2016/12/09

8 Secret Places in Crossville and Cumberland County

For the purpose of this blog post, secret is somewhat subjective. All the below places have been visited and documented well before my time. For one reason or another, they all remain less than well known. In the near future, I suspect that this may change. My publication of photos here is not an invitation to trespass either. Get permission before you go onto private property. In the meantime, here are some places that perhaps you didn't know about...

The Minister's Tree House
The Minister's Tree House is the ultimate place that you can't go. I hate to throw it out there, but you can look at it longingly from behind a fence. It's eleven stories of monstrosity, majesty, and maze. In 2012 the Tennessee state fire marshals shut it down citing 17 violations of building code. Was it safe? Almost certainly not. Was it right to be shut down? I don't know. The owner, Horace Burgess has been working to bring it to code ever since.

Minister's Tree House, Crossville, Cumberland County, Tennessee 1

Minister's Tree House, Crossville, Cumberland County, Tennessee 2

Black Mountain
Black Mountain is a state natural area managed by TDEC. It is a classic "rock town" formed of Rockcastle conglomerate, a sandstone with quartzite pebbles of up to 1cm in size locally. The overlooks are south to south-east facing and are a great place to catch a sunrise in the Winter. If you're lucky, fog will be sitting in the coves below like milk in a bowl. Little Cove is immediately south, and Grassy Cove is south-west. Both are sinkholes, and there is more about Grassy Cove below.

Google Map

South overlook, Black Mountain, Cumberland Trail, Cumberland County, Tennessee

Fog on Dug Hill Ridge, Black Mountain, Cumberland County, Tennessee

Roosevelt Overlook
Located at the end of Mt Roosevelt State Forest Road, this small wildlife management area sports a largely decayed fire tower, and a nice overlook facing the town of Kingston.

Google Map

Kingston as seen from Mount Roosevelt, Cumberland County, Tennessee

Mount Roosevelt, Cumberland County, Tennessee 1

Grassy Cove
The largest sinkhole in North America volumetrically, this feature is largely privately owned. It makes for a nice drive pretty much any time of the year. Stop in at the Kemmer store and buy a cold drink. Tell them I sent you.

Overlook, Grassy Cove, Cumberland County, Tennessee 1

Grassy Cove Community Center, Cumberland County, Tennessee

Clifty
"Here's a pretty place, let's cover it in trash and spraypaint" - Half of the people that go there.
Clifty is at the head of Scotts Gulf. It is a region that lies just around the Clifty bridge, and it is presumably named for the nearby Clifty Creek, which I suspect is named for its sandstone cliffs. If you visit, please don't make a mess of it for everyone. Also, avoid going at night, rumors say there is rampant drug use and crime there.

Clifty Bridge, Caney Fork River, Cumberland Co, TN

Pilot Falls, Caney Fork River, Cumberland Co, TN

Coke Ovens
In Waldensia there are dozens of coke ovens in various stages of decay. These ovens were used from 1901 to 1929 closing at the onset of the Great Depression.  There are remnants of other nearby buildings and structures. This is an interesting place to put your hands on the history of the Cumberland Plateau and see what urban decay looks like after 100 years.

Coke oven, Waldensia Coal and Coke Company, Cumberland County, Tennessee 1

Devilstep Hollow

Devilstep Hollow is public land, but is only open one day a month for public visitation. The cave has some of the most spectacular glyphs and pictographs in the southeast, but the cave is gated to protect those and other cultural resources there.

The cave also represents the resurgence of waters from the nearby sinkhole Grassy Cove. Stories say that the old farmers in the area knew this to be the case by corn husks floating out of the cave when they knew folks in Grassy Cove were harvesting. Modern science used dye tracing to show the connection. From where it sinks in Grassy Cove to Devilstep Hollow is a strait line distance of 6.18 miles.

The cave entrance can be visited, and the milky blue waters coming from the earth rise and sink there only to resurface a short distance later at the head of the Sequatchie River.

