Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Virginia Visit

New England Asters blooming by the roadsides
in Rockbridge County, Va. 

Virginia Visit--Back to See the Family

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Thursday Oct.2 -Sunday Oct. 5, 2014

   We had been trying for some time to get back to Virginia which is our home state to visit
our family.   We finally got the time to go and while neither of us is a fan of the five hour drive it is
always worth it.  The drive was very pretty and Autumn color is coming to the Old Dominion.   
The beautiful Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains were living up to their name.  Ribbons of
winding deep blue to either side of I-81 were hard to take your eyes off.  

      We pulled into Lexington, VA and coming off the ramp onto Route 11 --The Valley Pike--
I was overwhelmed at the sight of House Mountain.  I got a lump in my throat and just whispered
how good it looked. Kenny reassured me "We'll hike it one day."  I was pleased just to see that 
dear landmark.    We grabbed a quick dinner in Lexington before we headed out to the farm.
We did not want to wait too late to eat and did not want Ma to have to fix dinner tonight.
She is getting over pneumonia.  

     We got out to the farm and visited a little bit and then went to bed at 9:30 pm.  
I slept well.  We enjoyed breakfast with Ma Koogler and lingered over coffee.   We finally decided we'd all go out to dinner that evening. Today we'd take a ride on some old country roads. It was a scouting mission
to see if Kenny could find a shorter access route for hiking to the Jump Mountain Summit.  I was
ok with hiking the 9 miles, but he believed he could find an easier way.  Turns out I was right and the way is to simply hike.    I doubt he will go with me, but he might.

     The backroads were beautiful and quiet.  Autumn color is creeping in and we saw some pretty leaf color.
The sky was overcast and Jump Mountain's summit was in a black thunderhead the entire time.
I saw something I did not even know existed. We passed Hayes Mill.  It is yet another old grist mill in our area. I may have been past it before, but if so I do not recall.    It is quite scenic.  I got out and walked around. The mill was dated 1901 on its corner stone. 
Corn fields out in Küglerville.  Its kinda like Hooterville on Green Acres only its even more rural than that!
Corn. Cows. Trees. And a whole lotta nuthin.

 Hays Creek Mill
 Mill Wheel at Hays Creek Mill
 Hays Creek behind the mill itself. Very pretty spot.
Hays Creek Mill founded 1901 according to this stone. 

Maury River in Rockbridge Baths, Va.  
 Driving down dirt roads.
Beautiful rolling hills of Rockbridge County Va and Jump Mountain with its head stuck in the clouds.

    Back at the farm we were treated to Ma Koogler's wonderful cooking for lunch.  Virginia is heavily influenced by German immigrants cooking.  Out here we are in mainly Presbyterian country. 
We decided to all go out to eat at the Mill Street Grill.  I had oysters that night for the first time in a long time.
Delicious!   Ma had a list of things she needed help with that Kenny and Chris were going to help her with.
They finally convinced me to take Pops truck and head down to see my mother.   My sister Val Graham works at Shear Dimensions Day Spa . Mom went and got a hair cut and I got a massage from my sister.
It was much needed. I'd been suffering with a shoulder injury since March and she fixed it!  Why did I wait so long to get it looked after?

       I went shopping a little while with Mom.   We hurried home to get ready to meet everyone for dinner at Mill Street.  While we were waiting to be seated we ran into Dale and Michelle Gregory! More family!  We had a good time catching up with them.  It was date night for them so we tried not to monopolize their time.
We had good food, a warm, relaxed atmosphere, and good conversation for our meal.

       Saturday we took Pop's truck back to the farm and visited with Ma a little. Emily, my niece rode along.
We went out to Wades Mill and bought flour and products.   This is grist mill country I'm telling you!
That mill is only about five miles from my old house as the crow flies.   Pretty countryside out there.
Saturday night Mom fixed lasagna for dinner and it was perfect!   We attended a concert by Terra Voce at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.   Here is a video clip of my favorite tune they performed.
Two encores!  They are really something. Not at all the regular orchestra music, but very lively.

 Terra Voce performs Arrasta Pe.  "Drag the foot". A Brazilian choro composition.

   Sunday we all went out to breakfast together at Cracker Barrel in Staunton.  It was good to see Jim
and Debbie my in laws and my nephews and nieces.  Matthew Koogler my 17 yr old nephew is cancer free and he was there. I told him I was proud of him and hugged him. I also told him next time I saw him I wanted him to weigh three hundred pounds!  He laughed.

     We hated to go, but it was back to Tennessee that afternoon.   The drive back was uneventful for us
which was good. The air was growing cooler and the mountains were pretty again today.
I thought on the difference in my life between the time I lived in Virginia and the time I lived in Tennessee.
We don't really want to move back.  We've made a life for ourselves and a home in Tennessee now.
I do miss our crazy, wonderful family sometimes though.   My brother in law Jim is still out of his mind.
No one does inappropriate comments better or sneaks them in more unexpectedly than him.  He will have you in fits of laughter. 

