Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Big Creek Backpack--This Party Sucks! I'm Outta Here!!

Big Creek Backpack Trip--This Party Sucks! I'm Outta Here!

Saturday Sept. 27, 2014

Dana Koogler

   My original plan was to backpack Saturday morning up to CS 37.  I would take photos of Midnight Hole
and Mouse Creek Falls along the way.   I would set up camp once at CS 37. I would empty my pack of all non essentials. The hike to the campsite is 5.8 miles.  It is another 1.8 or so to Gunter Fork Falls.
Gunter Fork Cascade is on the way and it is a pretty 10 ft falls.  Gunter Fork Falls is a 150 ft waterfall.
I had only been to it once and it was very beautiful.   It was a neat experience shared with a good friend.
I wanted to visit it again.   I would put up with the suck factor of Big Creek Trail to reach it.

       I found out Friday night when I saw Casey Marcum's photos from a day or so earlier that 
Gunter Fork Falls was pretty much a wet rock with a slight trickle at the top of it.   The bottom part was only damp.  I tried to convince myself to go ahead.    I would just make the best of it. I usually can manage to 
find something good about a place.  I would not bother going up to the falls because it sure was not worth it.
Bob Carr was supposed to be in the area. Perhaps I'd run into him and that would be good.
I would modify my route and get in some new trail miles.  

         I got over there and the day was beautiful.   Big Creek is a popular destination and there are 
always tons of people. I finally found a place to park.  I set off down the trail.  I got to Midnight Hole.
The light for photography was dreadful.  Two other men arrived and one got in to swim.  
I sat down to eat lunch.  More and more people began showing up. My mood was abysmal. 
I wanted to turn around and go home.  I convinced myself to make it the 1/2 mile further to Mouse 
Creek Falls.   I got there and took a few snapshots.   I was only alone there for a minute or two until
more people arrived.   I was over it.   I decided since no one was holding a gun to my head to force
me to continue I would not go further.   I tried my best to shake the bleak mood I was in.  I was 
overwhelmed with sadness. I just wasn't feeling it.  The place was crawling with people.  

       I was overwhelmed with memories of past trips and not all of them good.
I was worn out with the inconsiderate, dumb shit people do.   I hate this trail. I won't be back on it
until it is absolutely necessary.   Too many people. Lots of horse shit.  Not enough to see to make it

          I went home.  I prayed the Lord would help my mood improve.  I called Kenny to 
let him know I was coming home.   I went home and got in the hammock on the back deck.
The sky was blue and pretty.   I took a nap and it was quieter in my back yard than it was in the Smokies front country.  I realize people make mistakes and life isn't always perfect. I just don't want to 
watch you try to take your precious year and a half old baby up a steep dirt ditch in an umbrella stroller.
What is wrong with you?   I really do get the suffer no fools.. quarter no mules thing. The mules I can forgive a lot quicker than I  can the dumb people. 

Mouse Creek Falls
Midnight Hole


This party sucks! I'm outta here!

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Find Waterfalls--Part Three

Fort Harry Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

How to Find Waterfalls--Part Three
For the Advanced Waterfall Seeker

Dana Koogler
Monday September 29, 2014

      You've begun hiking to waterfalls. You really like it. You want more of it. You have 
begun searching them out in other places. It is a very enjoyable pass time for you.  It is great for your
well being. It helps you stay fit.  It helps soothe the soul. It helps you enjoy life more all around.
It is VERY habit forming.   Perhaps you picked a goal of hiking to all the waterfalls in a guidebook
on a given area and have completed all of those. Congratulations!   You got you some good guidebooks.
You got in the habit of talking to various persons in real time and on social media about waterfalls. 
You surf the net hunting for info on waterfalls. You keep your eyes peeled in the areas where you drive.
You are developing the mental  habits to find waterfalls. You are developing the physical fitness to  be
able to do more of this.    All these things are good.

       Once you've been doing this eight or ten years you are not likely to fall out of love with it.
Something may happen that changes it for you  though. Perhaps you will become
dissatisfied with your hobby. Something is missing in your enjoyment of your hobby! 
The novelty wears off. You have been to most of them. Human romances need tending to be kept
fresh and fun.  So does your love of waterfalls. Everything gets boring after awhile.
       Perhaps you are growing jaded because you've been to see most of them.
You've made repeat trips back to most of them.  Maybe you've grown to like the stillness of the forest more
and you seek greater solitude than heavily visited, popular areas will afford you.  You might be 
seeking a greater physical challenge. You might be seeking more of a navigational challenge.  Sometimes
you may read about the history of a certain spot where a waterfall occurs and you're just dying to get there
to experience it for yourself.   Once this change takes place in you its time to move on to the next stages of waterfall seeking.  

                      Defining Advanced Waterfall Seekers

 I will start by saying I am not trying to sound like I am personally some elite waterfall seeking force.
I am not part of some elite group of persons either.   It is not a competition.  Waterfall hunting is an individual 
journey and part of each persons enjoyment of life. It can also be a team sport and part of the growth and
bonding of a group of friends.  Each person who engages in this activity takes risks and should be fully
aware of the risks involved.  Each person brings different skills to the mix.  Each person starts off with 
different physical abilities, mental and psychological abilities, navigating skills, etc. 
I may know how to find waterfalls like a son-of-a-gun, but I am not able to get there because it is outside
my skill set.   I will define advanced waterfall seekers very loosely for this blog entry as such:
They have been at it awhile and experienced some success in finding waterfalls both on the beaten track and off trail.   At some point if you are going to be in this group of advanced waterfall hunters you're going to 
find yourself leaving the traveled path and going off trail.   

       Bushwhacking to waterfalls is risky and the risks vary wildly from damn near impossible to 
not that bad.   I will address the off trail travel part in more depth in a bit. The first thing that has to happen
in order to reach them?  It goes back to FINDING them.    What is the first step in finding them?
Knowing they EXIST!   

How to Know a Waterfall Exists? 

   You may know a waterfall exists because you've seen a photo of it, read a trip report about it,
saw mention of it in a hiking guide, or an acquaintance or co-worker mentioned it to you. 
You don't doubt it is real.  You still have to find it.  All you need initially is something to make you suspect
a falls is in a given area. You can then do web searches, check maps, ask persons questions, go to the library for additional source material to try to find out more clues.  What if you could tell by simply looking at
a map that a waterfall SHOULD exist in a given area?  Boys howdy, wouldn't that bust the world of 
waterfall possibilities wide open?  
         I'm going to teach you how to find them on a map. It will then be up to you to find out
if they exist.  The best way is to go see for yourself.  Once you've learned how to see them on a map
on your own and backed it up with some first hand success in proving you were correct.. you'll be off
to the races!   
Reading a Topo Map to Spot Waterfalls 

     A topo map is shortening of the word topography map.   It is one of those maps that has all the 
squiggley lines on it. It not only shows the roads and trails in an area, but shows the lay of the land.
It shows where the mountains are, valleys, creeks, campsites, roads, trails. Get familiar with maps period.
Get good at reading topo maps specifically if you travel off trail. It is a great way to find waterfalls
if you learn to see them.  Waterfalls take a stream of water descending over rock in order to occur.
Spotting a stream on a map is not hard.  Spotting a waterfall on a map is harder, but not impossible.
I am not speaking of the ones that are shown. Some maps actually have the waterfalls on them and 
that is a good thing.  Let's take a look at some of those now.  Hunting waterfalls like this will work
about anywhere you want to name.   The Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee presents a special set of 
challenges because there are so many caves.   Out in the plateau you may look at a map and it won't show
a stream that exists because the water that forms the falls does go over rocks, but it comes directly out
of the ground, falls and then goes subterranean again. Finding waterfalls like that is for the lucky, obsessed,
and the crazy.   We won't get into that for this blog.  Even advanced waterfall seekers prefer dealing
with streams that behave normally.

