GEORGIA: Hike in to the Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls

Every one who’s ever had a tree house understands the allure of living outside and up a tree. Len Foote Hike Inn is probably the closest you can get to a practical application of that. The structure stands about 12 ft off the ground on giant stilts, has hot water, HVAC, and food. Oh, and a pretty freaking spectacular view. Definitely worth a visit! This is also one of the few locations with protected, healthy Eastern Hemlocks on the property.

Is it goat approved? Nah. Too busy. Go and relax without a goat on this one.

How you get there: Park here: 34.567485, -84.244418 at the upper observation platform.

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Time for hike: The distance for this hike is a little under 10 miles round trip out and back.  And yes, despite the confusion online, I have actually walked it, all the way, with a gps enabled mileage counter counting the distance. It’s 4.9 in and 4.9 out. Suck it forum pundits!

Best season to do this hike: Most seasons, but the Piedmont azaleas bloom in late April, the leaves start in late September, and the rhodendron are blooming at the start of May. Oh, and the road is closed in snowy/icy weather.


Trails to Take

Start off at the upper overlook parking lot. This is accessed by entering the park, driving up to the visitor’s center and the huge parking lot adjacent to it, then turning left and going up a very steep road.

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Amicalola Falls

At the top of the road make a sharp right into a small parking area. This is the upper falls overlook parking area. The top of the falls is directly ahead, just follow the creek.

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Stairs to the base of Amicalola Falls

The walk to the bottom of the falls, while long and strenuous, is well worth the look before you head out for the lodge. Keep an eye out for trilliums, foam flowers, and other blooming plant life as you climb down and back up the gazillion stairs.

The actual trail to the inn is on the other side of the creek that feeds Amicalola Falls. Cross over the falls on the wooden bridge, walk up shallow concrete stairs, and cross the next parking lot. The trail is across the parking lot left of where you enter the parking area.

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Hike Inn Overlook

The trail is blue and green blaze. Blue is the Appalachian Trail and green is the trail to the lodge. If you want to go to the official gateway/start of the Appalachian Trail you can take either blue or green blazes – it is about 8 miles both ways, and the blue and green blaze meet back up at the start.

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Check out the native wildflower garden at Hike Inn

The trail climbs out of the parking lot, crosses the road to the large drive up lodge for the park, and then re-enters the woods. Shortly thereafter the blue (Appalachian) and green (Hike Inn trail) blaze separate, with the green heading off to the right.

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The inn emerges from among a hemlock grove

The trail from here is easy to moderate, with occasional benches in good cellphone or viewing spots. It starts out flat going through the woods, then winds over dry ridge lines, climbing steadily upwards. The first noticeable down hill sends you down into a small saddle with a creek. There are several creek crossings, and as you enter this area the views will become better.

The creeks become more numerous, culminating in a boggy section with a wooden walk way over it, at which point you are about 3/4 of the way to the lodge. There are wooden posts with numbers  on them counting down along the trail…but they didn’t make much sense to me, so use at your own risk.

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Several buildings make up the compound

The trail approaches the lodge from a distance, passing a degraded wooden sign indicating some other small side trails in the vicinity. The lodge itself is surrounded by Eastern Hemlocks, making it an obvious blob of dark foliage in the predominately hardwood forest. The trail passes right by the great porch, whose adirondack chairs, swings, and informal pack storage make it the place to stop and wait out a downpour or cool off in the burning heat of summer. Guests and non-guests appear welcome both at the porch and at the overlook behind the lodge. Stop to check out the native plant garden, which has a variety of wildflowers on display on your way to the overlook!

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Relax to a killer view

The lodge itself has twenty odd rooms which are separated into a variety of buildings raised off the ground on stilts. They do hiker lunch boxes with a heads up, and of course, you can stay at the lodge with advanced notice and avoid that prolonged hike back out.

Once you’re done with the photo ops, go the 3 miles further to Springer Mountain and the start of the Appalachain Trail or turn around and trek the 4.9 mi back to the parking lot.

BE WARNED

  1. Parking fills up fast in reasonable weather. Come early to get your pick of parking!
  2. You MUST have advanced reservations for the Hike Inn if you want to stay (http://hike-inn.com) and the rooms are not cheap! Don’t plan on camping in the vicinity – any activities are by “permit only”.
  3. It is about 3 miles past the inn to the official start of the Appalachian Trail. So if you do that to you’re looking at 16 miles round trip in one day, and while the trail isn’t hard…that’s a hell of a lot of walking.
  4. There does not appear to be a front gate enforcing park hours, but be advised that regardless of what time you roll in, you need to pay an attendant or fill an envelope with $5 per car.
  5. The signs that say “Hike Inn” mean “Len Foote Hike Inn” even if they sound like “hike in” as in, to hike in to a campsite.

In sum: 

Lifetime Scavenger List item #24091 – Find the Piedmont Azalea in bloom completed.

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Native Piedmont Azalea

GEORGIA: Saving the Hemlocks at Angel Falls

The old adage you can’t just take, you have to give holds true for use of park service lands just like it does for warlords exploiting local villages. A warlord has to keep the peasants alive, and an avid hiker has to keep the forest alive.