     Its always good to go. Its good to come back.

Grapeyard Ridge to Injune Creek Through Hike -- Another Go Smokies Hike!

Asters were the flower of the day along Grapeyard Ridge

Grapeyard Ridge to Injune Creek Through Hike -- Another Go Smokies Hike! 

Dana Koogler
Marlene Denton
David Ledbetter
Duane Pierce
Mitch & Rhonda Reagan
*Cameo Appearance by Mike Maples*

Sunday Sept. 28, 2014

Shuttle Hike from Roaring Fork the Greenbrier
Total miles hiked 7.5 

    I had a bleak and dismal attempt at a backpacking trip to Big Creek the previous day. 
I got invited to go hiking Sunday by the GoSmokies bunch and I jumped at the chance.   I was 
all about it.   Just thinking of it made me feel better.   We met up Sunday morning at the Greenbrier
Ranger Station at 8:15 am.    Mike Maples was there with us, but our excitement at thinking he was going
with us was short lived.  He had to work, but just came by to say hello and visit for a bit.  I was tickled
I finally got to meet him. I also was pleased to finally meet David Ledbetter.   It was so good to see 
everyone again.   GW Denton was missed as were Mike Gourley, Jeff Cole, Curtis, Cheryl, Betsy, David
and all the rest. 
     We visited a little while then once everyone was there who planned to go we left some vehicles there
and headed to Roaring Fork to set our shuttle vehicle at the end of Grapeyard Ridge Trail. The plan
was to hike from the Roaring Fork end of Grapeyard and split off onto the Injune Creek Manway thus
eliminating the last part of the Grapeyard Ridge Trail that has creek crossings.   It was new miles for me
so I was pleased.   I had been up Injune Creek before as far as the big rock walls, but had never finished it.
Today I hoped I would finally finish it.  
       We started off at the buildings there along Roaring Fork.  I have been by there so many times, but never
stopped to figure where the trail actually was.  It goes back past the buildings and uphill.   It is worth mentioning that Duane said the trail had been re-routed in the past.  I know that I looked back to the 1973 
hiking guide map to check some things we saw.  When the 1973 map was printed Grapeyard Ridge trail 
was not even an official park trail.   It was a mere manway then so it seems.  It ran the spine of the ridge very
similar to what we did today with our chosen route.  Upon first starting the trail veers left and uphill while 
it seems a tail end goes straight along the creek.   The little tail end hanging out there is part of an old access 
to the manway.  It ran from down near the gate on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and paralleled the creek, passed the buildings and went out to the "tail" and dead ended.   Veering off that track to the left was another section of manway that veered left and went up to join with the Grapeyard Ridge Manway about a mile and a half into the hike.   We saw an old official park sign there with the bottom edge damaged.
By the sign was a track leading off, but it was very overgrown with rhodo and I was not even sure it was
ever a path. We had some discussion as to whether it was the end of an old manway or a water bar. 
Other access points that we encountered along the main trail were a manway that runs off to the left of it
and ends down along Dudley Creek at Highway 321 in Gatlinburg.   
        We hiked along at a leisurely pace. I enjoyed everyone's company and we had time to catch up.
It had been too  long.   I was in a totally different frame of mind today than Saturday. I did not care much about how long it took, taking pictures, or any of that. I was just glad to be with my friends and in the woods.  The day was a nice temperature and a little overcast.   I saw lots of gentians along the trail.
I also saw evidence this trail would be a good place to hunt orchids in other seasons.   We spied the 
remnants of YFO's along the edges of the trail near its beginning. I remembered to whine about the uphill since Curtis was not there to do it.  I made sure to take up the slack on the bellyaching.  

     We checked out old home sites, fences, etc. Marlene found an old medicine bottle in great condition.
It was Dr. Thachers Liver & Blood Syrup.  It had only one crack in its bottom edge, but was whole. 
I continued to be surprised and delighted at the mossy stone walls and rock cribbing we encountered
at multiple points along the trip.   We passed one spot where stone walls were built along the creek 
making us wonder if there had been a grist mill there?  It was beautiful.  The woods were waning to Fall.
Leaves were just beginning to come down.  We mainly saw asters, gentian and goldenrod along the trail
for Fall wildflowers. We did see some lingering orange jewelweed and pale yellow jewelweed.  

     Grapeyard Ridge Trail is very pretty and not real hard.  Injune Creek trail is very pretty.
It looks like something out of a Fairy Tale at one foot log we crossed.  I can easily see why so
many repeat trips are made up there.   We stopped and ate lunch along the trail.  
We continued on and saw about ten people total besides us all day.    Most were along the Grapeyard
Ridge Trail, but we did encounter a family of four down on Injune Creek manway.  


