Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Three Falls in One Morning

Sunday July 8, 2018                                                     Most Recent Posts:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park                         The Beautiful Jakes Creek Falls-The Sadness of Neglect
Tennessee                                                                    Going Back In Time

Today I was able to see two easy roadside waterfalls.  The third required a hike. 

Not one soul is here at 6:50 am when I stop along the Little River Road at a pull out to see  Lower Meig Falls.  The road follows the river and it’s hard to keep your eyes on your driving with such beauty right beside you.  Good thing the speed limit is 30 mph.


Lower Meig is the bigger of the falls and is more than five miles from its upper falls where I’ll head next.   Obviously the falls is a good distance from the road.  Although my camera with its wide angle lens actually makes it look further than it is.


To compensate, I can zoom in.


I read that the falls begin with two modest steps of 5 feet and 2 feet when Meigs Creek emerges from a tunnel of dense rhododendron, hardwoods, and pine.  The creek travels 45 feet from the top steps to drop 5 feet onto a 3 foot wide gutter which shifts the flow from right to left about 15 feet.  The water then plunges 28 feet over exposed Thunderhead Sandstone as I see it now.   It’s nice to imagine the travels of the water to get to what I can see.

IMG_6852To reach the Upper Meigs Trailhead I drive up the road  a short distance, cross the bridge as the river moves to the other side of the road and turn right into a parking lot for what is known as The Sinks. The lot is used mostly by folks wanting to see this roadside attraction. 

The swirling waters of the Little River cascade over this man made waterfall.

  Before trains rumbled through the Smokies to carry the logs out, loggers floated them down the river to mills.  During a flood in the late 1800s a massive log jam formed here in this bend of the river. 

Loggers used dynamite to free the logs.  The explosion blasted a deep hole in the rocky streambed creating The Sinks and altering the course of the river.  I just have to sigh


I read that the nameThe Sinks came about because supposedly it gives onlookers the impression that water is draining from a sink. Not sure who thought that up or when but that wasn’t the impression I go.  Still, the river definitely comes roaring down and over the blasted rocks.


Meigs Mountain Trail to Upper Meigs Falls begins just beyond the viewing area for The Sinks.

Beyond the steps, the trail is rooty, rocky and soon becomes pretty narrow. 

It is a rather steep climb over Curry He Mountain.  I’m not going that far, as in Over. 
I turn around for this shot of where I’d come.  There are a lot of switch backs in this climb.

Not sure how you’d pass someone coming the other way without falling down the steep hillside.


Now I have a narrow trail on a steep hillside plus obstacles.


These bright yellow spots are today’s most common flowers.  They grow in little clumps here and there along the way.



There are 4 creek crossing on this trail requiring rock hopping.


Some are easier than others.


The sounds of  hidden cascades give them away so I know to look for them.


Last month there was a lot of Solomon’s Seal and False Solomon’s Seal in bloom.  Today I find the false Solomon Seal flowers have turned to berries.  Someone has eaten nearly all of them.


And there it is, Upper Meigs Falls.  I’ve come almost 2 miles


I climb down to get a closer look at the 18’ falls.  That’s not possible with 28’ Lower Meigs.


Today the falls is probably not as full as it was a few weeks ago.  But there is enough water for it to have split into two. The main falls is almost out of the picture on the right.  The terrain prohibited me from getting far enough away to get all of both of them in one picture.   I understand that in high water it covers the entire rock face behind me. 
What am I looking at??


So I take one picture of each side.



OK, more than one.  Different angles dontcha know.


It’s true, I love waterfalls.  This is number 5 if you count The Sinks as a falls.  Not sure about that.


Things are rougher on the far side of the main falls.  It looks quite different from here.


I’ve been here nearly 45 minutes and had the falls all to myself when I decide reluctantly to head back up the trail I took down, there on the left, and return to the main trail.


One last look back.


As I’m climbing I can see back beyond the falls at the water before it tumbles over.


Up on the main trail is a cute group of Downy Rattlesnake Plantain.  The tallest one is about 15”.


The name comes from the look of their leaves there at the ground.


All the way up the spur trail I wonder if there is a way to get closer to the top of the falls.

I can see it there through the thicket.


