Russell Cr. Falls, Fall Branch Falls, Frazier Falls, and caves of Va. – 4-4-2015

On April 4, 2015 I was fortunate enough to be included on a trip to visit the privately owned Russell Creek Falls in Virginia. These falls are very large and tall and require permission for access to hike to however, they are accessible by rafting along the Clinch River. Also be advised that a few have died here, one as recent as 2013 when a 22 year old boy fell to his death by underestimating the terrain around the top of the falls. Please be very careful if you do visit these falls !!! My new friend Joe Brickey obtained permission for the group to hike to them on this day which included not only Joe and myself but, John Forbes, Derrick Hamrick, Jeff Dean, Thomas Mabry, Dan Till, Mark Lackey, Kenny Jenkins, and Gary Conquest . We all met in Weber City and followed Joe to the St. Paul area where we parked at the property owners house to begin the hike.

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Russell Creek Falls

Of course it was a bright, sunny day with no hope of any clouds in sight plus, the water levels were really high after a lot of recent rains so, crossing the creek would be difficult and there was so much muddy water coming off the falls that it was probably the worst possible time to visit them. I plan on going back this Fall when the water level is lower and the leaf colors are on. It is a short hike that begins going uphill and then down to where Russell Creek empties into the Clinch River. It is here that you must cross the creek which was raging on this day making it a tricky crossing. A fall here would have put you in very deep water and strong current which would have swept you quickly the short distance out into the Clinch River. Luckily there were no incidents.

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Approaching the crossing of Russell Creek. Derrick Hamrick was already across and in position to photograph us crossing (or falling in) and Mark Lackey (The Human Squid) was already on the other side and almost to the falls.

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Looking across the very swollen Russell Creek. On this day any where in this creek would be anywhere from waist to head deep.

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Me in the middle of the crossing right after I slipped off the log ! (Photo by John Forbes)

Soon as you are able to cross the creek you will see the falls in all their glory. There was a lot of water, it was muddy and the sun was intensely bright but, I was happy to be there and made the best of it getting what pics I could.

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Russell Creek Falls. If you look close you can see John Forbes and Kenny Jenkins high on the left side cliffs

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Russell Creek Falls

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Russell Creek Falls

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Russell Creek Falls

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Russell Creek Falls. You can see Kenny on the left cliff

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Russell Creek Falls

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Me at Russell Creek Falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

John Forbes, Dan Till, and Kenny Jenkins took off climbing the steep left side of the falls to get some views from the top. Normally I would be right behind them but, I decided there would not be enough time to climb both left and right sides and I was intrigued by the base of the falls and the narrow ravine it flows into so I proceeded to climb up the right side instead. It was very difficult to get to any good vantage points due to the massive amounts of spray that had everything wet and very slick but I did manage to get to a couple good spots.

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Making my way up the right side of the falls

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It was extremely slick to be anywhere here

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Side view of the lower part of the falls

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Lowest part of the falls as it goes through the tight chasm there

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Lowest part of the falls

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Looking down on the base of the falls through a gnarly tree there was a nice little rainbow from the bright sun through the spray

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Trying to get a good shot of the rainbow at the base of the falls

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Rainbow at base of falls

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Russell Creek Falls going up the right side

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Looking up at the upper part of the falls. I knew John and them were up there somewhere

I eventually did climb to the top of the falls on the right side and found a puckering perch there before continuing upward to see what was above the falls.

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Narrow edge beneath the cliffs as I climb the right side of the falls

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Onward and upward to reach the top of the falls along the steep right side

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Looking ahead I can see Mark lackey checking out the top of the main falls

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once at the top of the main falls, this was my view as I slowly and carefully inched my way out onto the slick rocks to the puckering perch for a better view

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Looking up from the top edge of the main falls, I could now see John and Dan O high above on the other side

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Making my way out onto the top of the main falls

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Looking over the edge of the falls

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My view from the puckering perch at the top of the main falls

I found another puckering perch even higher above the top of the falls as they do continue in a narrow channel that as I understand it, is what the young boy was jumping across when he fell to his death. As I was taking pics from there, I looked up and saw Dan and John sitting high above me on the other side ! I continued on up from there and where the creek levels out above the falls there are huge rock house cliffs on each side of the creek where the water has cut through them for many years. Dan, John, and Kenny had found a rope on the backside of the one on the opposite side from me which they used to come down from that side to the creek to check out the base of the rock towers there. Kenny ended up shimmying across a log to join us on our side of the creek.

