SOUTH CAROLINA: King’s Creek Falls at Burrell’s Ford Campground

Burrell’s Ford is a popular no fee campground on the beautiful Chattooga River. Along with the river there are two nearby falls, Spoonauger Falls and King’s Creek Falls. King’s Creek Falls is less than a mile from the campground, and makes for a great kid hike from the campground or the campground parking area. Today I hiked an easy loop from the parking area, past the Winchester Cemetery, to the falls, then back to the parking area via the campground.


Is it goat approved? The trail is tight and popular and therefore not goat friendly.

How you get there:  You want to go to the Burrell’s Ford Campground Parking Area off Forest Rd. 646 located at 34.971370,-83.114598.

Time for the hike:  1.4 mile roundtrip in a loop from the parking, past Winchester Cemetery, to King’s Creek Falls, through Burrell’s Ford Campground, and back to parking. Trail is easy but does have you scrabbling over a huge tree just before the falls that may be difficult for those with mobility impairment.

Best season to do this hike: anytime of year.


Trails to Take

The trail to take leads off from the parking area along the road on the opposite side from the pit toliet. Don’t cross the road, but continue forward on the foot path. The hill to the right here is crowned by the Winchester Cemetery, built in the 1820s.

Winchester Cemetery

The trail continues through rhododendron, wandering in a meandering fashion. The trail comes down to a creek. You want to cross the bridge and hang a hard left here to continue up the creek to the falls. This section dead ends at the falls.

King’s Creek Falls

Once you are done with the falls, turn back, cross the bridge over the creek again (don’t go straight ahead on the foothills trail) then hang a left and go downstream along the creek. This will take you to Burrell’s Ford Campground.

Bridge over the creek

Hang a left on the gravel road, then a left at the next campsite access road and go down to the river the see the historic Burrells Ford where the old wagon road used to cross. It is marked by a welded metal marker near the river bank.

Burrells Ford Campground

To go back to the parking area just follow the campground access road paralleling the river.


TRAIL MAP

BE WARNED

  1. The river used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. TheI is a huge tree trunk blocking the trail just before the falls. It was not cross able for someone with a bad knee.
  3. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly. The campground itself is popular and will fill up!
  4. If you are camping you must hike in to this primitive campground with your camping gear.
  5. Ignore the terrible trail map posted at most of the trail heads in the area. It has no mileage, isnt drawn to scale, and is utterly useless. The fragments of trail on Google are more useful!

In sum: 

“To understand the limitation of things, desire them” – Lzu Te

Frog spawn in a vernal pool

SOUTH CAROLINA: Chattooga Trail to Ellicott’s Rock

I always remember Ellicott’s Rock because it is the rock I went in search of with my now husband the day after I asked him to marry me. I suspect most women expect to be presented with a different kind of rock in this sort of situation. He still helped me look for it though!

There are two rocks in this location. One is Ellicott’s Rock, which marks Andrew Ellicott’s best survey/guess as to the border between GA and NC back in 1811 when he was trying to determine the boundary between the two states. It is marked with an N-G. Nearby (though no one seems to know exactly where) is Commissioner’s Rock, which marks the boundary where NC and SC meet. It is marked with the inscription “Lat 35 AD 1813 NC + S.C”. Neither are easy to find, nor can they be found when the water is up as the river covers the faint inscriptions. My grandmother, the last member of the family to successfully locate the rocks back in the 80s/prehistory, says the inscriptions are faint and may be near the underside/water line on the rocks themselves and the rocks are IN the river. Needless to say, I have not definitively found these myself yet, and will have to keep trying!


Is it goat approved? I will probably hike the Chattooga Trail with a goat at some point, but not today. There is little goat acceptable forage along the river except for hemlocks (which are near threatened and will probably be endangered in the future – so no eating) and there are tons of highly poisonous mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes around. You would need to bring chaffe hay to feed the goat. Or it will eat the poisonous stuff and croak…

How you get there:  You want to go to the Chattooga Trail Trailhead off Forest Rd. 646 located at34°58’29.3″N 83°06’53.1″W.

Time for the hike:  6.2 mile out and back  from the parking area/trail head to the rocks and back. The hike is mostly along the river and flat or nearly flat ground. I would rate this as family friendly and easy, but you will need balance to cross the water crossing and in wet weather water proof shoes would be a good idea.