Looking for Clues on the Map

Look at the map image above.  The light gray squiggles are contours on the map.  Customarily
Each squiggle is a contour line. You're looking at the map as if you're looking at the mountains and
you have to try to picture them in 3-Dimensions.   The blue lines are the streams and tributaries of the stream.
The red line is a trail.  The black lines with dots and dashes are boundary lines like a county or state.
When you hunt up a waterfall using this method you want to look for places where the blue line
representing the stream crosses over the contour lines. This would indicate it is dropping or falling.
It could be a waterfall.  Some streams are low flow and in reality if you went and checked them out
the are nothing more than wet rocks or "wet weather" waterfalls.  Sometimes a bunch of close together
contour lines like a big series of V's with a blue line coming down through its center is NOT a likely place
for a waterfall. ANY place that a blue line crosses a contour could be a falls, but the most likely place is
not that.   Look at the photo above and see how well you do picking out where you think a falls would be?

Click the link below to see the answer: Spot the Waterfall Answer 
I will also put the photo image answer at the bottom of the blog entry.  
Scroll down to check your answer when you are ready.

     What you're wanting to look for is a squared off U shape with a blue line going across it.
It is not always the case, but I have found it to be true more often than not.
How did you do figuring it out?  Fun, isn't it?!

   What is even more fun is looking at the map where no waterfall is known to be, going out to the wild
and proving you were correct!  It is not a matter of being right either. It is simply gaining the ability to find
them and confidently go visit the area in real time and see something beautiful and new to you.
Possibly new to all.  Its a lot of fun.  I have proven in real time that there is a waterfall with two drops
at the location listed, but it is already on the database. I reported it a long time ago.

   Practice Makes Perfect

    Now you're figuring out how to see waterfalls without anything other than a topo map.
I'm sure by now you've got at least the basic maps for a given area where you hiked the trails to see
the known waterfalls.  Get them out from time to time and give them another look to see if you can spot
additional waterfalls above where you went or below?  That would be a good place to start trying out
your new skill set.    

Above is a photo of Mouse Creek Falls. I went to see it a long time ago.  Several years later I began to
suspect there were more falls above it because I was scrutinizing the topo map and saw that squared off
U shape above the falls. Actually two spots above the falls and I thought "Ah ha! I bet there is more up there!" and it turned out to be correct. Below is a shot of one of the falls above Mouse Creek Falls.
There are a couple of others besides!

     Important Tools and Resources

     Once you have progressed to the next stage of hunting for waterfalls you need some
 new tools and techniques in the tool box.   You just got a big one in learning how to see them
on topo maps.   What other kinds of maps would be good to use?  For persons who like to
hunt up waterfalls and are adventuresome let me introduce you to another invaluable tool.

 Meet the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer.  This is the one for the state of Tennessee.
They come in all flavors.  Get one for the state or states you visit.   Go to the front and find
the section you need.  Let's say you're going to check out the Cumberland Plateau.
You're going to check out the area around Spring City, Tennessee.  Your Auntie is having a family reunion
there and you want to make use of the time you'll be in the area.  Look at the map for the area and you
will see that real often if an area has interesting features or known things like waterfalls they will be listed
right on the map.  You have to look close, but they are actually printed on the map.  Low and behold
there it is.. Stinging Fork Falls is listed on the map.  You can then do a google search and come up
with Directions to Stinging Fork Falls
Here is an old image of Stinging Fork Falls.

   You may find waterfalls listed on the map and they are known and recorded,but you cannot
find directions to them.   Expect it.  It may be because they are on private property.  It may be that
the falls are Ok to visit, but hardly anyone goes to them so no one has bothered to record directions, take pictures, or write a blog on them.     Now you need another resource.

Tennessee Landforms-- Is a database for our state and the brain child of  Tom Dunigan.
He has invested a great deal of time and energy into compiling this fabulous database of the waterfalls
and other land forms in our great state.    Tennessee Landforms Waterfalls

How do I use it?
Go to the county or area you're planning to visit or explore. Click on that and it will bring you up
a list of waterfalls in that area.   Open the entry for each waterfall and included are maps, driving directions,
and way points that can help you locate them.

What if my area doesn't have a waterfall or landform database?
First of all, search and ask around to see if you do or don't.

If you DON"T... then it sucks to be you.  :-)  But nah...  you can get a pretty good idea
from the Gazetteer what the GPS coordinates are. It will at least get you in the ball park.
The latitude and longitude coordinates are along the edges of the page. Stinging Fork would be approx.
Lat 35*. 7100 something and Long. -84*.900 something.  The metric coordinates are given which is what
I am guesstimating here.   The old style coordinates are also given which are degrees, minutes, seconds.

 Global Positioning System--GPS

Get you a hand held GPS unit and learn to use it.  We have had two Garmin units.
The first one was the least expensive one Garmin made and was incredibly difficult to use.
It was also not the most reliable even when it got a signal.   Our second one is also a Garmin
and it way more costly, but it is also far more accurate, reliable, and simpler to use.

You can plug in the GPS coordinates and let them lead you to waterfalls.
They will usually get you to within 100 feet of a falls. Many of the newer models are more accurate than that.
Within that distance you should be able to hear a waterfall if it is flowing decently.

What else can I do with a GPS?

You can draw a track and let it lead you not only by the waypoints, but
it will show you if you are following the course you set for yourself.   It will demonstrate for you visually
if you are on or off track. Ours beeps briefly when we get right on the track.   It is reassuring.

You can  mark a waterfall you found.
You can mark a route and save it.

A navigation system in the car helps get to waterfalls as well.
A Tomtom navigator will permit you to enter GPS coordinates and it will get you there which can help, but
there is a down side to that.   If you are going to visit a waterfall that does not have an easy road access
it is going to screw you up.    A tomtom will try to take you by the ROAD routes.  Be careful doing that.
Check the google maps and your Gazetteer to see if you can do this realistically.

Learning to use a GPS takes some time, practice and patience. Start off with easy ones and plug in coordinates to ON the trail, known waterfalls and test the accuracy of your equipment.  It will also
give you a low to no pressure situation to learn to use the device without the worry of getting lost or simply not getting to see the waterfall because you cannot find it.  You don't need the added frustration just starting out using one of these things no matter how experienced a hiker you are.

 Google Earth

 Technology is wonderful when it works properly.  Google Earth , computers, satellite communication, 
and smart televisions have really rocked the world.    We have a smart TV and we love to use google earth
to check out places before we go.    It can give you visual clues and help you know if access roads or trails are there? Are the roads gated? Are there homes nearby? It helps you read the terrain.   It takes some getting used to, but it can be both fun and a great help.  