Which is how I ended up treating hemlocks dying of wooly adelgid at Rabun Recreation Area Campground with Save Georgia’s Hemlocks (http://www.savegeorgiashemlocks.org/). Where I also found out about a nice, short waterfall hike at the campground that is worth a quick visit if you are at the rec area to begin with.

Is it goat approved? No. The Cradle of Forestry guy in the golf cart would probably run you over with righteous zeal for disturbing his domain (more about him in the “Beware” section).

How you get there: The trail head lies within the second loop of the campground, near site 53 (gps: 34.760750, -83.472252). The campground has a $5 day use fee for the trail and the beach. 

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is 1 mile out and back. Really only suitable as a side trip if you are there to hang out at the beach, see the ritzy lake houses, kayak or view some of the other sightseeing locations listed at the bottom of this review. Or if you are out treating hemlocks of course!

Best season to do this hike: Any time of the year.


Trails to Take

The trail starts off behind a kiosk at site 53 in campground loop 2 of Rabun Recreation Area Campground. It is pretty popular, and should be easy to spot. There is limited parking in the area, and more parking at the bathrooms in campground loop 1. You can use the access road at the back of the loop 1 area to take a 3 min walk into loop 2 to reach the trail head.

However you get there the trail follows the creek and crosses a small bridge. All the hemlocks in the campground and throughout this trail are treated and cared for by Save the Hemlocks – which is why most of them are still alive for us to enjoy!

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CCC camp spring box

The trail continues up, passing by a spring box built by the local CCC camp (Civilian Conservation Corps – a depression era “putting people back to work” program that built much of the park structures we use on the east coast). From there it continues to climb until at 0.5 miles you reach Panther Falls.

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Panther Falls

The trail switch backs, continues to climb, and begins to pass the hulks of hemlocks for whom help came to late. This area is hotter (no hemlocks for shade) and more erode (no hemlocks to hold the soil). At the very top is Angel Falls, a picturesque multi-cascade wedged among mountain laurel. The trail loops back on itself and then all you have to do is walk back down.

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Angel Falls
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Trail Map

OTHER PLACES YOU MUST CHECK OUT

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Nacoochee Dam

Nacoochee Dam Roadside Park (34.755796, -83.500819) – 1920s era dam with small power plant that impounds Lake Seed.

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Nacooche Indian Mound

Nacoochee Indian Mound (34.683690, -83.708985) – Indian mound that once held the Town House at the center of a large Cherokee town.

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Stovall Mill Covered Bridge

Stovall Mill Covered Bridge (34.711691, -83.657878) – covered bridge at a mostly eroded mill site. Has a great swimming hole popular with locals and picnic tables.

BE WARNED

  1. The parking is limited. You can park in loop 1 at the bath house if you need to, but be sure to display your day use permit.
  2. There is a $5 day use permit.
  3. In all honesty, the Cradle of Forestry guys who are in charge of this campground are a little…excessive. They will ticket your truck if you forget to display the permit. They will chase you in a golf cart. They will lay down the law with the all the bombastic force of someone who firmly believes they are cleaning up the riffraff. The only issue I have is they view “local people” and “riffraff” as synonyms. And by local, I mean all the people who lived here long before the Atlanta retirees came with their money, their lake houses, and their firm belief in their own superiority. Basically, if someone invites you to go to this campground and this hike, do it. But if you are a “local” or someone who lives like a “local” you may feel highly insulted dealing with these people and going to this place.
  4. Take time for the other places to visit! This area and the lake are beautiful and well worth spending a few days exploring. And the campground is well kept, if you can deal with the keepers.

In sum: 

If money moved mountains the whole world would be a mountain range.

Yonah in the Distance at Unicoi Gap on the Appalachian Trail

Why is it every winter I forget how hot it gets in the summer? Till of course that agonizing day where the morning starts out at 50F and quickly becomes 80F by 1 pm. Seriously mother nature, go easy on us mere mortals with the temperature swings!

At least she installed a pretty awesome view from this trail to make up for it…

Is it goat approved? Dunno, but the thru hikers were pretty chill about the goat.

How you get there: Park here: 34°48’05.5″N 83°44’35.1″W. There is a HUGE gravel pull over on the side of Hwy 75. But it does get full on good weekends. Also, beware of hitch hiking thru hikers who want to pile in the truck to go to Hiawassee at this spot.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is a little under 9 miles out and back.  Yes, I know what the map says, but Google doesn’t know about all the switch backs. Budget some extra time for photography at the overlooks.

Best season to do this hike: Most seasons, though the rocks at the Yonah Overlook section are probably going to ice a lot in winter. Also this area is very close to the start/end of the Appalachian Trail. This means the traffic is very heavy in early spring (start of the hiking season) and fall (end of the hiking season). However, the wildflowers won’t be in bloom unless you go after April 1st, (the trilliums were beginning on April 1st).


Trails to Take

You must take the “trail” as the thru hikers refer to the Appalachian Trail. They speak as if it were the only one in existence, or perhaps that it is both a physical and metaphysical journey that they have undertaken to prove to themselves…whatever it is they decided to spend 6 months of their lives proving.

