Monday, February 29, 2016

First Attempt at Reaching Sugar Cove Branch Falls --Off Trail with Mike Maples

First Attempt at Reaching Sugar Cove Branch Falls --Off Trail with Mike Maples
Saturday February 27, 2016

Dana Koogler and Mike Maples

4 miles RT off  trail approx. 

  The best way to describe this adventure is with a little scripture. I apply it to me.. not Mike.

Proverbs 16:18 says: 
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

   Sometimes I need to be schooled. Today I got schooled. I had it in my head to go to see Sugar Cove Branch Falls by way of the old wagon roads behind the Lawson place. The original plan for today was to bushwhack to Marks Creek Falls. The heavy rains the previous days made us decide it was not the time to try it. We were planning on fording Lynn Camp Prong to go back there and consequently it was as Mike calls it "Big water" today. ;The fall back plan was ok with Mike Maples love his heart. He agreed so sweetly that we'd give it a try. We met up at the Townsend Wye early Saturday morning. I was really looking forward to this adventure and was so hopeful we'd get to see that beautiful falls that not too many visit.

   A week earlier Bobbie and Ron Hubbard had shown me the way to start in there.I reproduced that part of the journey flawlessly. Our day was off to a good start. We were both having fun. We saw some old pioneer junk and some home sites. The day was warming up and was blue skies and sunshine and fresh air. The woods were opening up and making the travel easier once we were back in there. We had maps and waypoints and the GPS. I had been concerned about some nebulous things prior to setting out, but I was so sure we'd find it. Once back in there and into the unknown, unexplored territory for me the concerns in the back of my mind began to take shape and make themselves known. I was concerned about being able to tell with any certainty if we were in the correct drainage. Without any major mountain peaks and landforms to anchor you ... all of it begins to look the same. The terrain back there is a maze of small hills, gullies, and low ridges that interlace crazily. The map cannot show all the streams that emerge from those hills and truly some of them were not on there since they are headwaters springs. We got to the top of a ridge and I remarked that I felt like we were not in the right place.The old wagon trace or manway is shown being slightly to the right side of a ridge. We were almost directly atop the ridge. Turned out to be right. Mike Maples was so wonderfully patient with me.I finally got upset and said I was beginning to feel like we were just wandering around aimlessly. Yes, I wanted to see the falls, but I was not willing to become lost in the process of trying to see them. We were back in the terrain where Mike Gourley got lost. That had been on my mind strongly and the thought was gnawing away at me. I did have the sense to put a way point on the spot where we stopped and decided to turn around. I figured I could look at it later and perhaps it would help me figure what had gone wrong? I had also taken Tom Dunigan's advice and put a way point in the GPS at the spot where we parked and named it simply JEEP. I began tracking us back to that JEEP waypoint.

    Once we were back into the gap where we lost the wagon roads and old trails..... I felt better. We decided to wander down Whistling Branch toward the Cades Cove Road in order to at least see something different. It got really snarled up in rhodo so Mike turned us down a gully and then another with his amazing sense of direction. I knew what way the loop road was and generally what direction to aim for in order to get back to Cades Branch, but not like him. We came out exactly where he said we would. I had placed a couple ribbons of neon orange survey tape at a home site.We came out right at those ribbons. I was quiet. I was relieved but I felt like a whipped cur.  It is going to take me a spell to get over this. I know Mike Gourley well enough to say while he would never judge me ........ He knows how to deal with me gently. Usually the best way is to just let me do my thing however wrong it may be........ and I will learn. I enjoyed hiking with Mike Maples. He never says an ill word about anyone at least not that I have heard. He is funny and interesting. I feel blessed to have him as a friend. We stopped by one roadside cascade and took a photo. There really wasn't time to get into anything else. I hope he'll go with me again sometime and things will be better.