Devilstep Hollow Cave, Head of Sequatchie Unit, Cumberland Trail State Park, Cumberland County, Tennessee 2

Sequatchie River, Devilstep Hollow, Cumberland County, Tennessee

Upper Obed Falls
Hiding in plain sight east of Holiday rd below the spillway of Lake Holiday there is a 20' cascade. There is little to no soil in the area and a steep gradient, so be careful if you want to get a closer look.

Upper Obed Falls, Obed River, Cumberland County, Tennessee

2016/12/08

The Role of Grottos in the Outside Community

My previous blog post discussed the role of grottos in the caving community. It focused on the internal aspects of grottos as way of making better cavers. This post will focus on the external aspects of a grotto and ways they can make your city, county, or region a better place to live, work, and play.

Education

Sherrill Wilson, Merrybranch Cave, White County, Tennessee 2 There are some cavers who want to keep the sport a secret. I won't tell you what you need to keep secret, and what you need to share. There are many different philosophies on this, each with its merits and drawbacks. What I think we can all agree on is that if people are better educated about caves, then they will be better stewards of caves and the land.

Education may simply be informing people of the leave no trace ethic that we practice. It may be discussing safety and proper caving gear. It may be helping people understand the connection between sinkholes and the well water they drink.

We get to see the Earth from the inside out, and that makes our relationship with it different than most people's. Where I live many rivers run underground. Some of these rivers are horribly polluted with chemicals and trash. If they looked like that on the surface people would get angry and do something about it. Because it is out of sight to most people, we must bring it to their mind.


Cleanup, Pilot Knob Cave, Jackson County, Tennessee

Volunteer


In my previous post I talked about ways to volunteer within the caving community. We can also be volunteering or partnering outside the caving community and working with organizations to help make the world a better place.

The Upper Cumberland Grotto has partnered to do clean ups with groups like the Boy Scouts of America, Putnam County Clean Commission, The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to name a few. For a smaller grotto, hosting one major cleanup a year is a good goal.

Other volunteer opportunities may be talking with local schools about cave related issues, or leading a field trip of college students. I try not to miss an opportunity to educate.

Daphne Soares,  Dante Fenolio, Anderson Spring Cave, Putnam Co, TN

Liaison


Sometimes people need help with caves and sometimes those people don't know they need help from a caver. Land developers usually don't think twice about building adjacent to caves. But if we have a map of the cave and permission to share it, we may be able to help protect the cave and the financial interests of the developer. That's a win-win situation!

There are several biologists who work in caves, and the Tennessee Cave Survey has along history of working with them to collect specimens and data within the cave. Many of us have become adept at finding and identifying cave critters.

Garrett Gay, total station, Natural Trap Cave, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Big Horn County, Wyoming Other scientists may need a caver liaison as well. At Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming in the Summer of 2016 cavers equipped and trained a large team of paleontologists on single rope technique so they could examine and dig in this pristine and one of a kind cave.

Archaeologists, historians, microbiologists, geologists, and other scientists use information provided to them from observant cavers to make discoveries.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways your grotto can be helping your community. Feel free to share you community involvement stories with me in the comments. :)

The Role of Grottos in the Caving Community

Grottos (caving clubs) are internal organizations of the National Speleological Society (NSS). When I first discovered caving, it was through the Upper Cumberland Grotto (UCG). Since then, I have been involved in caving and our community. I have seen the UCG's membership wax and wane a few times, and at low points I have at times struggled with what the role of a grotto is in the digital era. Below are my thoughts.

The first and most important role a grotto plays is intercepting would-be cavers early in their caving career. We aren't born knowing which gear to wear, nor are we born with a conservation ethic appropriate to the sensitive nature of caves. Those two reasons, safety and conservation, should be the grottos primary goal. Like a good church, the grotto should be welcoming of all people, especially those who aren't practicing good safety or conservation ethics for it is within them that we have the greatest opportunity to affect positive change. It's also important to be inclusive as people from all walks of life, and at different points on their journey come to caving. Take a soft handed approach to dealing with new people, it is easy to give the wrong impression about caving by being heavy handed.
The second goal of a grotto should be in helping people network within our community. This means making them aware of meetings of your organization, and sister organizations. Introduce the new cavers to the old cavers. Help new cavers find caving trips to attend and projects to be involved with that fit their interests and expertise.