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Boulder Field

The trail starts in the parking lot, climbing up in a long arc through a boulder field then bast a stream. It intersects with Rocky Mountain Trail at about 0.5 miles.

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Yonah Mountain view (its the weird prominence in the distance)

At 1 mile you will see several campsites, including 2 official ones behind the “camping” wooden sign post that are particularly fancy. The trail makes its way for the next 0.5 mile or so along rock face amid stunted and windblown oak trees. Views of Yonah Mountain and general foresty/mountain goodness abound.

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Stairs from hell section

The trail descends steeply, reaching a saddle with a large boulder in the bottom, the makes a short climb…followed by the downward stairs from hell. They just keep going and going and going. You will feel like you’re on a stair master at the gym, and worse yet, it is annoying to let people around the goat through this section because you have to step off the stairs to provide room for hiking poles. Expect to be delayed here.

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The rhododendrons

The trail reaches Indian Grave Gap Road where a trail to a campground peels off to your left (blue blaze). It crosses, then climbs through some particularly pretty rhododendrons, back out into the open, and back into rhododendrons again. The hike is not particularly difficult in this stretch.

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Trillium on the trail

The trail comes up on Tray Mountain Road, where it crosses and ascends a set of wooden stairs. It passes through a stand of rhododendron, past a not very appealing campsite and then into an open area that is clearly heavily camped, backed by rhododendron. This is the Cheese Factory. The “trail” runs right through it and ascends on the other side.

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Final overlook under storm clouds

 

Another 0.5 miles or so brings you up on a small overlook and another campsite, followed shortly thereafter by a meet up once again with Tray Mountain Road. There is a large “Jeep pit” in the road that fills with water and some Jeepies may be playing in the mud. Around the 1st of April every year some boy scouts do trail magic (pancakes and sausage and eggs!) at this crossing. Cross the road, climb a stretch of switch backs, and you will reach your final destination – a major overlook.

From here, turn around and head back.

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Map of hike

BE WARNED

  1. The Cheese Factory is heavily camped – most campers show up in the late evening.
  2. The stair section is tight and you may be delayed there allowing others to pass.
  3. The last overlook is very popular – go early (before 9 am) or late (after 4pm) to have the place to yourself for photography.
  4. This is bear country. Bears eat goats. Be aware of the tasty hamburger on leg’s vulnerability.
  5. Parking can be full during the summer and wildflower season – this place is popular.
  6. The section with views of Yonah Mountain gets a lot of sun exposure and gets extremely hot late in the day making it a challenging stretch for a tired goat and human on the way back.
  7. Don’t be surprised if hitch hiking thru hikers want you to give them a ride to town. This is perfectly normal.

In sum: 

Keep an eye out for “trail magic” at the parking area and other road crossings. If they have extras they feed even stray day hikers. Thumbs up on the sausage boy scout troop!

Taking Cherry to the Cheese Factory on the Appalachian Trail

No, they don’t still make cheese on the Appalachian Trail, but one of the best shady and soft grounded camping areas in GA is named for a long vanished dairy operation. The original cheese factory was started by an eccentric New Englander in the 1800s, and those familiar with historical agricultural will agree he must have been very eccentric. The site was 15 miles from the nearest farmhouse in the 1800s, it is rocky, rugged, lacking in water, and not highly productive pasturage. While other Georgians sold their government allotted parcels to speculators in the 1830s, this crazy New England dairyman apparently tamed the rugged mountain sides, installed some cows, and went at it. He managed to run a successful dairy and even produced cheese that actually won awards.

This is a great hike for landscape photography and for getting that goat out for a quick trip on an otherwise crowded weekend.

Is it goat approved? Dunno, but the thru hikers were pretty chill about the goat.

How you get there: Park here: 34.791716, -83.706993. Be warned the road in up Tray Mountain  Road is pretty rough, but not impassable. It will take you about 30 minutes to reach this point from Hwy 75.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is 6 miles out and back. Budget some extra time for photography at the overlooks.

Best season to do this hike: NOT SUMMER. You won’t be able to get a campsite. Also this area is very close to the start/end of the Appalachian Trail. This means the traffic is very heavy in early spring (start of the hiking season) and fall (end of the hiking season). However, the wildflowers won’t be in bloom unless you go after April 1st.


Trails to Take

You must take the “trail” as the thru hikers refer to the Appalachian Trail. They speak as if it were the only one in existence, or perhaps that it is both a physical and metaphysical journey that they have undertaken to prove to themselves…whatever it is they decided to spend 6 months of their lives proving.

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Cheese Factory Campground

Anyway, the trail goes up some wooden stairs, though a stand of rhododendron, past a not very appealing campsite and then into an open area that is clearly heavily camped, backed by rhododendron. This is the Cheese Factory. The “trail” runs right through it. The blue blaze trail leads down and across the road to a small spring, (this may be dry in summer!). There are further campsites in the rhododendron. Personally, set up your tent here early in the day…so you have a spot when you get back.

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Peach blossoms bloom at the first overlook

The trail climbs out of the Cheese Factory, then along a ridge line to the first small overlook at ~0.5 miles. This picturesque spot is also a campsite and has significantly more goat forage than the Cheese Factory.