       Later that evening at home I plugged in the way point for where we stopped and turned around.
I sent it to Mike Maples.. we were off.  To his tremendous credit........ had I listened to him we'd have come out in the correct drainage though.  We were along Whistling Branch above Whistling Gap.
Mike Gourley ultimately was correct though.  The route up into the main drainage from Forge Creek is the best way to go.   It may not be as close as the crow flies, but we aren't crows.

Indian Flats Falls Hike

Looking over the brink of the 2nd drop of Indian Flats Falls 

Indian Flats Falls Day Hike 

Saturday Feb. 20, 2016

Dana Koogler solo 8 miles RT

Pictures are here: Indian Flats Falls Pix

The link below is to the 1931 map which shows both the
Stone Camp Branch Manway and Davis Ridge Manway

   I have hiked to Indian Flats Falls several times.   It had been quite a long spell between trips and I had lost some of the best photos I took of all the drops of it.   I decided to hike out there this particular Saturday to get some exercise and get some photos of the falls.   It was a rainy day, but I took my rain gear and just prayed it would hold off until I got my pictures.    Overcast is what you want for waterfall photos so I was happy about that.  It was not real cold either, but damp and threatening to drizzle at any moment.   I had a couple other ideas in mind as I headed up that way.
I was looking for a couple old manways or unofficial, unmaintained trails from the past.  I was keeping an eye out for those as I went. 

             I decided to forego taking pictures of the usual cascades along Lynn Camp on the way in.
I figured if the rain held off or they missed the forecast I'd get those on the way back. I focused instead on getting up the trail quickly.   I saw a few other hikers, but the number was rather light considering it was a Saturday.   I passed a group of three hikers and we greeted one another.
They asked if I had seen another member of their party? I was able to tell them where I saw him and what he was doing.  They said he'd catch up to them when he was done taking photos of the falls.
I did ask them what their hike was for the day? They were also going to Indian Flats Falls.  

             I stopped along Lynn Camp and checked out the spot to ford for Marks Creek to pick up that manway.  I wanted to inspect that to see if I still had my story straight about where to ford and such for an upcoming off trail adventure with buddies.   I  spotted not only the fording place, but a couple better ones up from that.    I continued on and was looking ever looking at the far bank of Lynn Camp Prong. I was counting creeks trying to identify Stone Camp Branch. I had learned accidentally that 
there was an old manway up that creek! It ran up the stream, over Timber Ridge and down the other side emerging right at Marks Creek Falls.   It turned out to be harder than I imagined to spot a stream coming down and dumping into Lynn Camp Prong. Why?  Once you get upstream a bit the main stream starts to split into two channels and around little islands.   It is very tough to tell if what is seen is a separate creek coming in or if it is just another part of Lynn Camp Prong.  I still thought I saw
the stream and the starts of an old manway, but I was not sure.

            I pushed on and at the intersection with Panther Branch Trail I stopped for a short break.
My breakfast had worn off and it was not yet lunch time so I ate an orange.  I spoke to a fisherman who had been hiking along ahead of me.  He asked me "Is there a big waterfall up this trail?" I told him yes and asked him if he was going to fish in it? He said no.. that he wanted to fish the waters above it where brook trout started.  He went on ahead.   I got up the trail to the spot where 
it widens out and there is some old metal and a foundation from a building of some sort.
It began to rain.  I was discouraged. I felt my heart sink.  Did I want to keep going or just turn around?    I decided to at least put my rain gear on and see how I felt. I said a little prayer for guidance. I finally decided to take a few steps forward in my rain gear.  I had been a little uncomfortable, but my rain gear felt warm and dry and cozy.  It was what I had needed.
I continued on feeling much better.   The forest was beautiful and the stream was rolling past on my left looking so hypnotic.   

             I got to the switchbacks that start the only portion of this hike that has any real climb to it.
I thought somewhere in that area that I saw a manway on the right.   I noticed on the left some pretty cascades I figured should be there based on the topo map. They are not very big , but they are pretty.
I kept going and it seemed like in no time  I was rounding what had to be one of the last bends before the falls.  I had crossed the low bridge over Indian Flats Prong with its pretty mossy cascades. 