This leads to the third and final goal of grottos. We should be enco
uraging members to contribute to the caving community. They can do this through:

Writing - Most caving communities have print publications. The Tennessee Cave Survey (TCS), and the NSS have monthly publications. You may want to write a trip report about a particularly fun (or gruesome) caving trip you went on. Or maybe you want to write a blog post about caving.


Photography - Writing isn't the only way to document something. Below is an example of a recently documented saltpeter operation, date unknown.

Nicole Blanton, mattock marks & pine torch holes, Brewington Cave, Jackson County, Tennessee

Surveying
- Caves need maps. Be one of the people who helps that happen. Surveying is team work, and it takes a long time to produce a good map, especially if the cave is large. If you know AutoCad, ArcMap, or Illustrator, then you're off to a good start in working with maps and map data.

Ridge-walking
 - Take a GPS into the field and find some new caves! Be sure to document what you're doing, otherwise you're just screwing around.




Volunteering - Volunteering takes many forms. It may be that you are taking the time to clean up a trashed cave. Or it may be that you took some time to talk to a 1st grade class about caving.


Leading - It's not just the grotto chair that leads. Most cave trips have a leader. If you want to lead a trip, learn a cave and invite the grotto on a trip. Leading isn't always about being inside the cave. Leading may be fostering a spirit of inclusiveness in the grotto. Leading may be taking the time to talk to each of the members at a grotto meeting. Leading may be calling the folks who didn't go to the meeting and checking in on them.


Administration - Administration is arguably the least glamorous of things one can do in caving, but it's necessary. We all enjoy having our treasury balanced, our minutes kept, our meetings led, and events planned.

The third stage cavers are the ones that end up sticking with community the longest, and those are the folks I want to join the TCS. The TCS offers great incentive to become a community based caver. Vetted cavers have access to cave locations, narratives, maps, and a whole slew of other information about the caves in Tennessee.

2016/11/20

Why We Don't Share Cave Locations

People often ask myself and other cavers to give them cave locations and cave information. I always reply, "I don't give out cave locations". Not knowing the history of reasons why I do this, I am often asked why. This is my response.


Civil War era ladder burned, Hubbard's Cave, Warren Co, TN
We love to hang out with, and take new people caving. Some see us as stingy stodgy keepers of secrets (and some cavers are), but I see myself as a gate keeper. I am not all powerful, and I am fallible, but my knowledge extends far beyond what an inexperienced caver (or spelunker as they often call themselves) does.

That is important because the conservation ethic we practice on the surface doesn't always work underground. Also the way we understand our environment to keep ourselves safe doesn't work the same way underground. These two key issues are the main reason why I won't give out cave locations.

First, let's address the conservation issue. If you consider the combined historical, archaeological, paleontological, biological, and mineralogical resources of a cave to be finite (which they are), then they can be used up.

We consume cave resources by destroying them. And history has shown us over and over again that is what happens when the general public is aware of a cave. Pictured above is a civil war ladder that was burned in a campfire inside a cave no doubt by fools burning their own cultural history. That ladder had been there from at least Civil War era, perhaps longer.


Geologic resources are vandalized. Folks spray paint on walls and formations. They break formations accidentally and on purpose and remove them from the cave. These resources do not renew on a timescale that humans can appreciate. In other words, they will not return in our lifetime.

Bats and other critters in caves can be adversely affected by human presence. A recent cave I visited had an estimated 500 dead endangered gray bats laying on the ground because someone went through the cave during the wrong time of year. I think that if the person had been properly educated those bats lives would have been saved, and bats lives are worth saving.

I have seen caves that have been dug up where people were pot hunting (looking for Native American artifacts). I have seen prehistoric Native American art covered with modern day spray paint. And in case you're wondering why the Native American's art is more important than modern spray paint (yes, this is a stupid question that I am frequently asked) then please bear with me while I use the rules of capitalism to assess the values of each.

Spraypaint - common, easy to find and reproduce. The value of knowing who Johnny was with at this undisclosed period of time is virtually worthless because it is in such prolific quantity. It's less than worthless, because it's potentially obstructing other information of more value. See below.