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At the second (and biggest) overlook with a yearling trainee

Shortly after leaving this overlook the trail crosses a road near a giant pit dug into the road by jeep traffic for some reason. It then climbs a relentless series of switch backs, culminating in a gorgeous summit and overlook at 1.5 miles. This is the best spot on the hike for photography.

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Storm clouds roll in over the Appalachians at the second overlook

The trail descends from the summit and travels another 1/2 mile to the trail shelter, (off to the left on a blue blaze trail). There is also another spring here. There is an overlook area that is worth visiting down the blue blaze trail before you reach the shelter. The hike continues another mile down hill to complete 3 miles out. Then turn around and head back for your second chance at photographic bliss at each of the three overlooks.

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Sunset after a day of photography

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BE WARNED

  1. The spring at the Cheese Factory does go dry in the summer sometimes.
  2. Get your campsite at the Cheese Factory early.
  3. The Cheese Factory is heavily camped – while goats were tolerated, expect to tether them and provide some type of food to them. Despite being described as “grassy” it is not a good spot to let them loose to forage and there isn’t much goat safe forage in the area. The campsite at the first overlook has significantly more forage if you need it or carrying chaff hay.
  4. There is a trail shelter on this hike. Don’t camp there. It’s generally full of young-ish males comparing their gear and bicep muscles.
  5. This is bear country. I use a bear canister, but many people also hang their food here to make sure your breakfast “hangs” around.

 

In sum: 

Appalachian is the fourth oldest surviving place name in America. The Spanish came up with it when they first arrived in Florida around 1528 to describe the territory of the Appalachee Indians they encountered (and subsequently enslaved/slaughtered/ converted/sickened).

 

GEORGIA: Germany in Georgia

I once spent a very odd evening watching my husband play RISK (a board game of world domination) with his coworkers. The *ahem* winner *ahem* of this board game was a very nice and very german guy who choose to start out in:

A. Germany

B. Playing all the black pieces

C. Then proceeded to wage a nasty and bloody campaign of lightning destruction across the entire world map culminating in the unabashedly brutal subjugation of even his own wife while taunting the rest of the players for being inferior.

For a less…awkward…outing with your coworkers, check out Helen, GA – a rather embarrassing tribute to the only other things we Americans know about Germany – that it has fancy pastries, odd architecture, and lederhosen.

Oh, and outside this fake german town are some cool waterfalls.

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The German bakery in Helen, Georgia

Is it goat approved? I’d keep the goat at home for this one, unless you plan to teach it how to yodel.

How you get there: These hikes are all in the Helen diaspora. Google Helen,  then google Duke’s Creek Waterfall, its next door neighbor Raven Cliff Falls, and the famous Anna Ruby Falls north of Helen.

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Raven Cliff Falls Parking: 34.709535, -83.789066 (4.9 miles round trip out and back)

Duke’s Creek Falls Parking:  34.702030, -83.789232 (2.2 miles round trip out and back)

Anna Ruby Falls:  34.757196, -83.710484 (1 mile round trip)

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is 8 miles to go out and back to Duke’s Creek, Raven Cliff, and Anna Ruby Falls in total. Plus however much walking of the pseudo-german town of Helen, Georgia you are interested in.

Best season to do this hike: Spring or Fall. Avoid Oktoberfest because it raises the DUI rate and the traffic. Avoid summer because, well, where else are people going to go for a good time than a beer garden in Helen?


Trails to Take

RAVEN CLIFF FALLS

An easy trail winding along the river from the parking area to a final climb to the falls.

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Raven Cliff Falls

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DUKE’S CREEK FALLS

A continuous downward run with several switch backs. The climb back out is not hard, but continuous.

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Duke’s Creek Falls

Duke's Creek


ANNA RUBY FALLS

An easy uphill culminating in a very busy end platform.

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Anna Ruby Falls

Anna Ruby Falls

 

BE WARNED

  1. Anna Ruby Falls is $3 a head to get in regardless of how you get in, (car, walking, etc.) and is very popular. Go during an unpopular time.
  2. Duke’s Creek Falls is $4 a car to park, (its self service pay though). Raven Cliff Falls, its next door neighbor is free however.
  3. Helen, GA requires a $5 fee to park, though if you park behind the Hofer’s Bakery and get a spot its free so long as you are on the premises.
  4. For those into wildflowers check out the trilliums on the Anna Ruby Falls Trail.
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Anna Ruby Falls Trail trilliums

In sum: 

RISK is a game of world domination that teaches you a lot about your coworkers and the countries they come from.

Never challenge anybody from Germany or Africa. Ever.

 

History in Motion: Train Trestle on the Silver Comet Rail Trail

What do you do when an unexpected on trail injury cancels the main event for your weekend at Panthertown? You go home, get lazy, and decide to go on the second in the series of lazy day hikes for lazy people on the Silver Comet Rail Trail.

*Note: if you like scenery and enjoyable hikes, skip this one. But if you are trying to complete the whole Silver Comet…well, grinding is boring, what were you expecting?

Is it goat approved? They allow horses, so goats should be okay.

How you get there: Go to Rambo Road Trail Head at 33.914894, -84.868738

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is 6.5 miles in a loop. About half of that is the unbelievably boring and flat Silver Comet and the other half is me getting impatient and doing some off trail walking.

