Saturday, January 14, 2012

Vickery Creek

It's been one week and one day since my last little adventure and I'm just now sitting down to write about it. How does that even happen? In the past, it always seemed like I had plenty of time to do stuff and even more time to write about it. Lately, it just hasn't been the case. Man, I hope it's temporary.

Please, please, please...

Two Fridays ago I got out of the house for a couple of hours to finish exploring all up in and around the Vickery Creek area. This time, it hadn't rained continuously for several days, and the creek itself was relatively low. I could, for example, actually see the little shoal beneath the bridge.

 Shoal on Vickery Creek

My goal for the day was to see the rest of the park. I tried to see it all last time, but I got perpetually sidetracked and before I knew it, I'd run out of time. The same thing almost happened again though. Right near the covered bridge, there was a small maze of trails running up, down and around the hill by the creek, in the "Mill Point" area, or so I have dubbed it. It took forever to explore them but I managed to get it done.

I think I might have confused and possibly scared a girl though. She was by herself, down by the creek, playing around with rocks and sand and I kept looping back and passing by her. If some old dude kept passing back and forth by my kids over and over, they'd wonder what he was up to. I had my GPS and map out, but you never know if people know what those are or not. I hope I didn't creep her out too much.

Eventually I got away from Mill Point and started making real progress on the system.

Along one of the main trails, there were several sections of fence. It was clear in a few spots that they'd built it to keep people off of some old, user-created, fall-line trails that they'd also covered up with brush, but in some spots, the purpose of the fence wasn't all that clear.

 Fence Along Trail

Eventually I made it down to the Riverside Road lot and followed a trail out along the river for a while. There are maps at various corners, throughout the system and they all showed a closed section along the river. Eventually I discovered that section, and I think I know why it's closed.

 Fall and Die Sign

There was a cable stretched between two trees and a "you could fall and die" sign behind it. A few years back we had some major rain and flooding. Along the Chattahoochee up my my place, it created some impressive washouts. Down by my brother's place, along the Dog River in Douglasville, it was really amazing. I imagine Vickery Creek suffered a similar fate. The trail, being right on the river, and apparently dangerous enough before, probably became pretty nearly impassible.

It was hard to resist the urge not to keep going and check it out, but I did. Barely.

Heading back toward the rest of the park, I noticed a tree that had been cut down by a beaver.


Up by my place, I've seen plenty of trees that have been gnawed on and plenty of old stumps, but never an entire tree, recently felled, until now. The limbs had been gnawed off and dragged away and the beaver appeared to be in the process of cutting the tree up into sections. It was fascinating. I always wondered how they managed to move an entire tree. Apparently they don't, they cut it up. It seems so obvious now.

Back on the main trail, I ran into a couple that was utterly lost. At first I thought they must be joking because the guy had an old, white beard and from the looks of him, I'd have thought he'd spent the last 10 years of his life hiking the Appalachian Trail. I guess looks can be deceiving though because they were, in fact, quite lost. They had some issue with the signage. Something like "the map tells you where you are but not which direction you came from." Obviously, the map can't know which direction you came from, but I didn't mention that. I just walked with them back the the previous map and showed them which way to go.

There were a couple of side trails that led down to the end of some local neighborhood roads and I checked those out, but I didn't see as many interesting sights as last time. There were a few though.

For example, there was this really weird bush. Somebody tell me what this is.

 Weird Bush

Evergreen, leaves shaped like maple, but waxy and thorned like holly. Weird berries. Bees were buzzing all over it. I've never seen it before. It had never occurred to me that bees even existed in the winter. Weird.

Just past the weird bush, I ran into a jogger with a really friendly dog. Just about everyone out there other than me was a jogger and 90% of them had dogs. It's an in-town trail, so technically you have to have a leash, but almost nobody does. That said, virtually every off-leash dog was either ambivalent or super-friendly, but their owners seemed to be very self-conscious about breaking the rules. This guy was, in particular, but I was just happy to get to scratch his dog. Man, I wish I could have a dog!