***The rocks are not easy to find  and will require bushwhacking to see as the small sign that used to mark their location is gone.***

Best season to do this hike: Straight up winter. No bugs from the muddy sections of the trail, fewer people, and better breezes.


Trails to Take

If you start off at the trail head park on the side of the road, (or go up the road towards Hwy 107 and park at the big parking area) and then hike down the trail. The route is easy, follows the river, and rarely requires any uphill or down hill hiking. There is one significant stream crossing that may be a problem if you have bad balance or do not have water proof shoes about a mile in, just before the turn off to Spoonauger Falls. There used to be a bridge here, but there isn’t anymore.

Fly fisherman on the Chattooga River

The trail continues along the river, beginning to pass rustic campsites (note camping is not allowed anywhere near the trail head or along the river near the road) and eventually terminating in a large open area where the trout fishermen generally camp during the January to February fishing season. Walk straight through this confusing mess, following the Chattooga River and you will see a bridge crossing a significant tributary joining the Chatooga. Cross the bridge, and on the far side signage will indicate you need to go left and hike 1.8 mi to Ellicot’s Rock.

Continue to hike along the river until you reach the location (Google Maps has it marked – 35°00’03.3″N 83°06’30.5″W), then look along the river bank for the rocks as the small sign that used to be there is gone. If you reach the switch backs and start climbing the mountain side you have gone too far. If you pass a large boulder mid stream with a small sapling growing from the top you aren’t there yet. The area to search has several sandy islands in the river.


TRAIL MAP

Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. The river used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. The rocks in question (both Ellicott’s Rock and Commissioner’s Rock) are not visible when the water is up! If you need to see them, you need to come during a dry spell.
  3. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly.
  4. The rocks are hard to find and the inscriptions are faint. You may need water proof shoes and be willing to get muddy to find them.

In sum: 

The interesting bit about all this is because Georgia failed to give Ellicott good survey equipment and failed to contest the mis-survey of the state boundary today Georgia fights with Tennessee over water rights for water in the Tennessee River that it would have had – if it had gotten the survey done correctly!

SOUTH CAROLINA: Chattooga Trail to Spoonauger Falls

This is a nice, super short hike to a large and picturesque falls. If you’re hiking the Chattooga River, or shipwrecked and marooned by one of the many rafting company tours, check it out!


Is it goat approved? I will probably hike the Chattooga Trail with a goat at some point, but not today. There is little goat acceptable forage along the river except for hemlocks (which are near threatened and will probably be endangered in the future – so no eating) and there are tons of highly poisonous mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes around. You would need to bring chaffe hay to feed the goat. Or it will eat the poisonous stuff and croak…

How you get there:  You want to go to the Chattooga Trail Trailhead off Forest Rd. 646 located at34°58’29.3″N 83°06’53.1″W.

Time for the hike:  1 mile out and back  from the parking area/trail head to the waterfall and back. The hike is mostly along the river and flat or nearly flat ground, until you turn to go to the falls, then there’s some minor uphill switch backing. I would rate this as family friendly and easy, but you will need balance to cross the water crossing and in wet weather water proof shoes would be a good idea.

Best season to do this hike: Straight up winter. No bugs from the muddy sections of the trail, fewer people, and better breezes.


Trails to Take

If you start off at the trail head park on the side of the road, (or go up the road towards Hwy 107 and park at the big parking area) and then hike down the trail. The route is easy, follows the river, and requires no uphill or down hill hiking. There is one significant stream crossing that may be a problem if you have bad balance or do not have water proof shoes about a mile in, just before the turn off to Spoonauger Falls. The side trail is marked, and goes off to your right up the stream you just crossed. This section IS uphill, along a series of short switch backs, then across to the base of the falls, which requires a minor rock scramble to reach. Easy, kid friendly, and definitely worth a visit.

Chattooga River
Spoonauger Falls

TRAIL MAP

Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. The river used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. The stream crossing on the hike about a mile from Forest Service Rd 646 will require some balance and possibly getting your toes wet. My mother has a bad knee and did not feel comfortable trying to cross this area with non-water proof shoes.
  3. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly.

In sum: 

Why is it that the release of potential energy through gravity assisted water transference is always so totally worth getting muddy, spending gas money, and endangering the cohesive unity of your oil pan for?