Here is a link to Google Earth and a satellite view of the area around Stinging Fork Falls.

To return to a road map view go to the bottom left corner and click that white box.
You can zoom in, zoom out. You can scroll. You can measure distance. You can see images of the falls if they exist.  In this case you can zoom in and see the waterfall!  It helps you spot the trail and get a better 
understanding of how it works its way across the terrain toward the falls.

It will help you to think in 3-D and get an idea if an area is even accessible. .
We used this as a reality check prior to going to visit Wilson Falls in the Smokies.
We use it for many things. Hunting waterfalls is only one of them. Another potential use for
the capabilities of Google Earth?  Check our your topo maps. Find those squared off U's where you think
there may be a waterfall and "fly there" via google earth to check it out! You'd be amazed!

Assumptions and Risks

  All these tools when taken  together should provide you with a big leap forward in your
waterfall hunting adventures.   I have touched on avoiding assumptions in the previous two blog entries.
One thing you don't want to assume is that it is always OK to visit these places.  Some will end up
being on private land.   Find out from locals if it is permissible to visit there when possible?
Some areas are known and visited all the time and no one minds.   Ask land owners if its ok if you can find out who to speak to.   I assume no responsibility for you ending up in trouble for trespassing.
I assume no responsibility for injuries that may occur because of your adventures.  Hunting for 
waterfalls can be dangerous and difficult, but can also be rewarding.     

  There is  a level of waterfall hunting beyond  "advanced" and that is harder to explain.
 I may do a blog piece later about off trail travel. and discuss some of the subtler points of waterfall hunting.   I think I will because it is too much for this blog entry. 

           I mentioned obscurities before.  It is hard for me to explain that to just anyone. 
I will try.   I have had dreams about a simple word or a place name that will come to me.  I will jot it down.
It may take a long time. Sometimes months or years, but  those little tidbits from the internet, from a dream, from my subconcious mind end up being answers to locations of waterfalls.

        Don't discard tidbits of info you find on the net.  Don't discount things that emerge from your dreams.
Leave your waking mind open to possibilities of communication with your deeper, subconcious mind.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it?    Very esoteric!  But here are two examples of times that came in handy.
A friend was looking for a waterfall near the TN/NC line.  He had information that it was near White Rocks or some such name.   He was frustrated at all the time and energy he'd put into searching the area unsuccessfully.  I told him to give me a little time to put my mind on it and I'd get him some answers.

           I went to bed and woke one day with the words "Black Stack Cliffs". I told him the answer was coming to me. The words came to me again in a waking vision.   It carried a sense of importance with it.
I knew it was the answer, but Blackstack Cliffs is an overlook! Not a waterfall!
I looked at a hiking guide and a map.  It came to me with certainty that Higgins Creek Falls was 
the waterfall he was searching for.  Someone else had called it a different name. It mixed him up.
Once he looked at the map with me .. he had to agree and the matter was settled.  While the names did not jive, the description and location given did.    

         Another example was that my husband told me about a conversation between he and  his co-worker and friend Shane Watkins.  Shane described to him an area behind Ozone Falls where 
"there was a lot of riding."   I instantly knew that conversation was important even though he never mentioned anything about waterfalls.
 I did not know why until literally years later.
I got that gazetteer out and began hunting for waterfalls and places to ride.  I ended up taking us to Basin Rock and Falls.  Shane's words came echoing back.  See?!  Witness the Reticular Activating System 
in Action!  Tune your intuition and don't discount it.   It will surprise you as much as anything ever has.

Basin Rock

    Basin Falls below Basin Rock



Saw Mill Falls. All these beautiful experiences and more from one conversation years earlier. Thanks Shane. :-)

Answer Image Key to Spotting the Waterfalls on the Topo Map.
The circled areas are where waterfalls occur or are likely to occur.


How to Find Waterfalls--Part Two

110 ft high Ozone Falls, TN

How to Find Waterfalls --Part Two
The Intermediate Waterfall Hunter

   Dana Koogler
Monday September 29, 2014

      You've gotten out and started hiking to waterfalls. You liked it at first and you are
beginning to like it a lot more.  You are interested in seeing waterfalls in other outlying areas.
Perhaps you're working on a goal of finishing all the waterfalls within a given National Park
or state park.   You're trying to see all those falls in that area. You are wondering what else
is in the vicinity?   Let's use the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a frame of reference
since that is my story.  Again, it can apply to any area.

        I lived in Virginia. I was only getting to travel to the Great Smoky Mountains at that time
two or three times per year.   I had been bitten by the hiking to waterfalls bug. What was I supposed
to do in the meanwhile?  I spent time consoling myself reading about waterfalls, daydreaming about them,
and talking to others about them when it was appropriate.   Did you know that all those things can actually help you find waterfalls?  Sure can.  You may not want to read further if you cannot cope with the
Misfit of Science Side of me.    You need to make use of  the reticular activating system of your brain
to help you find waterfalls.   Chances are you do it for other things and don't even know you're doing it.

Waterfall Seeking Tools--Laying the Foundation
         What? What is a reticular activating system? Where did I pick that up?  When?
What IS she talking about?  We live in an age of technology so I will compare this part of your brain
and subconcious mind to a technology that exists today.  Perhaps you have heard of computer programs
that run in the background of a primary system or program?  These background programs pick out key words or phrases and flag them and bring them to your attention.   The government uses these programs
with certain key words or phrases to supposedly root out terrorists.   You are not a computer, but you
have a big ole smart brain sitting up there in your noggin.   Unfortunately unless you are single, independently wealthy and free to devote all your time, energy and money to the hunt for waterfalls......... you have
something called a LIFE to attend to besides that.  Work. Family. Household duties. Those things
have to get done day to day for most of us.   

 Learn to turn on your Reticular Activating System in your brain, and it is your background program for hunting waterfalls. 

Learn to R2A2. That is the acronym  for helping you train your Reticular Activating System in your brain
and subconcious mind so you can work and take care of other business and still pick up on key things
that may not seen to matter much now, but may lead to something later!
This is the formula of a  successful man in many areas of life.. Mr. W. Clement Stone.

Recognize--That's for me--
Relate--How is that for me--how does this relate to my hunt for waterfalls to visit
If I am seeking waterfalls in the area to visit around me where does this info fit compared to where I am?
Assimilate--How am I going to use this to find waterfalls. Find ways to fit this info in with your plans.
Action ---Go check it out for yourself. Put feet on it. Put the plan into action. Form the habits
of daily life in your mind and body that will result in greater success.  

 Training your brain and subconcious mind to ignore some repetitive stimuli while reaching out
and grabbing others is huge in habit forming for your thought life.  You're already using it
when you can tune out traffic noise and catch a nap on the city bus, but if your alarm goes off
or your baby cries.. you wake right up!  

*Once you've told your brain what to look for. What you're interested in.. it will hunt it for you.

                               Other Source Materials for Waterfall Hunting

   Ok so now that I have bombarded you with some Science let's return to our waterfall hunter.
She's stuck in Virginia dealing with kids, job, home and only getting to visit the Smokies twice yearly.
Our hopeful seeker is not to be so easily outdone by things like geographic locations.   She is a
Positive Mental Attitude grad of the W. Clement Stone school of thought.   What now?
Daydreaming, talking to other people about waterfalls, and reading can really help me find waterfalls near me to visit?  Yep. It worked for me.  Another key concept that has guided me is this:
Do not be one of those people who never avails themself of the beauty 
and opportunities right around them!