Bridge over Indian Flats Prong.  It looks a little wonky, but it is sure good to have it.  
If you know where to look you can still see the remains of the former bridge and its pilings both above this bridge and below it! It is so old it is coated in moss!

            Since the leaves are off the trees I got a glimpse of the falls through the trees!
I had never noticed this before.   I knew I was getting close, but it surprised me to be seeing the falls already.  I started watching closely now. The falls is accessed by a manway to the right.
In a wide sweeping curve  I spotted a manway taking off in the direction of the falls.  I had never used it or even seen it before. I felt a little uneasy, but also interested where it lead?  I decided to try it and if it played out I'd just turn around and continue on the trail.   It was icy and had packed, hard snow on it.  I was very cautious because it was over rocks and a slip would have sure hurt.
It seemed like no time I was popping out at the first cascade!  I saw the fisherman had arrived at the falls already and stood gazing at the first drop.   He apologized for being in my way to which I said nonsense.  He asked me "Is this Lynn Camp Prong?" I told him no that it was Indian Flats Prong.
He looked disappointed and confused. I asked him to give me a second and we'd look at the map together. I told him I felt turned around since I had never come to the falls the way I did today.
We looked together and he said what he wanted was the headwaters of Lynn Camp Prong.
I showed him what he needed to do to get there.   I knew I was where I wanted to be, but I felt like I had used the tesseract to get there.  


  I had never seen as much water coming over these falls as I found today!  I set up my camera gear and as I did another hiker appeared there with me.  He turned out to be Matthew Patterson. A very nice man who is now a friend!  How lucky can one gal be?   He was an interesting and humorous person to visit with.    We were together at the first drop of this falls. He had been here before also.
Once I got my photo of this drop I continued on down stream using the manway again.   
It provides rough but possible ways to reach each drop of this falls.  I got down to the second one and got some photos.
Second drop of Indian Flats Falls.  

   I then continued down to the third drop.  It has a sloping rock at the upper portion of it.  Since the water was so high and since I was alone and the rocks very slippery I had to be more cautious today.
I did get a side shot of the third drop and it was pretty.  I got a photo for Cal McNabb of the odd metal bar embedded in the stone of the third drop.   Heaven only knows what it was put there for?
I have crawled down to the base of the third drop in the past, but there really isn't a place to stand and you have to just get in the water.  I was not going to do that today.
Third drop of Indian Flats Falls.. the upper part of the third.
Metal bar embedded in the side of the third drop.  It is about 4 ft long!

   I began my hike back out and tried to figure where Paul Gamble said you could get a vantage of all of the drops of the falls?  I never did figure it out.   I realized the hikers who said they were coming up this way still had not arrived. I wondered if the rain caused them to turn back? The rain had stopped while I was at the falls mercifully allowing me to get my pictures taken.  It began again now and harder this time.  I ran into the three hikers finally arriving. They were exploring off trail on the way up and were just in no hurry.  I had a chance to ask them if there was an UPPER manway to the falls or was I dreaming it? They told me yes there was, but there is a lower manway too.  So that settled it in my mind. The lower manway to the falls is better in my opinion.   It cuts off a bit of the trip.. perhaps 1/2 mile total round trip distance.  

                    I had been thinking that up at the high end of the manway I'd look to see if I caught any sight of the vestiges of the old Davis Ridge Manway, but my route change did away with that chance.
What I did not know until today was that the first manway I spotted down along the start of those switchbacks on the right.... was the lower end of the loop.  It used to take off and going clockwise went above Indian Flats Falls and curved around to the right and went across the top of Davis Ridge and looped back down to what is now the Middle Prong Trail in the vicinity of Log Ridge Branch.
 So I had found it after all.  Chuck had mentioned it and I was interested in seeing if I could learn more about it.   