Native American art - rare, difficult to find, impossible to reproduce. The limited nature of this particular resource makes Native American art very valuable by supply and demand. No one is selling this stuff, but for the people who study it, it is highly valuable.


Below is a photo of modern vandalism adjacent to bear claw marks. Bears haven't lived in caves in Tennessee for some time. I can't speculate as to the age of these claw marks, but they may be Pleistocene. I wonder if the vandal would have felt it so important to leave their mark in the mud if they knew what it was next to?

None of this even touches on the safety issues of caving. Briefly, we cave with helmets, three sources of light, changes of batteries, gloves, boots, elbow pads and knee pads, and a backpack with food, water, and a simple first aid kit. That's the basic stuff. Developing an understanding of what clothing to wear (hint: avoid cotton), and fine tuning your gear can be a long and expensive process unless you have a more experienced group of people who are willing to share their knowledge.
Bear claw marks, vandalism, Cripps Mill Cave, Dekalb County, Tennessee
We like to teach people the conservation ethic that we learned. And we like folks to be safe underground. This is no different than teaching your kid how to drive a car before giving them keys. You want your kid to be safe, and you don't want your kid to drive into someone's home and destroy it.

If you're interested in getting involved in caving, don't ask where caves are, ask where cavers are. Many of us attend monthly meetings at local cave clubs called grottos. I am a member of the Upper Cumberland and Spencer Mountain Grottoes. This is where you want to cut your teeth in caving. You want to meet people, network, and go on caving trips. We hope one day you'll be the one finding new caves and leading caving trips.

Here's where you can find you local grotto, and learn more about caving, http://caves.org.
Vandalism, Jason Collard, Grassy Cove Salt Peter Cave, Cumberland Co, TN

2016/10/27

Impervious Surface Growth in Cookeville and Algood (2008-2012)

Impervious Surface Growth in Cookeville and Algood (2008-2012)
Imperious surfaces (IS) are characterized as those which water cannot permeate. Pavements like roads, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots are examples, as are rooftops, bricks, stone, and concrete. IS can be classified from aerial imagery and shown on a map revealing where urban areas have developed and are developing. IS can be used to gauge the growth and development of a city, but it's not all fun and strip malls when it comes to IS.

IS is problematic for growing cities like Cookeville. Anyone who has driven on Jefferson or Willow after a hard rain knows that the water runs off quickly and turns the roads into rivers and pools. This is why the local, state, and federal governments regulate development and the runoff caused by them. What happens on private property doesn't stay on private property; it can wash down your driveway.

To complicate matters, local geology causes 28% of Algood, and 36% of Cookeville (which are conservative estimates) to drain through sinkholes into caves. Sinkholes are choke points which capture and hold water if they are filling faster than draining. The flooding that happened in Cookeville during the 2010 storms all resulted from sinkholes backing up and inundating residential, business, and industrial areas.

This map and accompanying information isn't intended to discourage the growth of Cookeville. With a growing population and economy, it's important to have places to live, shop, work, and recreate. This is why planned and managed growth is important for communities. By utilizing the best available tools and science, it's possible to grow a city, improve the welfare of its citizens, and not run afoul of nature... most of the time.

Analysis involved use of NAIP imagery from early July of 2008, June of 2010, and late May of 2012. Data wasn't used from 2006 since it lacked the infrared band necessary to calculate Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Data from 2014 was excluded since it was shot in late October and was overestimating the amount of impervious area by an unknown, but large amount.

The NAIP imagery was converted to NDVI and a threshold was chosen based a number of calibrated points. While this isn't exactly revealing only urbanized areas (shadows seem to be a common false positive), this was the best method that I could find to satisfy my short attention span. As a result, I admit there to be error within the model of up to 15%. Since this is not academic, and I'm being transparent regarding my methods, I find this acceptable.

Watersheds were determined using Spatial Analyst's hydrology toolkit. Sinkholes deeper than 3 meters were selected (which is why the sinkhole drainage estimates were noted as being conservative) as pour points and watersheds were delineated.

2016/10/25

Tennessee Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinics

Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) maintains a list of certified wildlife rehabilitation clinics at the URL below. If you encounter injured wildlife and want to assist it, the map below is a good first stop to identify the closest location that can meet the animal's needs.