  I cannot get down to visit the Smokies again until October.  What is around me to see 
in August? Are there waterfalls to visit around here?

That is when Reading---waterfall or hiking guidebooks comes in handy

Daydreaming... surfing the internet and looking at pictures. Doing searches.

Talking to others---"Oh you like waterfalls?! There is a nice one on Uncle Lyle's farm. We should go there sometime!"   Comes in VERY handy!

Read Guidebooks: 

Every time you're in a state park, national park or visitor center.. take a look at them.
Pick you up a good one.  Read it.   You don't have to read it cover to cover.
Look for the obvious ones that are specific to waterfalls first. Above is a fine example.
Kevin Adam's Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia.  

Read other guidebooks about a given area.  These you'll have to read more carefully because
they do not focus on waterfalls.  The Little Brown Hiking Guide to the Smokies is another great
resource but you will have to HUNT for the mention of waterfalls in the trail narratives,  then try to hike the trails to find them. Virginia has similar hiking guides for state parks and natural areas, but again
you will have to read the trail narratives to find where they describe waterfalls along the trail because the focus is not solely on waterfalls. It is on hiking in general. 

Daydreaming--Surfing the Internet 

    Daydreaming and surfing the internet and doing searches started off for me as a coping mechanism
and a fun distraction.  It was not long until I found out two things: 1. I was good at it. and 2.  It was a useful
and powerful tool.

Surfing  the internet today is in many ways a much more powerful force than it was way back in the early days of
cyberspace.   Today it also crosses over into the "Talk to other people" area I mentioned because of
social media and networking.  I'll address that under the talk to other people section for the sake of
keeping my thoughts organized.

Internet Searches: --They can yield you some surprisingly helpful finds.  They can also yield you some obscurities.  I suggest you hang on to the majority of the information you run across that could even be remotely pertinent.  Keep it in a favorites, bookmarks, print it off, copy it down in a notebook until
you are certain it is not helpful.   Even some obscurities have turned out to be a key for me years later.

Back to the problem at hand. Our little waterfall seeker is stuck in Virginia. She's hunting for nearby
waterfalls to visit until she can get down to see the Smokies again and work on her goal of hiking all the
guidebook waterfalls.

She can do a web search!  Try starting off with "Waterfalls AND Virginia"

Here is something you might turn up in such a web search: Virginia Waterfalls

You may even find databases of waterfalls in your state or area!

People's blogs may share ideas about waterfalls in your state or area.
Sometimes they have directions included. Sometimes they do not.

Finding out a waterfall exists is key.  Once you know it exists and that it is in your area,
you can refine your search.  Narrow the focus to the county, the specific name of the falls,
the person who wrote the blog and come up with directions how to access it. 

Talk to Others--Networking--

Back when I began seeking waterfalls to visit the internet was not like it is today.
It was not as easy to network with others on the internet in any meaningful, organized way.
Not impossible.. just not as good as now.  Facebook and Social media sites have been a big
improvement in making contact with those people with similar interests.  It promotes a free flow
of information and ideas that is revolutionizing the way we do things!

Facebook is often organized into online communities or groups that focus on
the very thing you're looking for.  Waterfalls, hiking destinations etc.

Try social media for networking with others.
 It has made a big impact on my waterfall hunting.  

Don't neglect actually TALKING TO OTHER PEOPLE about it.

Let people know you're interested in area waterfalls and that you'd appreciate information
how to visit them?!  Better yet.. make friends with similar interests and go together.
Two heads are always better than one.  You will do more than find waterfalls. You'll have adventures
and form lasting memories and bonds that will last a life time!

 Visiting a Waterfall in Your Area--Putting Feet on the Plan of Action

 Let's go back to our brave waterfall seeker and find out what she's going to do to solve her dilemma?
She has read guidebooks. She has done a search on the internet.  She has talked to her husband about
wanting to go visit waterfalls nearby until they can get back down to the Smoky Mountains.
What will come of all this?

The guidebook mentions several.  There are some out near Churchville about 25 miles away.
It says they are pretty, but its better to wait until we've had a lot of rain. We haven't had a lot of rain.

The web search turned up waterfalls in the state. The nearest one on that website is Crabtree Falls which is
25 miles away.    It also mentions some that are 60-100 miles away.    Fallingwater Falls and Roaring Run
could  both be done in a day trip to Alleghany County.

Talking to others--turns out to be the ticket this time.   In a conversation about waterfalls with her spouse
he mentions that Uncle Lyle and Aunt Dot Koogler  have a waterfall on their farm. It is 15 miles away.
It is private property, but they have always let people go down there. He suggests she give Aunt Dot a call.
She does and Aunt Dot is tickled pink. They go visit her and Uncle Lyle and take the kids, the cousins, and
take along backpacks and swim suits and towels.  They spend the day hiking, exploring, swimming and visiting with family at Cypress Falls on the family farm.   It has been here all along and she is 37 years old
and is just now hearing about it.

 Cypress Falls is a 120 foot drop located in Fairfield, Virginia on private property.
This is only one of three drops to this falls.  Here is a link to the trip report about this
area. Cypress Falls Trip Report

          Success! She found a waterfall. Not just A waterfall. THREE waterfalls!
And a beautiful area.  It was a memorable trip. It was a family experience the very first time.

Take aways here? TALK TO PEOPLE... even your own family!
You may be missing something important and beautiful.

Let's revisit the problem with assumptions:

Don't assume because a person has not told you about a waterfall that it doesn't exist.
Don't assume because you have visited a given area that you have seen all that is there.
Don't assume because you have driven down a road by the creek before many times..
that there is nothing worth seeing in that creek.

DO talk to people and network with people and let them know you're interested in waterfalls.
DO check above and below waterfalls  you're visiting to see if there are more.
DO drive the roads and keep an eye out if you are the passenger for places where a stream drops steeply by a road.

Examples:  Finding and visiting Cypress Falls which had been in Kenny's family for decades.
I had been married to him for 14 years or so when I finally went to see this place! It would not have happened unless I TALKED to him or someone in his family to let me know of it.

I visited Bald River Falls. a road side attraction several times before realizing there was an upper falls.

 Upper Bald River Falls .. There are several. This one is named Suislide! Would not have gotten to experience it  unless we hiked above it to see! 

I had driven by Moffatts Creek behind our farm many times and must have had my head up my rear end,
because I missed this for years!

Moffatts Creek Cascade sits at the site of an old grist mill.  It was behind my home all the time.
About a mile drive on the road. About a mile hike across the farm and down the bluff.

Avail yourself of the beauty and wonder that area around you. You will be pleasantly surprised. 

