Monday, October 26, 2015

Dealers in Obscurity

Camera obscura

Dealers in Obscurity 

Dana Koogler 

Monday, October 26, 2015

      I admit to being a weirdo.  I gravitate toward other weirdos who share my proclivities.
I dearly love finding the little known stuff especially waterfalls.   It has its rewards and its frustrations.   Just about every off trail hiker or seeker of the harder to reach waterfalls has had
that conversation with other hikers or just other people about what you're looking for.  The instant
 their eyes glaze over you can tell you're beating a dead horse.  You know its pointless
to continue because they don't know, and can't help you.     It happens other ways too.  Perhaps 
an individual your chatting with has some knowledge of a place or a falls. They want to help you.
They are trying, but you figure out as the conversation continues they really don't know.

      What I didn't know was that there was yet another level to it.   I had grown accustomed to 
that type thing happening.  It did not bother me so much. I had grown to expect it. I already had a 
reputation as being a waterfall geek and weirdo so I wasn't losing much by launching into my spiel.
I remember after decades of nursing how it felt to realize that there were going to be times when scarily I was it.  Situations with patients that were so tricky that even the doctors would not quite know what to do. Situations where other nurses would try to fix something and strike out.   That was a frightening feeling in my professional life.  Hunting for waterfalls is a hobby, not a profession so 
it doesn't carry the heavy sense of foreboding that the other did.  Yet having experienced that feeling of "Ain't gonna be nobody else to help you. You're IT."  did at least prepare me to recognize it 
when it struck in world of my hobbies.
 Feeling around blindly in the dark 

Why Now? 

          I've lived with this for a time now so why just now write a blog entry about it?
Why bring it up?   A thread of discussion brought about by two friends is why.
Recently in hunting for South Shoal Creek Falls and chatting about it with Beth Bradshaw 
she suggested that I should mention it to someone ultra knowledgeable.   It was said as a form of
encouragement and help from her own struggles and tendencies to want to find the obscure!
It hit me like a bolt out of the blue. That lightning strike of "I'm IT!"  followed by the rumbling thundercloud of emotion and thought (Ain't no sense spending time mentioning it to so and so because they're gonna ignore me, tell me they don't know what I'm talking about, followed by blank stares) . My response was " I AM someone ultra-knowledgeable."  which is true.
A second discussion was with another dealer in obscurity.. Mike Gourley.   Hunter of waterfalls, chimneys, home sites, cemeteries, mountain peaks to boot.   We're on our way to hike and hunt
South Shoal Creek Falls.   I shared with him that it occurred to me that it changed things when you start hunting for ... and he finished my sentence.. the obscure.   The more obscure or out of the way, unknown something is the more you can expect to be one of the few or only who is aware of it.
It amplifies the challenge of locating it.      The thought that followed after that was this:
I'm going to have to stop relying on the waterfall hunters or dealers in the obscure for this one.
I need to increase my odds in finding this thing by talking to the folks who are local.  They don't know how out of the way it is or how desirable it is to me.
 The only way to G-E-T is to A-S-K.  
And that right there was what turned the key. 

            The dealer in obscurity.... the seeker of the thing so out of the way best prepare for that
sense of there being no resource because you are it.   AMFYOYO applies here. "Adios My Friend. You're On Your Own."     The best advice I can give you as you enter the realm is this. 
Decide to network with others.  I'm not talking about only other waterfall seekers either.
You can either sit on your hunt for whatever out of the way, hidden treasure..and struggle.. or you can decide to share information with other seekers and dealers in the obscurity and local folks who may know.  

            Sharing things with other dealers in obscurity means that you may help them and they end up helping you!        Remember too that local folks don't necessarily revere or remember 
some of the stuff they know about in the same fashion as the rest of us.   If they are not collectors of waterfalls but live near one they may know of it, been to it, and have set it aside in their minds as unimportant info.     My husband, father, hairdresser, all have known of my special love of waterfalls and known of places that I had not been. Yet it took decades for them to have it occur to them to share a place with me.  When people who know me well are like that.. How much more likely are complete strangers to be about the knowledge of waterfalls they possess?  Unless I directly ask them about it they will not know or share.  Sometimes even then they will not tell what they know because they just don't recollect at that precise moment.
Later they may remember something and tell it!