GEORGIA: The Cloudland Canyon 11 miler

I have been on a kick lately to learn to hike 20 miles in a single day. Unfortunately, I seem to be stuck somewhere around 11 mi at the moment, so I decided to at least make it a hard 11 miles if nothing else. To get 11 mi at Cloudland Canyon you need to take West Rim Loop Trail, Waterfalls Trail, Sitton’s Gulch Trail, Overlook Trail, and Case Trail. Each of these is pretty spectacular and will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the setting of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel, especially in winter.

Waterfalls Trail – features two huge waterfalls. Cherokee Falls is like something out of a tropical sunscreen commercial, with its huge collection pool at the base. Hemlock Falls is more J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy elf homeland style. 

Cherokee Falls

West Rim Loop Trail – If rock faces are your thing, this is your trail. It winds through rhododendrons then climbs through a series of well made switch backs to the rim of the spectacular canyon. The trail then runs over rock faces, through fields of huge boulders, and in general there’s a lot of limestone about. There are numerous overlooks of the canyon. The backside of the trail is equally beautiful as it passes through a fairly substantial forest meadow with a picturesque stream flowing through. 

Overlook on West Rim Loop Trail

Sitton’s Gulch Trail – This trail runs from the Waterfall’s Trail to a rear parking lot on the edge of the park. It is 3 MILES one way and 6 MILES out and back – the park website is confusing. All 3 miles run along the substantial and Middle Earth worthy river along a wide and obvious trail through boulder fields then flat forest flood plain. There are two side trails, Case Trail (which leads to a cave) and Wildflower Trail (which in season probably goes to some wildflowers). This is a great trail if you enjoy trail running as it undulates up and down and never really climbs hard enough to wear you out at a steady jog.

River side on Sitton’s Gulch Trail

Overlook Trail – Frankly, despite the name, this is the least interesting of all the trails I hiked. It is a paved 1 mile trail following the rim of the canyon near the main parking area. There is a nice view of a distant waterfall on the far side of the canyon, but nothing much else in terms of excitement. However, if you need that last bit of mileage before going back to the car, this will get you there.

Canyon from Overlook Trail

Is it goat approved: No. The stairs going down to the falls are the metal grill type – this is nearly impossible for most goats to handle going up and down because they freak out when asked to walk over grills due to how ruminates visually perceive depth.

How you get there: Google Cloudland Canyon State Park. It’s a very well known location.

Time for hike: The 11 mile round trip hike requires you to hike from the main parking area first down West Rim Loop Trail, then Waterfalls Trail, then Sitton’s Gulch Trail out to the parking lot. This is followed by Sittons Gulch back into the park, with a quick side trip on Case Trail to the cave, then continue on Sitton’s Gulch back up to the parking area on the insane stairs and around the Overlook Trail. With the stairs it took me about 5 hours to do the whole thing.

Best season to hike: Winter and probably spring for the wildflowers. The popularity of the park apparently sky rockets during the summer. In extremely snowy/icy weather the trails to the bottom of the canyon may be closed – I had some difficulty crossing ice on Waterfalls Trail at one point.


Trails to Take

The hike requires you to hike from the main parking area first down West Rim Loop Trail, then Waterfalls Trail, then Sitton’s Gulch Trail out to the parking lot. This is followed by Sittons Gulch back into the park, with a quick side trip on Case Trail to the cave, then continue on Sitton’s Gulch back up to the parking area on the insane stairs and around the Overlook Trail. The trails are extremely well marked with sign posts. The only trail I had issue with was West Rim Loop Trail as there are several side trails that go to the cabins, camping, and yurt areas. However, if you read the sign posts you won’t get turned around.


Trail Map


BEWARE SECTION

  1. It costs $5 a car to park in the park. I believe all the external parking areas are fee areas as well.
  2. The park is home to several caves. If you are going to go on a cave tour they have changing areas to allow you to change clothes and avoid spreading white nose disease, an extremely lethal disease that is causing bat population declines. Since bats eat bugs, save the bats!
  3. There are some really long stretches of stairs to go to the bottom of the canyon. Dogs can handle these stairs IF they are fairly large. If you are bringing a Chihuahua be prepared to carry it down and back up in your hands as the spacing on the stairs and the sheer number of them will probably be an issue.
  4. All camping within the park is reserved – if you want to back country camp you must reserve ahead of time.
  5. All caving in the park is by permit only – if you want to cave, plan ahead of time.
  6. If you want to take pictures of the canyon from West Rim Loop Trail come in the afternoon – in the morning the sunlight is angled in such a way that the far walls of the canyon are very hard to photograph.