Do not handle wildlife without proper equipment and training! Contact your local animal control office, or depending on the circumstances, TWRA may be able to send an officer to assist with transporting a wild animal to a clinic. Their phone numbers are below:
TWRA Region 1: (731) 423-5725 or (800) 372-3928 
TWRA Region 2: (615) 781-6622 or (800) 624-7406
TWRA Region 3: (931) 484-9571, or (800) 262-6704
TWRA Region 4: (423) 587-7037, or (800) 332-0900

Wildlife rehab clinics: https://www.tn.gov/twra/article/wildlife-rehabilitator-list


2016/09/17

Tennessee Cave Distribution Map, 2016

Tennessee Cave Distribution, 2016

I update this map yearly as new Tennessee Cave Survey data becomes available. It's partly an exercise in process of map making where I can track my yearly progress as a cartographer. But it's also data that people seem to find interesting. Initially I was surprised that so many people were interested to know about the world around them.

Now I understand that all people have a basic curiosity about them. Most folks from middle and east Tennessee have a personal experience about caves they are eager to share. I enjoy hearing about people's cave experiences: what they did as teenagers, how their family stored butter in a cave near their house, that a family used a spring as a water source, local history associated with caves. Caves can be time capsules, storing and preserving information for long periods of time. Unfortunately, many human stories are lost to time, so informal cave historians like myself (and the handful of formal cave historians) are always keen to learn how the physical landscape interacts with the cultural landscape.

Looking at the map one can't help but notice the NxNE by SxSW distribution trend. That line following the rim of the Cumberland Plateau whose geology is a layer cake (one rock unit sitting atop the other akin to a layer cake). At the contact of a sandstone as the top unit, and a limestone as a bottom unit one tends to get cave development. The sandstone allows the transportation of water in the rock, and when it encounters the limestone, it begins to dissolve away the bedrock and transport it away in solution. The most prolific contact, the Hartselle / Monteagle contact accounts for about 70% of the known caves in Tennessee.

If you want to learn more about the geology of the Eastern Highland Rim in which this line of caves is formed, see these blog posts:
Tennessee's Eastern Highland Rim - Part 1 - Geology
Tennessee's Eastern Highland Rim - Part 2 - Geography

2016/09/10

8 Secrets of Cookeville and Putnam County

For the purpose of this blog post, secret is somewhat subjective. All the below places have been visited and documented well before my time. For one reason or another, they all remain less than well known. In the near future, I suspect that this may change. My publication of photos here is not an invitation to trespass either. Get permission before you go onto private property. In the meantime, here are some places that perhaps you didn't know about...

The Canal / Capshaw Woods
Tucked behind some of the nicer homes on Maple Street is a stretch of an unnamed creek that rises from Capshaw Cave (More accurately, Capshaw Spring), travels about 1000 feet, and sinks into Tires to Spare Cave. It's a classic karst window, a window into an old cave system where the ceiling collapsed. The whole of The Canal (as TTU professors, and scientific literature call it) or the Capshaw Woods (as the locals call it) is privately owned, and has a simple trail that runs the edge of the creek that crosses through several backyards. It's a beautiful, and well kept tract of wilderness right in the heart of Cookeville.

Jason Richards, Capshaw resurgence, The Canal, Putnam County, Tennessee 1

The Canal, Putnam County, Tennessee 3

England Cove
A tract of land exists in the head of England Cove both in Putnam and Cumberland Counties. On this parcel are several beautiful streams and waterfalls. Trails cut from the rim down into the cove and are maintained by a private landowner group which owns the property on the plateau above. But don't try to go there unless you've been invited by a landowner, because, as the comments below have made quite clear - you are not welcome.

Detail of Bridge Creek Falls, Putnam Co, TN

Eagles Landing overlook, Putnam County, Tennessee 1

The Capshaw Cave System
I admit it, I made the name up. Formally, there's no such thing as the "Capsaw Cave System." Informally one can (and I do) use it to refer to the dozen or so caves around Cookeville which convey water under the city largely to the ignorance of all.