I find a spot with a better view.


There isn’t actually a path but I manage to get about this close.  It’s hard to take good pictures of the entire flow coming toward me from my left.   The distance pictures are much better.


Still, nothing beats being right there to hear and see it as it pours over the edge.


The rhododendron here are a beautiful pink.  These are the Rosebay Rhododendron and, like the Catawba, don’t show up well in distance pictures but with this bit of a zoom I can see 3 in this picture of the top of the falls.



I’m on my return trip when I see my second centipede of the day.  The first one I saw on my climb up was yellow.


This one is pink.   Other than color, they look the same to me so I have no idea what, if anything, color means.  Let me know if you do.


I thought the millipedes were my only wild life for the day until I came to one of the creek crossings and as I started across a great blue heron and I scare each other.  Thankfully I had my camera set from just taking a picture so I was able to snap this before he flew further on down the stream.   The picture I took of him flying is just a blur.  Notice all the rhododendron blossoms around him.

I quietly skulked around and was able to get a few more blurrish pictures of him back in the rhododendron


I was seriously not expecting to see a Great Blue Heron in a mountain stream in Smoky Mountain National Park.   They sure do get around.

I hike the rest of the trail without incident and see only two people on my way back until I get to the top of the stairs taking me down to the parking lot and there they are.  It’s 11:00 now. 


As I reach the parking lot I’m really happy I started out early this morning when . . .


. . . the lot looked like this.   I’ve hiked 4.64 miles and had a great quiet morning at the falls.  Getting out early is the only way to enjoy the park and avoid the crowds in July.


The Beauty of Jakes Creek Falls–The Sadness of Neglect

Friday July 6, 2018                                                                                           Most Recent Posts:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park                                                              Going Back In Time
                                                                                                                         Change of Plans


In Shenandoah National Park in 2015 I made my goal to hike all 105 miles of the AT that went through the park  In Acadia National Park we tried to climb to as many peaks as we could.  Here in the Great Smokies I’m going to try to visit as many of the waterfalls as I can.

My first was Cataract Falls on Monday. Today I’m looking for Jakes Creek Falls.


The trail starts at the top of a road just outside Elkmont Campground.   The Campground is located on the site of the former lumber company town of Elkmont established in 1908 by the Little River Lumber Company as its base of operations in taking out the big timber in this area. 

Elkmont evolved from a collection of small farms in the area which was originally called Little River.  The lumber company bought the land and operated from 1908 to 1926 when it moved operations to Tremont.   These operations dramatically changed the landscape of the area as you can imagine.  Millions of board feet of old growth timber were cut and hauled out  leaving vast clear cut areas.  The company built a railroad yard, machine shop, post office, commissary, and housing units at Elkmont.  The camp was connected to the company headquarters and main mill in Townsend by a rail  line that ran along the river and is now Little River Road.

The trail begins on what was an old timber railroad bed and runs along the creek which is lined with gorgeous rhododendron blossoms.


IMG_6292As the road climbs I run into the remains of what I’m later told was an area known as “Society Hill”, a part of a 1910 resort community known as “The Appalachian Club” with wealthy members from the Knoxville area who wished to escape the heat in the summer.  During and after the time that the Little River Lumber Company worked in this area the company, and later a group of Knoxville businessmen, sold property lots to private citizens.  Can’t imagine wanting a summer place in a lumbering area but . . . .  Judging from the name “Society Hill”, these must have been some very nice places.  Seems a shame to just let them deteriorate rather than use them for income or just for the public to see them.  I do know that some owners were given extended leases and allowed to renew them with the  last one expiring in 2001.  I wonder how many of the mountain people had this opportunity other than the hard fighting Walker Sisters.

These homesites had beautiful views of the creek below.



The road narrows and I’m happy to see that Jake’s Creek Trail goes off to the right on what looks like easier hiking.


Scarlet Bee Balm is coming into bloom along the trail.



At 1.6 miles the 6 foot Jake’s Creek Falls and its cascades come into view.


It’s absolutely lovely with a nice sized pool.  I wonder again when during the year is it hot enough to want to swim in that water?


The closer I get, the more inviting it looks though it’s not the least bit hot here in these mountains.  Yet it’s plenty hot in the valley where Winnona is.


