Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1, 2012 - Virgin Falls and The Minister's Tree House

We awoke early and absquatulated our gear in time to hit the trail shortly after 8 AM. Our destinations were two waterfalls, Big Laurel and Virgin Falls both in Scott's Gulf.

This trail is known across the country for the falls and for the difficulty of the hike. It's not impossible, but it's no stroll through the park either. This is probably the second hardest hike we've ever done with the kids. Good shoes are a must. Plenty of water is vital. But don't my word for it:

Broken leg? I'll just call... oh, right.

The top of the trail winds through a small laurel hell and the first mile of the hike is really mild and gradually slopes down.

Then around 1.25 miles in things get a little more... vertical. The elevation drops by about 600 feet in the next to the 2.5 mile mark where Big Laurel Falls is located.

There is a huge shelter cave behind Laurel Falls. The water actually reverses direction at the bottom of the falls, swirls around the perimeter of the cave and then at the back gets sucked into a hole!

On the way down we had to move off the trail to let a troop of 68 scouts pass. One of the scouts left a nifty bamboo frog gig that Jake picked up and carried around the rest of the hike.

After taking a break to grab a snack and water-up we continued down the trail. The path was covered with wildflowers on both sides nearly the entire trek.

Giant Chickweed

Bearded Dwarf Iris

Fire Pink
After descending another 200 or so feet (and then climbing back up 100) we arrived at Virgin Falls near the 4.8 mile mark. This is easily one of the most amazing waterfalls we've ever seen. Water flows from a cave about 150 feet then plummets 110 feet to the bottom of the falls were it vanishes into a pit. We were very fortunate to see the falls after a couple of days of decent rainfall.

We paused to eat and drink again while enjoying the misty breeze from the falls. Sadly, we did not venture up and around to the source cave at the top of the falls this trip. Nor did we visit Sheep Cave or the Overlook trail. I'm pretty sure that we'll be making a return trip, possibly involving staying the night right off the trail.

Little dog was tired after hiking almost five miles on her own four feet so Esther gave her a ride for a little while.

Total distance: 10.2 miles
Total time: 6 hours, 51 minutes
Tracklog in Google Maps.

 The best part was that the day wasn't over yet. We then traveled just north of Crossville, Tennessee to what most know as "The Minister's Tree house". The story goes that a local preacher was directed by God to build the tree house. The full story can be found at this article on Roadside America. I don't know if it was divine inspiration, but the tree house is like nothing I've ever seen this side of an M C Escher painting. It's just nearly indescribable. The closest thing I've seen to it is the giant playground at the Nashville Zoo and that doesn't even come close. Just start typing "giant tree house" into Google and watch the auto-complete add "Crossville, TN" at the end. 

Walking through the tree house was like teetering on the precipice of order overlooking a vortex of chaos. Time and space get all wonky. Not all the ceiling heights on all the floors are consistent and sometimes you don't arrive at where you thought you were going. It's like the TARDIS of tree houses but turned inside out and twisted back in on itself. It felt amazingly sturdy, with one possible exception being the very top of the bell tower that swayed ever so slightly in the breeze. The constant movement of large sections of metal pipe, the church bells, were a strong visual reminder of this.

The Minister's Tree House can be found here. Just a couple of turns off I-40, turn left where Cook Road comes to a stop and keep going. The road narrows to a single lane and there about a hundred people there (more or less, it was really hard to tell as you could hide a thousand in the tree house) so be ready to pull over and let folk through.

Side note- there is a geocache (by the same name) located near the tree house, but we could not find it during our visit.

On our way home we made a final stop to claim a find on a special type of geocache called a Webcam Cache. isn't currently accepting new listings for these types of caches (just as with Virtuals) and they are fairly hard to find compared to other types. The basic idea is that you visit a webcam and capture your picture to prove you were there. Here's the picture of Chan and me for our find on "Sparta Tennessee Webcam".

All the pictures from our April Fool's Day adventures (many more than I posted in this entry) can be found RIGHT HERE.

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