Saturday, May 28, 2016

Trials Training Center Camping, Hiking, and Four-wheeling Trip

Climbing Milkweed bloom.  

Trials Training Center Camping Trip

May 13-16th, 2016

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Pictures are here starting with frame 416*


   Kenny had been putting in quite a few weekend hours lately.  I told him one day since you worked all last weekend......... I think you should take off for a long weekend with me to go riding and hiking?   He didn't have to be persuaded. He needed and wanted a break.  We tried to think of somewhere we'd been wanting to go.  I was going through one of my spells of feeling very uninspired.   I had been feeling very indecisive which is not like me.    Kenny's only request was that it be somewhere different.  We both tried to think where to go, and initially we couldn't come up with any ideas.   One evening while watching television together it hit me!  "Let's go down to Coppinger Cove and stay at Trials Training Center to camp and go riding a couple days and hiking a couple days?"  We both liked that idea.  Mothers Day in the Smokies had pissed us both off. We hate the traffic and crowds.  We both craved somewhere quieter with less traffic and less people!

        It was a busy week leading up to our trip, but a fun week. We spent time with our kids, their spouses and the grandkids.   We headed out early Friday morning fully packed and ready to go. We were on the road by eight o'clock that morning.  The drive was slightly over two hours to the campground.  We had always wanted to camp in this area, but there really wasn't much to pick from.
We found out a year ago that Trials Training Center does more than just have dirt bike training and events... they rent cabins and have RV camping!   We found it with no trouble and got our camper set up.    It was quiet and the day was clear and beautiful.  We found that we liked Trials Training Center campground. The people there are friendly and helpful.  It was a secure place to stay.  It was neat and clean.  We had full hookups. The TV reception and phone signal there is poor,but it didn't matter.
You could still make a phone call or get a phone call, but if you needed to use any other feature on your smart phone.. it was extremely slow.  We got three tv channels with the antenna which was plenty.

Our campsite for the weekend.. the Kügmobile

            After setting up on Friday we did not have an entire day, but still had time to get out and do some fun stuff.  One of the things we wanted to do was to prove or disprove the existence of the allegedly 100 foot tall "Abraham Falls" listed on Tennessee landforms and mentioned in Greg Plumb's Waterfalls of Tennessee book.  Kenny suggested since that was off to itself we go do that.
We had remarkably good luck today. We headed over toward Whitwell and Mt. Olive.  We met a lady where we parked who greeted us and suggested we move our parking spot to a church down the road.  She said the area was bad for rock hauling trucks. We thanked her and I drove the truck and followed Kenny back down the road to the church.  We headed off again.
    Beautiful view off Mt. Olive Mountain toward Coppinger Cove. The red in the bottom of the photo is baby red buckeye trees blooming!  They were clear cut and the roots put out new baby trees.        
 Closer view of red buckeye blooms.
Side by side with the red buckeyes was yellow buckeye also blooming!
  Our second piece of good luck came when we spotted the lady again along with two young boys and another man.  They were riding four wheelers and loading one of them up because it was damaged.  We stopped and asked them if they needed help? They declined having almost finished loading it.   Kenny asked the man driving another RZR if he knew anything about the waterfall that was supposed to be back there? He said yes. He was one of the landowners and worked for the company that owned the rest of it.  He gave us permission to go and helped direct us. He even told us where we could find a second waterfall.  He warned us that Abraham Falls was not a real good one as there was no real way to view it.  He estimated the height to be 75 ft.

       Following his directions we found some great overlooks with fantastic views of the plateau.
That was about the best part of this mountain.  We also found the waterfall and could drive within
100 yards of it.  It was very disappointing. The creek did not have a lot of water in it and it proved to be easier to reach than anticipated, but one of the most impossible to view we've run into.
It is a good hundred foot drop.  Sad, because they don't care if you visit it. You can easily get back there to it.  Once there you can't see it.  The only way to view it would be to go into the Pocket
and bushwack up to the base.  It would ONLY be worth doing after a heavy, recent rain.

 If you look in the very center of this photo you can see a tiny bit of the brink of Abraham Falls.  It is a sorry view of a not too great falls today.
This is the stream that feeds Abraham Falls. It is low flow today.  We were told by Chris Rankin that
long ago a young boy was washed over the falls to his death during a flood. He tried to cross when the foot log was out.  There would be no stopping and the hundred foot drop would be fatal.