            I met Matthew again on the hike out and we traded contact info so we can do things together.
We are plotting to turn his wife into an off trail hiker. :-)  It was a rainy day, but the rain stopped long enough for me to enjoy the hike and get my photos. I made a new, very nice friend.  Hopefully I'll get to meet his wife and be friends with her as well.

Off Trail With Ma & Pa-- Scouting Sugar Cove Branch and Gourley Ponds

Off Trail With Ma & Pa-- Scouting Sugar Cove Branch and Gourley Ponds

Thursday Feb. 18, 2016

Distance hiked 2.5 miles approx. all off trail.

     I had wanted to explore behind Kermit Caughron's old place.  I had wanted to spend time with my adopted parents Bobbie and Ron Hubbard aka Ma & Pa.     I had wanted to learn the old wagon roads back into Sugar Cove Branch.   We figured they'd show me the starts of it and then Kenny and I could come back and find out how well it worked and how tough it would be.
How much further to the falls? Maybe they would go that far in the future if it was not too bad.

          We met at the Townsend Wye Thursday morning.  It was sure good to see them and spend time with them.   We had a lot of fun.   We worked our way back through the terrain behind the Dan Lawson place.   They showed me the traces of the old wagon road. They showed me old home sites.  We saw lots of quartz stone littering the ground in a few places.  
Ma was telling the truth that there was a rough spot of rhodo and blown down trees.  We struggled through that.   The ground back there is full of springs and boggy places. 

             We finally made it through that stuff and managed to cross Cades Branch.
Ma said she thought we were crossing too soon and she was right. It was only about 100 yards too soon, and it ended up not being a big deal.  The return trip we crossed near where the old wagon road came down to the branch.  It was a MUCH better crossing with less vegetation, flatter, and shallower.   We found where the second leg of the wagon road continues toward Whistling Gap. We passed another chimney pile and tater hole of a homestead on the left.
The woods were far more open now and so pretty! The day was warming up and it was a sunny, bluebird day!   We were all happier that the forest was more open and easier walking for us.  We had no problems following the old wagon road now. It was a deep rut or trench in some places.  
Eventually where it got  near to the headwaters springs of Whistling branch it got a lot harder to see.

            They pointed out to me where a foot path took off to the left of the old wagon road.
This was where I was supposed to follow it and head back into the Sugar Cove.    We scoured around a little while looking for another home site without success. The forest is pretty open back there, but there were lots of downed trees.   We headed back.  Our return trip was far easier and we avoided some of the rough spots on the second part.    Back at the Lawson place we ate lunch and visited.
It was a glorious good day and so nice to be with them. 

             We wrapped up our day going on to see the Gourley Ponds.
The first one.. the big one is dry.  The little one has water in it.   UT is doing some sort of research back in there.   We found but did not disturb five gallon buckets buried in the ground around the pond.   There is a silt fence up around one side of the pond.   It was very pretty.   We thought we'd found another home site, but Ma said she believes is it just a rock pile.  No lintels or signs that it was ever a chimney.   We wrapped up our day by not leaving out a key element..... wandering!
We went in the woods on a rudimentary path, but came out about 50 ft to one side of it.  
We had circled and been briefly "lost".  That made the day complete!   I had a great time.  We talked of coming Spring and wildflower secrets and things we had to check out this Spring!
Something to look forward to!

 Little Gourley Pond with water.
 Ma taking photos.
 Pa grinning for the camera.
 Ma doing her thing!
 some sort of amphibian eggs in the pond near the edge.
Mossy green rock cairn. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Big Sink 123" --Round Two! Finishing It Up

New RZR 1000

Big Sink 123" --Round Two! Finishing It Up

St. Valentine's Day Ride 

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Sunday Feb. 14, 2016

   We visited Big Sink a few weeks ago for the first time.  We had wanted to make a return trip to finish exploring that area.  We made it back yesterday in the snow and sleet and wintery mix in 27° temperatures. We bundled up. Kenny even thought to bring me a pair of clear safety glasses and both of us full face masks.  I wore all of it and was glad to have it. I brought us Hot Hands packets. Kenny did not use any, but I stuck some down in my mittens and they felt really good all day.

