Monday, May 23, 2011

Settles Bridge

This past Saturday, I stayed in bed as long as I could stand to. I've been sick going on two weeks now. It's the weirdest thing. It goes in 3 day cycles. I'll feel terrible one day, the next day feel OK enough to work or at least get out of the house, then feel great the next morning, but by that evening, I have a fever again and the next day I can barely move and the cycle starts all over again. I think I'm kicking it for real now though, and this past Saturday, once again, I felt like getting out and doing something.

The girls and I went fishing at the pond, but the fishing sucked. The kids just weren't into it and all we caught was one little shiner, foul hooked through the stomach, no less.

It was 90 degrees outside. It had been 45 the previous Monday. That's spring in Georgia. Nobody wanted to sit around in the heat though so we ended up going back to Settles Bridge again to try and finish off our survey of the territory.

We parked at the park again. We know the terrain so well now that we didn't even need a map to nav to the river.

Down by the river, the greenery had really grown in.

 Lush Greenery

As pretty as it was, for every leaf of that brush, we could be guaranteed at least 1 tick. We checked ourselves over and over throughout the day. I can say with no fear of exaggeration that we pulled over 50 ticks off of our legs and clothes. Fortunately, of those, only 4 had actually latched on. The rest were just crawling around, mostly on our socks.

Ticks weren't the only wildlife we saw though. There was also this big blue heron.


Or grey heron. Some kind of heron.

There was also a stumbling drunk fisherman on the shore courting a bunch of equally stumbling drunk girls out on some rocks in the river. I guess that qualifies as a wildlife sighting as well. The North American Recreator is indigenous to North Georgia and can be found near any cool body of water on a hot day. Their courting rituals are complex and intriguing.

We intended to explore as far downstream as we could.

That involved a few tricky creek crossings...


...but yielded gorgeous views of the river.

 Chattahoochee River

We trekked through the river cane jungle, passed through the Black Gate and wound around through the drainage line maze until we came upon what I guess is a silt pond.

 Silt Pond

It appears to separate the natural drainage of a neighborhood from the river. The pond was silty. The water running out of the pipe at the bottom was clear. There were dozens of gigantic bullfrog tadpoles swimming all around in the pond. I didn't immediately recognize them as tadpoles, they were so big.

Adjacent to the pond, I noticed a rough ATV trail and we followed it. In one direction, it led to a clearing.


The clearing appeared to be at the end of an old roadbed, though beyond the clearing, the old road was completely impassible, covered in fallen trees, and didn't appear to even get any foot traffic. There was no trail in or out except for the ATV trail. We worried that we might be on private property, but we hadn't seen any signs, markers, bearing trees or anything. Still, we headed back.

Back below the silt pond, we found what might be an old moonshine tank.


It was right there at the confluence of two little streams. The possibility of the moonshine tank made me wonder if the clearing was for crops. You know, the kind of crops that people plant in lieu of making moonshine these days.

In the other direction, the ATV trail led to somebody's backyard. There were no other intersecting trails, but I was pretty sure that there was one along the river, so we cut cross country, picked up that trail and kept heading downstream, passing mile 343 in the process.

 Mile 343

Neat, the Chattahoochee has mile markers, like on a highway. I like that one because they left the old marker up when they installed the new one.

Before long we started hearing an intermittent pinging sound.

"What is that?"

"Shh. Golfers."




"Shhh! Golfers."


Classic. A golf course backs up to the NRA property and there were golfers teeing off right there. We found many, many golf balls, of various ages.

 Golf Ball

I wondered if it would be lucrative to go collect the balls from the woods like they do out of the lakes. But I didn't wonder for long because a roaring sound caught my attention and grew louder the further we walked. It sounded like a waterfall, but I wasn't aware of any waterfalls on the Chattahoochee.

 Falls Near Mile 343

Apparently me not being aware of it doesn't prevent there from being one. Sort of; it was less than 3 feet high. We climbed down the bank, checked it out and debated whether it was natural or man-made? If it isn't natural, it's really old.

Right as we climbed back up the bank, we spotted a family canoeing down the river. Apparently they didn't realize that there was a waterfall there either, nor could they tell how tall it was from the top. It was entertaining to watch them contend with it, and despite their screams, they actually managed to get down without incident. I'm not sure I could have done as well.

I've never done much boating. I need to do some boating.

The trail had become just a vaguely clear area in the woods - no exposed dirt any more, and the route ahead had become blocked by a yawning chasm with no easy way down. We tried heading toward the golf course, but the chasm extended out onto the course as well. We'd have to cross the course to get around it and that would be discourteous, if not illegal.

Good enough.

We followed a different route back, hugging the river until we got to the Black Gate again. This gave us the opportunity to rappel down into one of the little drainages crossing the trail. Somebody had tied a rope to a fallen tree. Sophie thought she knew how to do it, but she kept slipping, so Iz showed her how it's done.

Iz. Proud of her rappelling skills.

 Iz in the Gulley

After watching Iz, it became obvious what to do and Sophie got it.

 Sophie Rappelling

"Oh, you have to lean WAY back."

We took Settles Bridge road back to the car. It's tubing season and Settles Bridge is a popular take-out point. The busses were running up and down the road and we got dusted a couple of times.

We were all very tired. I'd have sworn we'd walked 15 miles, but when I checked later, it was just over 6. This illness is horrible. Again, like last weekend, Sophie joked about being tired, but didn't complain. I had hoped it wasn't just a one time thing. She's really growing up.

We took a shortcut through the school next to the park and when we got back to the car, the kids weren't too tired to play on the playground for a few minutes.

Right as we were leaving though, I noticed a speck of dirt on Sophie's lower eyelid. Oh, wait, not dirt. It was a tick. A little seed tick, attached to her lower eyelid, right between some eyelashes. Isabel had to hold her eyelids to keep them from closing too tightly while I got it off. Creepy. It certainly creeped Sophie out, but she agreed that it would a good story and that helped. Apparently the kids tell their friends about all these little adventures and their friends think they're crazy. What? I thought every kid spent a couple of hours each weekend hiking off trail through tick infested woods in exhausting heat.

Shows what I know.

1 comment:

  1. Mmm ticks. Yummy. Hope you get to feeling better soon bro. Good read. I go to Settles Bridge on occasion to trout fish, (sober when I do go...) Very pretty area for sure. Need to find the waterfall!