Top: Grapeyard Ridge Trail
Bottom: Mitch is explaining something 

       We were amazed at the huge amount of acorns littering the ground on the trail.  It was a bumper crop!
The bears will eat good this year for sure.   We were amazed one of us didn't get beaned in the head by
the acorns continuing to fall off the trees!   We had a pool going. We voted Rhonda most likely to get bonked in the head by an acorn, but I tried to cheat and throw one at her to ensure I'd win. We joked 
that it was like trying to hike on ball bearings or marbles!  One of us finally did get thrown down by 
the little buggers, but I won't say who. :-) 

     We had some partial views along the ridgeline. We saw big trees.   I got to see and learn about
Twisted Sister, a very gnarly tree at the junction of a manway with Grapeyard Ridge Trail.   I had never
heard of some of the places much less seen them.  Duane was who I needed to chat with today.I'd had 
some things bothering me and he shrunk my head for me.   It is a valuable thing to have good friends
to bounce ideas off and to help get things back in their proper perspective.  I left there at the days end
feeling content and like I left the worries behind me as I hiked.  

      I was the only one in the group who had not visited the wrecked "train". Mitch explained it was not
a train, but a steam tractor.  Marlene explained the reason for it ending up wrecked in the creek was that
the operator was drunk as testified to by his own mama!  That would be enough to do it.  It was really neat
and would be worth the hike to see that alone.  

Rhonda checking out the old steam tractor wreck. She is videotaping it with her Go Pro cam.

     We got to see CS 32 which is a lovely spot.  Duane is familiar enough with it he pointed out to me
the recent modifications to the site. The bear cables were relocated as was the fire ring.  He seemed unsure
why they did some of the changes to it, but it got done just the same.    

     We turned aside to see the McCarter Cemetery on the way out.   I had hiked Injune Creek many years ago with different friends, and I was not sure if I had visited the cemetery or not? Turned out I had NOT 
seen it before.  They bury the dead up on a hill.  So it was more uphill to get there, but it was short.
It added about 1/2 mile extra to the trip so it was not bad.   

      We eased along toward the vehicles and the trailhead.  Most of the crossings on Injune Creek have foot logs.   It was so pretty.  I had forgotten just how nice it was. 
Other remnants of the old steam tractor. 

        Back at the vehicles we did some quick figuring who wanted to go grab a barbecue dinner and who was wanting to go home?  Dave, Marlene and Duane went ahead to retrieve vehicles from off Roaring Fork before the gate was closed.  Mitch, Rhonda and myself headed to the little BBQ place at the end of the road. I had a nice relaxing dinner with them. It was the perfect end to the day.   I hugged them good bye
and parted company. I hope it wont be long til we meet up again to hike or do something fun.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finding Outdoor Places to Visit & Enjoy--Part 2

Blue Hole Falls in Overton County, TN

Finding Outdoor Places to Visit and Enjoy--Part 2
Areas of Benign Neglect

Dana Koogler

Monday October 6, 2014

       I began writing this blog entry as a way to instruct and inform people about ways to find
outdoor places to visit. It was a response to a growing threat by the Federal Government of the U.S.A.
to levy fees on all public lands.   My thought was that I would bring to light places that exceed the reach
of the federal government in hopes that people would boycott the areas where these fees exist should it 
come to pass.  It also would provide options for those on a tight budget to find areas of still free access.
Last of all it provides a means for those who are just worn out with the same old same old to broaden
their horizons.    It was supposed to be a single blog entry.  I decided about 3/4 of the way through entry
#1 that it was growing too lengthy and the subject matter too meaty to address in a single blog post.
Part 2 addresses a type of area found more in Tennessee than I have seen in any other place.  Check
in your area where you live or visit, because I am sure it is not unique.    Let us look at "benign neglect".
         What does the term benign neglect mean?   It can mean a variety of things. It can mean avoiding
addressing an unpleasant situation and thus just deciding to let it go.  It relates to the care of human beings
by doctors and their choice of care plans of very infirm persons.   They can choose instead of great heroics
that will keep a person alive, but will prolong the inevitable death to merely not do much of anything and thus
allow death to come sooner and perhaps more mercifully.    My use of the term relates to areas in Tennessee
where it is private property, but it is alright for people to visit. Why are these private areas OK for folks
to visit if they are private?  The reasons are many and varied as the definition of the term.   
           During the real estate boom back in the nineties and early 2000's many land speculators 
thought they'd build grand housing developments.   The tendency of humans in general and real estate
speculators in particular is to build these areas near spots of great natural beauty.  Lots of housing develop-
ments are constructed where waterfalls and great views exist.  The real estate bust came and consequently 
there are lots of housing developments and areas of land speculation sitting abandoned.   No houses got built.   No buyers came.  They just went belly up, but the pretty land with good views or waterfalls or special features did not disappear.  Its still there if you know where to look.  Another unique challenge the 
Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee presented to the land speculators?  The lack of an infrastructure!
The lack of electricity, the inability to find ample water, the distance from town.   Out in some of the
 far flung regions along the rim of the Cumberland Plateau these speculators and builders met their defeat
at the hands of several factors.  They could not find water.  They had no way to get electricity in.
No phone lines or cell phone service.  No easy disposal of sewer or putting in of septic fields.
Last of all they failed to take into account how many people really are unwilling to drive great distances
to take care of doctor visits, grocery store trips, get their car serviced, etc.  