         Questions we had wanted answers to were:

  • Are there any waterfalls up Little Sink Branch?
  • Is there a trail along Little Sink Branch from top to bottom? 
  • Are there more waterfalls up the un-named stream at the very back of Big Sink?
  • Where do the trails go that head RIGHT at the mouth of Big Sink?
  • What is back in the hole/cave that is in Big Sink where the way point pings?
  • Is it possible to get to Perrys Branch Falls via the trails off Long Rock Rd?
  • What is in the small sink hole shown near Suggs Branch?

   Kenny wanted to park somewhere different this time and go a different route. 
I was fine with that so we went in via Sally Gap.   We headed out and started seeing wildlife right away.  We saw deer, turkeys, ducks, a pileated woodpecker, a coyote, signs of hogs, a squirrel.
The RZR handled like a dream and the new fender flares and back windshield kept the mud out.
The new, tough skid plate under the machine protected us against the very rocky trail which at times smashed up into the under carriage.  Thanks Buck for helping Kenny install it so well.  You are a fine friend to have and we love you for it.  Great advice from you always!  

        We stopped once to check out the Caney Fork River and the bluffs along there. 
We had always gone flying past and we both wanted to see them today.    We were glad we stopped to check out the view. Pretty scenery and some interesting rock forms. 

Kenny made these bars to keep the machine protected from stuff mashing up against it. 
He did a beautiful job.  Fabricated them himself from scratch and had NEVER used a pipe bender before to my knowledge.  He painted them with that paint that is bed liner/rhino liner paint!  Makes them even tougher.  

 Huge icicles hanging off the bluff
 Aquamarine waters of the Caney Fork River

Mini arches and passages under the river bluff.


           We continued on toward Suggs Branch and went up the hills until at last we found a tiny sink hole pond I had noticed on the map.  We wanted to see if it was a pit cave or some cool water feature?  It was not.  It was a dry sink hole that looks like it must hold water now and then.   It was nothing, but at least we have the satisfaction of knowing now.

Its hard to see, but this is the curving bottom of a small, dry sink hole.  

       We continued to another sink hole that has a couple waterfalls and caves in it. 
We decided to stop there and crawl in one of the caves and check it out.  We knew it would also give us a preview of how the water levels were today elsewhere.  The waterfalls were running, but the flow was low so we kinda figured that our search elsewhere for falls was not going to be as fruitful.    We enjoyed the sight of the falls and icicles and being down in the massive basin.
We also climbed up into the cave for a look. I was surprised to find that while you can hear water in the cave the floor is dry!  The falls emerge from source springs below the cave.

One of two waterfalls in low flow.  

 This shows a glimpse of how far down in a hole we are.  And it is another 50 ft to the bottom of the basin at least.
 Looking out of the cave entrance
Only photo that came out from inside the cave. The rest were so blurry and dark.

Kenny in front of the massive cave entrance in the side of the sink hole basin.

      We climbed back out of the cave and the basin and headed for the four wheeler. Kenny was ready to eat some lunch.   On the climb back down and out I got this side shot of both falls.

Two falls side by side...... they come from underground springs.  The stream flows a short distance and disappears back into the ground all within the sink hole.

        We ate a sandwich back at the RZR.   It was done moving around and standing out in the sleet falling.     It seemed like it was growing colder, but we were at least down out of the wind in here.  That always helps.   We finally got going again as we still had plenty we wanted to check out.    Kenny made all the right connections today in finding a route across Big Bottom Unit.  It was much easier than last try.  