      We continued on very disappointed, but our curiosity at least satisfied at the fact we had proven
the existence of Abraham Falls. Now we know why no one goes here and no photos exist of it!
Next we found Higgin's Gap Falls. It was a 20 footer.  During times of good rain fall it would be worth a visit.  It is possible to get to the base of it.  Today it was piddly.
Low flow at Higgins Gap Falls today.  Not worth a special trip just for this, but if you were in the area and other waterfalls were flowing good.. it would be worth a stop.
The hemlock grotto where it sits is quite attractive.

      We explored a bit more and ran into Chris Rankin and his family again.  We talked more and
I laughed and told him we found the falls and how discouraging they were! He agreed and said that the only way to really see them would be to find a way in from the bottom.  He was a very nice fellow and encouraged us to ride on around to his property where he has a really cool overlook with a swing on it!  They were just leaving there.  We decided to take him up on it, then head back toward Coppinger Cove to ride. We passed some odd sculpture and found a small blackwater pond and then his camp with the overlook!  It was worth the stop.

A little weird artwork on the way to Chris' camp.
 Kenny out on the point
 This overlooks Coppinger Cove where we were visiting.
 Porch swing at the overlook!

  One part of the blackwater pond.

                  Once we visited and saw the rest of the stuff up there we headed back to the church where we parked. We took a couple wrong turns where I had to fight Kenny and get him to admit he did not know where we were going.   Finally he relented and we went back the correct way.  We made it out of there without him chasing too many rabbits.  He reminds me of our old beagle who would get on a hunt and lose her mind. She could not be stopped.  We fought her out of the woods one day only to have her break away and run right back and start again! I was eager to go to Coppinger Cove.
The top of Mt. Olive had been rather disappointing.

                 We loaded up at the church and went back to camp.  Parked the trailer and just drove the RZR on the hard road the few miles back through the cove to where the trail begins.  The first thing that happens to reach the cove is you have a large creek ford at the start.   It is sometimes too deep to ford at all after heavy rain or snow run off.  Winter is when it tends to be really deep.  Today it was running good, but easy enough to ford.   We were going to try to locate Niagara Well.. a waterfall pit cave in the vicinity. I had forgotten and left the waypoints at  home, but we had some good directions and we figured how hard could it be?   We began hunting it up in the area near the beginning of the cove.  We were on the correct slope, but we did not find it today.  I did find white skullcap in the deep dark forest!  It was pretty.   After some time of looking without finding I said I just needed to do something else and re-group.

Some sort of white skullcap. Never saw this before! There was lots of it.

 Indian Pink root was blooming in the woods also! It is so pretty.

    We headed up the cove toward Ship Cave.  We figured we could at least do that today before we had to go back to the camper.   We found it pretty easily.  We had been here once before.
It looked very different in warm weather to how it did in late Winter/early Spring!
This is how the forest looked outside Ship Cave at 2 pm.  Deep and dark at midday! 

 Kenny inside one of the entrances of Ship Cave.  That is not our drink can sitting there.

       Formations on the ceiling of Ship Cave.  The air was cool and moist in here today.  About 56 degrees! The cave has water flowing in the floor of it. It leaves the cave forming a pretty stream that joins the Little Sequatchie River.  We explored a ways back into the cave. We saw some pretty formations and one cave cricket!  We also saw some passages and holes cut out in the cave we had missed before.
 Side passage in Ship Cave.
           Kenny leaving Ship Cave.

Finally we got going so we could do some other things. We went up into Indian Cove a short distance. It seemed like a long way because we'd never been before and it was so rough and rocky!
We didn't really have time to do a proper exploration of this cove today so we'd come back another day.   There was a stream flowing out strongly and merging with the Little Sequatchie.  I took a closer look at it and told Kenny we needed to follow it back to its source. I knew from looking at it that it was special.  The water had a different appearance as did the stream bed compared to the Little Sequatchie.   It was a spring branch.  I have seen those enough I know what I'm looking at.
The water was mineral laden and the water boiled up along the banks of the creek in many spots.
We followed it all the way back to its source.  It was coming out of the ground at a real unremarkable place.  It gathered steam as it got closer to the river from the other boils along it.   What a beautiful little creek.   It was deep and green and tranquil.
 Indian Cove.. a small hole of water . It has that pretty blue green color.
 Evening settles on the little spring branch . It is growing dim.
 See how the water looks milky with minerals?  You can also see it boil up at the edges.
We pulled down next to the spring branch and stopped.  The bank was real mossy and green.