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Looking back as I continue to make my way up the right side of the falls along the narrow cliff edge

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Up close and personal with the part of the falls that runs through the narrow channel high above the top of the main drop

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Almost to what I consider the tip top of the falls

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Looking down from my new puckering perch high above the top of the vertical drop of the falls

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My view from the new puckering perch high above the top of the falls

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Russell Creek as it flows through the narrow channel under the rock towers just above where the falls start. Here I am making my way farther above the falls on the narrow rock ledges

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Looking down towards the top of the vertical part of the falls as I make my way up the right side higher and higher

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My view from high above the top of the falls

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Dan and John wave to me from across the way as I climb up the right side !

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As I make my way up the right side, this is the view of the creek above the falls and the tall rock towers there

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Looking down at the top of the falls from atop the rock tower

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Looking across the creek above the falls at the other rock tower

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Now standing atop the highest rock tower I can look down on the top of the falls and I am just slightly higher than Dan and John across from me

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Here you can see Dan and John with a line of large birds flying high above them. They must smell hiker trash !

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Kenny Jenkins crosses the creek above the falls by crawling across a downed tree (Photo by John Forbes)

After spending a lot of time above the top of the falls, I made my way back down to the base of the main drop where I joined Jeff, Kenny, and Derrick as they got pics of me doing the first ‘Hillbilly Baptism’ of the year as I perched myself in the falls as close to the edge as I could get without falling in. It did not seem like a lot of water yet, it pounded my head like a hammer and between that and the really cold water I had an instant headache !

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Coming down from the cliffs to get to the base of the falls

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Base of the falls

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A silhouette of Derrick Hamrick at the base of the falls

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A rainbow at the base of the falls

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Standing at the base of the falls

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Standing at the base of the vertical falls looking towards the top of the lower part

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Looking towards the top of the lower part of the falls from the base of the vertical falls

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Looking at the rock I would be standing on for the Hillbilly Baptism at the base of the falls

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My view from the base of the falls. You can see John and Dan high above on the other side.

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Another view of Dan and John high above me as seen from the base of the falls

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Me taking pics at the base of the falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Me doing a Hillbilly Baptism at the base of the falls (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Close up of the Hillbilly Baptism complete with a rainbow !! (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Kenny and Jeff relax on a cliff edge above us taking pics of the Hillbilly Baptism !

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Jeff`s view of the Hillbilly Baptism ! (Photo by Jeff Dean)

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A look back at the base of the falls (find Derrick)

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A shot of Derrick at the base of the falls

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Derrick and a gnarly tree at the base of the falls

From there I made my way back down the falls to the trail in time to join John and Dan as they made their way across the creek again and hiked back up and over to the cars with me. These falls are amazing and I do plan on coming back under better conditions. Once we all returned to the cars, Derrick took a group shot of us all before we left.

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Dan O making his way back across Russell Creek as John Forbes looks on

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This crossing requires Dan to put it into all 4 drive !

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John successfully crossing the swollen Russell Creek

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Group shot (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

We proceeded to Fall Branch Falls which was on the way back since we had seen it had high water flowing on it that morning. Sliding down the steep bank from the road taking a shortcut, we were at the base of the falls within minutes as these are basically a roadside waterfall. While taking pics and exploring the area around the falls, a cave was discovered on the left side. This was quite a find and we spent some time in there as it goes directly behind the falls ! We found out later that it was used to hide from Indians back in the day. There was still not a cloud in the sky so no good pics,,,,

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Me sliding down the steep bank from the road on the shortcut to Fall branch Falls, Va. (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Making our assault on Fall Branch Falls, Va. (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Fall Branch Falls Va (the pic looks crooked but it is not as the pile of debris at the base of the falls makes the water run backwards before continuing on down the creek)

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Fall Branch Falls Va.

