Sunday, April 26, 2015

glorious green

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. 
--Martin Luther (1483-1546) German Theologian.

One of the first comments people visiting this area for the first time invariably make is, "It's so green!" It's green because our average annual precipitation is more than Portland or Seattle. :)  (Above: Buffalo Mountain Trail)

Friday, April 24, 2015

wildflower's song

As I wandered the forest,
The green leaves among,
I heard a Wild Flower
Singing a song.
--William Blake (1757-1827) English painter, poet and printmaker.

Above: Foamflower

Thursday, April 23, 2015

better days

Only he who has seen better days and lives to see better days again knows their full value. 
--Mark Twain (1835-1910) American Humorist, Writer and Lecturer.

I didn't find any information online regarding the history of this old cabin and smokehouse located near the trailhead at Laurel Run Park. Anyone know the background to this?

Here's my page describing the park and the hikes to the waterfalls found there.

Other Laurel Run Park Links:
Hawkins County website
Facebook page
TEHCC Trail Page

Update: Thanks to fellow photographer Richard Siggins for the link to this recent article discussing the cabin and its future. You can check out Richard's work here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kiner Creek Falls

This is the best time of year to go see Kiner Creek Falls outside of Church Hill, TN in Laurel Run Park. In the summer months it often is just a trickle, but as you can see it's flowing well after our spring rains. The wide angle lens makes it look bigger than it is. It's listed as 30' online, but I'd say it's more like 20'. It's a fun place to visit, but it does require a sense of adventure. First, the main trail is tough slogging -- muddier than usual. Such a beautiful area, it's a shame the old trail isn't kept up better. So, if you go, wear old shoes and just embrace the fact that you'll get muddy.  Second, the creek crossing is also tough with all the rain we've had. I made it across ok, but it was iffy. Third, the last section of trail to the falls isn't marked and requires some scrambling through the rhododendrons.  And finally, leaving the falls (at least the way I go) has you climb out of the falls - which is very steep and slippery -- but all well worth it to experience this beautiful place! Another bonus... you'll also find lots of wildflowers this time of year. Directions here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wild Rocky Fork

Lots of activity out at Rocky Fork as it is being transformed into a state park. As you enter the park, you'll see many survey stakes and orange flagging tape lining the entrance road indicating changes are afoot. While final plans for Tennessee's newest state park are still being worked out, access improvements are underway. Here is a recent Johnson City Press article on the upcoming 'First Annual Hikers’ Jamboree' on May 2nd. At the end of the article is a rendering of the proposed entry way to Rocky Fork. See the park's Facebook page for more information.

I'm certainly glad the property wasn't developed into a gated residential community or some other private development -- which was feared when the timber company owning the 10,000 acre parcel placed it up for sale. Eventually the Conservation Fund and the Federal Government stepped in. Still I do wonder how Rocky Fork will change going forward. According to the Conservation Fund, "preliminary plans include an access road, ranger station, primitive campground, picnic areas and trails, in addition to interpretive efforts to share the historic Revolutionary War-era battles site." The JCP article referenced above says the new park will allow for "hiking, biking, running, walking, horseback riding and possibly two-wheeled motorized recreational vehicles." That sounds good, but put me down as a 'no' vote against the use of any two or four wheel motorized recreational vehicles. I already had my run-in with an atv out there.

While I have every hope that the new park will be thoughtfully designed with efforts taken to keep Rocky Fork as wild and pristine as possible, I did think, as I was walking along, it will never be as wild as it is today.

Directions: Take the Flag Pond exit off of I-26 (exit #50), at the stop sign turn left onto Upper Higgins Creek Road. Drive ½ mile, till you reach Rt. 23, turn right and travel 2 ¼ mi. through Flag Pond, then turn left on Rocky Fork Road. Enjoy the views of the tumbling creek. After ¾ mile, you will see a gravel pull-off to the left. Park here (out of the way of the gate) to continue exploring the 10,000 acre Rocky Fork on foot. Trail map here.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.
--Frank Herbert (1920-1986) American author.

Above: Rocky Fork after a spring rain.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

spring work

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm. 
― John Muir (1838-1914) Naturalist and Conservationist.

Above: An early white trillium blooming in Rocky Fork.

Friday, April 3, 2015

spring has returned

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. 
--Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. 

Such a fun, unusual spring wildflower, with such a fun name... Dutchman's Breeches.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

spring embrace

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! 
--Sitting Bull (1831-1890)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

precious gift

The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.
--Thich Nhat Hanh (b.1926) Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and author.

Friday, March 20, 2015


We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.  
--Jawaharial Nehru (1889-1964) Prime Minister of India.

Above: On the Pinnacle Mountain Trail in Unicoi County, TN.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


May brooks and trees and singing hills join in the chorus too,
and every gentle wind that blows send happiness to you.

--Irish Blessing

Sunday, March 15, 2015

life's rough places

Courage and cheerfulness will not only carry you over the rough places in life, but will enable you to bring comfort and help to the weak-hearted and will console you in the sad hours. 
--William Osler (1849-1919) Canadian Physician.

On the Appalachian Trail near Laurel Falls you'll discover numerous cut-throughs made for the old Laurel Fork Railway. Standard gauged rails were used to haul timber out of this remote area to a Hampton, TN sawmill from 1912-27. This area was dedicated the Pond Mountain Wilderness in 1986. The term 'wilderness' is defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964 as “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions."

Friday, March 13, 2015


Love is the big booming beat which covers up the noise of hate. 
--Margaret Cho (b.1968) American Comedian.

I love the sound of a waterfall in spring when the water roars with full force. This is Laurel Fork Falls outside of Hampton, TN, a 55-foot beauty and one of the most popular hikes in our region. Click here for directions and information. Listen to the roar in this short video:

Thursday, March 12, 2015


The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.
--Author Unknown.

This past October, a new bridge was completed on the Appalachian Trail leading to Laurel Fork Falls from Dennis Cove Road. The new "Koonford Bridge" is in the same location as the older, narrow bridge in the Laurel Fork Gorge. Though considerably wider, I'm glad they kept the handrails on just one side, just like the older bridge. This wasn't just a replacement project -- in order to accommodate the new, wider bridge, volunteers had to first widen and raise the stone support piers. Here is a link to a series of videos showing the dedicated volunteers who made this happen. The new bridge is very impressive both in its scale and craftsmanship. Sixty-six feet in length, it took about two months to complete.

Some of you might remember that back in January of 1998 the central section of the old bridge was washed away in a flood and quickly replaced by a crew of volunteers.  That 'quick fix' held up really well for 16 years.