        Another reason for the presence of "benign neglect" in Tennessee is that unlike Virginia and 
North Carolina they have permitted more logging and mining.   I am not a proponent of those things, but
I do see that the upside to it is that it opens up areas to be reclaimed for recreation possibilities.
Many folks own land where they are using the OTHER definition of benign neglect and simply procrastinating in their clean up of by products of mining, logging, or failed real estate ventures.
They ignore it hoping it will go away.  They mostly don't care if people visit there, but don't call it to 
my attention because I lost my shirt on it. Last of all is simple poverty.  Some of the poorest counties
in Tennessee are the richest in natural beauty.  They have done the least to restrict access because
nature restricts access on its own.  Nature and the lay of the land is what kept out industry.
Lack of industry keeps an area locked in a cycle of poverty and keeps the population generally low.
Areas where there are gulfs, caves, rivers that go subterreanean, and few people are full of potential
for outdoor activities. 

Tennessee Atlas & Gazetteer

 Tennessee Landforms 

 Garmin GPS unit

Tools for Finding These Places

   I have in previous entries listed tools for finding waterfalls and places using the tools shown above.
The Atlas and Gazetteer, the Tennessee landforms database, and a GPS unit to plug waypoints into.
You can do a google search for databases of directions or waypoints for areas where you either live or plan
to visit to see if anything akin to Tennessee landforms exists for other areas.   Google maps and Acme Mapper are some other good tools to try. Sometimes they'll provide a photo of an area, waypoints or directions how to drive or hike to a certain spot.

How to Know Where to Go?

 Finding really out of the way areas takes work   It also takes persistence and a bit of  luck.
I will attempt to show you what I mean.  Let's look at the Atlas and Gazetteer and get familiar 
with how to use it to find these places.    Cities and towns are shown in light orange.  These are developed 
places so you can mostly eliminate those.  You want to look for areas that are undeveloped or shown in light green.  Big areas of light green mean lots of undeveloped space. That is always good and to be looked at closer.  Tennessee also has lots of areas designated as "oil fields" and those can be a good starting place.
Access to them is often open.  They are not like the bleak, oil fields in Texas or the Middle East. They are areas real often where it is  kept open to four-wheeler traffic and foot traffic because as long as you are
not interfering with the oil wells or gas wells or pipelines they don't care if you're there.  

 Step One--Finding Lots of Green  Space
  Looking at Morgan County, Tennessee I notice a huge area of light green!
I also notice no areas of orange.  I see oil fields.  I see a state park, a state natural area, 
a former prison site, and the Obed Wild and Scenic River.   Sounds promising!  Not many people.
Lots of open space and many of the earmarks of access!

 Step Two--Look Closer
Go to the Tennessee Landforms Database and see what lies within the county?
Click on the map of Tennessee over Morgan County which is abbreviated Mo. 
It will give you a pop-up list of "Nearby Landforms" not only waterfalls.

The list gives me links to each page of waypoints, maps, directions of various points of interest
in Morgan County, TN.  Rocks, arches, waterfalls, tunnels, etc.
I can go to the list of lookout towers in Morgan County if I am interested in those spots.
In my case I am mainly interested in waterfalls so I will start with those.

Say.. I see on here there is one called Mill Creek Falls. I like the sounds of Melton Mill Falls.
Here is a listing for something intriguing.. Nemo Tunnel?  What is that?
I can see photos of each of the waterfalls on the page for them.  There is also a photo image for
Nemo Tunnel. It says its an abandoned railroad tunnel.

They are all near one another. I bet I could string together a days outing visiting these!

Step Three--Do More Research Before You Go 

Before I head out there with my driving directions, maps and waypoints I want to know
if other people are visiting these places? Are they really accessible? How can I find out about these
places that are off the beaten track?

What can I find out about each one? 
Melton Mill Branch Falls searched on google turns up photos of it, trip reports, blog pages,
where people are visiting it.  Looks promising.  It is near a picnic area and overlook at the base
of a cliff for Lily Bluff. It appears to be a side attraction for the Obed Wild & Scenic River.
It is pretty safe bet it is OK to visit here.

Mill Creek Falls.. I don't see any trip reports or photos of it.  I did find a You Tube video of it.
It says its ok to visit, but to stop at the property owners house to ask permission.
So I will add that to my list to visit, but be prepared with a backup plan in case the owner is not home,
I can't find it, or he says No!

Nemo Tunnel... again it looks like from peoples videos and trip reports and web pages it is part of the side
attractions for Obed Wild & Scenic River.  I found a guy's webpage with directions. I have the GPS coordinates.  It appears to be fine to visit.

Step Four--Forming a Backup Plan

Visiting out of the way places is a crapshoot.  You may find all you looked for and more.
You may not find anything. You may find access is no longer permitted when it used to be.
Always have too much to fit in a day in case part of the stuff you plan to visit doesn't work out.

