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.

Bull Mountain to Jone’s Creek Campground Shuttle Hike at Jake’s Mountain

So last week I found myself staring at the Jake’s Mountain trail map going “What now?”. At which point, my primal inner 3 year old was immediately drawn to one thing about half way up the center of the map. Booger Holler.

What can I say? I was intrigued.

Which begs the question – what the heck? I mean, really, that is up there on the bizarre names list and apparently it was famous enough that the Park Service actually felt compelled to include it on their official map? The internet is suspiciously silent on the subject of Booger Holler, only noting that it may once have been a moonshiner hideout. Given the seclusion of the area and the abundance of water sources it seems like a possibility. Keep an eye out for old stills, (and away from any active ones), on this easy shuttle hike through Jake’s Mountain.

Is it goat approved? They let horses wander around, so I am guessing goats are okay.

How you get there: Park here at Bull Mountain Parking Lot: 34.580633, -84.144667. The parking lot is not so much a lot as an overgrown, rutted field. I got stuck in a 2 wheel drive pickup in the rear of the field. Be careful where you park!

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 5 miles one way. The going is easy, but the pretty stuff is concentrated in one area near Jones Creek Campground.

Best season to do this hike: Fall and winter. The campground is fairly popular and the road will be heavily trafficked during warmer weather.


Trails to Take

Start off at Bull Mountain Parking, then head north on the blocked off road behind the trail kiosk. Continue straight until the road dead ends into a fork, then go left to get on trail 223D.

Now, 223D is going to wind off forever along the mountain side, staying mostly flat with the occasional minor incline. Easy hiking, but not so easy navigating. Three different roads veer off the trail, each one unmarked but partially blocked by a metal T. Ignore them all.

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Booger Hollar Hunt Camp Cabin located at 34.596362, -84.148022

At the final metal T the trail jumps off the now blocked old road bed and climbs into the woods becoming more trail like as it winds off through the forest. Shortly there after Booger Hollar hunt camp comes into a view. It’s a relatively nice wooden cabin with a deck contrasting with a porta-john style outhouse that has partially collapsed into the cesspit below. Essentially, it looks like every backwoods hunt camp you’ll ever find in North Georgia, but with a cabin instead of a busted down camper.

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I feel sorry for the guy using the outhouse…when it fell into the cesspit

The trail leaves the camp, circles a small decline, and then comes up on Trail 223C. Go right here and begin a steep, never ending descent to the creek. The trail switch backs several times, some of these are hard to see until you are almost passed them.

Eventually you get dumped out on, surprise, another unmarked road! The creek is now in sight, as is the car ford across it. In moderately rainy weather the ford is passable. On the far side of the creek trail 223A heads up stream, and the road bed heads off to the right. Below you and about 50 feet off the trail is a reasonably nice waterfall.

IMG_0223
Waterfall along one of the several large creeks in the area of the car ford

Following the road bed to the right takes you slightly up hill and then almost immediately down hill into Jones Creek Campground. Jones Creek is pretty popular, and camping with a goat could be annoying, (See Beware section). Campsites appear to be first come first serve, so if you arrive early and aren’t accompanied by hooved companions you may be able to snag a sweet spot on one of the several creeks that enter the area.

The road out of the campground (Jones Creek Rd) runs straight ahead, curving along through open woodland dotted occasionally with streams and struggling hemlock groves. The road passes over a creek, then shortly later passes through a wildlife clearing (again, no camping here), and finally meets up with Winding Stair Gap Road, the heavily trafficked gravel road you took on your way into Bull Mountain parking.

It’s at this junction that my long suffering husband gave a certain fat goat a ride back :).

map

 

BE WARNED

  1. Jones Creek Campground in VERY cold weather might be suitable for goats, however, most of the time it has a few too many yuppies to be fun. The banks of the creek, as well as all large clearings off Jones Creek Rd are marked as “no camping”. So, what to do if you actually want to camp? Camp out in the woods away from the campground, camp at the unfilled lake near Bulls Mountain Parking, or you can actually camp at the Bull Mountain Parking area if you want to talk to people a lot.
  2. Jones Creek Rd is not very small car friendly. The road to Bull Mountain Parking is okay though.

