Cumberland Plateau, Kentucky & Tennessee – May 2019 – Waterfall Tour

The Cumberland Plateau is situated just west of the Appalachian Mountains, running from Kentucky through Tennessee and into Alabama.

The area has a number of highlights including this natural bridge in southern Kentucky.



The Cumberland Falls is the most famed natural feature of southern Kentucky. They claim to have the 2nd most volume of water for a waterfalls in the eastern United States (a far second to Niagara Falls).



From below the rush of the water is impressive.



Just south of Byrdstown, Tennessee is the Obey River Recreation Area.



Cummins Falls is a 75′ high waterfall on the Blackburn Fork River in Jackson County, Tennessee. This waterfall has two options for viewing – one is the overlook seen here. The second is to go down to the river and wade for 1/2 mile in the river to get to the waterfalls. Because of high water conditions (and not being prepared for wading waist high in water), we opted for the overlook view only.



Burgess Falls is on the aptly named Falling Water River in east central Tennessee. This remains of an old bridge crosses the river just above the series of waterfalls.



There are some cascades before you arrive at this falls, nearly 80′ high.



But the main Burgess Falls is this impressive 136′ drop into the ravine.



Not far from Burgess Falls is Falls Creek Falls. It is the highest free fall waterfall east of the Mississippi, dropping an impressive 256′.



A closer view of the top.



A robust hike into the ravine gives a totally different perspective.



Within the same park is this nice cliff and small falls.



Also in Tennessee is the Rock Island State Park. It has a number of features including this falls along the Caney Fork.



This falls once powered this historic cotton mill.



The Caney Fork continues down. Depending on the release of water from the dam it can look like those, or be totally submersed in water.



The highlight of the Rock Island State Park are the Great Falls. Here it appears the entire hillside is the waterfalls, with water seemingly coming from everywhere along the hillside.



This closeup of the smaller cascade portion show the beauty of the falls.



Finally we had a bonus waterfalls early in the morning in Tullahoma, Tennessee. The Rutledge Falls is on a church’s property but they welcome visitors to come check them out.





Southeastern Utah – National Parks Road Trip – Day 15 – Natural Bridges, Hovenweep & Four Corners

The Spanish Valley is south of Moab, and our initial scenery leaving in the morning.  As we made our way down US 191 we passed a natural bridge arch before coming to a giant rock with ‘Hole In the Rock‘ painted in 30’ letters on the side of it. Apparently it is a 5000 square foot house someone carved into this giant rock, but we were too early in the day for them to be open, so we continued on our way.

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South of Blanding we reached Utah 95, a narrow state highway  that runs out through the desert up and down small hills. As I turned onto this road a dirty old 4 wheel drive pickup passed me, which of course I took as a challenge to keep up with. It is 38 miles from Blanding to Natural Bridge National Park, and according to the GPS should’ve taken us 45 minutes to make the drive, but following Deliverance Boy I did it in 30 minutes.

Once we did land at the park headquarters we received instructions from the ranger on the best option for a couple of hours of time that we had. As with many parks they have a auto tour loop that we took, providing views of three natural bridges and as well as a view of Native American ruins. The trails were steep and strenuous so we skipped the longer hikes and soaked in the view from the overlook. The first natural bridge named Sipapu was large and had a lot of rock above it with trees and a river below it.

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Our next stop was at the Horsecollar Ruin overlook. Here pottery was once found that dates these ruins between 1 AD and 13 AD. The ruins were well preserved but accessed was denied to them. These ruins are considered to be the best preserved ancient Puebloan ruins ,mostly due to their isolation. Horsecollar Ruin earned its name because the doorways to two structures resemble horsecollars, the site was abandoned more than 700 years ago.

We moved on to see the Kachina Bridge where the White Canyon and Armstrong Canyon meet. Kachina Bridge, known as the middle bridge which spans the canyon equally from both Owachomo and Sipapu bridges, is named for the petroglyphs of dancing figures resembling Kachina dolls. Kachina Bridge is larger than Owachomo but smaller than Sipapu. Owachomo Bridge is a natural bridge 180 feet high and spans 106 feet across thin stone and is older than any other bridge. Erosion through the years has thinned the span of the bridge. It was beautiful and we were happy to see it since it will not last forever.

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Leaving Natural Bridges we continued south on Utah 261 another nondescript highway across the desert – for about 30 miles – then you come to the Moki Dugway, a dangerous road to drive made of dirt and gravel carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of 3 miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11% grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor near Valley of the Gods. A nerve racking but really cool drive down the mountain side.

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Just beyond Moki Dugway we arrived in the Navajo Nation to the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, where we stopped for lunch at the Olde Bridge Grille. The town is named after a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill. The village itself is small, home to fewer than 100 people We had a burger and vegetarian taco on Navajo bread. The Navajo bread was delicious.

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Just south of Mexican Hat is the Monument Valley, a place of mammoth rocks in the desert with beautiful thin spires on the Arizona border. The rock formation resembled a city from a distance and it is also the site where Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie of the same name, which of course I needed to recreate, much to the amusement of the European tourists parked along the road. Returning back through Mexican Hat we had gone just a few miles before we were stopped by the Sherriff’s Department while a Toyota commercial was being filmed on the road ahead.