Let me look a little further at Morgan County or its periphery.
Looking at the Nearby landforms list for Morgan County I see Four Mile Creek Falls is supposed
to be a sixty foot falls!  Wow. That sounds interesting.  Four Mile Creek Falls
The photo of it is impressive! I want to visit this one.  If I don't fit it in today.. I will do it soon.

Step Five--Dig a Little Deeper
You've decided where you want to go and what you want to see.
Its probably a good idea to take a look at google maps before heading out.
Do a reality check on the driving directions and/or help pick your approach.
Taking time to dig deeper before leaving home will give you a greater chance at success.
Remember--It is OK to plug GPS coordinates into a Tomtom navigation system.
However it will try to take you via the closest ROAD access to a location such as 
a waterfall which you will have to walk to no doubt.  

Take another, closer gander at the google map for Four Mile Creek Falls before you go.
Four Mile Creek Falls Map

The closest road access is via "Four Mile Creek Road", but look where it comes out?!
You've got to have sense enough to read the topography.

Four Mile Creek Road comes out at the top of a cliff. So at best you'd be approaching the waterfall from the brink most likely.

It is almost never a good idea to approach a falls from ABOVE it.

What is the next closest road access that is realistically going to get you to a point where you can come to see the waterfall from alongside it or below it?

Luke Hall Road.   It fits the topography to bring you in from below the falls. It dead ends on the map.

Check out Google Earth satellite view before you bother driving there in real time.
Google Earth sattellite view can tell me more.

Aha!  Google Earth Maps tells me the road is actually Luke Hall/Hall Cemetery Road!
Good news?  Cemetery roads and their accompanying parking areas are almost always public access.
This is a good sign.

Why does the Hall Cemetery Road appear as a see-thru line on google maps?
Because it is probably not a real road!  It is more than likely an old four-wheeler trail or foot path through the forest.  It would be something to take a high clearance vehicle on or be prepared to walk it.
Other roads.. even dirt roads show up looking more like what they are.

So trace the distance track on Tennessee landforms and see how far you'll have to walk?
Once that is done note that it looks like part of the trek will be off trail with NO ROAD.

Go prepared that there may be a trail or it might be you have to use some dead reckoning and find your way off trail.

It looks like perhaps a mile on the old road. Possibly on foot.
It also looks like its possible that about 1/2 mile of it will be off trail.
All told you've got 1.5 miles one way to walk and of that 1/2 mile with no trail.
That's not too bad, but it might be better to wait and devote that trip to a day all its own.

Step Six--Putting the Plan Into Action--Go See For Yourself!  

Take along your waypoints, maps, and directions from home.
Take along your tomtom and/or GPS system.
Gather whatever supplies you tote along and head out.

Your tomtom got you to the trailhead for Lily Bridge and Melton Mill Falls.
Park here and use the GPS coordinates or directions to lead you to the falls.


Above: Melton Mill Branch Falls

Two drops. Easy hike.  Fee free. Publicly accessible.  Worth the visit!

Above this was Lily Bluff Overlook. Picnic tables. Toilet Facilties.  A beautiful view.

View from Lily Bluff.  A few yards out from your parking spot!

What about Nemo Tunnel? Let's find that.
GPS coordinates lead us several miles out into the country and follow the directions to find this old rail tunnel.  The trip report says my jeep can go through it if I want to, and I want to!


Looking out of Nemo Tunnel.  I found that it was doable. I saw other people there. About two other vehicles in the area.  Of them only one other was doing what I was doing!

Nearby were picnic facilities. River access, Pretty views. Nemo Bridge.  Toilet facilities. It is a good
area for swimming and fishing.   There is a rope swing or two. There are sandy beach areas along the river.
It is OK too for kayaking or canoeing.

No Fees!

The Historic Nemo Bridge

On to Mill Creek Falls. I use my GPS coordinates and at LAST wend my contorted path around to
this falls on private property.   There is a house here at the end of the drive with the stream flowing along to my left. I go up to the house and knock.  Mr. Hill comes out to great me and says he is fine with me visiting the falls. I have my GPS coordinates to lead me there, but he even provides me with some general directions.
His two grandsons end up walking with me to make sure I find the falls with no problem.

Mill Creek Falls is beautiful!  There is a good swimming hole at the base.
Ask Mr. Jack Hill for permission to visit.  Respect his wishes and leave no trace.

So now I've seen waterfalls and tunnels, views and it has all been fee free and accessible.

Do I have time to visit Four Mile Creek Falls? Even if I have to walk it it is only 3 miles round trip.
One mile of that will probably be off trail.

Sure. I'll go for it.

First I found out that 1. It is accessible. 2. Parking at the Hall Cemetery is fine. 3.  Luke Hall Road is a rough dirt track that I cannot get my jeep down.

I had to walk the red dirt road on foot,and it was about a mile down to Clear Creek. From there I had to
follow the GPS coordinates off trail and sure enough it was a somewhat rough 1/2 mile.