In Sum

Definitely in the running for Best Park in Georgia!

GEORGIA: Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail

I couldn’t get up the southern/eastern side of the jacked up gravel road to Springer Mountain. Instead, I went from the western/northern end of the gravel road maze, drove 5 miles in to Blue Ridge WMA, parked at Three Forks Parking Area, and hiked in 10 mi round trip to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail the hard way.

Well, it wasn’t actually all that hard…the terrain is moderately easy, and there is plenty to see in the area. Attractions include Long Creek Falls, the Benton MacKaye Memorial, the southern terminus of the Benton MacKaye trail, two amazing trail shelters, and lots of water to hike along during part of the hike. Plus the end point of the hike at the southern terminus of the Appalachain trail!


Is it goat approved: No. This section is placarded as “no pack stock”. So goat on a leash – maybe. Goat with a pack, forget about it!

No pack stock…

How you get there: Google Three Forks Trailhead or go to gps (34.663550, -84.183102). There isn’t real parking, just a wide spot in the road where people (in season LOTS of people) pull off. I recommend coming from the back side from Doublehead Gap Rd – not from the Nimberwill side – you will drive rough gravel roads for forever if you come from Nimberwill. If you come in from the north side it is a relatively good road that even a low ground clearance car can handle. You also only drive about 5 mi, down what is an absolutely beautiful stretch of road along a river. If you come after a major storm bring a chainsaw – these forestry service roads are cleared, but not always in a hurry and the hemlocks dying from wooly agelid fall on the road a lot. The drive itself is gorgeous, despite the dying hemlocks. There are nice free camping spots along the river, but camping in designated spots only is strictly enforced and spots are usually all taken on weekends. If you do camp – be kind – don’t damage the remaining hemlocks.

Ride in is beautiful

Time for hike: Total hike, from Long Creek Falls to the Southern Terminus and back to parking at Three Forks trail head is 11.25 mi round trip out and back.  From Three Forks parking area it is 1 mi out to Long Creek Falls (2 mi round trip). From Three Forks parking area it is about 1.2 mi to the Stover Creek Trail Shelter, 3.2 miles to Springer Mountain Parking Lot, and from Springer Mountain Parking lot it is about 1 to Benton MacKaye Memorial, Springer Mountain trail shelter, and the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Best season to hike: As always I highly recommend winter for the best views and lowest traffic, but if you are okay with high traffic any time of the year is fine. Rhododendron will bloom in the spring, and the yearly exodus of Appalachian trail hikers hits hard around April 1st or so. If you want to sleep in a trail shelter come in winter – the shelters stay packed in warmer weather.


Trails to Take

Starting off at Three Forks trail head, you want to go away from Long Creek Falls, and across the river on the other side of the road via a wooden foot bridge. The trail continues following water through thickets of rhododendron under overhanging dying hemlocks and pines. The trail is obvious, extremely well maintained, and beautiful. The Benton MacKaye Trail goes off to your left as you climb. This trail is built on one of the proposed routes for the AT in honor of Benton MacKaye, one of the original proposers of building the Appalachian Trail in the 1930s. Not surprisingly with this history, it often parallels, intersects, and sometimes runs on the same route as the AT. Benton MacKaye is marked with DIAMOND white blazes. The AT is marked with RECTANGULAR white blazes. So be careful about which one you are following!

Crossing the river at the start of the hike
Well maintained trail structures

You continue to climb along the Elysian Fields worthy river valley over several more bridges, then the trail sharply swings to the left. Google will tell you to go straight here on the wide old road bed, but that’s not the correct course. Follow the while rectangular blazes and go down to the creek, cross it, and climb up the other side. Shortly thereafter you will pass a side trail marked with a blue blaze and a “shelter” sign as is typical on the AT. This is Stover Creek Shelter, which is massive and has a bear box for food in the form of a Northern Tool and Equipment tool box. I have no idea how they got that thing out there, but it’s there for the spoiled AT thru hikers.

Past the shelter the trail leaves the river, climbing up on dry ridges and frankly, uninteresting forest land. The Benton MacKaye crosses the AT again, but the correct way is well marked. At no point does the climb become ardous, but it does meander for a while before finally reaching Springer Mountain Parking/Trailhead. This parking area is large, but doubtfully not large enough for everyone during the season. Cross the parking area and head up the AT on the other side.