By mid afternoon we arrrived at the Hovenweep National Monument. There are Pueblo ruins of a culture there that thrived from 1 AD to late 1200 AD. A variety of structures, including multistory towers are perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. We hiked the Little Run Trail to tour the ruins at Little Ruin Canyon which is made up of Square Tower, Tower Point, and Twin Towers. Towers at Hovenweep were built in a variety of shapes- D-shapes, squares, ovals and circles.

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These towers had different purposes, including tool and grinding work areas, kivas (for ritual/social functions), living rooms and storage. We started at the overlook to see the stronghold house which is the upper story of a large structure with well-shaped stones. Then we climbed down the trail for a close-up view of more buildings. The Holly group is at the head of Keeley Canyon. The five buildings at the site are known for a rock art panel that has been interpreted as a summer solstice marker.

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The Hackberry group was a medium sized Pueblo III village in the east fork of Bridge Canyon. The Horseshoe House is a D-shaped structure containing three rooms surrounding a possible central kiva. The architectural style suggests ceremonial or public use

As we hiked the loop we saw Rim Rock House that had peepholes built into the walls; the purpose of these peepholes is unknown. We continued down the trail to Hovenweep House which is one of the largest structures in the community. Next we saw Hovenweep Castle in the Square Tower Group. The Cajon Group is at the head of Allen Canyon, is primarily a remains of a tower, estimated to house 80–100 people, that was constructed on a boulder that sits below the rim of the canyon

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Cutthroat Castle group is in an offshoot of Hovenweep Canyon. Cutthroat Castle, the largest of the remains, is on the north side of the stream. Cutthroat is unique among the units due to the lack of a spring, the numerous kivas and the fact that much of the architecture sits below the rim.

Goodman Point group contains small and large clusters of pueblo buildings built partially underground.

Finally the Square Tower group, with the largest collection of pueblo buildings at Hovenweep. These towers still have lintels showing that these were some of the most carefully built structures in the southwest

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Leaving Hovenweep we passed Palomino horses roaming freely on our drive to the Four Corners. We arrived at the entrance to the Navajo Nation being required to pay the $5 entry fee per person to enter their tribal lands to get to the Four Corners monument. Prior to the trip I had read that with modern survey techniques the actual marker is really not at the point of the four corners, the original surveyor, using 19th century tools, missed where the spot should have been by about 1800 feet. The marker was placed in its current position and accepted by the U.S. Congress. From that time forward, the marker has been the legal divider among the four states.

We took turns standing on the spot of the Four Corners at the center where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah meet, contorting ourselves to place a body part in each quadrant of the circle. After our Twister exercise we strolled the booths of vendors with their souvenirs that surrounded the monument. There was no food available here so we went to headed back onto the road to Cortez, Colorado, where we came upon the Sky Ute Casino on a suggestion that someone had given us. The large casino had a restaurant but it was an hour wait before we could eat so we drove on to Cortez to spend the night.

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Checking into our hotel we found a nice casual restaurant called Destination Grill next door. We sat on the deck in the cool evening and enjoyed a very good dinner.

Arches and Canyonlands – National Parks Road Trip – Day 14

Our morning started at sun rise at Arches National Park. The entrance road leads through large stones and past rock formations named after items which they resembled such as the Organ, the Tower of Babel, Park Ave. the Courthouse and the Great Wall of Rock. We moved through quickly without traffic to get to the Window Arch and Double Arch, two recommended to see at sunrise.

The sun highlighted an area of rock and then instantly shadowed the same rock as it moved along the rock and shone through windows of rock. The gravel loop trail leads to three massive arches (North and South Windows and Turret Arch), with options for viewing the arches from all sides. As we passed the north side we were greeted by a number of jackrabbits hopping about the area.

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Also known as the Spectacles, the North and South windows stand side by side, though separated by some distance, cut from the same sandstone fin. A large “nose” separates the Spectacle arches visually from the southwest, made of a gigantic fin over 100 feet wide. Turret Arch is southwest of the Windows. The whole Windows area is full of unique and captivating stone formations, with many arches among them. As we left this area we passed the Parade of Elephants, a section of sandstone, the remnants of the fin to which Double Arch used to belong. The rock formation appears to be a herd of elephants, holding each others’ tails, traveling single file.

We drove by Balanced Rock which is probably the second most recognized feature in Arches National Park. The big rock balances on the tip of its base and can be seen from the main road. Weathering created this odd formation in which the rock above the base tip is the size of three buses.

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We drove out to the trailhead for Delicate Arch to climb the trail to the top. The climb was a bit strenuous for a three-mile trek. We made it to the top of the slickrock following the cairns (a small stack of rocks used as a trail marker) to reach the 480 ft. summit then scooted along a 200 yard ledge above a steep canyon to get to Delicate Arch posed centered above a large bowl canyon. A steep drop straddled each side of the arch. We were proud that we accomplished this daring and long trail which took us about 3 hours to complete.

