Saturday, January 16, 2016

Quick Trip to Ozone Falls

Darla and I are rehearsing for the empty nest. It's kind of great, actually. We had a Saturday today without soccer, track, football, church or kids activities of any kind! Really crazy! So, Darla, the dogs (yep, we're becoming those people), and I took off to see a waterfall we've heard a lot about over the years, but haven't yet seen: the impressive, 110-foot Ozone Falls near Crab Orchard, TN. It was one of Tennessee's first State Natural Areas, and is one of the most famous. It's not an epic hike. In fact, you can see the falls through the trees from the car as you approach the tiny parking area on Hwy. 70. There are two trails, one upper loop that takes you to the top of the falls, and a lower trail that takes you to the bottom of the falls. Both are very short.
The upper trail is almost all on sandstone cap rock (the stone that has made Crab Orchard famous). Pretty cool, really. The appropriately named Fall Creek is small, even after some rain this weekend. All is quite typical until the water suddenly drops off the cliff in to a beautiful deep (today, at least) hole. The cliff is impressive and scary. There are no walls or rails or fence to keep people or dogs from free falling. Actually, this is how I like it. I've hiked in other states where man-made barriers mar the natural beauty. That's a thing I love about Tennessee—I'd like to think we figure people know not to get too close to a 100+ ft. cliff. I know, it's so hard to figure out! I will say, due to the closeness of this waterfall to the road, and the depth of the waterhole into which it falls (at least, today's depth anyway), I would be very surprised if local teenage daredevils don't frequent this spot (I know I would have—we jumped from similar-height cliffs that were much less accessible and much more dangerous). Interestingly, there were no warnings against jumping, swimming, or climbing on or around the falls! Man, I love Tennessee!*

The lower trail is not much of a trail at all. It begins unceremoniously paralleling the road. Then it turns to go down the rocky hillside and all bets are off. There are no trail marks to be seen until you're down at the bottom next to the creek! Basically, you make your own trail. Darla and I stayed pretty near the base of the cliff, which in places is a rock house with water dripping from the brow. I found out later that the caves (rock houses) in this cliff were once known as "gamblers den" for nefarious activities that you can probably figure out. I bet this place is really impressive after a few days of sub-freezing weather. Unfortunately, the temperature has been in the 30s and 40s for the last few days, so almost all signs of ice are gone for now.
We made it down to the bottom. It looks as if one can walk behind the falls to the other side of the beautiful, jade-blue landing pool. But it was pretty cold today and we didn't want to get wet. So we went down to the creek as it tumbles out of the pool. Huge boulders are everywhere. Warning: the rocks around the creek are shifty and SLICK. It is a minor miracle that neither of us took a fall! The best shots of the falls are from a big rock on the downstream side of the landing pool.
The beautiful jade-blue pool is actually very clear water.  This creek seems to be quite clean. be sure to click on the above picture to see it in some better detail. Of course, there's no comparison to seeing the real thing. Apparently part of the Jungle Book movie was filmed here. After taking a few pictures, we headed back up to the parking area. Darla was really cold. It was about 38 degrees, but the wind was blowing.
On the way home we stopped by Kingston to eat at Gloria Jean's Fine Southern Provisions at Ladd Landing. Pretty good eats—not cheap. On to home for NFL Playoffs. God, thank you for the good, lazy day with my best friend. It was a needed break before another busy week.

If you live in the Knoxville area, you MUST make this short trip to Ozone Falls. The quick way is to get off I-40 at Crab Orchard (exit 329), go right for a couple hundred yards and turn right again on Hwy 70. You'll see the signs and the parking area in about a mile on the right. For the scenic route, Go west on Kingston Pike in Knoxville and take the right fork at Dixie-Lee Junction (Hwy 70). Follow Hwy 70 (pay attention to signs) until you get there.  It is much more interesting than taking the interstate, and won't take that much longer.

*For the sake of the foolish and the lawyers who represent them, it is probably wise for me to write the following disclaimer: Please do not ever jump from high cliffs. 

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