       We could see Little Sink Branch below and a trail continued up it.  We had to stop and saw one or two trees out to continue. When we do that we always walk ahead to scout to see does the trail keep going and are there more trees down ahead?  If it isn't worth it.. its better to just walk.  The trail was continuing and there were no more trees down so it was a pretty worthwhile investment. Little Sink Branch is a pretty hemlock gorge, but the water flow as practically non existent.  It was good to get to check it out, but disappointing that we found no more falls.  I'd still like to go back when we've had a good hard rain for I think there would at least be some pretty cascades in a lovely deep green setting.   The rock forms in the gorge and surrounding it were amazing!   We finally made it to the top... and at plateau level..... the trail dead ended.  On the map it is shown having a connection with the bottom, but it was not the case.   The trail is shown as foot travel sized. I felt like we were fortunate to have found it in as good a condition as it is.  Clearly it is not being traveled. 

          We pressed onward having to lift one tree up a bit to make it under.  I got out and pushed and Kenny pulled the RZR on through.    We stopped to check out the next cave where the way point for Big Sink pings.  It is a newer looking smaller sink hole basin within a larger, older basin.   I had not wanted to go over there alone. Kenny went with me. Sleet still falling and getting harder now.   We walked the bottom of the basin then crept round the edge of it.  
The ground was stable and frozen solid besides.   We saw a large swallet for a wet weather stream.  We crawled into the mouse hole entrance to a cave at the back. It was so neat!

See how ragged the ground looks here?  Soft soil and lots of downed stuff and roots. That entrance over there drinks in the flow of a wet weather stream.

 Close up view of the entranc to the little cave. Kenny is going to get a light.

               Better view of the cave entrance from back further. The dark spot up above to the left is the top of the 2nd entrance which is hidden! 

 Once in the mouse hole front of the cave.. this is your view to the left.. another entrance comes in here!  I crawled over in that part.
 Looking back out of the main cave entrance.

Tight squeeze for a short distance to get inside. I'm inside looking back out.

Looking up into the top of the small cave. In looking at the full sized image I could see five bats. While there I only saw the one.

Spider in the cave! 

  Once in the room of the cave it was round with a pointy ceiling like being inside a stone tee pee.  Kenny guessed the dimensions to be 20x10x40 ft high.     It had some neat stone formations in side.   It also had some ice stalagmites.  Here is a short video of inside the cave.

 Once done with this part of our adventure we continued on toward the back of Big Sink.
We decided between us that if the waterfall visible from the trail was not flowing very well we would forego climbing up the creek in order to hunt for more falls. The waterfall had about half the volume it previously did and we decided we'd wait to exert ourselves when we stood a better chance of seeing something worthwhile. I still believe there are more falls, but they may not flow all the time.
Incidentally there WAS water on the un-named stream, but again...... half the volume as before.

         We rode up out of the basin at the very back.    We tried some new side trails today once at Plateau level.    It helped make the connection as to where some of those unknown paths lead.
Back to the main road and we went hard after it to get over in the direction of Perry's Branch.
We found it with no trouble but it turned out about like I imagined.   The area is a maze of trails going this way and that. Many of them go nowhere.  Some dwindle down to foot traffic only and some are so rough that even on foot it wouldn't be easy.   We cliffed out and could go no further.
Kenny hadn't wanted to admit it, but that was how it played out.

      Sleet was pelting us harder now.  It was beginning to sting when it hit me even with my bundled up clothing, face covering and safety glasses.   I was growing cold and I could tell based on how Kenny looked and sounded he was dog tired. He had not gotten enough sleep the night before.
We decided to head back toward Crossville for something hot to eat and get in where it was warm.

              I helped him load the machine up and lock it down for transport.   We were soon under way.
The roads were starting to get slick.   Every time we passed a house with the wood stove going and smoke coming out of the chimney and the lights on it made me long to be home in the warm.
I was really looking forward to a hot shower and fuzzy pajamas.  We pushed on til we got to Rockwood. The roads growing slicker by the minute.  Kenny was drowsy now and beginning to worry me with him trying to drive in that shape.  We went in and got a nice hot meal at Cracker Barrel.   That and talking to Buck on the way home pepped him up and we made it home.
We unpacked everything quickly and were glad to be home safe and dry.  I was wind burned and red eyed despite all the gear, but I was happy just the same.