Spinger Mountain Parking Lot with an impatient dog

From this point the trail becomes beautiful once more, climbing over rocks and under stunted oak trees as it traces the ridge line of the mountains. Views abound through the de-leaved trees. The Benton MacKaye comes back in to the AT, forming it’s personal southern terminus, and about half a football field down Benton MacKaye from the intersection is the Benton MacKaye memorial plaque, well marked and stuck on the side of a boulder.

Benton MacKaye Memorial
Southern terminus of the Benton MacKaye Trail

Past Benton MacKaye is another blue marked shelter trail to Springer Mountain Trail shelter, a beast of a double decker shelter with it’s own itinerant caretaker, surrounded by heavily used camping meadows. Recent signage indicates, however, that camping here would be ill advised – there have been serious bear issues in the area. The park service recommends not sleeping at Springer Mountain trail shelter at this time due to bears. There is another bear box/big metal tool box here, but do you really want to sleep somewhere with a 5 am wake up call from a black bear?

Springer Mountain Trail Shelter (it has a second floor inside)

Not far past the trail shelter is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, set among a grove of stunted oaks overlooking the mountains. There are two plaques – one set in the rock face, and another set in a boulder amid the oak trees. Welcome, at last, to the start of the journey!

The southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail

When you get back down to the Three Forks trail head, cross the road and finish the day with an easy 2 mi out and back hike to Long Creek Falls, which is well worth the visit.

Long Creek Falls

Trail Map


BEWARE SECTION

  1. Don’t camp at Springer Mountain trail shelter if you don’t have to as of 1/19/19. The forest service has posted signage warning of bear issues at the trail shelter. Press on for Stover Mountain Shelter, which is about 3 miles away.
  2. Camping near the Three Forks Trail Head is at designated camping sites only – the park service does not have a sense of humor about this, and their stringent enforcement is why the area is still as pretty as it is.
  3. Watch out – Benton MacKaye is DIAMOND white blaze, the Appalachian Trail is RECTANGULAR white blaze. Don’t get confused!
  4. Trail shelters are marked by rectangular blue blaze trails – you may have to walk a ways down one of these to find the shelter, but the shelter does have privy’s and water sources for those who aren’t comfortable going to the bathroom in the great outdoors.
  5. Don’t expect to get a spot in the trail shelters on the weekend or on any day of the week in the summer. Always plan to be able to tent camp if needed – this area of the AT is extremely popular.
  6. The AT thru hikers generally start heading north about April 1st – if you want the serenity of a quiet forest, don’t hike this section during this time or during the rhododendron bloom.
  7. If you are visiting this area after a major storm, bring a chainsaw to clear the road of debris.

In Sum

The Journey Begins! Sounds like a movie tag line doesn’t it?

Bearden Falls at Jake’s Mountain

As my husband and the goat put it “Why exactly on a cold wet Sunday at 8 am are we going to watch the mundane magic of di-hydrogen mono-oxygen engaged in release of potential energy? You can watch water drip off the eves at the nice dry house instead…right?”

But really, where is the fun in that? 

This hike includes several mid-calf deep creek crossings, a lot of hemlocks (please be kind – these are threatened), and a lot of gorgeous water. It is an easy hike up until the last scramble to the base of the falls. 

Is it goat approved? Yes. I took a goat on this one and it went well. This trail *may* be popular during warm weather or trout season.

How you get there: Google it, or navigate to 34.588640, -84.192591. This will be a spot on the gravel road with a large off the road campsite to your right. Pull off the road as you can, and walk to the big off the road campsite. There is an obvious road going from the campsite into the woods, (NOT car passable), that crosses a stream with a log bridge. This is the trail head.

Time for hike: To the falls is about 3 mi out and back. 

Best season to do this hike: Winter – best view of the falls, fewest bugs, and fewest people. Fall would be nice, and spring when the rhododendron bloom would be good too. There are numerous mid calf deep water crossings, keep this in mind.


Trails to Take

From the road, head towards the large road side campsite (or park there if no one is using it). The trail head is the big road looking trail heading off from this area into the woods. It crosses a creek at the campsite area in a wide ford that when I visited had a log bridge. The trail/not car rated road goes off through a hemlock forest in the woods. It emerges at another river crossing, this one fairly deep. You want to cross the river here – there aren’t any better spots up or down stream and those hopeful little side trails lead nowhere. So suck it up buttercup.

