Sunday, November 7, 2010

Andrews Cove and Rocky Mountain

"Woke up early, at about noon..." I think I started another one of these like that last year, but hey, it's fitting. I slept until I didn't feel like sleeping any more, and for the first time in weeks, I actually felt well rested. It helped that it was 40-odd degrees outside, probably 60 in my room, and really comfortable under the heavy blanket. I'm starting to feel lazy again just thinking about it.

I was off the bike all week last week. It's been rainy and cold, and my neck needs some more time to heal so no bike this weekend either.

I couldn't just run out into the woods though. My Brasstown excursion left me in dire need of new shoes. My brother suggested that I skip the trip to REI and go directly to Mountain Crossings instead. It turned out to be the right move. The girl that fit me had a process that I hadn't seen before - stand up, foot forward, feet together, bend your knees, not that much... yeah, those are too small, try again... We tried a couple of different shoes. Apparently hiking shoes are supposed to slip 1/4th to 3/8ths of an inch in the back. You learn something new every day. I ended up with a pair of Keen's and Superfeet insoles. Again, I must have dainty little feminine feet because I ended up with another pair of women's shoes. It doesn't matter the manufacturer, only women's shoes fit me.

There was snow on the roof and a light dusting all around.

 Mountain Crossings

Apparently it had snowed up there last night - the first snow of the year.

With much happier feet, I headed toward Helen. I gave Clark a call but he wasn't home. I'd probably have better luck if I'd think to call him before I'm an hour away.

There was snow high up on the Blue Ridge.

 Snow at Upper Elevations

I'd be up there later. Well, one ridge over from there.

My trails site shows a couple of trailheads in the area, but despite having been in the area a dozen times, I've perpetually failed to get photos of them. So, I headed up to High Shoals, snapped a boring photo of the parking area and got stuck behind a really slow driver on the way down that I literally could have walked faster than. Technically, we were moving, but my needle was sitting on 0 MPH and he refused to let me around. "Them darn kids, always in a hurry!" Fortunately he was hugging the mountain and I was able to pull around on the inside in a turn. I hope I didn't scare him too much.

I also made a run up around FS44 to Horsetrough, showed a couple how to get there, and while trying to find an open bathroom on the way out, learned the story of Helen.

 The Helen Story

I also noticed a weird rock structure in Henson Creek, right at the edge of the campground.

 Henson Creek Rock Structure

I'd never noticed it before. I guess in the summer there's too much foliage.

At the lower end of FS44, the Forest Service had done a ton of cleanup along the Chattahoochee. Every popular campsite and river access point now have stairs leading down to them, replacing the erosion channels created by campers and anglers over the years.

 Upper Chattahoochee Stairs

We could use some of those here along the Chattahoochee south of Lanier.

The campground at the bridge on FS44 is closed now. There's just a small parking lot. But, I guess "Them darn rangers can't tell me what to do!"

 No Camping Here

Actually when I first saw it, it struck me as a Jedi mind trick. "There is No Camping Here. You don't see any camping here. These are not the droids you are looking for."

Side trip accomplished, I set about the thing I actually drove up for - hiking the Andrews Cove and Rocky Mountain trails. I could already tell I'd be walking in the dark, so I gave Kathryn a call and told her not to worry until maybe 10PM, and even then I had light and fire if I needed it.

The Andrews Cove Campground was closed.

 Andrews Cove Campground Sign

It's always closed. I've driven past it more than a dozen times and I've only seen it open once. Fortunately, there was little parking area just down the road.

The trailhead was at the back of the campground, to the east of Andrews Creek.

 Andrews Cove Trail Sign

Not ten steps up the trail, I could tell it was going to be a long day. My body felt heavy, my feet felt heavy and I'd had a splitting headache all morning. I'd hoped all this would pass once I got moving, but it didn't. Maybe it would eventually. On the upside, my new shoes felt pretty good. They appeared to kind of concentrate force on my big toes. Is that bad? I don't know, I've been hiking in trail running shoes for years, I have no idea what actual hiking shoes are supposed to feel like. I just went with it.

The trail crossed a few feeder streams early on.

 Andrews Cove Trail 1

I started getting warm, took off my jacket, walked a bit, took off my base layer, walked a bit more, and then suddenly noticed that my GPS was missing from my hand. Uh oh. Perhaps it was in my pocket. No, not in my pocket. Oh no.