        Prepare for the frustrations of seeking and not finding.  Prepare for the elation of having things work out just right.     When it does go right........ take off and run with it.
Enjoy it. Wallow in it.   It doesn't happen often enough to ruin it.  

   I think the seeking, the struggle, the losing, the winning........ the entire experience
is worthwhile.  It makes you tougher than pig iron and weirder by the day!

Boys howdy... don't I know it.
**Case in point-- I talked to Kevin Adams this evening after posting this blog entry. He did NOT know of South Shoal Creek Falls until informed by me. ** 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

South Shoal Creek Falls and More

The Ten Commandments at Fields of the Wood

South Shoal Creek Falls and More

Dana Koogler and Mike Gourley
Friday October 23, 2015

Total hike distance 3 miles approx. 

Photos are here: 

       Several months back I became aware of a waterfall down in the Murphy, North Carolina area.
South Shoal Creek Falls it was called.  I found it on Panoramio.  I had never heard of it before and could find nothing else about it.   I had reached out to two different sources to try to learn more.
I had sent a message to the fellow who took the only photo I'd ever seen of it. I also located it on the map and reached out to a business in the area on the off chance they might know of it.
I did not hear anything more about it. I wanted so much to see it and learn more about it.
I did not feel comfortable going bushwhacking alone to try to find it when I knew little or nothing.
Kenny was going to have to work thanks to his busy season, but he was also curious and wanted to see it.    Monday I reached out to Mike Gourley who has a similar schedule to mine and asked him to go with me.  He initially had a schedule conflict.  He has also been working very hard on completing
some hikes that have been on his list a long time.  I sure understand what that is like so I set the
idea aside, but not completely.  

            I continued to turn the idea over in my mind and fret it a little bit as I often do.
I  am nothing if not persistent.  I did not hear back from either the business or the individual who took
the photo.   I had the strong feeling the fellow who took the photo probably did not check that account any longer.  I found mention of him on a dating site.  I admit I entertained the idea of making up a dating profile just to try to reach him about that waterfall. Yes. I am awful. I know this.
I shared the photo of the falls on Facebook and  was joking about my evil plans. I kept picking
at Mike putting messages out there "Mike, blow off your appointment. Come on with me to find this waterfall. You know you want to."  I struck lucky!  He did want to go and could go!  I was really
tickled about that.   Kenny put his order in for "Y'all go find it and take me back to see it?"

       We made our plans and Friday we would spend the day enjoying "Doc Rogers Country".
We'd hit up several attractions in that area that Mike had never seen.  We'd have some sure fire things to check out. We'd also hunt up South Shoal Creek Falls. We were both hoping for success, but prepared for failure and the inevitable return trip.

           We got an early start Friday morning so we could cram a lot into the day.
We stopped by Fields of the Woods first.  I had been before, but just gave it a cursory glance when there.   It was dead of Winter when I first visited and the place was desolate.   Today it was prettier.
Astonishing views from the mountain tops on a clear Autumn day.  Mike's interest in the place also
caused me to slow down and take a better look. I realized more of the history and significance of the place. It is a memorial but also sort of a place of religious pilgrimage for Christians.  A mountain of prayer you walk and pray and read Bible verses.  They have a cafe and gift shop.  It was very quaint and reverent.   I got far more out of it today!  We also went to the top of Burger Mountain where the
All Nations Cross is located.   Everything we saw was neat and worth the stop.

 Replica of the Ten Commandments
 The stairs to climb the mountain are the divider between the two tablets of the commandments.
 The main message of the gospel of Christ.  "Jesus died for our sins."
 The All Nations Cross is a cross shape atop the mountain outlined by the flags of many nations.
The view from the mountainside of the Valley River Mountains. 

    We wrapped up our touring of Fields of the Wood and continued down the road a bit further.
Kenny and I had been to Panther Top Lookout Tower and Mike wanted to check that out since it was nearby and so easy to reach.  We hiked 1.5 miles round trip up to see the lookout tower which is in excellent condition. The frost and cooler temperatures had the colors prettier on the hike and up top than a week ago.   
Mike checks out Panther Top Lookout Tower
View from Panther Top Tower today was even clearer! 