Part three of this blog series will be for the Advanced Waterfall Seeker

How to Find Waterfalls--Part One

Upper Meigs Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

How to Find Waterfalls --Part One

Dana Koogler

Monday September 29, 2014

     The purpose of this blog entry is to share some techniques for finding waterfalls.
I am certainly no expert, but I have some experience in this department. I have had
a degree of success in finding and visiting waterfalls.   I have spent a great deal of time
learning to do what I do, and I am still working on it.   I used to be more secretive
about it and there was a time I would never have considered sharing any information 
like this.   I have re-considered for several reasons.  I have been benefited from 
fellow outdoors men and women who did not have that secretive approach.  They were
gurus, but teachers as well. They did not use their knowledge and skill as some sort of
social currency, but wanted to make the world better and brighter by sharing 
what they knew.  I have met others who did use their knowledge as social currency.
They were fair weather friends at best.   What I found is that the  true
giants of the outdoor world were grounded enough to not be afraid of sharing what they had learned with others.  The other kind.. the fair weather sailors  had fragile egos.  
The only thing they had going for them was the bit of knowledge they held about certain 
places and how to get there.  Once I began to get out there on my own and no longer 
needed them to take me they did not like it.They were losing their audience. 
How dare I learn to find things on my own?
 I call it "At your feet or at your throat" behavior.  They are either
Kissing your feet in love with you or ready to tear your throat out.  
 I refuse to be that sort of person.   

         Another huge reason for the shift in my thinking is that the National Park Service
and National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are using some sketchy
tactics and pushing for fees for public lands.  I am not going to launch into a political diatribe.
Instead I urge watchfulness in the public and that you contact your congressional reps
to express your concern.  Public watchfulness and outcry against it
may yet help hold this trend at bay.  Meanwhile I am determined to get the knowledge
out there available for folks who are interested to learn to do what I do. I am not the 
only one doing it certainly. I can only share what limited knowledge I possess. 
Spreading the visitation around to areas other than concentrating it to one spot
will help ensure that even if the fees for all public lands passes at some point.. no one 
entity is going to get rich off it.  I assure you there are places out there  that will remain
accessible and fee free. You have to know how to find them. I will write a separate blog
about finding places in general.  Today's blog focuses on waterfalls. 

    Last of all I am coming to believe that it is better if a lot of people know about
and love the places I visit so these areas are a concern for not only me, but A LOT of people!
I realize there has to be a balance between causing a place to become heavily traveled and damaged by all the visitors and being so obscure it is neither known or visited or cared about!
I believe there is a middle ground and compromise.  Responsible visitation and use can happen.

              Finding Waterfalls for the Beginner

 Waterfalls are beautiful and just about everyone at least likes them.  Other folks flat out
love them!    Generally what it takes is a stream and some elevation loss over some rocks
to produce a waterfall.  Places where waterfalls occur are often popular travel destinations.
National Parks, State Parks, Scenic areas, picnic grounds, State natural areas, and city parks
are often built around these locations to protect them and keep them accessible.  
One of the simplest ways for the beginner to find waterfalls is to pick a destination and begin
to research it before you go or after you arrive.    Go into the visitor center of your National Park
and see if they have maps or guidebooks that tell where to find the waterfalls in the vicinity?

    My first trip to the Smokies I was about three years old and I don't remember a lot about it.
My second trip to the Smokies I was about thirty-three years old and came with my husband on a trip. March 1997.  I went in Sugarlands Visitor Center and they had photo panels up on the walls
showcasing the area waterfalls. I was intrigued.  I wanted and needed to get to the woods
very badly.   I bought a guidebook and a map or two and went out hiking.  That was that.
The love story began there. I got healing and restoration from some serious depression.   
I found my passion and have not looked back since.  I am using a lot of references to 
Tennessee and the surrounding area, but the same principles apply anywhere you go.


 Grotto Falls .. was my first waterfall hike in the Smokies.  Little did I know then that I'd move here and would be bringing my grandchildren here in the future! My five year old grandson Michael is in the orange shirt in the photo.  Memorial Day Monday 2014.  Tessa's first hike at 
age 9 months!


Above is a photo of the second edition of the same guidebook
I originally purchased.  Both are by the same authors.
The second publishing includes other falls and is a bit
more comprehensive.   Be warned though.. not
all the waterfalls in the second publication are beginner material.
For that matter.. not all the ones in the first edition are for beginners!

You can buy these guides in the visitor center, but you can
also buy them new, used or collectible at Amazon.com  online and
have them shipped right to your home.    You can save money
by purchasing them used but in good condition!

 Sounds pretty simplistic, doesn't it?  Once I got the guidebook and map and started hiking
I set a goal to hike to all of the waterfalls listed in the guide.  I did it too.  It took a few years
to accomplish especially since I was not living in the area and was coming down about twice
a year.    It was not as simple as it sounded.   I'll get into that a little later.

       What you will find as you begin to seek waterfalls will surprise you.
I started out with the assumption that this guidebook I bought was **IT.**  I was going to visit
all the waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Surely they put them all in the 
guidebook and on the map.  I had that thought in mind and believed I had purchased THE authoritative guide on the subject.   It was a wrong assumption. 

              Before moving on to the next section for the intermediate waterfall seeker.....
Lets address that assumption thing.   Do not assume anything.   Find out for yourself.
Don't assume a guidebook is THE all inclusive source book.
Don't assume the rangers and park officials know what is out there.
Don't assume the maps will show you where they are
Don't assume no one else knows about the existence of waterfalls just because
the park officials don't and they are not listed in the park literature.
Don't assume you cannot find them yourself. 

Part two is next... the intermediate waterfall seeker. 
Mouse Creek Falls in the Big Creek section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
One of my later excursions in completing all the guidebook waterfalls.  October 2001.


Friday, September 26, 2014

North Carolina Mountain Treasures--Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens & Fires Creek WMA

New England Asters growing in profusion along Highway 64
near Murphy, NC 
Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens 
Sunday September 21, 2014

Dana & Kenny Koogler 

Hike distance approx 4 miles

North Carolina's Mountain Treasures 

Pictures are here:  Buck Creek Barrens Pix

        I recently ran upon something that has captured my attention and my heart.
I was searching for information about places to go and things to see while planning
a camping trip to the Nantahala area.   I sat down with the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer
for North Carolina and began looking at land forms.   I would then attempt to look up
information about them.   It was during this time that I ran onto a website that contained
an electronic book about North Carolinas Mountain Treasures.  Subsequent searches
for information about various places mentioned in there turned up a blog series written by my friend Jenny Bennett!  I realized in sorting through the list of 41 places that I had already 
visited twenty-one of them! I was aware they were "treasures" and how valuable they were
long before the material came to my attention. I am sure Jenny was way ahead of me on that.

      What are these "treasures"?  They are areas of wild lands with public access. Available for
people to use. Little known.  These places are unique, beautiful areas in need of permanent
conservation and permanent protection. The goal of the book is to increase awareness that these
areas exist. It is to encourage responsible visitation. It is to hopefully get folks to write their
congressional representatives asking for measures that will permanently protect them.
Wilderness designation means permanent protection. Wilderness study areas fall under different
guidelines and the protection is NOT permanent, but can be undone.  National Forests can be logged and mined or sold.  Those sorts of designations only provide temporary protection.
 The areas mentioned are rich botanically, historically, and are of great scenic value. 
Spots which are special and receive less visitation are what I crave.   These kinds of spots
provide a more restorative outdoor experience. Feeding the souls craving for lonely places.
At the end of this blog entry look for a list of the places I have already visited. I may re-visit them
and do a write up on each one, or I may simply star old blogs about those places as NC Mountain Treasures.   