But I found it.  There was NO Path once in the woods.  It is seldom visited, but I did find a little bit of survey tape flagging closer to the falls.
Four Mile Creek Falls is about sixty feet high.  Partly on a trail. Partly off trail to visit.  Fee Free.
Saw no other hikers or people.  No facilities at all.

  Nothing Like Success! So you've taken the waypoints, the research and found what you sought.
Free, publicly accessible areas.

           Keep your eyes open for old housing developments, oil fields, mining areas, logged areas of what I described as benign neglect.    Check especially in areas where it is remote and impoverished.
 Ask other people.  Do google searches on areas that grab you when you look at these addictivly detailed pages in the Atlas and Gazetteer.   Take it with you when you visit other destinations that are better known.
Branch out and see what is around you?  It takes some doing and some getting used to, but you will find it
rewarding when it works out.

         We have visited waterfalls and arches on an abandoned golf course in Tennessee.
We visited waterfalls and caves in an abandoned housing development in Tennessee.   We have found
six waterfalls in a deep, isoated canyon in Tennessee that is TWRA land and Nature Conservancy land.
It is fine for people to visit, but it is hard to locate and navigate.  Getting off the beaten track in search of
these treasures can be rewarding, but be prepared for frustration as well.   It doesn't always work out.
I have experienced the depths of despair and the heights of glory.    It is always a learning experience.

Rainbow Falls and Cave. I have made multiple trips to this area. Some have been wildly successful.
Others have blown up in my face. Access to these areas changes. Be prepared and have a backup

I failed to add something significant to this blog entry.   It goes back to the assumptions thing.
Don't assume no guidebooks exist for off the beaten track areas!
One example of such is Just Over the Next Ridge by Carson Brewer
I purchased it for 1 penny plus $3.99 shipping =$4 used copy in good condition.
Previously I had to check it out of the library to use it!

More importantly was a recent query I put before Emily Felty regarding the Fires Creek area.
I was asking her if she knew of any waterfalls on Bald Spring Branch? She responded in the negative, but
asked if there was any info on it in the "Skove Guide". It is another book she pointed me in the direction of on Amazon.com. I got it for $10.   Casey McMahan also knew of it and provided me with an email address
for Johnny Ray one of the authors.  It is an obscure hiking guide that is specific to the Chunky Gal Trail and
Fires Creek Rim Trail.   You could have bought me for a nickel when I realized there was a guide for
two trails!  In reading it I did not find what I was seeking, but I did learn something valuable!
My premise that  unless a person is specifically searching for a waterfall it may go unnoticed and unmentioned proved true!  The authors expressly state that the "Bald Spring Branch Trail is as yet unexplored".

With these ideas in mind I will check online especially Amazon.com for guides for a particular area
EVEN IF the likelihood of finding one for that area seems slim.  One never knows!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Finding Outdoor Places to Visit and Enjoy--Part 1

Glen Falls in Virginia is a roadside attraction.

Finding Outdoor Places to Visit and Enjoy
Off-The-Beaten Track
Part 1

Dana Koogler

Wed. October 1, 2014

     I am motivated to write up this blog entry for several reasons.  People often 
fail to take advantage of outdoor opportunities right around them.  I'd like to 
see that change. Another pattern I have noticed in those who do get out and take 
advantage of the places around? They often go to the same places over and over
again as if there is no other way. Perhaps with some encouragement and instruction folks will get out and see and do. Lastly I am concerned at the current trend in our government and 
politics pushing  fees for all public lands.  I am not opposed to fees for front country areas 
where there are developed campgrounds and facilities that must be paid for and maintained. 
What I am concerned about is the possibility fees can and will be charged for all public lands 
even those that do not afford those amenities and improvements.   

   The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is already charging a $4 per person 
per night fee for back country camping.  These are campsites where I have to pay to spend the night out in the woods and sleep on the ground. The only man-made improvements are bear cables which have been there for a long time. I am usually the first one to discount the logical fallacy of "the slippery slope".  That argues that once the government gets away with charging fees for unimproved areas the trend will continue and worsen until ALL areas are fee use areas.   

     I cannot say this is a slippery slope logical fallacy situation this time.  What I am speaking
of is already happening in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It has already happened
in more than one location out in the western USA.  The Bureau of Land Management out there 
and the U.S. Forestry Service is becoming like a bunch of rogues.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that it was illegal for them to charge fees for a person to merely drive up to a trailhead at Mt.
Lemmon and hike to the summit.  Yet when the ruling came down they thumbed their noses at
the Supreme Court and the American public and said "We don't care. We're gonna do it anyway."

         I urge the public to monitor the situation. Write your congressional representatives
expressing your feelings about it.  Get out and make use of alternatives like State Parks, State Natural Areas, Heritage Preserves, City Parks and County Parks.  I will touch on another
alternative type of place.  They are places that are private holdings of logging companies, paper companies, mining companies, TWRA land that are not the usual places people think to go.
Many areas are places that fall into a category I call "Benign Neglect".  They are forgotten.
They lie in a county that is impoverished.  People go there and no one cares.  