         Once back at the jeep we decided to head in the direction of South Shoal Creek.
We'd find us a place to eat some lunch and get started trying to locate the falls.  We had both considered two routes to reach it. One way from the east and one from the west.   We both felt more confident about the parking situation and accessibility from the western side.  The GPS in my jeep did not want to recognize the addresses I tried to give it.   We did find a church we were looking for.  It was a safe, welcoming place to park. The day was warmed up nicely. 
The grounds of the church had a picnic table and a pretty yard where we could eat lunch in a nice setting.  I brought us some sandwiches and things for lunch.  Today we did not want to spend time dining out, but eat and get going.   Mike was doing some checking out of a possible route. I was setting the table.  I had said I hoped I'd run into someone out stirring today. I planned to ask them about the falls and the best way to reach it.  My prayers were answered!
Here came a man on an atv heading up the road past the church. He had a friendly smile.
I waved him down and ran to speak with him.  He was the business owner who I had emailed!
We exchanged introductions and greetings. I asked him about the falls and the best approach to it.  We could get there either way, but the eastern approach would be far simpler. I had already figured out that the falls itself lies in the Nantahala National Forest so it was ok to be there.
It was the getting there that worried me.   Turns out that the place we had to go IS ok to access and it is in one of those states of what I call benign neglect.   Property that is lying fallow with an uncertain fate.    We were really excited to learn that there was a trail the entire way to the falls.  We were still going to do some bushwhacking and exploring, but we would not have to.

       Once we finished our lunch we gathered up and headed back the other direction!
We found the way to the falls without any trouble at all thanks to Roger.  We both felt like it was a "God thing". A divine appointment that was just meant to be.   It sure turned out to be 
a great day.  The drive was even pretty.    We gathered our gear up and began our hike.
We hiked along beside a stream on a good path through a beautiful woods filled with 
gold, bronze and all sorts of pretty Fall colors!

Meadow near the start of our hike to the falls.

       We  found the falls without the first problem.  I had a feeling of being completely turned around.  I had believed several wrong headed notions.   I now know why!  The original waypoint I had for the falls was incorrect from the source.   I converted it and that made it closer, but it was still mixing me up.   I think studying the map and having so many possible routes swimming through my mind did nothing to clear things up for me prior to the trip.
It took me getting home later and double checking the original waypoint and studying the map to orient myself and figure out what was going on.  Another wrong notion I'd had was that there were additional waterfalls in the area.  What I was seeing were merely strong whitewater cascades and not falls.  Only one falls in the area for certain, but boys howdy it was worth it!

 First glimpse of South Shoal Creek Falls near the brink

           We made it to the base!  We first saw a rock ledge with a rope tied to a tree.  One slip and you'd be gone the ledge was so narrow.   It was a forty to forty five foot drop. We both decided that the rope idea would be a last option.  We would try going further out the bluff to see if there was a better way down.  As it turned out the trail curved round and led right to the base!  You will notice in these photos there are manmade objects in each.   The sluiceway and the pipes to the left of the falls are from where a nearby homeowner rigged up a system to provide him with electricity.     The house and entire thing are now abandoned.  

          The falls is a wonderment. The forest above glowed gold with the afternoon light of Autumn.  We spent plenty of time checking it out and taking lots of photos.    It was awesome!
Once we finally got the picture taking done we planned to move toward a waypoint for a potential second waterfall.   We bushwhacked and thanks to Mike's considerable skill in way finding we made it to where we needed to be.    It was hard. It was disappointing there turned out to be no second waterfall, but we had an adventure and happened upon some of the coolest rock forms! We'd never have seen them if we didn't go exploring.   I had to rest atop the ridge.
I was not drinking enough, and was becoming dehydrated and queasy.   A short time later I felt right as rain.   We set out again. I was resigned to going back the way we came and toiling through the rhodo and the stream.  Mike was not to be so easily outdone.  He found us a far better way out of there.  He was walking along toward the sound of the falls and the bluff.
He came out with "expletive........ do I see a trail?" It sure was!  A well worn path lead along exactly parallel to where we'd come to the falls.   We hiked this trail back through the most beautifully colored forest. It provided much better vistas of the stream on this side.  We ended up making a big loop hike.    I told him I had that feeling of "finding treasure" that I sometimes dream of.    Things don't always work out right, but today was amazing!


The above three photos show various parts of the return hike. Bottom frame is Mike ahead of me. The trail was in good condition.  I think we saw one or two downed trees in total. 