If you just go by the maps along the trail, the system seems like a spider web. But after sufficient exploration and after taking note of some of the old, overgrown side trails, the layout of the system started making sense. It became clear which trails were old roads and how they used to connect up to each other. I started to remember where I was. I didn't have to check the map so much. It was a nice, familiar feeling.

Just uphill of one of the odd trails that I first thought was a side trail but which turned out to be an actual system trail, I noticed a weird little concrete structure.

 Grill, Or Something

It turned out that it was in the backyard of an old house. The ruins of the basement lay nearby.

 Old Basement

What was the concrete thing though? It reminded me of an episode of Mythbusters. Adam once said he loved to find old, confusing pieces of equipment that clearly must have had some purpose, but try as he might, he couldn't determine what it might have been. The purpose had been lost to time. That's how this thing was for me. The best I could come up with is that it was some old grill. There was what looked like it might have been a chimney and certainly there were rusty old rails, but the rails were flat and wide, there wasn't any obvious evidence that any burning had gone on, and why would there be a chimney at all? It made me suspicious of some distinctly different purpose, and I stood there and thought about it for a while, but nothing came to mind. Sherlock Holmes would have been terribly disappointed with me, had he actually existed, that is.

Further on, I encountered another mystery, though it turned out to be a little more discernible than the last. It's hard to see in the photo, but somebody painted H-E-L-P on the trees. If you stand at just the right angle, you can read it.


The trees were dissimilar though: white oak and maybe red oak, neither rare, so it didn't appear to be an appeal to save any particular kind of threatened tree. I ultimately decided that maybe someone was appealing for help for trees in general, or perhaps for the park, in general. With the steady urbanization of Roswell over the past hundred years, I could at least imagine that was the message. "The trees themselves cry out for help!" Or something similar.

Up the trail a bit though, I encountered a distinctly different viewpoint. It is very hard to see in the photo, because someone painted it in dark green, but if you look closely, you can see the letters P-A-P-E-R.


"The trees themselves cry out 'We are paper!'"

The duality of man.

And with that, I'd explored the entire system. Every inch of trail. It was still a long walk back to the car though, and on the way, I stopped to examine something that I'd noticed all day. Probably every quarter mile or so, there was a little blue or green bag, at the edge of the trail.

 Doggie Bag

I'd seen them all day. I've never seen them anywhere else. I was very curious what they were. Having accomplished my objectives, I felt free to indulge my curiosity and immediately wished that I hadn't. The bags were, of course, full of dog poo.

There are signs all over that say "pick up after your pets" and cleverly "it's your 'doodie' to pick up after your pets" and so on... But it occurred to me, the signs don't specifically say that you should carry out the turds because they're an eyesore, somebody might step on them, a concentration of them getting into the watershed can bump up the local e-coli level, etc. etc. etc. The signs just say that you have to pick them up. This is classic for North Georgia. Leave it to a North Georgian to follow instructions to the letter, but to miss the point entirely. On the other hand, leave it to a North Georgian to give very specific instructions but leave out the point, entirely.

The bags appeared to be made of some odd material too, like maybe they're those biodegradable plant-bags or something. So, I'd bet that the people using them are doing their best to be environmentally conscious. E for effort. At least they're trying. And honestly, I'm not really sure I have any issue with it, one way or another. It kind of reminded me of the beheaded deer carcases I see scattered all over the roads at the end of each deer season. We don't have chronic wasting disease here. Yeah, it's an eyesore, but is it REALLY hurting anything? Maybe. I have no idea. Yeah, the poo gets in the watershed, but so does the runoff from everyone's yard. Eh, I'll leave it to somebody else to have an opinion about that one.

It took infinitely longer than it seemed like it should to get back to the car. Near the end, I got stuck behind some college kids that had apparently been out jogging but were now cooling down and walking extra slow. It didn't matter though, I had plenty of daylight and I was just happy to be out of the house.

All right, so the exploration of Vickery Creek is now accomplished. Yay! On the other hand, there are still Allenbrook House, Ivy Mill, Oxbo and Old Roswell Trails nearby, begging to be explored as well. So, I guess, for that, also yay!

I wonder if I can convince the kids to help me out with those trails. It doesn't seem likely these days, but I guess I can dream.

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