Best season to do this hike: WINTER. The route is exposed to sun and would be ticky, sticky, and bitchy in warm weather.


Trails to Take

Get to the trail head. Go right. Walk…and walk…and walk…The train trestle is the bridge in the first picture – it doesn’t really look much like the historical trestle it was before the renovation.

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Spacious parking at the trail head and a water fountain? We’re lost in suburban hell again aren’t we…

This makes a good bomb proofing hike because it includes bikes, dogs, people, tunnels, cars, and off and on leash sections. As you go, watch for little blue signs on your left that say “Silver Comet Side Trails”. These are short (think a couple footballs fields in length) sections running parallel to the Silver Comet in the woods. When there aren’t a lot of mountain bikers around they are a great ways to add variety to the monotonous Silver Comet.

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The two tunnels on the route are good for bomb proofing goats to traffic. Without, you know, having to stand in the middle of the road.
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The powerline cut – a great way to go off leash and around private property

At the power line cut, I went right, walked down the dirt road through the cut to Willow Springs Rd, then turned right and went down Mt. Olivet Road back to the tunnel the Silver Comet takes under Mt. Olivet.

Then back to the truck.

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BE WARNED

  1. The website calls this a “remote” section of the Silver Comet. There ain’t noth’in remote about this place. Expect high traffic, high density subdivisions, and low quality scenery.
  2. If you really like train trestles the train trestle over which the Silver Comet travels on this hike no longer resembles a train track in anyway. Not worth walking out to if that’s what you came for.

In sum: 

Fortune cookie say “better to endure misfortune with your spouse, than to say something that will get you left in the woods by yourself”

How to Find the Waterfall on Three Forks Trail in Warwoman WMA

The boss says “You work too much!”. The husband says “You hike too much!”. I say I obsess over waterfalls too much. But really, if “work” and “non-work” are no longer options…what am I left with exactly?

That’s kind of how you too will feel if you don’t read these directions and try to find the right trail to the waterfall off Three Forks Trail.

Is it goat approved? Dunno. But with this much unmarked awesomeness any boys in green or unexpected families with quadruplets will be easy to escape.

How you get there: Get to here – 34.962330, -83.228944. There is plenty of pull off parking. .

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is around 2.5 miles round trip out and back including the Pothole Falls and the Chattanooga River. The hike in to the pothole falls is very quick if you are coming from parking at Hale Ridge/Overflow Creek Road, which is what I did instead of hiking the whole Three Forks Trail.

Best season to do this hike: Winter or early Spring. This area appears to be a popular camping area.  To really enjoy it with a goat you probably don’t want tasty snacks and interesting humans around to tempt the goat into…well, being a goat.


Trails to Take

The trail head is right off Hale Ridge/Overflow Creek Road(s). There’s some obvious pull offs and another one of those excessive engraved boulders marking the trail. You want to go towards the river, not down Three Forks Trail away from the river! The blaze is grey metal diamonds nailed occasionally to trees.

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Go this way! This is the trail head!

The official trail winds out into the woods, interrupted on a pretty regular basis by serious piles of fallen trees, (at least, there were a lot when I went). As you descend keep an eye out for a large, obvious UNOFFICIAL trail heading off to your left. It will probably have a piece of orange tape tied to the rhododendron surrounding the entrance. The entrance to this trail is also in a curve of the official trail. If you reach a large, open area, you have gone about 20 paces too far. If you reach “Three Forks Spur” signs you have gone too far – the spur is harder to follow than this unofficial foray.

When you find the trail, go straight down, following it with a dry creek bed to one side. The trail will dump you out on Holcomb Creek right at the Pothole Falls, (GPS 34.965919, -83.216288).

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Pothole Falls

Climb back out to the main trail, and go up to that clearing, (which is the official end of the Three Forks Trail). Now the fun begins. There’s the trail you came up. There’s the “Three Forks Spur”. There’s a trail headed up both hillsides. Then in front of you are another two trails, one wide and the other going over a hump and headed down hill. You want the trail with the hump.

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Yay! We found the Chattanooga River!

Follow it. It goes along a ridge, continuously headed downwards. Eventually…it just kind of stops. Ahead the ground drops off fast to the Chattanooga river. Follow your ears and slide down for the last 1/4 mile to the river and a fantastic array of potholes and rapids. There’s also an actual campsite down here!  GPS coordinates for campsite: 34.963132, -83.209032 .

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Rapids on the Chattanooga

Then, climb back out, find the trail again, and head back to the truck.

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Basic map – see text for GPS coordinates of campsite and falls

 

BE WARNED

  1. The main issue with this hike is it takes you off trail. If you are not comfortable with finding your way back, don’t have a compass/GPS, or tend to get lost in a crowded room, this is not the hike for you.
  2. If climbing up on your hands and knees while bushwhacking is not your thing, skip the Chattanooga side trip. Also, if it’s raining the slog up will suck and is best avoided.
  3. The Chattanooga loves to flood. That campsite – it ain’t exactly on high ground.
  4. The road up to the trail head is best traveled in a high ground clearance vehicle. In snow/ice/heavy rain the Overflow Creek Rd is not your friend as it is very shaded and has been washed out in the past, (it is as of this posting, however, not washed out). Take Hale Ridge instead, and be prepared for predatory potholes, unexpected gravel cavitation, and serious suspension surprises.
  5. More on the road – there were a lot of downed trees next to or partially blocking the road in winter. If it’s been stormy or windy you would benefit from bringing the chainsaw and some gas if you plan to reach the trail head in the truck.