        Once we got back to the jeep we changed into dry shirts and such.  Mike had driven the whole way there. We agreed I'd drive home since I was familiar with the area.    We had enough time to squeeze in a few more stops.  We went by North Shoal Creek Falls and visited that since he had never been. We also stopped by the Hiwassee Dam overlook on the way. 
It was really pretty and I hadn't been there to take photos ever before.   

 The Hiwassee Dam over Appalachia Lake
 Appalachia Lake

North Shoal Creek Falls.  Better images today. 

    We saw exactly two other hikers all day long.  They were a couple on their way up from North Shoal Creek Falls while we were starting down to it.    More Floridians!
North Shoal Creek Falls was beautiful as always and Mike really liked it.
It was growing late. We were both tired and hungry.  We had a long drive home.
We had no phone signal back in here.  We decided we'd stop in Madisonville and get a meal.
We'd call our loved ones and let them know we were ok and on the way home. 

             The drive out Joe Brown Highway was long and winding, but got us back safely.
We did not have any problems finding our way.  It did only one things for me.  I added several things to my list that I want to go back to explore.   I still did not see the waterfall Kenny spotted on the way back past Shuler Creek Road.  It was too dark to really see it. 

         I had a great time.  I feel very fortunate to have Mike as a friend. Kenny really
likes him too. We all get along fine. We're a good team.   Today was golden and I look forward to many more adventures. 

Below is a 3 minute video of South Shoal Creek Falls.  It is way high on my list of faves!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Panther Top Lookout Tower & North Shoal Creek Falls

Steps heading up the tower 

Panther Top Lookout Tower & North Shoal Creek Falls 

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Saturday October 17, 2015

2 miles RT 

   It has been a crazy time in our lives.  It has been Kenny's busy season at work for one thing.
Shut down season and a bazillion changes of plans.   It can be very frustrating and depressing.
I try not to complain, but I don't always succeed.    I got up Saturday morning and had no plans.  I let Kenny sleep in.   I was just glad he was home. I wanted to do something, but 
I did not want to always have something to push him into doing.    He got up and was surprised he had slept in until 9 am.   He was a little confused as to why I let him sleep so long? 
We had to have a talk about my conflict with wanting to get out and do things with him vs.
my guilt over always pushing him to do things.  We came up with a solution and he comforted and consoled me.  I was sad and mixed up.    The agreement?  Push me to do things but don't 
make them extreme when I have been working a lot.   Motivate me, but lets compromise and go do something milder and more relaxing.   Perfect!

              Today that is what we hit on.  We'd go visit Panther Top Tower near Murphy.
It was one of the lookout towers on my list I needed to complete.   We had been talking about it
for months.   We'd scratch that one off the list today.  It was a beautiful drive down the road to Tellico Plains and then down SR 68 toward Murphy.   We had a lot of good music, good conversation and laughs on the drive.    The day was cool, crisp and clear.  Autumn weather with a tint of Fall colors, but they are not peak yet.   

         We found the lookout tower without any problem. It was not a bad hike at all.
The view from up there was 360 degrees. Clear as a bell.  Panther Top Lookout has been restored and its in excellent condition.  

 View to the NE from the tower
 Panther Top
dedication plaque at the tower

   We came back down the mountain after our hike and headed toward Murphy. It was lunch time.
We brought along drinks and snacks, but chose to eat lunch in town.   We found that the town was quite busy and it is a pretty little town which appears to be growing.  We ended up eating at Zaxby's.
We had waited so long to eat that we were not willing to gamble on some of the places we were not familiar with. I love trying new restaurants, but I was not keen on it today. Neither was Kenny.

        We had talked about going back past Turtletown Falls on the way home and hiking.
We were leaning in that direction when it hit me that we were much nearer to North Shoal Creek.
We would just swing by there on the way home and visit that.  A short, easy hike to a pretty falls. 
We had been once before, but it was Winter.   I love this area and just really enjoyed it today.
A drive along the old roads was relaxing and beautiful.   We found the falls and enjoyed seeing them.
We met a man and woman from Florida who were leaving the trail to the falls as we arrived.
The man said we had to "rappel down to see the falls".   We had no problem before and wondered
what had changed since our first trip? Nothing except the addition of a rope to hold on to on the climb down. Not even needed today except that if it rained or was icy it would be a welcome help.
No rappelling.   Kenny laughed and said that to folks from Florida the hills and the rope were probably a big deal.  