Some of the caves I would include in this system are Capshaw Cave, Ament Cave, Terry Cave, Capshaw Connection, East Ament, Copeland Cave, Pigeon Roost Spring, Art'Z, Rich Bitch, Nutcracker, Trash Compactor, Tires-to-Spare, Red Kap, and Short Cave, in addition to sinkholes like Warehouse Sink, Ensor Sink, and The Canal.

Capshaw Cave, Cookeville, TN

Ament Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 1

The Window Cliffs
This is one of those places that most Cookevillians already know about, but outsiders do not. The Window Cliffs are a series of natural arches formed on a knife's edge ridge above Cane Creek. It is also the site of Tennessee's newest state park (which as of the writing of this blog post, has yet to open to the public). I'll post more about the state park soon.

The region of the Window Cliffs has seven waterfalls, and three natural arches. There is a nearby river being pirated through a ridge as well, which is interesting if you geek on hydrology.

Window Cliff Falls, Cane Creek, Putnam County, Tennessee

Window Cliffs, Putnam County, Tennessee 2

The Stone Cove Arches
The Stone Cove Arches are an arch complex found on the outskirts of the county. They may be the most dense cluster of natural arches in the southeast, with a total of 27 arches and windows within a short stretch of cliff line. Unfortunately, it's been discovered by vandals who decided that their spray paint is more impressive than the display of natural wonder. These arches are on private property.

Arches 2, Stone Cove, Putnam Co, TN

Stone Cove Arch, Putnam Co, TN

Secret Cave
Save the jokes, I've heard it before. That the cave exists isn't a secret, it's where the cave is which is a secret. Oh, and if you know, it's still got a gate on it.

Secret is a short cave, but heavily decorated. This is one of my personal favorite caves due to the density of formations. I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Chelsey Poole, Secret Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 1

Laura Casey, Secret Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 2

Mill Creek Falls
Off Spring Creek on the boundary of Putnam and Overton County lies a beautiful 50 foot waterfall. The property is now owned by Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation (you know I love them), and there may be plans to turn it into a state natural area in the future. In the meantime, it's private property.

Mill Creek Falls, Spring Creek, Overton County, Tennessee 2

Mill Creek Falls, Spring Creek, Overton County, Tennessee 5

Trog Sink
On the north side of Tennessee Tech there is a large sinkhole right off the side of the road. At a glance, it looks only like a small forest, but once you're inside it's a very different place. Outdoors-folk can look past all the trash and litter that washes in with each rain and see it as a unique wetland and karst landscape. The flat bottomed sinkhole floods frequently creating a temporary lake. The water dye traces down to a nearby spring and feeds into the Blackburn Fork river which eventually flows over Cummins Falls.

Visions of elevated walkways, and interpretive kiosks, along with some fences to help catch trash and litter could go a long way to make this property interesting, and educational. I personally think TTU needs to buy it up and make an agreement with the city. For more info, check out Friends of Trog Sink.

Trog Sink Cleanup, Cookeville, Tennessee 2

Trog Sink flooded, Cookeville, TN

2016/09/09

Cartography / Mapping

I am available to create custom maps for projects, events, publications, and scientific journals. I have been making maps professionally since 2012, and have been awarded by my peers in recognition of my work. For a complete list of publications and awards, please see my unofficial CV at http://CV.ChuckSutherland.com.

Please contact me via email at cjsuther21@gmail.com for more information. Examples of some of my maps are below. Follow individual links to learn more about each project.

Road Map - White County, Tennessee

Predictive Modeling of Cave Entrances Utilizing Hyperspectral Imagery and Digital Elevation Models

Delineation of a Major Karst Basin with Multiple Input Points, Roaring River, Tennessee - Poster

Cummins Falls Marathon 2016

The Tennessee Comb Grave Tradition - Figure 1 color variant

Tennessee Caves 2015

Sinkholes in White County, Tennessee

Whitewater of the Southern Appalachians

Estimating size-specific brook trout abundance in continuously sampled headwater streams using Bayesian mixed models with zero inflation and overdispersion

Tennessee Cave and Sinkhole Density Map

map maker, map designer, map creator, cartographer, cartography