail does go off the bluff and in the right general direction, but it does not provide access. It just goes out to a point of land with that lake still above the valley floor.   So  much for that idea.  

Pretty blue-green lake.  

    We headed back to the truck having ridden about 30 miles.  We were relaxed and happy.
Some things we planned did not work out. Some worked out just fine.  I was feeling good about life and having a fine time.  I sat down on the trailer and tried to get those wet, ruined boots off.
I laughed every time I looked at them.  I wondered if I'd have to be cut out of them as I'd been taped in?  I did not. I was able to get them off my feet. 

     We headed back to the camper to enjoy a nice dinner and some time to do nothing.
We had steaks marinated in Jack Daniels marinade on the grill. We had baked potatoes.
We had corn on the cob and veggies.   It was good stuff.   We watched tv and just relaxed.
It was a good day.

Here is a video of Wagon Gap Overlook