North Shoal Creek Falls is a beautiful waterfall with loads of moss. The light here is almost always good for photos because it is down in a hole tucked away.  

   We explored upstream a bit. We found another three or four gorgeous cascades each with a different look . Nothing huge, but lots of water on them.  Rocks at odd angles making the exploring different and fun.   It was turning out to be a perfect day.   
 I am standing on a point of rock that sticks out over the creek!
Side view of one of the many cascades 

Below is a short video of North Shoal Creek Falls set to music that defines the tone of the day.
Very mellow. Americana.  

         We cruised slowly back out of this area northward toward Madisonville. Our plan was to
stop and do our grocery shopping there like we do sometimes.   We are familiar with the area, but still had to consult the map thanks to the maze of old roads and turn offs.   We rescued another couple from Florida who were going the wrong direction on the Joe Brown Highway.  We found another falls near Shuler Creek Road we need to go back to check out.   I love exploring in Doc Rogers country.    We went here with the full knowledge that we were avoiding the crowds and the hustle and bustle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park today.   Neither of us wanted to get mixed up in that mess of traffic, bodies and noise.   It was a great last minute plan.

       Beautiful area and quiet time with my best guy.   Winging it turned out great.
I am a dreamer, planner, do-er.   Being married to me Kenny gets that as part of the package.
He doesn't seem to mind and has come to count on it, but even dreamers need down time.

       There is always that spark of hope.. fun for another day.  I see it now gleaming in Magicmomma's Crystal Ball of the Future........... South Shoal Creek Falls shall be mine.

Dana & Sharon Hike to Spruce Flats Falls and Honey Cove

Forest at Tremont --shows a tiny bit of Fall color 

Mo and Wa-Wo Hike to Spruce Flats Falls and Honey Cove

Dana Koogler & Sharon McGee 

Thursday Oct. 15, 2015

    I have had the wonderful fortune of two of my best friends moving to Tennessee!
Instead of being a twelve hour drive from me in Florida they are now a mere two hour drive from me.
John and Sharon moved to Jamestown six weeks ago to begin a new chapter of their lives!
They are semi-retired and retired in that order.  They are also in the process of building a house.
I feel like one of the luckiest persons alive because I get to see them more now and do things with them.    I was a weird kid growing up. I did not care about people's color, gender or any of that stuff.
I just liked outside, exploring, creativity and fun. I hated the politics and drama that so many 
would get caught up in.  I am finding out as a grown woman that there were others out there like me.
I just had to find them.  Sharon is one!   She grew up in Vienna, Virginia. I grew up in Barren Ridge.

         She came over to spend the night at Kügler Haus for the first time on Thursday.
We went out hiking in the Smokies. She has visited the Smoky mountains before, but had not done
any hiking there to speak of.   We hiked to Spruce Flats Falls, Honey Cove Falls and Spruce Flats.
I had done this hike before, but I wanted to spend time hiking not driving. This is close to the house
and always a sure bet.

Spruce Flats Falls was just right.  Autumn colors creeping in. Leaves falling.  Just enough water to make the falls pretty, but we could still ford the creek easily.

Honey Cove Falls is on back in there.  We climbed the old rail grade and manway and made it back there.  Right at the falls is a huge mess of blown down trees. New stuff.    Making the use of the manway no easy trick.  

    We visited both falls and went back out toward Spruce Flats.  It was very pretty.
We checked out pioneer junk.  Dishes. Old train parts. Mason jars.   We also found a newly put up bear cable where there is no camp site. It intrigues me and I hope I can figure out why it is there.
No stealth camper would do this.  It is a professional job. I know the Tremont Institute has a separate
trail system and perhaps they constructed this for some purpose.

 Bear cables are used to hang your food when you camp in the back country.

Another view of the system.

         We hiked back out.  We went to Little River BBQ for a late lunch.  It was a great day.
Sharon's first hike in the Smoky Mountains and already going off trail!  
It was a very relaxing day filled with laughter and great company.  