       The first area I decided to check out was Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens.
I am a botany nut and a Science nerd from way back.  I was curious as to what serpentine
was?  Serpentine is a kind of rock.  It isn't found just anywhere.  Areas where it occurs
the soil is different than other places. The soil may be nonexistent or down to a depth of
about 20 cm.  It is high in magnesium and iron while being low in calcium, phosphorus, and 
 nitrogen.  The soil is often high in nickle and chromium.  The unique combination of soil 
is often toxic to plants. What can grow in a place like this?  Specialized plants that grow
slowly.  Grasses. Wildflowers. Scrubby, small trees like what I call bull pines.  Shrubs. 
The science aspect of it and the idea that specialized, different wildflower populations 
could exist here really had me stoked to check it out!

        We headed out to visit and it is in the Hayesville, NC area.  I am not going to provide
directions to this special area. I will tell you though that for anyone from the Maryville or 
Knoxville area wishing to visit that vicinity: Avoid Highway 129.. We took Hwy 411 South to Hwy
68 South. Route 294 SE to Hwy 64 East.  Went through Murphy on to Hayesville without a hitch.
It is a good road the whole way and a beautiful drive with little or no traffic!  Much better than
anticipated.  We took the grill with us to picnic and cook out, but planned to stop somewhere on the way home to eat.  Murphy, Hayesville, Madisonville all have good places to stop and get a bite to eat.   Picnicking here was pretty. We did not find any facilities this far down specifically for that, but it was a quiet, beautiful area to eat lunch.  


Masses of wildflowers lined Highway 64.  Appalachian sunflowers, New England Asters, goldenrod,
coneflowers, purple new york ironweed and pink Joe Pye weed.  As Linda says "Big Bouquets!"

    We found the area without any problems and  parked the truck.  I had to walk over  to have a
look at Buck Creek. It is a pretty stream. I looked up at the grape vines over my head while near the bridge.  Above me were muscadines!  I picked at ate a few and they were good!  The area is quiet and peaceful. We saw few others today,
and only two of those seen were hikers.    Hunting must go on  in the area because we heard
gun shots below us.  Kenny is not bothered by it, but it always messes with me when I'm hiking
and hear someone shooting.   We later found where the shooting was coming from and it was not
as close as it sounded.   


Above: Buck Creek viewed from the bridge
Below: Wild muscadines

    The path was even, grassy and pleasant.  We were not sure where we were going exactly so
we ended up hiking about twice as far as what we should have.  No matter, we enjoyed the easy walk
and found it just the same.   We saw lots of pretty wildflowers along the way.  Parts of the path were
gravelly and different looking. I saw spots with reindeer moss and lichens growing.  Nodding ladies tresses
were abundant.  Other species of wildflowers were goldenrod, greenheaded cone flower, asters,
mountain gentian, stiff gentian, fringed gentian, indian paintbrush, coreopsis, grass of parnassus, deer tounge grass, joe pye weed, ironweed, phlox, Canadian burnet, silverrod, sneezeweed, and jewelweed.  It is worth noting that we also saw cowbane! I read somewhere this is an indicator species and often lives where other interesting wildflower species live such as orchids.  The only native orchids we saw today were nodding ladies tresses. I did see
rattlesnake orchids but they were in the woods not in the barrens and they were way past peak.
I feel certain we only saw a smattering of what grows here. I am betting that subsequent trips during
different times of year would yield some interesting, unusual finds.

    We noticed the leaves on the sourwood trees beginning to turn red.  A little Fall color is on its way.
We wandered around the grassy barrens using care not to step on any wildflowers or snakes!
We did not see any snakes in the tall grass, but we watched close for them. It is cooling off, but I am
sure they are around. It warmed up nice during the day. We had perfect weather and the perfect
temperatures for hiking.   We could hear the creek murmuring.  We were treated to a pretty view
of the mountains across the barrens.    True to what I had read we were wading around in grasses,
wildflowers, a few scrubby pines and some shrubs. 

 Nodding Ladies Tresses


Fringed Gentian

View across the way.

What its like in a serpentine barren.  At least we did not see any serpents in the barren. :-)

Grass of parnassus growing.

    It is worth mentioning that Grass of Parassus grows here. It is a rather rare species.
It always comes to mind as a wet area species of wildflower. Stream banks. Sides of cliffs that
stay perpetually wet. Places like that. So what's it doing growing in a barren? I think of those as dry areas
generally speaking.  I can't speak for all areas considered barrens, but these barrens have something else
going for them that attracts flowers and plants that like moisture.  Some of the types of rock here
deteriorate and form clay soil.   Serpentine soil and kaolin .. or clay.. are often found together.
Clay soil holds water.  The areas of the barrens where clay is abundant have a perched water table.
We went to another area in the vicinity and got to see an example of that first hand!    It made for
some squishy walking.

       It was past lunch time and we were growing hungry and tired of fretting with the weeds and
briars.  We headed back to the truck.  We parked at a nearby campsite and  fixed lunch.
Kenny grilled hamburgers on the tailgate.  It was marvelous!  Talk about a cheeseburger in paradise!
Someone had made a homemade bow and hung it in a tree. They must have camped with kids.
They had also dammed up the creek while playing.  We used to do that as children to make us a better
swimming hole.   I feel fortunate to have grown up an outdoorsy, country girl. I learned back then to appreciate the simple pleasures of life.  It has become a lasting part of who I am. Sharing times like this
with my favorite guy is the BEST of times for me. 

Short pretty video of Buck Creek and its riffles. It also shows Kenny grilling!

     We explored the area a tiny bit more after lunch and discussed what to do next?
I wanted to hike to the top of Boteler Peak, but that was going to be a six mile round trip hike.
I knew Kenny was not going to be up for that at three in the afternoon and then driving
a long way home.. then going to work the next day.  I did not argue about it. We tried to come
up with an alternative plan for something short in the general area.  We opted to go by
Fires Creek and see Leatherwood Falls.   We passed a nice overlook on the way back toward
Haysville and this time we stopped to check it out.  It is the Shooting Creek Bald overlook.

  View from the Shooting Creek Bald Overlook along Hwy 64

           We made our way back toward Fires Creek. We had been there once before a number
of years ago.  It was bear chase season and the water level was low. We had NOT been impressed.
We decided to give it another try just the same.  We turned out to be very glad we did!
It is a nice place in a quiet area and very family friendly.  Everyone we ran into was in good spirits.
Happy to share info and help orient us as we waded through their picnic sites. Excuse me!
Leatherwood Falls is visible from the picnic area.  There is a trail to hike to it and see its upper portions.
The best view and photo of it is to be had by wading the creek and getting right in front of it.

   We hiked up the trail. It was a pretty good trail, but not much to see. Thankfully it was short.
The upper falls is there, but it is a little humdrum.  A couple sat up there on the logs in front of the upper
parts of the cascade having some sort of discussion about relationships.  I hate those sorts of talks.
I hate to have them. I hate to hear them.  We left out of there.   We went back down the trail
and decided the best thing was to ford the river and see the falls that way.

