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Peeking out the cabin window Saturday morning, I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. The river generation was perfect, with low water scheduled until 2:00 but on this day, the rod and flies would be replaced with hiking boots. Although I was headed to the Caney Fork River it was to see a new section of river near Virgin Falls. The trout section of the Caney Fork that I am most familiar with, is the lower 26 miles. I would be hiking along a section of the river not too far from the origin of the Caney, 100 miles upstream.
After a protein filled breakfast and lots of coffee, our party of five, headed east to get an early start since daylight this time of year is limited. The Virgin Falls trailhead is located between Sparta and Crossville, Tennessee. Once we arrived at the parking area, we were happy to see very few cars and easily found a parking spot.
We passed a kiosk a few hundred feet down the trail warning of the strenuous uphill hike. The trail is recommended for experienced hikers. I looked around at our group of five. We all considered ourselves experienced, although my sister Cindy, brother-in-law Russell and I were using the term loosely. Fortunately, my friend Jeff and nephew Cody are truly experienced and were the leading the way.
The first 1.5 miles was flat and relatively easy, with only a slight downhill as we crossed over Big Laurel Creek. A cable, rigged from one side to another, helped in stepping from rock to rock across the water. The next mile was a steep downhill descent, which led to Big Laurel Falls. There were a number of primitive campsites along the way and I was wishing that we had brought along our camp gear. At the Falls, a large group had set up camp for the weekend under the Falls. It looked inviting and I immediately started planning a Music City Fly Girl hiking, camping and fishing adventure. Another 1.5 miles brought us to our first glimpse of the Caney Fork River. We decided to stop for a lunch of hard rolls, cheese, salami and sweet spicy mustard. After the short side trip to the river, we made our way on to see the main attraction, Virgin Falls. We could hear the roar of the water before cresting the hill. The rains, earlier in the week, made our first view of the Falls one to remember. We were all excited to see such a beautiful sight. We continued up the path adjacent to the falls to find a small stream emerging from a cave. It was hard to believe this small stream was the source of the falls, flowing a short distance before dropping over a 100 foot cliff. It was like seeing a natural infinity pool. I was reminded once again that we live in such a beautiful part of the country.
After leaving the Falls, we walked up to Sheep Cave. I realized that I had finished most of my water, and the long steep climb was still ahead of us. Fortunately, Jeff brought along some iodine crystals, so Cindy and I filled our Hydro Flasks with the clear, cold water flowing out of the cave and waited the 20 minutes for the iodine to work. I’m glad we did this because it was a good four mile workout back to our car, and we needed the water.
We were all tired after the daylong hike but it was a “good tired”. We were looking forward to getting back to the cabin where Patricia had hot chili and homemade bread waiting for us. As we drove, we talked about when we could go again and pack our tents for an overnight stay.
On my next trip I’ll definitely pack some mole skin to avoid the blisters, my own iodine or water filter and most importantly, my Tenkara rod. I passed up way too much water!