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sink Holes Research.. BEFORE

Small sinkhole waterfall in White County

Sink Hole Research & Investigation --The BEFORE

Dana Koogler 

Friday Oct. 9 , 2015

Pictures are here

     I already had a list of places I wanted to see, long enough that
I would have to live to be four hundred years old to see it all.   I added to the problem by becoming
obsessed with finding sink hole waterfalls ten months ago.   I had noticed a pattern on topo maps and developed a hypothesis I wanted to test.   I hypothesized that all sink holes with blue dots in them on the topo map contained waterfalls.  I had a list of several I believed fit that category and me and Kenny set out to begin testing to see if I was correct.  I found excellent stuff to start out with and was three for three! I was elated.  Early success fueled the desire to continue.  The law of averages
 humbled me, and showed me how wrong I was.   My hypothesis was proven wrong!  I learned before too long that I was wrong twice!   What I learned is that sink holes with blue dots shown on a topo map do not always contain waterfalls or other interesting water features.  Sink holes without any indication of water on the map sometimes contain beautiful waterfalls or other water features!

       Did finding out my hypothesis was wrong upset me? No! Did it cause me to enjoy what I was doing any less? No! I was having a good time mostly.   I have had a couple frustration trips. Sometimes it seems to be that I have a quota I must keep up with of failed attempts.  All things must be balanced. Success means there must be a proportion of failure to keep the universe in order.
I have found some sinkholes are not attractive. Some with blue dots in them don't really have a pretty blue pond of water or a waterfall. Sometimes man made things interfere with what used to be and destroy it.  I found one sinkhole that did not contain  a waterfall, but once it  had a pretty blue hole of water. Logging and earth moving in the area below the rim of the sinkhole disturbed it and caused it to drain. What I found was a mess that reminded me of a bathtub with the drain plug pulled.

           I have not obtained photos of the sink holes yet since I have yet to visit them.
What I did instead was include a link to the gallery of ones I have already visited.  A look here
might help explain why I continue to hunt.  The wildness and beauty and mystery of these places
never ceases to intrigue me. It keeps me rewarded and hooked and coming back!

Here is the list of Sink Holes I believe contain waterfalls.





Wilson Mountain

Hell Hole (Overton Co.)


Big Sink (Van Buren Co)--***Important*** This lies in an area that is off limits to all but hunters
now that hunting season has begun.  That started Oct. 1.  That will be in effect until Jan. 10, 2016.
** Edited to add visited Big Sink 1/16/2016 and proved there are indeed waterfalls in the sinkhole. We found three and there may be more. **

   All have listed way points on Tennessee landforms.    I have others I believe contain waterfalls, but this is the list I am focusing on presently.   Be careful if you look any of these up to check into them remembering that there are many sink holes in the state of Tennessee which have the same name!
Hell Hole and Big Sink seem to be the most popular.  Make sure before you ever go check one out that you have the correct information and waypoint for the area you're visiting!
Remember that checking out sink holes carries risks with it and I assume no responsibility for whatever you decide to do with the information.  

    I have done preliminary research into which ones I believe will be accessible and which ones will be the most problematic.  The ones I see becoming the most problematic are ones in residential areas
which can limit access. It can be hard to find a neutral place to park and walk or obtain permission.
The two I see being the most tricky from that stand point are Gore and Hunter.

    There is always the possibility these contain pit caves. I do not possess the ability to bounce a pit.
It is outside my wheelhouse so if it comes to that I may be stuck.   Time will tell and I will certain exercise appropriate caution.

   Several waterfalls that I visited before I realized what I was doing were actually sink hole waterfalls!  Examples of this are Lost Creek Falls,   Rainbow Falls (Overton Co) and Rainbow Falls (Marion County) Lost Cane and Franks Flume are also sink hole waterfalls technically.  Rainbow Falls in White oak Sinks is a sink hole waterfall.   Big Sunk Cane Falls is another one!
Blue Hole branch is one.
            The majority of them are located in the Cumberland Plateau but once in awhile you find one in East Tennessee or elsewhere.   

Waterfall in White Oak Sinks<br />
GSMNP TN 2008<br />
This falls down into a cave and flows for a distance and re-emerges as Silver Falls in Tuckaleechee Caverns.
Rainbow Falls in Whiteoak Sinks in the Great Smoky Mountains.
It is currently inaccessible. It is closed until April 2016 or possibly longer.

Lost Cane Falls 1 edited RAW

One of many waterfalls in Lost Cane that only runs part of the time.

Lost Cane 304

Rainbow Falls in Overton County is a pit cave/ sink hole and it has a blue dot in it on the map!