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As we drove through the park we came upon a rock formation that reminded me of a hand with a pointed finger. On a previous trip through Nebraska we stopped at Chimney Rock where she posed with her index finger simulation the look. Since this rock look like a middle finger raised, I recreated the moment with my middle finger. From here we walked the trail to see Sand Dune Arch hidden behind a sandy beach of shrubs and trees tucked away in a niche of larger rocks. Our voices echoed within the large rocks and we kissed under the Sand Dune Arch. It was fun to hike through the sand and crawl between the narrow passages of the tall pillars.

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Our adventure continued as we made our way to Devil’s Canyon but could not find a place to park so we drove to a campground and walked behind the amphitheater to see Skyline Arch. It was nice to absorb the view without anyone else around. We took photos of the rock formations near the entrance of the park since we had little chance to see these in the dim light of the early morning. One standard for us is to take a photo of each National Park sign. Having missed this in the early morning, we stopped at the park entrance sign on the way out, but had to wait about 15 minutes to get a photo of the sign while a woman had her boyfriend do a photo shoot of her at the sign. It was very weird but, waiting we did, and eventually had our sign photo.

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The drive from Arches to Canyonlands was void of any options for lunch, so we ended up snacking on what was in the car. The Canyonlands visitor center is directly across from the Shafer Canyon overlook, with an amazing view of the vast canyon of red rock making us anxious to see the rest of the park.  We drove the roads along the rim of the Island in the Sky, a large mesa with overlooks of the canyon. The canyons in Canyonlands went on and on, providing views of up to 100 miles in any direction from the Island in the Sky.

Canyonlands is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon with its deep cuts through rock, being the largest national park in Utah. The Colorado River and the Green River meandered through the bottom of the canyon. The confluence of these two rivers was visible from our viewpoint and large mountains draped the background of the canyon providing a majestic vista.

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Our first significant hike at Canyonlands was to see Upheaval Dome. We hiked up a hill but got off the trail slightly ending up on a rocky perch to look down into Upheaval Dome that looked like a big crater, providing an excellent location for a snack as we gazed out over the dome. Geologists are unsure how the dome was formed, with various theories including a meteor slammed into the earth at this spot or the collapse of a salt dome. The inside of the dome had different layers of rock and colors of white and brown stone surrounded by sandstone. Returning to the trail to get to the main overlook provided a slightly different view.

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As we continued out the drive we came to the Buck Canyon viewpoint staring out miles into the canyon. The short trail leads to an overlook at the edge of these sheer, 1,000 feet high cliffs, illustrating the vastness of this staggeringly beautiful National Park. A huge landscape of cracked and fissured sandstone stretches all the way to the horizon. It’s one of those places where the scale of what you’re looking at is as impressive as its beauty. –

We moved on to the Green River Overlook and saw the Green River run through the canyon. This overlook view, from 6000 feet elevation, looks out across Soda Springs Basin towards the Green River. Here, the Green River is a tiny ribbon of water in one awe-inspiring canyon. An incomprehensible distance, the vista stretches out for a hundred miles to the horizon. A sandstone viewing area, sparsely decorated with juniper, marks the canyon rim and signals where a 2200 foot drop-off begins to the river far below. About halfway down into the canyons you can see the White Rim Trail which follows the river for miles.

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Later we went to Grand View Point where we could see nearly the whole canyon from that overlook. The canyon is so massive that roads and rivers looked like tiny lines from the overlook; it is repetitive but still it is hard to fathom its actual size but so it is spectacular.

Our final stop was a loop trail to see Mesa Arch. Mesa Arch is, undeniably, one of the spotlight attractions in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands, standing high above a canyon with a thin bridge at the top of the arch, providing an excellent backdrop for someone underneath the arch. The Canyonlands National Park web site describes the Mesa Arch Trail as a “mild walk,” a very accurate description of this very short loop. This loop travels across slickrock and dirt, but unlike other slickrock trails which are usually only marked by stone cairns, this trail has a fairly easy to spot path along it’s entire route. There are stairs carved into the stone, and the trail is is hemmed in by desert driftwood. The trail rises over a low hill and you’ll immediately begin to see some phenomenal views looking east toward the Colorado River.

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We left Canyonlands National Park and paid to enter Dead Horse Point, a state park, with another excellent visitor center with a great view. We drove to Dead Horse Point at the end of the park and saw the most wonderful view of Canyonlands from the opposite side of the canyon. From Dead Horse Point, we had a closer view of the rivers and mountains from a large pavilion and stone wall that stretched along the edge of the canyon.

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Since we were tired we moved on and drove thirty miles back to Moab. We got the car washed and then went to dinner at the Sunset Grill at the top of a hill. Our meals were fine but the service was poor. Krista, our waitress, never checked with us during our meal. We had to ask a busboy to get the waitress thinking she had forgotten about us. Krista added a 20% tip to our bill without any notification. We had no choice but to paid the bill but tried to phone the manager later only to get no response and disconnected. He phoned again and again the line was disconnected. Needless to say if you find yourself in Moab, Utah do not get sucked into the appeal of the restaurant high up on the hill, lousy service and an arrogant attitude makes for a poor experience. We decided to let it go since we were so tired from our busy adventure of the day.