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Fall Creek Falls Va.

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Fall Branch Falls Va.

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Derrick taking pics at the base of Fall Branch Falls Va.

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One of Derrick`s pics of Fall Branch Falls Va. (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Thomas ‘The Badger’ Mabry having a moment at Fall Branch Falls Va.

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Dan O at the base of Fall Branch Falls Va. You can see John Forbes to the left at the entrance to the cave he discovered there

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Following this small water source led to the discovery of the cave behind the falls

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A very happy John Forbes after finding a new Gnome home !

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John goes in to investigate

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John going deeper into the cave

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John looks back at me as I see something with glowing eyes behind him !

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The Badger fires up his unit deep inside the cave

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The cave behind Fall Branch Falls Va.

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Me checking out the roof of the cave (Photo by John Forbes)

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Looking up at the roof of the cave

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Broken mineral deposits within the cave

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Cool shot of John within the cave (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Another very cool shot of John at the entrance of the cave (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

From there we became a group of 5 consisting of John Forbes, Dan Til, Thomas Mabry, Derrick Hamrick, and me. We decided to stop by Frazier Falls since it was on the route back to the cars that had been left behind that morning. The water was really flowing on them but, it was still too bright for any really good shots. We climbed to the top of the falls to see where the entire creek actually emerges from a cave.

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Approaching Frazier Falls, Va.

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John and the Badger standing near the base of the falls

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Frazier Falls, Va.

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Frazier Falls, Va.

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Frazier Falls. Va. (John Forbes near the top)

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John Forbes stands atop Frazier Falls, Va.

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Dan O and Derrick getting some shots from the base of the falls

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Making my way up the falls I can see John and the Badger above me

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Top part of Frazier Falls, Va.

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John Forbes at the top of Frazier Falls, Va.

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John near the top of Frazier Falls. Va.

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Top part of Frazier Falls, Va.

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John strikes his victory ‘Ooo-Rah !’ pose at the top of Frazier Falls, Va.

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Side view of part of the falls

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Close view of the top part of the falls

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Side view of part of the falls

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Looking down from almost at the top of Frazier Falls, Va.

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Looking down at Derrick below me

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Dan O makes his way up the creek to where it emerges out of the cave not far from the top of the falls

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Just above the top of Frazier Falls, Va. where the creek emerges from a cave.

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Frazier Creek as it emerges from the lower cave

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Dan O near where the creek emerges out of the lower cave

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There is a small falls as the creek emerges out of the lower cave

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Frazier creek as it emerges from the lower cave

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Frazier Creek emerging out of the lower cave. I did not know at this time that I would be swinging on that grapevine to cross the creek later in the day !

Above that cave is a larger one that requires a steep climb to reach. We soon found ourselves deep within its realm, exploring every nook and cranny which, eventually included going down into one of the several narrow shafts that lead to other sections of the cave system. It was a small opening and was a fairly steep descent but, it did lead down to a room large enough for all of us to stand up in. It would continue much deeper but, that would require special equipment so we went back up and explored more of the higher parts of the cave.

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John and Dan O doing their best to convince me to climb up to join them at the upper cave

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Besides John and Dan O, I was greeted at the entrance by this cure little brown bat

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Looking back into the cave from just inside the entrance

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Dan looks on while I take some pics of the upper part of the cave (Photo by John Forbes)

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Looking up near the entrance

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Thomas the Badger makes the steep climb on all fours to join us in the cave

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Looking out from the entrance of the cave

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Derrick finally joined the party and got setup at the entrance

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Me at the cave entrance (Photo by John Forbes)

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Inside the cave

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Me checking out some of the higher parts of the cave (Photo by John Forbes)

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Inside the cave. You can see the rope that leads to shafts higher in the cave system

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Inside the cave

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Going deeper in the cave

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Dan, John, and myself doing a group shot from the upper realms of the cave while we waited on Thomas and Derrick to join us !