Remember that you can stack the deck in your favor by going when we have had an abundance of rain fall.   Some of these falls don't flow year round.  Sink holes can be excellent places to explore during Winter because you are sheltered out of the wind.   Sink holes can be excellent places to find
Spring wildflowers!


Seeing a sink hole on a topo map. Not every map does this, but a sink hole on a map should look like this:
A series of concentric circles lined with tic marks.

Cal topo maps are the best online source I've found that show sink holes properly. They also do a better job of showing details of the area like trails leading in to one.    
See the link below

Cal Topo of Wilson Mountain, TN

Something else to consider when planning to visit one of these special places?  
Know how to read a topo and plan your best approach.  Do an elevation profile to see what your track into one will be like prior to ever going!    Sometimes its easy to see which is the low side of one. 
Sometimes it is not.  

 We're getting some good rain. The weather is cooling down.  I'm ready to explore!  
Part of my motives for sharing this info is that the treacherous, cagey old woman in me with a dark heart hopes that some young ambitious type will go check out some of these before I get there and fill me in as to whether its worthwhile or not!   The desire to be first is replaced by the monaker... Work smarter.. not harder. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Camps Gulf Hike to Hemlock Falls

Lobelia.. an end of Summer wildflower

Camps Gulf Hike to Hemlock Falls 

Dana Koogler 
Jay Walker
Tuesday October 6, 2015
 6 miles RT 

pictures are here: Camps Gulf Pix

    I had long wanted to hike to Hemlock Falls in Camps Gulf.  I tried unsuccessfully about six months ago.   I had no map. I  had little or no knowledge. I was alone.  I ended up going to do 
some other area hikes.   I had hiking a couple times before in Camps Gulf.  The first time was with 
Kenny. We saw the big sign "Camps Gulf Addition to Fall Creek Falls State Park".   We were intrigued.  We had to try it.  It said something about Prater homeplace and  Hemlock Falls.
We passed the ruins of an old home place.   We did find a waterfall.  We figured that was it.

          I later learned that we had NOT visited Hemlock Falls.   I saw several trip reports. One was by Marvin Bullock. He authors the Cragrock USA blog. He also works for the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation or at least he did at the time.   I saw a report where Craig and Lora of Outcast Hikers went to see it.   I then was fully aware I'd have to go back and try again!  I had been in some of the caves in Camps Gulf, but I really was not interested in going in those anymore.  I wanted to see Hemlock Falls and figure out where the real Prater home place was.   I learned that the home place we found was not it!  I knew from several rangers that it was on toward the back of the gulf.

              My friend Jay Walker took a day off during the week and we joined forces to find this place!
I did not feel comfortable going alone.  He graciously agreed to go.  We had a good day that made up for my failed trip last try.    We met a pair of rangers in the parking area and followed them in.
We encountered one another off and on through the day. They were hiking through clearing the trail of blown down trees from last weeks storms.   
 This is the signed entrance and parking space for starting a hike through Camps Gulf. This photo was taken on a previous trip.

Camps Gulf stream.. one of the fords. This was taken back in mid March.  It was an easy rock hop that day. Today it was bone dry and we did not need any water shoes! The previous times we've hiked here in early March the water was deep enough there was no way to avoid getting your feet wet.  I brought water shoes, but ended up not needing them.   There is only one stream crossing and
it is near the start of the hike.  It is perhaps 0.1 mile to the crossing.

I have embedded a map below that shows Camps Gulf. The first star is the one for the trail itself.
The second star I don't know what that is.  The third is Cueva Guapa. The fourth is Hemlock Falls.
I have submitted the waypoints to Tennessee landforms since as yet they had not been put on the database.   

       We passed the old house ruins near the beginning of the hike. They are almost immediately after the creek crossing and on the left side of the trail where it makes a bend to the right.  It is cement foundation and fencing etc.

         The trail is in fair condition and for much of the way starting out it is a wide, logging road.
It is muddy now thanks to all the recent rain.  The wind had downed some trees, but all those were cleared as of  11:30 am central time.   The rangers cleared several and did a nice job.
After awhile the trail veers left at the first trail sign for Prater Place. There at that spot another trail takes off to the right but that only goes down to the creek.  Tuesday that part of the creek was still dry.    The trail then climbs the ridge on a switch back.   The character of it now is winding and more narrow, rocky and looks a lot more like a trail and no longer an old logging road.   Going either in or out you have one or two good climbs and then it levels off like a bench.   It is above Camps Gulf Creek and at some point once you are up there you can glimpse it.  It starts to have water in it and the further back the gulf you go the harder it is running!  I think that is what makes this place so magical to me is that the stream bed starts off bone dry then starts running, strengthens then a waterfall appears!     It certainly wouldn't do much to encourage a person who has not experienced hiking
in the plateau to continue the rest of the journey to the falls.