In sum: 

Off trail means being willing to admit to yourself when you’re lost! Or you might be dead…

It also means when you come upon a random sleeping bag in the middle of nowhere…you make sure there isn’t someone still in it (or what’s left of them anyway).

 

Instant Gratification Waterfalls in Warwoman WMA

For those days when you just can’t wait for your reward, need the pay off now, or frankly, have along the friends who want the water more than the work, here’s the easiest damn waterfall hike ever.

Is it goat approved? Dunno. But I wouldn’t bring a goat to Holcomb Creek Trail in the summer…it looks popular.

How you get there: Get to these GPS coordinates: 34.978542, -83.266237. This is the intersection of “Hale Ridge Road”, “Hale Ridge Road”, and Overflow Creek Rd. Hahaha Google…you’re funny. But seriously, the trail is right at this intersection.

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Take this sign literally – the trail is actually behind the sign…heading off in the direction of the arrow

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is a phenomenally lazy 1 mile round trip out and back.

Best season to do this hike: WINTER. This is a dead end on a viewing platform. Its akin to entering a box canyon with a goat while be followed by a pack of wolves. You won’t get out with your skin if you go during regular people weather. I had it to myself midday in February.


Trails to Take

 

Easy peasy. Find aforementioned intersection. Find a place to park. The trail head is right next to a brown and white forestry sign listing distances to various points of interest. It is further marked by an engraved boulder that will make you feel really ritzy after driving this far up into the maze of Warwoman WMA.

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Goats beat dogs when it comes to rocks!

The trail drops quickly via switch backs and within 2 minutes you hit your first waterfall, which you cross directly in front of via a bridge. This is Holcomb Creek Falls. The rocks are worth a climb.

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Holcomb Creek Falls

Wind up through the woods and back down and within a few more minutes your at Ammon Creek Falls and a very nice viewing platform.

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Ammon Creek Falls

From here you trek back out and tell your buddies that they should be grateful you brought them on this one and not what you usually do on the weekend.

BE WARNED

  1. There is no real off road parking at this trail head and people drive very fast on the straightaways in the forest to make up time. Try to pull off as much as you can.
  2. The road up to the trail head is best traveled in a high ground clearance vehicle. In snow/ice/heavy rain the Overflow Creek Rd is not your friend as it is very shaded and has been washed out in the past, (it is as of this posting, however, not washed out). Take Hale Ridge instead, and be prepared for predatory potholes, unexpected gravel cavitation, and serious suspension surprises.
  3. More on the road – there were a lot of downed trees next to or partially blocking the road in winter. If it’s been stormy or windy you would benefit from bringing the chainsaw and some gas if you plan to reach the trail head in the truck.
  4. This out and back dead ends at a viewing platform, despite previous posts elsewhere online that say it is a loop. I guess things have changed?

In sum: 

Sometimes you just need it right now. Like chocolate.

 

The Great Waterfall Hunt at Warwoman WMA and Warwoman Dell

I heard there were waterfalls in Warwoman WMA, but no one knew where they were, (or at least, they weren’t telling). So I did the only logical thing there was to do – pack the goat and the backpack and go find them for myself!

Along the way I found some cool ruins. CCC trout ponds long abandoned. Remnants of the Blue Ridge Railway – a never completed pipe dream that also gave us Stumphouse Tunnel, the original source of Clemson blue cheese and stories about bears popping out of the shrubbery from my mother. Overall, there’s a lot more out there than waterfalls, but I can also confidently claim to have found at least 4 falls: Warwoman Dell Waterfall, Becky Branch Falls, an unnamed small fall, and Martin’s Falls.

Bu-yah useless internet. I can find stuff the hard way if I want to!

Is it goat approved? Dunno. But I wouldn’t bring a goat to Warwoman Dell in the summer…it looks very peopled

How you get there: Google Warwoman Dell – its a nice little picnic area off Warwoman Road just above Clayton, GA. That is the parking location (or you can park on the paved pull off in the turn just before the picnic area on Warwoman Road). There is a brown and white forestry sign just before the turn if you are coming from Clayton.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is 5 miles round trip out and back to Martin’s Creek Falls.

Best season to do this hike: WINTER. The Dell and the area waterfalls see a lot of traffic in the summer months, especially this close to Clayton. I went on a day forecasted for snow and had the place nearly to myself. Then of course it snowed and I had to worry about getting back home…


Trails to Take

Start off in the first pull over once you enter Warwoman Dell. Cross the wooden bridge and take a right at the ridiculously massive picnic shelter. The stone steps will take you up onto the old railroad grade for the Blue Ridge Railroad, which was never completed. Stone ruins remain however, to remind us of John C. Calhoun’s ambitious project that was cut short by an even more ambitious project of his – succeeding from the Union. Had this section of the Blue Ridge been completed it would have joined up with the unfinished Stumphouse Tunnel, a fascinating ruin above Wahalla, SC that was actually used to make Clemson blue cheese at one point.