       Places exist that are "off the beaten track" to explore and visit.  
We can spread the visitation around so that no one place gets fat by collecting fees.
We can improve the overall experience for ourselves and spice things up with variety.
We can increase the knowledge and number of visitors to a given area so that it is
a little more known.  It may afford those areas greater protection in the future if they are
known, visited and revered.  

Getting Started in Your Own Area

     I am going to pretend I still live in Virginia for the purpose of demonstrating how this process can work.
We lived in a very remote corner of Virginia on a farm that straddles the Rockbridge and Augusta County
line.   I can tell you that there are good places for outdoor activities there. I found so many I am still
enjoying them when I go back home to visit!

        I determined before we moved to Blount County, Tennessee that I wanted to get out and
visit things in our area before we moved. I loved hiking, exploring and outdoors. I did not want to only
exist for the times we went to the Smokies to do that sort of thing.   It turned out I didn't have to!

How Do I Find Things Near Me?

    I just wrote a blog series about waterfall hunting.  I mentioned in that a powerful tool for finding
places to explore.  It works for all sorts of things. Its the Virginia DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer   Here is the one for Virginia, but they are available for all states!  The link provided here is how you can purchase one
from Amazon.com. They are also available in truck stops and book stores.  It will be some of the best money you've ever spent if you like to explore.   Maps do not list out of the way places real often.


  The front cover of the Virginia Atlas & Gazetteer. 

Using the Atlas & Gazetteer

     Now you've got a tool to use, but let's figure out how to use it.   Open the pages and there is an index
of towns inside.   It also has a grid that is numbered.  Each numbered grid you can look at to see if it is your
area or not?  Let's see if we can find my area. Zack, Virginia. I know from Google Maps that "Zack" is the nearest thing that has an official name for us.   Around where we lived we just called it Dutch Holler but that doesn't show up on a Google map.

Zack is on Grid box 54.  This grid is inside the cover on the second or third page.

1.Find your area on the maps in the gazetteer. 
2. Look around on that map for details and what you think sounds interesting
that you'd like to see!

What makes the gazetteer maps so much fun is that they include far
more detail than any other map!  They show even the tiny, usually nameless places.
Granted where I come from is so tiny even this map doesn't name it,but
it shows where we live!   It includes so much interesting detail you may find
it hard to put down!  Kenny and I are hooked on them.They are a great help
for exploring to hike or ride around on backroads or just visit pretty spots.

           What Are You Interested in Seeing?

  Another thing you'll have to decide for yourself is what are YOU interested in seeing and doing?
Do you like to hike? Would you rather ride around on backroads?  Do you like waterfalls? Do you like history?   Would you prefer photography?

We'll call that step #3 in learning to use the Atlas & Gazetteer-

How Can I Find Out More About It? 

     Today we live in the wonderful world of technology.  Its fair to say you might see something on that map
that sparks your interest close by you, but how do you know if it is really worth the time to check out?
Do an internet search!  Check your library for guidebooks on the subject matter like hiking guides, tourism books, history books, check with your local chambers of commerce if you live near a town or have a county government center. Talk to people in the area about it and ask them if they know? Keep your eyes peeled
when you are out riding around especially as a passenger.  Maybe something will spark your interest
and you can research it on the web and go back to check it out when you have a chance!?
Get on Amazon.com or the internet and search out guidebooks that are written for your area.
Check out Facebook and Social media to see if there are groups or communities for that area
where you can meet people who can share the experience with you and swap information.
Look for hiking clubs in your vicinity if you don't feel comfortable going alone. 

          I'm going to use a couple example from Grid #54 out in the boondocks where I am from.

         What does Dana like to see?  What is she interested in?  

  Well, I love waterfalls.  I love history.  I love old back roads.  I love old  grist mills. Great views. Lookout Towers. 
Boys howdy.. there is some of those in grid #54. 

     Looking on the map I see spelled out Statons Falls, Gibbs Falls, Panther Falls, St. Mary's Falls

I also see an interesting spot near Gibbs Falls called Wades Mill.    They are all close by.
I can sneak a trip in to visit these while the kids are in school one day.  

     What can I find out about these before I go? Gibbs Falls is closest.

This link gives me waypoints for my GPS! 
It also gives me a map.  

  Switch your search terms for Gibbs Falls on Google Search from "Web" to "Image" and if there is a photo
of Gibbs Falls out there on the internet it will bring it up so you can see it!  
       I went to Gibbs Falls and the drive was a beautiful, winding backroad.
I parked at a pull off and went down over the hill and found a series of three pretty cascades. Two main ones and one smaller. It is a pretty forest slope around them and a good path along Gibbs Run!
 One of the bigger drops of Gibbs Falls.  