       The stream is beautiful. I enjoyed the crystal clear waters of the stream more than I did the waterfall.
Fires Creek WMA is not part of the North Carolina Mountain Treasures, but it contains one spot that IS
listed.  High above us was Tusquittee Bald and that spot is listed. We will have to come back to see it
when we have more time!   In keeping with my new and improved personal philosophy of sharing
information instead of keeping secrets all the time...    I am going to give you a heads up on a potential
waterfall in the area. I read from two different sources that there is another waterfall in Fires Creek WMA.
One source was this page from the Blue Ridge Highlander.  Leatherwood and Bald Spring Falls
The second source I am sorry to have misplaced. It was someone's personal blog. Should I locate it,
I will amend this blog entry to include it.   Reasons to believe this might be true?

1. Leatherwood Falls really does exist.
2. There really is a Bald Spring Branch and from the looks of the topo it might well have a waterfall on it!
3. Mentioned in two sources which is usually confirmation.

Reasons to doubt the validity?

1.  Leatherwood Falls is not 100 feet tall. The listing in Blue Ridge Highlander mentions a pair of 100 ft falls.
2. The area by Bald Spring Branch has a trail right by it and the trail kiosk does NOT list it as an attraction.

Kenny believes if it existed we'd know about it and it would be mentioned in a guidebook or at the kiosk.
I am willing to believe it might exist and go back to look for it.  The area does not get a huge amount of foot
traffic. It is used by hunters and hunters most often don't take pictures, write blogs, share trip reports, etc.
They are hunting game. Not waterfalls!

Hiking to Leatherwood Falls along the trail.. You can see the creeping in of Autumn. The leaves just
beginning to change.

Leatherwood Falls. Very pretty.  Better than last visit for sure!  Much of the trees and shrubs and growth
that covered the falls has been taken down by some trees falling.

Fires Creek flowing ever on....

We forded the stream and boy was it slippery! It was deeper than it looked too. I didn't fall in, but
I did get my butt wet. I had to do a quick change in the parking lot just to be dry to ride home.
One of the cutest things we saw today was a little boy fooling with his families two pitbulls.
He was trying to get one of them into the stream and the dog was going, but not liking it.
The little boy's mom said they liked water, but they were used to the warm lake.. not the cold creek!
The little boy was my kinda guy. He jumped right on it and went under. He came up grinning.
I said to him "Its not cold, is it?!" to which he shook his head no!   He knows how to have a
good time and make his own fun. 

Above is a short video of Leatherwood Falls. It is about 25-30 ft high.

       Here is a list of NC Mountain Treasures we have already been to.  I will just go ahead and say now
I expect knowing me I will go back and re-visit every one of them if the chance comes along.
One example of an area I've visited, but will return to see is Santeetlah Headwaters.
I have been to Huckleberry Knob, but there is so much more to see than that tiny corner of it! You
may also have been to visit these areas without even realizing the significance of it.

Unicoi Mountains Conservation Area
Upper Bald River Wilderness Study Area
Snowbird Creek Wilderness Study Area
Sycamore Creek
Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Extensions
Santeetlah Headwaters

Ash Cove--I visited Teyahalee Bald, but want to return.
Southern Nantahala Wilderness Extensions
Alarka Laurel
Panthertown Valley
Middle Prong Extension
Shining Rock Wilderness Extension
Daniel Ridge
Linville Gorge Extensions
Wilson Creek
Harper Creek
South Mills River
Pink Beds
Lost Cove
Nolichucky Gorge
Highlands of Roan

    Get out and see these beautiful, unique areas off the beaten track for yourself.
Write to your congressional reps and express your desire to protect these areas permanently!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Exploring the Cumberland Plateau--Big Bottom Unit

I don't usually post ATV trip reports anywhere other than my own blog.   I much prefer hiking and backpacking to ATV riding, but I still like it.  It gets me to places not everyone wants to go.
I usually end up being one of the few or only who will take pictures and/or write a trip report.   The significance of this post is that several years ago someone told me there was once a
time you could ride a four-wheeler to within 200 yards
of Virgin Falls.  I knew that was no longer possible, but I did not
realize it was still POSSIBLE, just a further trip on foot than
200 yards. Now it reduces the hike to 2 miles one way.
The other significance is that it provides much easier access to
Davis Cemetery and the ghost town of Bethesda.
Davis Cemetery is supposed to have the comb style graves
in it.  Bethesda is an entire community that has disappeared as
people moved out of it.  A fair comparison would be Proctor
in the Smokies.   I think it would be interesting to see all of that.
I want to do it late this Winter IF it is possible.
The Caney Fork River rises to full force in Winter and
it might not be possible at all.  Just want to do it one time to say
I've had that experience. 
 Bright red Hearts-a-bustin' berries along the trail

Big Bottom TWRA Unit Ride
Sunday Sept. 14, 2014
  Ride distance approx. 10 miles

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Pictures here: Big Bottom Unit --TWRA 

    We wanted to head out to the Big Bottom Unit of the TWRA to ride.  We knew a hunt
club had gated off one access, but that was only for one side of the area.   We got there and found two other trucks that appeared to have unloaded four-wheelers to ride. The hunt club gate was closed and locked. We never saw these riders all day so we had no idea if they were hunt club riders over on the one part or if they were riding down in the TWRA land where we planned to go.
 It wont none of my business so I did not concern myself with it.  

Kenny unloading our rig.  


Down the road we went.  

   I had no idea what this area would be like. I did not know where it went.  I figured it must go out
through some cow pasture and into the woods.  I admit I had not studied it on the map the way I usually scrutinize things.    The upside was the adventure and the mystery.  The downside of not knowing what this area is like and where it goes?  1. The Sketch Factor and 2.  Being unprepared 
The Sketch Factor is one thing we should have been prepared for.  The other thing we could have been prepared for was to make the most of the trip.   We also learned this important lesson from 
Game Warden James Hodges.   
If it rains while you are back in Big Bottom and you are going
to have to cross the river... you'd best get out while the getting is good or
learn the other points of egress on the same side of the river as you.
  You are in the river bottoms of the mighty Caney Fork River.
It can dry up to holes of water or it can unleash its full fury
and trap you in there or drown you.  He says if it rains that within
about 12 hours the river levels will rise to where you cannot get out.
The other access point is Mooneyham on the far side of the river. 
   The area was beautiful, lush and green with that tinge of the coming of Fall.
The leaves on the sycamore trees were starting to turn brown and fall.  We saw a few late
Summer wildflowers, but they were nearly done.  I wouldn't mind coming back up here in Spring or Summer to see what blooms?!  I did see lots of very faded collinsonia.  I also saw what looked like 
sea oats!  It is a relative of theirs called River Oats.  I had never seen them before anywhere.
      We could quickly tell this road sees some significant use.  We soon saw water.
I had not expected that.  I later looked at the map and figured out this was the bottomlands 
of the Caney Fork River.  It is just holes of water in Summer as part of its flow goes subterranean.
It resurfaces down the road a piece and flows like a normal river again.  
           We came upon a horse trailer on the side of the road.   We stopped to check out the 
water hole near it.   We saw two groups of people camped. One on either side of the water hole.
We weren't worried about either group, but again we were surprised to find camping back here.
 Below is a  view of the water hole that is left of the Caney Fork. There is a rope swing here.
Notice the attractive chalky white rock bluffs on the far side of the river?
This end of the water hole is shallow. There are also grassy shoals downstream from here.
       We went on past this spot and turned and forded the river and continued our ride.
We got stopped in just a short distance because of a downed tree which left no good way around it.
We regrouped and followed another trail. It was a pretty ride, but not that great back in the woods.
I did not see anything too interesting back here.  It was just aimless wandering which I am not a big fan of.  I like to be seeing pretty things or have a destination.   We did see a hunters blind.
Hunting blind. Good thing we went today because soon hunting season
will be upon us and it will be ticket time for anyone back here who is NOT hunting!

