09-Feb-2002 -- On 2/9/02 my wife Brenda and I left Knoxville, TN for N35/W086. The gate with the faded no trespassing sign that stopped an earlier attempt was still blocking the way, and several bright new orange signs had been added. A nice woman that runs an adjacent 500 acre farm with "just my two dogs and a 20 gauge" told us who the owners were, and just as we were about to leave Brenda spotted them coming out of the cove. We met Jim and Baine Evans at the end of their drive a few feet from the Alabama state line sign. They were very friendly, and had grown up in the cove. While talking geography, they mentioned that the state line sign had been moved about a hundred feet since they were boys. After explaining our goal they told us to head on up. They would have gone with us, but had errands to run. We promised to mark the confluence for them if we found it.
The valley is a dead flat bottoms of several hundred acres eroded from a limestone plateau with sandstone cap rock. A classic example of Karst topography, the limestone is sculpted and riddled with caves, sinkholes and springs. Tom's Spring gushes out of a small rock ledge and across the road with the force of a mountain stream, and we had to drive through it. (This is Tongue Spring on the topo.) At the Evans place, we also forded the Salt River, which comes out of a cave that Jim said goes two miles under the mountain and drains Round Cove through sinkholes. He said that halfway back are the remains of a dam built in the early 1900's to generate electricity.
Parking at a cable that blocks a newly constructed logging road, we hiked up to the head of the valley where it drops into Round Cove. Here we turned west and began bushwhacking up the dry creek beds that lead towards the confluence. We crossed a logging road that wasn't on the map, then a band of gray limestone cliffs at a dry falls forced us up very steep terrain to the left. Above this rock band we again encountered the road. The GPS showed the target a few hundred yards above. It was on a forested slope at about 1,450 feet, and just below the final steep slope to the summit plateau. The crest of the ridge to the west was interfering with the GPS, but it showed an accuracy of 33 feet and it settled down and zeroed 3 times within the same few feet. I took pictures of my pack and GPS on the spot, then flagged a tree and built a small cairn for the Evans brothers.
Throwing everything in the pack, we headed down to the car a mile and a half away. A couple of hundred feet SSE of the convergence is a nice spring. This is the most notable feature in immediate the area, and the water from it runs to the logging road. We followed the road down the mountain, stopping near the bottom to look at a very old cemetery on a rise. The graves go back to the early 1800's at least, and many of the headstones are naturally sculpted pieces of the local limestone. Examining animal tracks in the mud of the road by a dying light, we heard a pack of coyotes strike up a chorus in the valley far below.
We stopped by Jim's place on the way out, and told him where the confluence was. He knew of the spring, and told stories about the history of the cave, the cove, and the generations who had lived here. He would not let us leave until we promised to return and shook on it. We're also invited to the family reunion. We're going.