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Stairs to railroad grade

Past the railroad ruins the trail runs to the upper parking lot and more of those really ritzy picnic shelters. A rock marker for the Bartram Trail (yellow blaze) will crop up just before the picnic shelter, but first, a quick waterfall break. Walk through the fancy shelter and head towards the stream beyond it. At the end of this short trail is a small waterfall, and the trail turns and returns to the upper parking area.

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Warwoman Dell Waterfall in drought

So ends the busiest portion of the hike. To continue on the Bartram Trail go back to the stone marker, then walk down the gravel access road. You will see the yellow blazes start up and then Bartram will peel off to your left. But before you leave the small children swarms behind, walk down to the trail kiosk right past where Bartram heads off. A small side trail at this kiosk takes you out to some nice concrete trout ponds built by the CCC, now long abandoned, but still interesting in their own right.

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CCC Trout Pond

The Bartram Trail climbs towards Warwoman Road in a series of tight switch backs. At the road it passes a historical marker about, no shock here, Bartram Trail and the naturalist who first made the trek that became the 37 mile trail.

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Becky Branch Falls

The trail crosses Warwoman and ascends steeply past an old pump house up to Becky Branch Falls. If the yellow blaze Bartram is crowded don’t take the goats up it – this trail is really narrow! Instead, about 50 feet away from the yellow blaze on Warwoman Road is a green blaze – This trail ascends towards Becky Branch Falls but allows you to bypass the falls and get on Bartram without all the drama.

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Not impressed with the trail difficulty…not at all. Where are the rocks they say…

Whichever route you take  Bartram heads off away from Clayton along the ridge line paralleling Warwoman Road down below for a while before moving off. It’s quiet, in the sun, and has a nice mix of pine and mountain laurel. It’s almost completely flat too. You’ll cross a gravel road which may in deer season host a check station…with the associated boys in green. If the forestry service is not who you want to meet, plan ahead.

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Creek along Bartram Trail

The trail eventually descends down towards a low flow creek, crosses it on a bridge, parallels for a while, then wanders back off into the woods. A gravel road will be visible in winter at this point down hill from the trail. Bartram runs up to a sizable creek and turns left onto what looks like it used to be another trail – an access trail coming up from the aforementioned gravel road. However, fallen trees have blocked easy access from the gravel road and Bartram travels on alone up the creek.

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What you can see of the small waterfall when goats are in the way

The first waterfall is small, but worth walking down to for the Watkin’s Glen like potholes cut into the rock by the water.

From here it gets better. The trail continues following the creek, which at first stops looking promising at all. The land levels out, and its clear this is a popular location for camping along the placid banks of what you thinking is going to be a thoroughly disappointing stretch of water.

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Martin’s Creek Falls

However, after you enter a large clearing with evidence of camping the trail turns, comes up along the creek and ascends to the best waterfall of the hike in my opinon – Martin’s Falls. There is a big wooden boardwalk for this waterfall (it must be popular in warm weather). You have to walk through the boardwalk to continue on Bartram, which heads back to the big clearing, then turns sharply and ascends up the hill headed back towards the creek. It will eventually reach the creek once more, but unfortunately at this point snow-maggedon began and I realized my truck was parked in a thoroughly in appropriate location for frozen precipitation….so I had to head back. In the future I will try to hike the rest of this potentially waterfall rich stretch…

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From Becky’s Branch to Martin Falls
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Warwoman Dell Map

BE WARNED

  1. Martin’s Falls and Becky Branch Falls have loop trails that allow you to go up to the falls and then take a different route back. This is a sure sign that they are insanely popular in the summer. However, if you find yourself being pursued by some selfie stick toting wannabes who are dying for a picture with a pack goat, remember you have an escape route!
  2. You’ll cross a gravel road which may in deer season host a check station…with the associated boys in green. If the forestry service is not who you want to meet, plan ahead.

In sum: 

Hiking should be relaxing…not 2.5 miles worth of trail run to beat the snow back to the pickup…

Hike It Alone on the Chattanooga River & Bartram Trail

 

Sometimes you need to get some alone time, and there’s nowhere more alone than the lightly traveled section of Bartram Trail running along the Chattanooga from Russel Bridge to the Willis Knob Horse Camp. Unless maybe its the bottom of a well where even Lassie won’t find you.

Is it goat approved? Dunno. But it goes through the horse area…which is pretty hoofed critter friendly and nobody complained about the goat that I ran into.

How you get there: Google 34°55’12.3″N 83°10’09.5″W. That’s the general parking area. The trail head is just on the Georgia side of the bridge, marked with yellow blazes. Parking is available at the Russel home site and a gravel road pull off on the South Carolina side and at a main trail head parking area and a paved pull off on the Georgia side.

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Barn at the fascinating Russel home site a short 1/2 mile down the road from Russel Bridge. Lots of ruined outbuildings and a spring house to check out, plus some signage on the history.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is around 7 miles one way to the horse camp from Russel Bridge on Bartram Trail.