1.6 miles is just getting me started so I walk on up the trail and come to a one log foot bridge.  I love these.



The trail turns into a two track.  I’m not sure if this is still the lumber road and just no longer graveled.  I know the company logged way up these mountains as high as Clingman’s Dome which is the highest point in the park..  It’s incredible how nature has recovered from such massive wanton destruction though the old growth trees are few and many are now sucumbing to foreign pests and diseases.


Further on, it turns into a single track which feels more like a “trail” to me.  Check out that mushroom in the lower right.  More on them later.


Along the way here, through the trees I can see and hear much larger falls but I’m not a bushwhacker and don’t really approve of off trail erosion creating hiking so I take what pictures I can.  


I zoom in when it’s possible  The power of the water is so clear.


As the creek  and I move up and down some are closer to me.


Here I find pink rhododendron. 




Many tributaries to cross as I hike.  Some easier than others.



I’m at about 3 miles when I head into this “laurel thicket” as the mountain people called it.  Almost looks like I’m headed into an Alice rabbit hole.  Shortly after, I return the way I came.  By the time the hike is finished, I’ve done 7.2 miles and had a wonderful time in these mountains finding my second and many other waterfalls.

There are few flowers in the woods in July but plenty of mushrooms in all colors.  shades of tan and beige, white, orange and even red though I didn’t see any of those today.   Some are almost velvety, others are fringed, others smooth.  It’s amazing how many there are.  These are just a few of the ones I saw.  Several were holding water.


After the hike, I return to my car and drive through an area the park has decided to restore after years of neglect.  This incudes the original Appalachian Club and the houses adjacent to it which were known as Daisy Town.  I don’t really have the time now to do this justice so I put it on my plan to return list.

IMG_6506Instead,  as I drive down toward the main road.  I stop at a sign for the Wonderland Hotel. 

The story is that The Appalachian Club was rather exclusive in its membership and thus three Carter brothers bought a second plot  of land two years later and built the hotel and later a restaurant.  This too was a private club but in time their doors were opened to the general public.  They became a popular tourist destination.   In addition to hauling logs, trains of the Little River Railroad brought passengers to the area and both the Hotel and the Club had small train stations adjacent to the railroad tracks.  The hotel was still operating in the 1970’s with 26 guest rooms and a dining room known for serving excellent food.  It closed in November of 1992 and alhough the buildings of the entire resort area were added to the Naitoinal Register of Historic Places in 1994, the money to restore them was not forthcoming until very recently and thus none of the Wonderland Hotel or its cabins remains.  This information and the vintage pictures come from the sign which attracted me.  These are the steps to the hotel in the past and in the present.

Steps to the Wonderland Hotel today

Just beyond the top of the steps I find this nearly obscured circular stone structure.  Could it be the fountain from the picture below it of the hotel?



Such a shame that these steps and what was once obviously a magnificient fire place are all that remain of the hotel a mere 26 years after it closed.  It’s up to all of us to make sure our representatives provide enough money for our parks so that we aren’t left with the ruins of things that should have been preserved for both their historic, cultural and architectural value.




I walk further up the road and find steps that go to ruins of the cottages which surrounded the lodge.  Nothing is left.



Amazing stone work.  It appears this entire chimney was made from river stone.


IMG_6511It was a lovely hike along Jakes Creek to the falls and beyond but as I climb back down the steps that once led to the Wonderland Hotel I am filled with sadness at the neglect. 

On another day, I’ll visit the 13 structures the park service decided eventually to save.  I know they will say they could not save them all but one that they saved, the Spense Cabin, is now available for rental and numerous weddings are held there.   This country spends a lot of money and how our government chooses to spend it speaks loudly about what we as a country value.  It’s not what we say, it’s what we do.  I believe the hotel and the club and their cabins might well have been money making enterprises for this park which charges no entry fees.  At the least they might have paid for their restoration and upkeep.  Where were our philanthropists?  Especially local ones?  The money spent on the TV campaign ads here in Tennessee alone for the congressional and gubernatoral elections this fall could more than have paid for this work.  I suspect that was true in the 1990’s as well.    Only the steps remain.