Lots of creek crossings
Poplar forest
Goat and husband on the big rock at the base of the falls

The trail continues in an obvious, easy route along the river, crossing moderately deep water several more times as you climb up the narrowing valley. Eventually you cross one more creek, the main water course is to your right, and the trail seems to disappear. At this point, look for where people have scrambled up on the left hand side of the valley, and follow this path along the edge of the rhododendron. Climb up until you see the huge rock sitting mid stream near the base of the falls. Cross out to the huge rock and you will get a gorgeous straight up look at the falls.

Bearden Falls

TRAIL MAP

The trail follows the river more or less

BE WARNED

  1. The road in is a forestry service gravel road for the last 1.8mi. A low ground clearance car will not enjoy the ride. I had to maneuver a bit in a Honda Fit.
  2. The trail is semi unofficial, and there are side trails. Stay with the main river and you will eventually reach your destination.
  3. The trail does go past a roadside campsite.
  4. The last stretch to the bottom of the falls is a scramble, you may not want the 3 year old kid or the ancient dog for this last bit.
  5. There are numerous calf deep water crossings to reach the falls.
  6. Due to the general lack of care that Jake’s Mountain is treated to, if you see trash pick it up – no one else will.

In sum: 

Who says adults can’t play in the creek?

GEORGIA: Lance Creek Trail at Jake’s Mountain

I wanted to go to Springer Mountain while it was miserable outside to see the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The Honda Fit actually made it within 1.8mi of the trail head…but it shouldn’t have. I got a lot of use out of those skid plates under the car and I still fully expect the bottom to fall out of the car on the way to work Monday. The roads at Jake’s Mountain aren’t meant for low ground clearance cars, so instead of continuing to commit automobile suicide an hours drive from any paved surface, I went to check out this trail instead.

Jake’s Mountain doesn’t have much water, and it has even fewer trails that run along water, however, Lance Creek Trail (223 A) does run along a substantial water course with lots of small rapids. The trail also passes possible still ruins and what looks like a covered hand dug well, suggesting there might be more house site ruins in the surrounding area. This particular hike goes slightly farther than the trail itself, ending at a less well known campsite beside the river.

Is it goat approved?Yes. I have done the bottom of this with a goat.

Parking on the side of the road in the campground

How you get there: Head for Jone’s Creek Campground at Jake’s Mountain (34.604849, -84.151070). The road in was passable (barely) by a Honda Fit. If you have a wide vehicle with low ground clearance you will not be able to drive down to the campground and I don’t recommend driving down Winding Stair Gap Rd either. This is the land of Jeeps and low taxes, so you kind of are expected to get there under your own power without maintained roads, cleaned out ditches, or filled in potholes.

You know, I’m willing to pay more taxes if they would maintain the road in return

Time for the hike: 5.45 mi round trip from the off trail campsite to the Jones Creek Campground.

Best season to do this hike: If you are camping come in the winter – the campground stays solidly full during the summer. Go all the way to the far end of the campground and get the site under the hemlock trees on the river. If you are not camping come whenever, but realize the start of the hike may be buggy as the area has lots of puddles and seeps.


Trails to Take

Park in the campground, or if you have the right vehicle, go past the campground, up the hill, and around the corner and park at the huge car ford. NOTE: The trail rapidly becomes non-car friendly on the far side of the ford, and the trail, though it looks like a road, has a car barrier a short way up it. So no jeep trails here!

River near the campground
Possible old still site?

However you park or camp, you want to pass through the campground towards a large open field, then over a bridge and past a campsite situated under surprisingly healthy hemlock trees. The road goes up a moderate hill, then turns a corner coming up alongside a large flowing river. Shortly thereafter a large ford presents itself to your left. Do not cross the ford, continue straight. You are now on 223A Lance Creek Trail.

Car Ford with a goat

The trail, looking much like an old road, travels through bottom land, passes a car barrier, and thereafter shortly passes what may be an old still site with rusted out metal barrels. After that watch for a pile of large rocks to the left of the trail which may be a covered hand dug well. Trail 223B Saddle Back Trail goes off to the right. If you want to bushwhack to the Appalachian Trail this trail will get you closer to the AT than 223A.