        We were getting tired and hungry so we headed back toward the camper.  We fixed some burgers and hashbrowns for supper.  We rested and watched a little tv.  We discussed what we wanted to do the next day?  Do we want to hike tomorrow or ride tomorrow?  We both wanted to hike.  Saturday tends to be the busiest day in the cove for riding.  We would change up and go hiking instead.   Even busy days in the cove are quiet compared to most places.  We had several spots we wanted to visit to hike.   We'd start our day hiking Savage Gulf.  Sometime during the night I woke up feeling cold.
I got up to use the bathroom and the camper was uncomfortably cold. It is May and we're done with Blackberry Winter, but it is 40 degrees.  I turned on the furnace. Used the bathroom and went back to bed as fast as possible.  Before long the camper warmed up and was comfy.


  We woke to a chilly morning on Saturday.  The forecast called for pretty weather, but cool all day.
They hit the nail on the head.  We were not complaining either.  We had to wear jackets quite a bit today.   We ate breakfast and got lunches packed and prepared to head to Savage Gulf to hike. Kenny fueled up the truck with diesel before we left Jasper.   You never know in these parts if you'll find a gas station that carries diesel.   We called the South Cumberland State Park visitor's center.  The lady who answered was tremendously helpful in giving us directions. We knew the basic way we needed to go, but were trying to pick the best route.  A quick stop by the visitor's center for a map and to meet the lady in person and thank her... and we were on our way.  

        We headed toward Altamont to hike to Greeter Falls and Upper Greeter Falls first.
We figured if those were running good we'd continue, but if they weren't we'd pick something else.
The woods were so pretty.  The parking area has been developed into a nice picnic area. No restroom facilities yet, but much better than the first time we were there.   The hike was straight forward.
We made it round to Upper Greeter Falls, and then down to Greeter Falls.  We saw other hikers there, but not too many.   The mountain laurel and ferns were thick and it made the place extra pretty.

 Greeter Falls
 Mountain laurel
Upper Greeter Falls 

       We mosied on round the loop toward Boardtree Falls.   We passed Lower Boardtree and ended up at Boardtree Falls.  The trail we took followed the bottom of the bluff line.  I could see people down at the base of Boardtree Falls, but there was no official trail to the base.  We just made our own way and found it easily.  It was running pretty good. We had not been to this one before so we were pleased getting to see it at last.
 Both these are Boardtree Falls.  The bottom photo is taken at the base of the upper drop.
This is a pretty spot and easy to reach.

   Once we had started heading away from Boardtree Falls we stopped by a swinging bridge that crosses the stream and heads toward Alum Gap.  We just stood there enjoying the view of the stream and the brink of Boardtree Falls.  
 Suspension Bridge
 Pretty creek on one side...
The verge of Boardtree Falls on the other!

    We made the short, easy hike back to the parking area.  It was lunch time so we sat down at a picnic table and ate a sandwich.    The day was shady and cool and quiet.
Kenny said since that had not taken too long he was interested in going further down the road to see Buggytop Cave and Lost Cove Cascades.  I was game so that is what we did.  We drove further southwest and down the mountain off the plateau. Just past Sewanee I saw the turn off for the 
Sewanee Natural Bridge.  I told Kenny we should make the quick side trip to see it. All this part was going to be new to us.     The day turned really cold and windy as we arrived at the parking spot for the natural bridge.  
 Kenny is already down there!
 I am getting ready to walk across the top of it.

Sewanee Natural Bridge is very impressive!  Kenny noticed the tree right by it is huge, and dead standing.  If it comes down it may well take the arch out!  