             What an awesomely fun day!  The hot shower and pajamas and a soft, warm bed never felt better!

Here is a short video of the sink hole waterfall we saw.

****Answers to the questions ****

  • Are there any waterfalls up Little Sink Branch--No
  • Is there a trail from top to bottom along Little Sink Branch? -- 
  • From the bottom up there is, but it dead ends at plateau level. 
  • Are there more waterfalls up the un-named stream at the very back of Big Sink?--
  • Not sure. Have to go back and finish checking with more rain fall. 
  • Where do the trails go that head RIGHT at the mouth of Big Sink?--
  • Forgot to look-Have to do it another trip. 
  • What is back in the hole/cave that is in Big Sink where the way point pings?
  • Bats and a spider. And one very cool little cave.
  • Is it possible to get to Perrys Branch Falls via the trails off Long Rock Rd?
  • No. 
  • What is in the small sink hole shown near Suggs Branch?
  • Nothing. but leaves. and trees. Not even water. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Whiteoak Flats Branch Today

Whiteoak Flats Branch Today

Hiked .66 miles RT 
Dana Koogler solo
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
  Today I got out for a short leg stretcher, sanity break and to practice a little bit
with my new camera lens.    I had not been up Whiteoak Flats Branch in several years.
I figured that was as good a place as any to take a walk.   
Whiteoak Flats Branch various cascades.  Very peaceful and pretty.  Didn't see another soul today. 
Short video of the different cascades below

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Abrams Falls Hike

Trail at the half way point  

Abrams Falls Hike

Dana & Kenny Koogler 

Saturday Feb. 6, 2016

 5 miles RT moderate

   Today we decided to do something in the Smokies that did not involve a long drive.
We kept it in Blount County today hiking to Abrams Falls.   I wanted to get out so bad, but
I am recovering from the worst flare up of asthma and bronchitis I have had in years.
My lungs are making sounds they have never made before.   We figured Abrams Falls was enough for as short of breath as I had been earlier in the week.   I did good.  We hiked it 
each way in 1 hr 15 min.  I wheezed and sounded horrible, but I felt pretty good.

         I was thrilled to be outdoors and spending time with Kenny.   We are going to have to get serious about getting in shape for our trip in September so we are very motivated.     I had to replace a damaged lens on my camera. I got a Tiffen Neutral Density filter for Christmas.  I had used the new lens, but I had not tried taking filtered waterfall shots with the entire new set up since getting it.
I got my first chance today and I am pleased with the results!  A sunny day at Abrams Falls is not the most optimal conditions for photography, but no worries.  I can tell I like it and that is what matters.
We had other hikers along the trail today, but not a bunch.   It was not crowded and the traffic in Cades Cove was very light.   Getting an early start helps.   

     We had a pretty, perfect Winter day.  Sunny, blue skies. No wind. Forty degrees.
Fresh air and sunshine felt mighty good.  Abrams Falls was roaring! The entire hike was pretty.
We need to stop being such snobs about stuff we have "already done" in the Smokies.   Yes, we have hiked it before, but it was years ago!   I can't even tell you the date.   

  I was tickled to get some exercise and see that I was not quite done for as I had been earlier in the week.   That was all brought on by having been taken off my allergy meds by the doctor.  I did not quit taking them on my own!    No more. I am going to take care of myself and manage this stuff and get it beat back! 

 Abrams Falls shot with the new set up. All that pretty blue green snow water.
 Pretty Blue skies today from the trail
Kenny fantasizing about going round the Horseshoe Bend in Abrams Creek some day.

Short video of Abrams Falls