Possible covered hand dug well
Small Falls
The trail is pretty much an old roadbed

If you continue straight the trail gets closer to the water, culminating in a small off trail falls at 2 mi. Nearing 2.5 mi the trail crosses two streams, and then the main trail goes off to the left to continue the loop around on 223 Bull Mountain Trail. If you continue ahead on the still very visible old road bed you will come out of the dense mountain laurel to an open clearing where the road bed ends and the river cascades into a reasonable pool for soaking in hot weather. This area is an unofficial campsite that sees infrequent use. After some exploring, turn around and head back to the car!


TRAIL MAP

BE WARNED

  1. The drive in on Winding Stairs Gap Rd and on the road to the campground itself is GRAVEL. For those not from Georgia this means it’s a *@&!*( ride in a low ground clearance car. There will be potholes, rock faces, and the road will not be maintained. I made it to the campground in a Honda Fit, but I had a tough time and I had to stop at one point and dislodge a tree limb that hung between my tire and fender.
  2. If you were thinking of bushwhacking to the Appalachian Trail, it is about 1 mile from the end of this hike. That 1 mile is up a sheer wall of mountain laurel, loose soil, and drop offs into water. I turned around pretty quickly, but if you are gung ho, take 223B, it will get you a little closer, then be prepared to bushwhack up hill for a mile to reach the AT.

In sum: 

I had a good time. I cannot say the same for my car.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Licklog and Pigpen Waterfalls

A beautiful and easy stretch of trail takes you down to two nice waterfalls after a hike surrounded by rhododendrons and streams. You can park at the trail head or hike in on the Foothills Trail from Highway 107.

Is it goat approved? Not a great one for goats.

How you get there: Okay, first you turn down a gravel road. Then your gravel road crosses two creek crossings, (at the time of this writing in Jan. 2019 they could easily be crossed by sedans and small cars and were well maintained). Eventually you come up to the end of a small lake and the way ahead is marked as a private road. Follow the skinnier and less well maintained gravel road headed off to your right. This section is rougher than the preceding road and is ONE car only. If you meet anyone you may have to back the 600ft or so out. The road dead ends into a very small parking lot – make sure you park so you won’t be blocked in. The trail leaves from the small parking lot behind the trail kiosk.

Time for hike: Wagon Train trail and the mini falls is visible on Google. To the mini falls is about 0.9mi one way to the farthest fall or about 2 miles round trip. 

Miles on the Foothills Trail to various points of interest from the Licklog and Pigpen Falls parking lot

Best season to do this hike: Winter – you can see more of the falls with leafless trees.


Trails to Take

From the parking lot the trail heads out behind the trail kiosk. It winds among several streams. You will pass a wide trail heading off to the left up hill. Ignore this, the main trail goes straight ahead. Cross several foot bridges as you wind among the mountain laurel and rhododendron until you reach a trail intersection marked by the usual Forestry Service brown trail markers. Turn down hill to your left, (NOT straight) and you will immediately arrive at Pigpen Falls. The trail crosses the stream via a footbridge and continues on the other side. Walk another football field length or so and you will reach Licklog Falls. Then turn around and come back out the way you came.

Checking out the trail kiosk with the mini-polar bear
Pigpen Falls (it does have a smaller cascade to the side too)
Licklog Falls (courtesy of the web as I had a camera malfunction on this one!)

TRAIL MAP

Crude, but surprisingly helpful trail map

BE WARNED

  1. The parking area is very small.
  2. Part of the road on the way in is one car width only.
  3. There are 2 car creek crossings, though even after lots of rain I could cross them in a low ground clearance car.

In sum: 

You might want your sticks for this if you have a heavy pack or usually hike with them – it’s not as flat and bottom land-ish as it appears!

GEORGIA: Wagon Drivers Hidden Falls

Honestly, I saw the icon for this on Google and went “Wait. I’ve never heard of a waterfall at Brasstown. What gives?”. What gives is an easy hike on the less beaten of trails at Brasstown Bald. While Wagon Drivers Hidden Falls isn’t a spectacular plunge pool monstrosity, it is the only waterfall you’ll get on the Bald. It’s also about halfway down the 7 mi stretch of Wagon Train Trail from the Brasstown Bald parking lot to the back of the dorms at Young Harris. Most importantly, you walk the easy half of the trail to reach it from Brasstown Bald. If suffering is more your thing, you can come up to it from Young Harris too of course.

Is it goat approved? You could probably bring a goat up from Young Harris, but a goat at Brasstown Bald might result in you becoming an Internet meme.

How you get there: Park at Brasstown Bald. You will have to pay for parking here – $3 in winter and $5 in the summer. Per person.