  The natural bridge hike was so short we didn't take long to complete that. The guidebook I was using said it was 2 miles to it.  Nowhere near that.   It was a U Drive Up to within 100 yards or less.
We continued on our way toward the trailhead for Buggytop Cave.  The guidebook claimed it was signed "Carter Caves State Natural Area" on a big brown metal state sign.   On the drive down the mountain we arrived at a sign for Tantallon.   We knew we'd missed the trailhead somehow.  
We saw a "Wildlife Viewing Area" sign on the way down. We figured that had to be it!
We back tracked a few miles and pulled into the parking lot.  It was pretty busy and since it was small it was a trick to find a spot.  The mentioned sign was never seen.  The hike was to be 4.4 miles round trip moderate.   The woods were pretty in places.  A lot of cedar trees growing and very rocky.
I saw lots of indian pinks, and climbing milkweed. 

    Climbing Milkweed

        We had read that the trail went up over the ridge, out the bluff and down toward the cave. 
The trail narrative was pretty accurate, but it did not prepare me for what was coming.  We arrived at the last 0.3 miles of the trail.  We stood at the brink of a four hundred foot tall cliff with an unguarded, unrailed edge.  The trail as it was........... to the bottom...... required you to walk along the rim of the gulf, the climb over rocks that were easy to catch your feet in,  then down on steep slick dirt.   I did it, but by the time I got to the bottom I was sweating bullets and shaking like a leaf.  Kenny hugged me and reassured me and tried to help me calm down.  I was feeling the fear, but doing it anyway.   Once no one was looking I got to myself and just cried.  I was out of control of my nerves.  I was not having fun.   The anxiety and sudden fear of heights was robbing me of the fun of this adventure.   I went in the Buggytop Cave which was pretty neat.  I saw a salamander.  Being in there in the cool and on level ground helped me a little.   We worked our way round and down to where we could get a better look at Lost Cove Cascade which spills out of the cave mouth. 
The area was not as I had imagined.  I was shaken up real bad.    I tried to pay attention to just taking pictures and staying calm.   

 This set of rocks was real pretty and just an improvement and re-route of the trail.
 Buggytop Cave
 Looking out of Buggytop's twilight zone

         Lost Cove Cascades were quite pretty.  

Standing at the mouth of Buggytop Cave and looking back up... four hundred feet .. ... I could see a woman up there at one point..and she was tiny. 

       I was dreading the climb back out of there, but I knew 1.  Going up is always easier than coming down 2.  Once I got past the rim of the canyon and past those rocks I'd feel better.  3.  Kenny was with me and he wasn't going to let me get hurt.  I felt ill I was so torn up.  I sat down to compose myself. I asked Kenny to sit down with me and pray.  I prayed and asked the Lord to just please help me remain calm and stop being so doubtful and having all sorts of scary thoughts about falling.  
I wanted to get control of my emotions and be rid of this fear of heights. It was an answered prayer in that I made it up there much easier than I had come down.  Once up top Kenny took me aside and said "Who ARE you?  My wife isn't afraid of heights and this stuff never bothers her! When you get home you're going to see Dr. Collins and get your hormones checked. Something is BAD wrong with you."  I knew he was right. I'd been burning up even on what had been a cold day.  I was nervous as a cat and just not myself.   I was determined to overcome this.  On the way back the trail a group of hikers and a big dog came along. The dog took one look at me and knew at once I was distressed. 
He came running up to me and stood up putting his feet on my chest. He kissed my face all over.
His owners said "OH! We're so sorry.  He never does that!"  I told them not to scold him.
"I'm having a rough time and he knew that.  He knew I needed some loves to make me better."  I got the message.  " I know you're sad.  I know you're scared. Don't be scared. I love you."   Dogs are the best!   It helped me on the way down the trail to hear the chatter of others and the laughter.  It was very soothing.   It didn't take long til we were back at the parking area.  We talked with the ranger
and he shared some info about cave tours we could arrange. 

            We drove back to the camper a different way that was shorter and better.  
I was glad that experience was over.  Back at the camper we had a nice steak dinner and a baked potato and some melon.  We rested and relaxed.  


  We slept good Saturday night and had some time for romance. Waking up Sunday morning it was chilly again. The furnace ran every night while we were there.  We got up Sunday with the plan to go 
four wheeling today.   We had a good breakfast and packed some sandwiches and headed out. 
The woods in Coppinger Cove were greened up and the main blooms of the season in the canopy were magnolia and poplar.  Some sort of white skullcap was abundant in the woods along with smooth phlox, mountain laurel, red honeysuckle, and Indian pinks.    The air was cool and fresh.
We decided today we'd take care of a couple things. We'd try to find Sam's Cave up in Indian Cove.
We'd try to connect that trail with where it comes out in White City.  We wanted to also take the trail from down along Pocket Creek Cascades the rest of the way through. It was supposed to come out at the overlooks just past Mikes Branch Falls.  We had been up so far and out so far, but never tied the two together.     