20171111_084204
Goat transport unit – 1 cheap plastic Walmart box and a long suffering husband’s car

 

In sum: 

When you take the fat goat for a hike, its better to underestimate his hiking ability. Or you end up with a shuttle hike instead of an out and back with camping…

 

 

A Mini Nimberwill Nomad At Jake’s Mountain

The Nimberwill Nomad is an incredible long distance hiker. He’s kind of like wonder lust personified, or maybe Odysseus if Odysseus had said “screw this getting home stuff, let’s just turn this thing into a magical mystery tour instead”. The Nomad’s treks are described as odysseys for a reason on his personal website (https://nimblewillnomad.com) because frankly, what this guy does isn’t really comparable to what the rest of us mean by “hike”. He hiked the Appalachian Trail of course, but he’s also walked Route 66, across the entire United States in a big loop, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin, and basically anything that might be described as “epic”.

While he’s originally from up North, he retired to the Nimberwill area here in North Georgia. For those not versed in North Georgia’s many microcosms, Nimberwill is the area around Nimberwill Creek, Nimberwill Church, and in short, the area where Jake’s Mountain State Park lies. So one of the internet’s more insane hikers comes from here. Maybe hiking the goat here will inspire it to want to climb mountains too…

nomad
One of the Nimberwill Nomad’s treks – Route 66

Is it goat approved? They let horses in here, so I am going with “yes probably”.

How you get there: Park here at Bull Mountain Parking Lot: 34.580633, -84.144667. The parking lot is not so much a lot as an overgrown, rutted field. I got stuck in a 2 wheel drive pickup in the rear of the field. Be careful where you park!

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is 4.2 miles round trip out and back. The going is easy, with only two moderate uphills and down hills. There are three seperate fields starting at 1 mile in that would make good camping locations in the Fall and Winter. Summer the flies would be bad as we are near the lake *ahem* make that swamp with a drainage system and a dam.

Best season to do this hike: Fall, winter, and early spring. Summer the flies and mosquitoes will probably be bad.


Trails to Take

Starting off in the parking lot, (or well, unmowed field you left your truck in and hope you can get it back out of), you want to go back up the road to the trail kiosk. Behind the gate just beyond the kiosk is the “trail” though it will look more like a road at this point.

This is technically the Bull Mountain Connector Trail at this point. In about a quarter mile the road intersects with Jones Creek Connector Trail, (or again, at this point, road). Go right on this.

The road winds out through the woods, gradually becoming less and less defined. It crosses the first field at around a mile, and finally becomes a track instead of a two track. The trail winds down hill into a second field, then across the dam for the “lake”. The dam is humongous, but the lake it was meant to contain has either succumbed to the drought last summer or a lack of funding. The dam is holding back an underwhelming shallow water water mosquito breeding mud sucking swamp. With a rather expensive looking drainage set up.

20171007_101328
One of several camping fields

20171007_101425
The swamp at the bottom of what probably was meant to be a lake…

The trail continues across the dam amid late fall wildflowers, climbs a hill, and reaches another field. This one is probably the best camping spot – large, well drained, protected from high winds and far enough away from the swamp to thwart the worst of the insects. I will definitely back here for an overnight hike!

This little training jaunt ends at the fork of Jones Creek Dam Trail and Moss Creek Trail. A good 4 miler for a 3 month old kid, and a good leg stretch for a lazy human hiker.

 

TRAIL MAP

map

BE WARNED

  1. Parking fills up fast in reasonable weather. Come early to get your pick of parking!
  2. Bull Mountain Parking Lot is a very…optimist…name. The field at the end of the road isn’t that great for parking. It is rutted, with bad traction, no mowing, and a general sense that you are going to get stuck. I got stuck in the Ranger. Bring 4 wheel drive if you have it…and if you don’t, be careful how you park.
  3. Bikers, runners, and to a lesser extent horseback riders all do big get togethers at this park. You may arrive at a free for all Jamboree that you were not invited to. But that’s cool – cause a goat is always in fashion!

In sum: 

I once read an interview with the Nimberwill Nomad during his trek of Route 66. He doesn’t carry much of anything – no extra food or a heavy pack. The answer to why he doesn’t I found kind of profound. In his words, every piece of gear you have is an expression of your fears. You bring a first aid kit because you are afraid of injury. Food because you are afraid to go hungry. Boots because you are afraid to twist your ankle. A tent because you are afraid to sleep outdoors. What must it be like, to walk alone and unafraid?