Time for hike: Wagon Train trail and the mini falls is visible on Google. To the mini falls is about 2.65 miles one way, or about 5.3 miles round trip. 

Best season to do this hike: Winter – you can see more of the views with the leaves off the trees.


Trails to Take

Starting off at the Brasstown Bald parking lot, go up the paved trail past the bathroom as if you are heading for the top of the bald. About a football field length up this trail Wagon Train Trail crosses as an unpaved roadbed. There is a historical marker if you’re into that sort of thing.

Old blasting grooves cut into the rock face

The historical roadbed dates from the actual time of wagon based travel in mountains. Originally built by convict labor to allow local families to meet and mingle, during certain parts of the hike the original blasting bores used to turn vertical rock faces into horizontal road bed may be seen. The fact that it is an old roadbed means the trail is wide, obvious, and for much of its length proceeds downhill at a leisurely and unexpectedly easy pace. I was told by another hiker however that shortly after the mini falls, and particularly on the last 2 miles before reaching Young Harris, the trail drops steeply. The walk to the falls though will be filled with exciting overlooks (in winter) and a deceptively easy grade.

Turn right onto the road bed, and a short walk through dense rhododendron thickets will lead you to a clearing where the forest service dumps fallen trees, and afterwards a vehicle gate followed by a trail kiosk. Further travel takes you along a ridge line of moss covered boulders overlooking distant valleys and a sign announcing entrance to the Brasstown Bald Wilderness. As a wilderness area is camp-able in GA there are two campsites on the hike that are very nearly in the middle of the trail.

View from the trail in winter
Brasstown Bald Observation Tower is just barely visible on top of the mountains

The trail descends slowly and easily following the ridge line, with continued impressive views, including a very distant view of the observation tower on top of Brasstown Bald itself. Watch the mileage counter as you descend among the moss, rock faces, and boulders – the waterfall is truly hidden and you have to stop and look to find it.

Part of the very well hidden Wagon Drivers Waterfall

The trail starts to drop more steeply, rounds a bend past the second of to extant stone fire rings, and shortly thereafter the 2.3mi trip ends at an unassuming stream crossing the trail. If you look to the right, moving around the rhododendron in wet weather, a small but pleasant cascade is visible. Is it big? No. Is it spectacular? Hardly. But on a wet winter’s day after 2.3mi of overlooks, rock walls, and spectacular mossy boulder fields, it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be the turning around point.


TRAIL MAP

BE WARNED

  1. You will have to pay to park at Brasstown Bald.
  2. Tends to be popular on the Brasstown Bald end. The middle of the trail is pretty quiet.
  3. The trail is an old road bed, but there are boulders, wet spots, and uneven terrain which may make it unsuitable for very small children or people with bad knees in places. In general though, a relatively in shape person with a reasonable sense of balance or a pair of hiking poles will not have a problem.

In sum: 

Everyone thinks the dog is some fancy expensive breed. It’s actually just an unpapered muddy Great Pyrenees with expensive tastes. 

The Blue Wall Passage

The Blue Wall Passage is part of the Palmetto Trail – that winding, twisting, and unfortunately sometimes road walking trail that crosses the best state in the US from mountains to sea. Wondering what state that is? Hint: it’s in the only state with palmettos.

Is it goat approved? Far as I can see, hell yes.

How you get there: Head for Lanier Lake in Landrum, SC. There’s a small lot to park in at the end of Dug Hill Rd (Google Palmetto Trail Parking).

Time for hike: The trail is about 3mi round trip from parking lot to the falls and back up an old road bed. The grade is never strenuous, but you do have to go uphill for about a 1/4 mi. Add in the trip around the ponds and you could probably eek out a 5 mi day here.

Best season to do this hike: Winter. Summer would probably be kind of buggy with the ponds.


Trails to Take

Easy peasy – just follow the paved road that becomes a gravel road, and eventually you get to two nice ponds and a small but pleasant waterfall. When given the option to turn, continue straight to pass both ponds and reach the waterfall. Turning results in traveling around the ponds. I never did find where the Palmetto Trail leaves the Blue Wall Passage though…


TRAIL MAP

BE WARNED

  1. Not a lot of parking.
  2. Tends to be popular with joggers.
  3. May contain hordes of rabid birders during certain times of the year.

In sum: 

A goat can pull of anything. Even donut bandannas.