Magnolia bloom in the tree canopy.

  Indian Cove branch dries up to holes of water.
 Looking up thru the leaves at the top of the bluff. This is only about a hundred feet up or less.
Water flows out from under this rocky bluff in several spots.  

   We had barely entered the cove and got going when we came upon the spot where someone had built a fire right by the trail and against the edge of the woods.  The fire was spreading up into the forest as we pulled up.  We didn't have anything with us, but we couldn't just let it burn and take a chance.  We got out and stomped out the flames and stayed with it until we were satisfied it was out.
We inhaled a fair amount of smoke in the process.  Who does this stuff? Human Pigs.. that is who.
Later we ran into a man and woman who also built a fire in the river jacks, but theirs was where it wasn't going anywhere.  All around it was seeping water in the rocks.  It was barely smoking. 
We talked to them about it and they claimed they didn't even see the first fire.  

           We headed ever onward deeper and deeper into Indian Cove.  The trail was horrible in places.
Other places it was great!  We got to where Kenny thought we were by what must be Sam's cave.
It was a swallet in the creek bed drinking in the flow of the stream which wasn't much at that time.
He decided that was far enough. I think it made him uneasy being back there and he was worried about us being alone in case something mechanical went wrong.   The RZR is great, but those boulders are unforgiving.  We knew based on what we were seeing it the trail wasn't getting a lot of use.   We both knew we wouldn't see another soul back there today, and we didn't.   It is a strange place and has a slight sense of foreboding about it.   We'd be going along and down out of the slopes around us from either side would come a cold gust of air.  I'm not talking about the wind. I'm talking about the air that rushes out of cave openings.   We did see one old chimney pile and an old rock wall.
People used to live here.  

Here is a hole in the bluff, but it is not a cave!  One beside it was round!

 The swallet we found.
 This tiny cascade is about four feet high.
And here is the swallet. ... draining the creek. Think of it as the bathtub drain! 

      We left Indian Cove and headed toward the Pocket to see if we could tie the trails together.
We stopped and visited with the couple we had seen earlier. They were drinking, but were pleasantly buzzed.  The guy was a native to the cove and his family before him back several generations. He gave us a really interesting history lesson.  It was intriguing.  He has done a lot of exploring and knew lots of good things.   He did not know where to find Niagara Well.  We had looked again today unsuccessfully.  We got a tip from this dude on another sinkhole or cave waterfall in Dixon's Cove. He told us where to find it.   

        We went up to the Rainbow Falls and Cave and saw that and ate lunch.
We also went up the the overlooks and Mikes Branch.   It was not that fun, but Kenny wanted to do it and we finally did.  We came down the road and on our way back that afternoon went to Dixon's Cove.  We will have to go back and find a place to lock the RZR down or get permission to park in someones driveway or yard.   No real good place to pull over.   We will have to walk the 1.5 miles one way to the waterfall cave.   He did not have the ability to lock up the RZR to his satisfaction today.    We went on to the camper and just chilled out.    We had a good dinner and a restful sleep.
Monday we decided to head home early.   I called and made an appointment to see the doctor ASAP.
 Rainbow Falls and Cave. Not too impressive today since the flow was a lot lower than when we first saw it.

   I found out at the appointment that my estrogen pills weren't working right anymore.
She changed me over to patches.  Within a few days all that nervousness and anxiety went away.
The hot flashes and sweats stopped.   The crying jags stopped.  I hate feeling like such a sissy.
Kenny was very supportive and he was right.   Dr. Collins said that the change over should resolve the problem.  I am on less estrogen and feel so much better!  I want my old self back!

   Once we were home I found the waypoints to Niagara Well.  We realized the swallet was NOT Sam's Cave.   We realized that a closed trail we went past would have taken us to the base of Lower Boardtree Falls.  We found out that where I told Kenny in Coalmont.. that there was more riding of the northern end... I was exactly right. I picked the access point and everything.  We have lots of reasons to return! 

Here is a video of the swallet we found in Indian Cove.


And below is a short, pretty video of Lost Cove Cascades