        What can I find out about this place down the road from it?  Wades Mill

Glory Be! It's a grist mill that is open for tourism.  They still make flour and cornmeal.  
The website has pictures, hours of operation, shows what products they sell. They have a gourmet shop!
They have a garden.  They teach cooking classes!  It is by a stream. What a pretty setting.  It tells the history of the place.  What a neat find right near my home! 
Kennedy Wade's Mill in Rockbridge County, Virginia. 

     I found this place only about five miles from where I live.  I go there to walk around and take pictures. 
I go there to buy flour and gourmet cooking items.   Pretty sweet for the Boondocks! The drive is gorgeous
if you like back roads and with the use of the gazetteer you can vary the route there so you can see
different things.

             What about the rest of the spots mentioned?  Statons Falls, Virginia
This website has clear directions, photos, and info about accessing the falls. It is a roadside attraction with little or no hiking just across the line into Amherst County.  I ended up going to see it in the dead of Winter in ice and snow and again in Autumn. Both times were beautiful and easy.  Pretty drive the whole way.
I have misplaced my photos of it.    A worthy trip any time and very fun with the family.

        Panther Falls, VA .. was also a worthwhile trip. It is a popular spot in Summer for swimming.
I am again sorry, but my only photos of it would have to be hunted up and scanned.  It was Winter. The Pedlar River was frozen and I visited it with my husband. We took our picture standing on the frozen river
together. It was gorgeous. The white snow, the ice and the falls. The bright red Winter berries on the trees.
A round trip hike of 1/2 mile.   A pretty drive.

St. Mary's Falls, VA was worth the trip and I visited it three times total.   Winter,Fall, and Spring.
It was a challenging hike in a wilderness area and navigating was interesting.  It turned out to be interesting
history wise, botanically rich, great for seeing wildlife, pretty falls, beautiful stream.  It was interesting from the standpoint of the ecology of the stream.   Very close to home. 

    All those possibilities exist from one grid search for a gal who lives in an Ag-Forestal District where
it is 25 miles in any direction to a town.   Are you beginning to understand the value of the Gazetteer
coupled with curiosity?

               Expanding Your Search for Destinations

   Once you've checked out some of the pretty places to visit in the grid where you live, 
the next logical thing is to expand your search outward to what else is nearby, but in the next grid.  
Look at the margin of the pages and you will see the inscriptions that tell you what page to turn to
to continue to the next grid.   Page 53 for the next grid to the west of me.  What is out there?

   Goshen Pass-- There is whitewater paddling, biking, hiking, backpacking, fishing, picnicking, swimming,
hunting, and great views available at Goshen Pass and in the Maury River.   It is fee free.

It is fifteen miles from my house.   We went there to swim, tube, and hike. 

I found this waterfall on Laurel Run on WMA land to one side of Goshen Pass in Summer about two years ago.   It is short hike of about 1/2 mile.   It is a beautiful drive.
View of Goshen Pass from one of the overlooks.

                    I have only scratched the surface of what there is to do in Goshen Pass and WMA.
I have yet to hike to the summit of Jump Mountain which I can see from my farm.    My husband has been and has promised to go with me.  The WMA is of course closed during hunting season also.  It does not
charge fees except for buying your hunting and fishing license if you plan to do those activities.

            I found so much to do before I moved to Tennessee I was busy hiking, camping, climbing
every weekend.   The point being that if you like outdoors there is a multitude of places to visit and explore.
Some of them were so great I would go back and visit them over again.

Elliots Knob Summit Hike
Falls Hollow
Todd Lake
Elkhorn Lake

Places I look forward to getting to visit that I did not take advantage of?  

Jump Mountain is the slanting peak in the center.

 Big and Little House Mountain peaks.

All these things are just about 15 miles or so from the farm in Virginia.

   Unless you live in a major metropolitan area I am betting there is a lot more in your area than you realize.
At least that is how it was for me.   None of these places carry day use fees, backpacking fees, or any sort of fees aside from the normal permits required for hunting and fishing.   I sincerely hope it remains that way.
Virginia has fewer areas of "benign neglect" because it has not been mined or logged as extensively as 
Tennessee.   I will address that topic more in Part 2 of this blog set.     

Get out there and explore.   You will enrich your life and enjoyment.    You will surprise yourself
at what a good time can be had if you will only look to see what you can find.  The techniques described
will work for any state or area.

   Virginia has a number of pumped storage electric projects that provide
permanent, fee free public recreation opportunities.  Several are located in Bath County, Virginia. Some are in West Virginia. Dominion Back Creek Recreation
Back Creek is one. Duke Power in North and South Carolina and the edge of Tennessee provides
free public recreation areas.   They have built river accesses, playgrounds, picnic shelters, bathrooms,
at some of their locations and they do not charge for the use.  Walters Dam area just outside Big Creek in the Smokies is one example.  

 Nearby is Falling Springs Falls and it is free and there is a picnic area right by the road.  You do not have to hike to see it, but you can.

    The Nature Conservancy is a great resource to check out in your area. They often set aside land and while it is not always publicly accessible it sometimes is!  It is usually a free hiking area.