Friday, May 17, 2013

Virgin Falls Pocket Willderness

     This trip is a difficult trip for me to write about.  Mainly, because I did not enjoy it.  There was nothing wrong with the hike or anything like that.  I was sick.  To be honest, I should have stayed at home, but Jackie and I had planned on seeing this waterfall for a while and finally had the time to do it.  I felt like it was a now or never venture and sick or not I was going to go.
     The hardest part about the hike is getting there.  Do not follow Google's directions.  They have a habit/history of taking people about two hours out of the way and on a dirt road trip.   Then if you do not run into someone who knows something about the area, then you might not make it to the falls.  The first thing to do is to find DeRossett TN, which is near Sparta TN. and on Highway 70.  When there turn south onto Eastland/Mourberry Road (the map on my iPhone says Eastland and my directions say Mourberry). The intersection forms something of a Y and there is a small, small sign signaling the way to the pocket wilderness.  Then go about 6 miles and then turn right onto Scott's Gulf Road.  After turning onto the road, which is gravel, the parking lot will be 2 miles on your right.  There, the hardest part is over with.  After the hike, you might disagree.  The mileage for these directions was taken from 40 hikes in Tennessee's South Cumberland 3rd Edition.
     The trail is on the north side of the parking lot.  It winds it's way through the woods and crosses over a small creek.  The trail then comes to a major creek crossing.  Unless it has been dry for a while, like it had been when we went, you will get wet. There is a metal cable strung across the creek to help with the crossing.  I remember that people had tents and a hammock set up here when went.  The trail here begins to decend.  After about a mile to a mile and a half, you come to Big Laurel Falls.  It was dry when we went so the falls were not going like I have seen in pictures.  The trail continues going down along the ridge.  Going in is not bad.  After about two miles the trail comes to Sheep Falls.  It was hard to see this falls due to its location and all of the trees.  The trail then begins a loop down to Virgin Falls. 
The trail crosses this creek.  There is a metal line to hold onto while crossing.
     The falls the day that we went were running about half or less capacity.  It wasn't bad but with the trees being bushed out we could not see much.  The waterfall comes over the brink of a cliff and then plunges into a cave.  It comes from the earth and goes back into the earth.  There are two camping places around the falls. Both were taken when we went.  I still found room to string up my hammock for us to eat some lunch.  The trail here makes a loop and swings around from one ridge back to the ridge we came down on the way in.  At this point the trail has hit the four mile mark.  There are four miles left to go before the car comes back into view.  As the loop swings around to take you back to the main trail, there is a side trail that goes to the Caney Fork River.  Seeing as how I also like to canoe, I have often thought about a canoe trip with a side hike to the falls.  Riding in a canoe is a lot of fun, especially when an 8 mile hike can be shortened a little.
This is the best picture of Virgin Falls that I have.    It is about the middle of the falls.  The falls themselves are around 100 feet tall.
     The return hike is not bad.  It is all up hill.  The whole way.  All 4 miles.  The slope is not that bad, but it is there the whole way.  There are a few steep sections, but nothing that last for more than maybe .25 of a mile.  While going back to the car I kept wishing for two things, one that I felt better and two, for a tent so that we could camp out.  The trail is worth the effort.  Even with the water being low, the waterfalls were ok.  We had hike just as far and seen worse so on the day we went I would give them a 5.  With more time I would not mind going back and camping out this time.  Hiking this trail is an all day affair.  But again if you have the chance, go for it.

Here is the TN website on the area:
Map of the hiking trail is found here:

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