Best season to do this hike: Most times of the year this trail is good to go. It doesn’t get a lot of traffic except for right at Russel Bridge where the fly fishermen and tubers hang out. However, the horse camp DOES get a lot of traffic in the warmer months. If you want to camp there go in winter.


Trails to Take

Get on Bartram (yellow blazes) next to Russel Bridge on the Georgia side. You’ll be following the river, first past the ruins of an old bridge, then across a modern steel bridge over a Chattanooga tributary. The trail heads left after the bridge, paralleling the river, where abundant fly fisherman may be seen in season.

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Chattanooga tributary

The trail dips and dives over small streams and heavily overgrown understory, eventually flattening out and widening as it reaches the boat ramp on Hwy 28. From here the trail begins to leave the river, climbing along the flood plain. What looks like an old road comes up on your right, leading to what was once a productive hay field now planted over with pine. The remains of haying equipment are rusting to one side of the trail, and to the other the stacked stone chimney of the long decayed residence is visible through the brush. It can be reached by a side trail.

From here the trail continues at an easy pace, ever rising, till it intersects with a wide, flat trail that is the horse trail running down to Adline Ford. If you want, you can turn left here and go down to Adline Ford, then continue along the horse trail and the river till you reach the road to Willis Knob Horse Camp. However, this will make the trip 10 miles one way instead of 7.

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Bridge + goat on Bartram Trail

To continue on Bartram cross the horse trail and follow the yellow blazes. From here the trail climbs at an easy pace, dipping occasionally down to small streams crossed by foot bridges. However, while the river remains in ear shot, even in winter it is generally invisible from the Bartram Trail.

Bartram Trail will top a rise and intersect with an unnamed blue blazed trail that frankly, looks weird. This is actually an old vehicle path. The GPS coordinates are 34.890708, -83.216680. I know this because this is the only spot on the whole trail where you can get good cell service. Follow this clearly visible but poorly marked trail uphill and you’ll reach the Willis Knob Horse Trail area’s gravel road – Gold Mine Road.

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Hell trail to the horse camp
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But paradise when you get to Willis Knob Horse Camp

The camp is about 1.5 miles from where you come in on the gravel road. 1 mile of that will be on the gravel road after you turn left off the poorly marked blue trail. This is all down hill. Which will let you rest for when you reach the wooden sign pointing out a nasty, muddy horse trail that leads to the horse camp. The nasty muddy trail is about 0.5 miles long, but improves greatly after the initial mud slinging climb.

The final location is heaven. The horse camp has water and toilet facilities, but has some particular rules about beasts of burden – see below. There are only a few campsites and in warm weather these may be taken. The park service does not like people camping outside of the campsites…but it was pretty empty and low key during the winter when I went. And the next day…you can hike back out!

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A rough map of the trip – does not show all the horse trails at Willis Knob!

 

BE WARNED

  1. Note: Bartram spends very little of this 7 mile hike near the river. If that ain’t what you signed up for, get off Bartram at the first junction with a horse trail, go down to Adline Ford, then follow the horse trail along the river. It will eventually take you to the road and you can walk a short distance up the road to the trail that leads to the campground. However, from Russel Bridge to Willis Knob Horse Camp on this route is about 10 miles. You will have a longer walk.
  2. For those new to the Chattanooga, don’t be fooled by its placid appearance. This baby likes to get log jams during heavy rains…and then flood the hell out its banks. Don’t sleep on the river in a rain storm or you may be swimming.
  3.  Fly fishers LOVE the parking area at Russel’s bridge, especially in January and February. They also get there very early, so you won’t beat them, but there are several parking areas before Russel’s bridge and after it. You may have to hunt for a spot.
  4. There is a lot of coyote scat and signs in the old field over planted with pine. This may not be a great place to camp with goats!
  5. Forage and water are amply available for goats on the trail, but so is the goat nemesis mountain laurel and its relative rhododendron. Consider bringing chaffe hay or similar if you end up camping amid the poisonous shrubbery.
  6. If camping at Willis Knob Horse Camp the camp requires that livestock be tethered between the large posts and not in the campsites. If you have a really clinging goat you may have to sleep at the posts with the critter…amid the leftover horse manure.
  7. In warm weather the horse camp will be packed. Goats spook horses…so plan on camping elsewhere than the horse camp because it’ll be a headache. Plus you probably won’t be able to get a campsite anyway.
  8. There is an armadillo that lives at the horse camp. He freaked Bakri out all night long…I don’t think the goat slept once…
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The goat spooking armadillo at Willis Knob Horse Camp

In sum: 

I hike alone, yeah
With nobody else
I hike alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I hike alone
I prefer to be by myself
Now every morning just before breakfast
I don’t want no coffee or tea
Just me and good buddy Camelbak
That’s all I ever need
‘Cause I hike alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I hike alone
I prefer to be by myself
Yeah, the other night I laid sleeping
And I woke from a terrible dream
So I caught up my pal Bakri
And his partner Cherry
And we hike alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I hike alone
I prefer to be by myself
Yeah, the other day I got invited to a party
But I stayed on the trail instead
Just me and my pal Bakri
And his brother Fugly instead
And we hike alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah,
(The funny part is I did have a holiday party this weekend I totally flaked out on…to go hiking)