Hiking White Oak Sink
This past weekend my daughter and I hiked the unmarked White Oak Sink trail in Townsend, TN near Cades Cove with Webb School soccer coach and Lower School P.E. teacher, Steve Owen, as our guide. Steve takes a group of third graders on the hike each year. The general consensus as to why the trail is unmarked is to protect the numerous Indiana bats that hibernate in the sink’s caves. White nose syndrome is, unfortunately, becoming a bigger problem for bats in this area.
Showers had been threatening off and on all day but we decided to take the chance that it wouldn’t rain. Our timing was perfect. Since parking is scarce at the trailhead, we met at the Camp Ground United Methodist Church and carpooled.
Once we reached the trailhead, Coach Owen gives the kids (and parents) a quick overview of where we are going and what we will see.
Introducing the kids to the state tree of Tennessee, the tulip poplar.
Making some bovine friends along the way.
This area is known for its abundance of wildflowers. We missed the peak of the flowers by about a week but there were still plenty of beautiful examples:
Our turnaround point, which made the total hike about 4.5 miles, was Rainbow Falls. The 1700 ft falls drop into a cave and is believed to emerge about 3 miles to the northwest near Tuckaleechee Caverns.
One of the caves used by the Indiana bats is known as the Blowhole. It’s nature’s equivalent of air conditioning with a steady stream of cool air rushing out of its opening. It has been permanently sealed to protect the bats from human intrusion. A question for the kids: why are the bars positioned horizontally?
We passed a few old cabins along the way. This one’s mountain backgrounds were particularly impressive:
Finally, a group picture and some bunny ears!