We made a wrong turn and ended up at the power line easement. I snapped this shot of the view before we turned around.

View from the power line.

Two meadow frittilaries on a thistle.  We saw a few pretty asters and late Summer flowers up here in the power line cut before we headed back down.

        I was not crazy about this area and we weren't seeing anything. I wanted to get down nearer the water and try another route.   We found our way back down to the area near the water and it was better.   I finally figured out one of the things I liked about this area is the contrasts.  

Dry river bed where the water has gone underground or evaporated. 
The river bed and these holes of water smelled strongly of fish.  ugh! 

And then there is water again!   We saw this pattern repeat over and over up this old road/trail.

Another contrast was this because of the variation in high bluffs of stone and openings in the tree canopy.


and Darkness

Gloomy spot where the trees and bluffs block the sunshine!

      We did not see or find a whole lot interesting but we did see this old dry stone wall.

Stone wall at the old Tillman Davis place.   It was very long!  It was about 3 feet high and stretched on for
about 50 yards.   Most of it was still in tact, but this spot shows where some of it has crumbled.

              I was growing tired and hungry and not seeing enough to hold my interest.  I have trouble
sitting still to ride for any distance. I am a hiker first and foremost.  Riding is tough for me especially if the scenery is not that great or we are just doing the aimless wandering thing.  Riding must serve a purpose for me or I cannot tolerate it.  I complained and so we decided to call haw and head back to the truck.

    We did take one side trail to see what it lead to. It was just a turn around spot where a logging company
had made a place to load logs and to park equipment.   We stopped there momentarily for me to snap
a photo of some pretty lobelia in a wet area.  I saw some soft rush and other wetland grasses.

Large cluster of great blue lobelia where the ground was very swampy.

       The sketch factor kicked it in high gear now and scared me silly.

I stood there snapping photos of the flowers. A man and woman approached on a four-wheeler going fast and turning around and staring.    I smiled. They did not smile back.  He glared at me.
I got back in the RZR and told Kenny we needed to get going.  We did. We had only gone a short distance
down the trail til we saw dude and woman again. He was off the four-wheeler lighting up a cigarette.
He was still wearing an angry scowl.  He pointed at me accusingly and I told Kenny loudly "DON"T STOP!"   He started off then stopped!  I hollered "Go go go!" and he did.
He asked me what was wrong and I told him I had a feeling the man was possibly drunk and wanted to fight with us. I did not like his body language and I was scared of him.

      We passed the area where they had been camped. This was one of the couples who was camping on the trail side of the river.    I wanted out of here in the worst way. I had to put up with bullshit like that for years
from patients and their families, but I don't have to anymore and I did not plan on listening to one word of it.
We had gone only a tiny bit further when the road was blocked by a TWRA truck.  Gawd. Now what?
We both figured we were in some sort of trouble and about to get ticketed for some offense.
We don't even have to try to have run ins with the law. I was so sad and disbelieving.  Damn. Its happening again.  We can't catch a break.

             The warden walked up. Kenny killed the motor.   He asked us if that was our red truck out at the end of the road.  Now we really think we've done something wrong and are in trouble.  Kenny answered him
in the affirmative.    The warden asked if we had seen anybody back there riding horses?  We told him no.
He asked if we had seen anyone drunk or carrying on.  I shared what I was worried bout with the guy who was scowling and pointing. I was just sure he was trouble based on his body language.  About that time
the guy pulled up and we said our goodbyes and split.  

       We were relieved we had not done anything wrong and were not the focus of the wardens
search.   Back at the truck we loaded up and prepared to leave.   Just before we left the game warden
rolled up again and we rolled the windows down to speak with him.  We spent quite a while taking up a chunk of his time.  He turned out to be an incredibly interesting and nice fellow who does a great job.
He has the right touch for this work.  He is the property manager for the area Warden James Douglas.
 He lives in the area and is really invested in this work.  He enjoys it and it shows.  He shared all sorts of
interesting tidbits of history, directions on how and what to see, times to go, times to avoid.
Big thanks to a new friend..

    One thing we learned from him that was important?  He told us about the river rising and other access points.  He told us that the man who came pointing and scowling was the person who called in the complaint.
He is a former criminal, but was not drunk or drugged up.  You can't get cell service there so apparently he sent two riders who were leaving earlier.. to call the TWRA on the folks across the river.  They had been
getting drunk, partying hard, talking loudly about buying drugs and smoking dope.  He did not want that
around him harshing his mellow so he turned them in.  He had thought we might be with those folks initially.
He was a convicted felon, but apparently trying to stay clear of trouble. The reason for his affect and
body language is that he is a dullard and that is just how he is to everyone all the time.  I had totally misinterpreted his intent.

    However we did pass a little honda car on the way in driving on an old muddy road.
According to Warden Douglas that is the biggest passel of trouble around. Two brothers who are drug
dealers. Probably on their way to sell pot to the party animals across the river.   Any future trips
back to this area will be after hunting season is over.   We will open carry the pistol.
We will just avoid human contact back there because you never know who is ok and who is not.
I say until proven otherwise... they're all bad unless they are known to me.

       I had heard long ago that one used to be able to ride a four-wheeler all the way to Virgin Falls.
I knew that was no longer possible.  This is the way, but it takes you to within 2 miles of it now.
At first I had no interest in it, but Kenny did.  I studied my map of  the Virgin Falls area after
returning home.  I would like to do it that way one time to say I've done it.

The old community of Bethesda is up there. The Davis Cemetery is up there.
I'd like to  ride in then hike to Virgin Falls. Let Kenny take the four wheeler back.
Let me hike the rest of the Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness up and out to the trailhead.
Have him pick me up there a few hours later.

I also learned from Warden Hodge that the old stone wall was the Tillman Davis place and that folks
who lived there later never saw that wall! It was under the earth.  It was un-earthed by the rivers flooding
within the past 30 years.   That area where the trail was was level fields for crops and animals back then
with the soil having completely covered the wall.

   In my crystal ball of the future I'd say we'll be back. I can see it.  I will do it one time.
I won't make a habit of it because the folks who come back in there leave me uneasy.

We headed to Sparta for dinner. Yuck. There is nothing to pick from in Sparta.   Not much. McDonalds
was fly blown and nasty.  I won't do that again for sure!  I had wanted to pack stuff for a cook out,but
Big Bottoms was not a good place for that. Sparta I knew as going to suck and it did.
We ended up catching a perfect sunset from Sunset Rock though and that was awesome!  A big hug and a kiss from my crazy man at Sunset Rock made the other stuff more bearable.