 Opening of Camps Gulf Cave II
 Massive boulders jumble around the cliffs

Sun peeping through the forest gloom at 9 am.

A view of the bluffs high above you on part of the hike.  It is just so pretty.

Here is the first falls we visited today. It is a pit cave which contains a waterfall.
I was informed after the first time I visited here by Kristen Bobo that the name of it is
Cueva Guapa del Norte. Which means "pretty cave of the north".    We stopped by here to see this
and take some photos.  It is an interesting area geologically speaking.

Below is a short video of this cave waterfall.

              The rangers passed us by while we were down there checking it out.
We took a short cut up over the bank and picked up the trail again and continued our hike toward Hemlock Falls.   We encountered the rangers again cutting more downed trees.   Once they stopped the saw we proceeded.   It was here that we encountered a yellow jackets nest in the trail.  
We made it past with zero stings!  I hollered back to the rangers to be careful as they passed by it.
I took a minute and pointed out to them exactly where it was.   No one got stung today either coming or going.  

           The trail passed another small cascade that dropped into what appeared to be a cave or swallet.
It was a really pretty gushing spring that flowed down the hill and entered the ground again.
We did not examine it very closely.     I had not known this was here!

           The trail turned and went down and in short order we were at a large, pretty flat area.
Camps Gulf creek was to our far right.   We passed what appeared to be a large pile of mossy rocks on our right.  It was either this or another spot that was the remains of the old Prater Mansion.
We saw a flat spot above the falls that showed signs of fence posts, stone walls that could also be it.

           The forest smelled wonderful of the coming of Autumn. Not much Fall color yet, but the hickory trees shone bright gold and yellow hues.     It was pretty amidst the deep green grove of hemlocks!   The falls was  shimmering ,white, low, and wide.  It  flowed powerfully.   We were thrilled to be there!  It was a peaceful, serene setting. No one else around except for us and the two rangers and their now and then chain sawing.   Neither of them had much of an idea about the history of the area.  One had worked there right at a year. The other fellow less than a year.  Both very nice and willing to try to help, but not terribly in the know yet.  We traded knowledge and stories.
They said their good-byes and wished us a blessed day.  We lingered awhile.
We lunched here at the falls.  Took plenty of photos.  

 Hemlock Falls is very beautiful.

            Upstream of it are other pretty cascades.
   I walked up into the headwaters and explored a tiny bit.  I had seen where Alan Cressler, Chuck Sutherland and some others had explored further and found more falls at the far back split of the gulf.
The little path I was on played out in a headwaters.  I came to a place deep within the hemlock grove where the ground was saturated and water issued forth from many places. It merged and flowed from a wide area down to a more definite stream and emptied itself into Camps Gulf Creek.  There is something about a headwaters and watching it gather steam and form itself into a creek that is just
mystical.   We finally wrapped up our visit and began our hike back. It was very satisfying to finally be there!  Success at last.   It felt good to be able to re-located the cave waterfall from the previous trip. It felt great to finally make it to this spot I had long imagined visiting.  It was not disappointing at all.   I take great joy in those moments I am finally able to stand in a spot I have studied on a map.  Finding that it is particularly beautiful and remote makes the journey more meaningful.   It was great to have a friend along to share the experience.

**Notes for future trips or anyone who wishes to go back**
There are supposed to be four wheeler paths that lead into the area above Camps Gulf.
The land above there is private holdings though.    The roads come in from the Mooneyham area.
I am not sure if a logging road I found leads up to that area. The bluffs on either side of the gulf would make entry from that side difficult if not impossible.
         Also...I spotted some flowers gone to seed that looked noteworthy. I did not photograph them, but I knew they were something special. Turns out thanks to Bobbie Crawford-Hubbard.. My Ma... that I got an ID on them! They were Three Birds Orchid seed pods! Remember to go back there during August and try to catch them blooming!