It wasn't panic that struck me, just sadness... unexpectedly intense sadness. I don't need a GPS to navigate, especially on-trail. But, it was a gift from my mom. Unless I'm racing, I'm carrying it. I have different gear for all kinds of adventures, but it's the one thing that I always have with me. It's become more of a companion than a tool. We've done so much together. I felt a profound, shocking sense of loss.

On top of that, I didn't want to lose the data I'd gathered already that day, nor miss this opportunity to map these trails. It had to be back there, lying on the trail somewhere. I probably put it down to take off my base layer and just didn't pick it back up. I backtracked to where I took off my base layer. Nothing. where I took off my jacket. Nothing. the last point I remembered using it. Nothing. In the summer it would have been easy to find. In fall, it was just another brown object on the brown ground, among the brown leaves and brown rocks. I must have walked past it. It would have been easy to do. I turned around and looked more carefully. That little voice telling me to give up kept getting louder, but that little voice needs to shut up because it has to be here! It can't not be. I just had it in my hand 10 minutes ago. I was all the way back to the point where I'd taken off my base layer when I finally saw it, half covered in leaves. From the other direction, it was totally obscured. Thank you God. Onward.

 Andrews Cove Trail 2

The trail wasn't actually all that interesting. Old road bed, couple of reroutes, no notable points of interest, kind of steep. I did find some trash, just off trail. "Just throw it behind that tree kids, nobody'll notice"

 Trash on Andrews Cove Trail

I packed it out.

At Indian Grave Gap, a guy was driving by right as I got there. He didn't notice me as he drove by, but when he backed up to head down FS839 it startled him to see me there.

I hung a left on FS283 and walked down the road for about a block.


It was much colder up there. I hung another left on the Rocky Mountain trail.

 Rocky Mountain Trail Stake

It started out on an old roadbed but eventually singletrack split off to the right and the old roadbed continued ahead, overgrown.

I saw Brier Creek Bald off to the right.

 Brier Creek Bald From Rocky Mountain

I'll have to go see what's up there one day. Hopefully the brier's are confined to the creek.

There are several Georgia mountains named Rocky Mountain. This one was turning out to be less rocky than the others. It was cold though, and not unscenic. One of the hillsides was covered by snow-dusted galax, or "Dolla' Weed" as Norma had called it once; Dolla meaning Dollar as it is similar in shape and size to a silver dollar, and green like a paper dollar.

Dolla' Weed:

 An Infinity of Snow-Dusted Galax

I'd been hoping all day that my head would quit hurting, but no amount of climbing can fix a headache, I guess. To add insult, at that point I was also starving and lightheaded. At the intersection with the AT, I took a break and ate some Twix and Dorito's.

 Rocky Mountain - AT Intersection

I was sitting in the sun too, and no longer on the north face of the ridge. It was warmer there. Probably not warm in the absolute sense, but I was getting colder much more slowly than before. Some combination of the warmth, rest and food fixed my headache. I only had one more kick to go too before a long descent. Maybe knowing that helped too.

The sun was going down as I climbed the ridge up to the top of Rocky.

 Almost Sunset

Just over the top, to the southeast, Mount Yonah breached the blue dusk like the dorsal fin of some ancient leviathan. If I hadn't been out so late, I would have missed it.

 Yonah From Rocky Mountain

That view alone made my day.

The sun was down, but it was still lightish on the descent to Indian Grave Gap, which was fortunate, as Rocky Mountain was beginning to live up to it's name. It was getting warmer too. Eventually I could even unzip my jacket.

Not far down Andrews Cove, it was officially dark. I had to feel my way along the trail; the surface felt harder than the surrounding woods. Looking at the ground was useless, it was pitch black. Looking ahead, I could tell where to go by following the space between the trees. I did get off trail once or twice, but it wasn't hard to find my way back.

It's funny, the last time I was out navigating in the dark, I had an easier time than this. I guess the moon was brighter that night, or maybe it's just easier going in a particular direction than trying to follow a meandering trail. I did have one moment of slight panic when I looked up and realized I could see the stars. Near the campground, it was really dark and I had to use my light to get across the creeks.

My shoes felt good all day, no toe slamming, even after miles of down-hiking. I thought I was getting a blister on my right big toe, but it turned out to just be where part of a callous was wearing off.

Back at the truck, I called Kathryn and drove into Helen for some Chile Colorado at La Cabana. My brother called; LSU beat Bama. Isabel called, wondering where I'd put her gymnastics outfit. Back to the real world.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry I missed your call! We were off having an adventure of our own at Mulberry Gap for the weekend. Ran into Johnny and Norma over there as well - go figure! Soounds like an epic hike again, I'll get to tag along on one sometime.