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Inside the cave

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Picture of the upper part of the cave – here you can one of two ropes that were there to enable you to get to more shafts that lead up into much higher parts of the cave. I must assume these lead to above ground. We did not have time to explore those. (Photo by John Forbes)

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John sits on a high perch deep within the cave just above a small drip pool which is what made the white rock below him

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Me climbing up to the drip pool (Photo by John Forbes)

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After I joined John in his lofty perch,. I could look down upon the drip pool

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Experimenting with some profile shots I got this one of John with the cave entrance behind him

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This was my best silhouette profile shot of John

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Around the corner looking back the way we had came you can see the only light from the entrance, behind me would be a large room and a narrow opening in the floor which we would soon descend down into

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Hanging out in one of the larger parts of the cave (Photo by John Forbes)

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Checking out the cave (Photo by John Forbes)

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Narrow shaft in the floor of the cave, near the back that we would soon venture down

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John was the first to venture down into the small shaft

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John convinces me to join him, down in the shaft

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John turns on his colored light and lots of things came into view ! You must realize that it is pitch black in here and the only way these pics are possible is using a flash.

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Me coming down the shaft (Photo by John Forbes)

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Looking back up at the top of the shaft where we had just came down from you can see how narrow it really is but thankfully for me it did open up a lot further down.

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Derrick squeezed through the narrow opening and comes sliding down the steep shaft to join us

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Looking back at the shaft that we had came down from the larger room we found down there.

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John after we made our way to the larger part of the room that the shaft led to where we could actually stand up in

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There were several pairs of spiders in the lower part of the room that the shaft led to

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A blurry picture of what I am told is called ‘cave bacon’

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What looked like a petrified leg bone down deep in the cave

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Thomas, Dan O, and John, hanging out near the back end of the shaft room where it makes a sharp left turn and goes vertically down (which would require ropes and such)

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The reverse of the above picture ! (Photo by John Forbes)

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Me, Thomas and Dan hanging out in the shaft (Photo by John Forbes)

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I took a group shot of Derrick, John, Thomas, and Dan while we were down in the lower part of the cave. We did not realize there was so much trash in the cave until we seen the pics since we did not have a lot of lights, so obviously there have been some disrespectful idiots down there

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The back of the lower part of the cave where we turned around. From there is went around that corner and turned sharp left and was a long vertical drop which would lead down to the lower cave where the creek comes out actually.

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John emerges out of the narrow shaft as we make our way back up into the top part of the cave

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Dan O and Derrick coming out of the shaft

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Dan O helps Derrick get his equipment out of the shaft

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Derrick squeezing out of the narrow shaft

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Large room at the back of the upper part of the cave where the shaft is. This was taken after we all got back out of the shaft. Lots of orbs,,,,

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Inside the cave (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Group shot taken just inside the entrance of the cave (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

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Derrick took this shot in the mouth of the cave as we were leaving (Photo by Derrick Hamrick)

It is a very unique place and I am happy we took the time to explore it thoroughly. It was getting late evening and it soon became time to leave. We descended down a steeper section of the hill along the edge of the cliffs to come out at the entrance of the lower cave where the creek emerges from, on our way out where, we took turns swinging across the creek on a large grapevine. From there it was a short hike out to the cars.

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The cave and the cliffs that surround it

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Frazier Creek as it emerges from out of the lower cave

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Me in mid flight as I crossed the creek using the provided grapevine (Photo by John Forbes)

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Dan O caught in mid flight as he goes from rock to rock on the grapevine Nature provided for us

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My first trillium of the season

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More wildflowers in the area

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I just happened to look up and spied this bees nest that somehow survived the Winter as we were almost to the cars

Dan had a date that he was already late for so as he headed towards Boone, NC, the remaining four of us headed to LaCarretta in Kingsport for the post hike grub out. The food there was as awesome as all the waterfalls, caves, and new people that we had encountered during this incredible day exploring the many rooms of Mother Nature`s house we call Earth. I am already looking forward to the next adventure. Until then,,,,

Posted on 26 May '15 by , under RATtreks.

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