Monday, April 30, 2012

Olde Rope Mill

Ugh. Work. It's great to have work to do, but it's difficult when it keeps you up 'till 4AM for days and days in a row. At least it didn't ruin any major plans though. The Cohutta 100 was this past Saturday, but for the 3rd or 4th year in a row, I missed the registration cutoff. There was a SERC race at Yargo but I'm not really into cross country these days. I had planned on attending at least one of the two trail maintenance field demos in the Cohuttas, but they weren't super critical. Etc. etc. etc.

My dad was in town though, and it would have been no good if I didn't get to do at least some riding with him. I had about a 6 hour window Saturday morning at 9AM, and though I could barely drag myself out of bed, I managed to drag myself all the way to Olde Rope Mill.

I had to pee really bad when we got there so the first thing I noticed was a lack of formal bathroom facilities. There's a pavillion and a memorial but no bathroom! Aaaah! Wait, no, there was a port-a-potty hiding in the far corner of the lot. Thank you Lord.

When that crisis was over, we headed north on the Explorer Trail.

 Dad on Explorer

I'd gotten GPS data for the system from my buddy Tim way back but this Explorer Trail was apparently new, and for the first time in recorded history, I'd managed to leave the house without my GPS. How does that happen? Oh well, I guess I'll have to go back sometime.

The Explorer Trail was short and we made quick work of it.

There are a lot of slightly encroaching weeds up in there though. I noticed a ton of buckeye which was cool but there was at least one stinging nettle too and I managed to scrape my right arm up against it. I received no ticks though, and that was good.

Next, we rode the Avalanche Trail.

 Dad Heading Into Avalanche

The Avalanche Trail was awesome, and long, or at least, if you ride all three sections, then it's satisfyingly long as compared to the Explorer Trail. Between Exporer and Avalanche, you could ride a couple of laps out there and have a good ride.

My dad was having a hard time at first because he mainly rides in Dallas and he ends up using too big of a gear. All the hills in Dallas are short and once you've ridden them a few times, you realize you can just stay in a bigger gear, power over the top and recover in two seconds on the other side. There's no "top" in Georgia, you just keep climbing. Such was the Avalanche Trail. Eventually he figured it out.

For as long as I've lived in Atlanta, whenever I'd drive to Blankets Creek and cross over the Little River on the interstate, I've seen what looked like trails running down near the river. I'd always heard rumors of trails through there too, and I even have a book from the mid 90's that shows trails leading from there, through what are now neighborhoods, all the way over to where Blankets Creek. I always had something better to do than go looking for the mysterious Rope Mill trails and when I wasn't looking, Sorba Woodstock built this first class trail system through the area. Toward the back of the third section of the Avalanche Trail, I saw remnants of the old system. I'd actually seen slight fragments of it earlier too, but toward the back they were much more apparent.

I guess the system is a bit like Big Creek. Big Creek was once "Mansell" and there were random trails everywhere, only a few of which were sustainable. The city of Roswell built a Greenway along Big Creek itself and RAMBO (Roswell Sorba) reworked the trail system into its present glory. This would appear to be the case at Rope Mill too.

There were even the beginnings of a Greenway along the river.

 Greenway Sign

It's less than a mile long now, but there's a sign at the end of it showing some seriously ambitious plans. If they get it built, you should be able to ride all over the place. I suspect they're following the right-of-ways for the sewage and drainage lines, but that's two birds! The utility companies get paved access to their stuff and the general public gets a place to ride and jog. I love it.

There was at one point an old bridge leading across the river, and now there's a new bridge spanning its ruins.

 Rope Mill Bridge

We took that bridge, hoping to find more Greenway on the other side, but nothing had been built yet. There were signs all over the place though, and as sometimes happens, I was confused as to what I was allowed to do. There were "No-ATV" signs and signs saying something to the effect of "feel free to explore but the trails are really rough", but nothing saying "foot-traffic only" or "no bikes" and the trails were connected to bike trails, and there were tire tracks leading in every direction. We assumed that it was ok to ride there and headed upstream.

Oddly though, at the time it seemed like we were heading downstream, which made everything we found very confusing.

First we passed through the ruins of the old mill itself. It looked like there had been an undershot wheel up in there somewhere running the thing, way back. The wheel was gone though and so was most of the mill. Only a hollow shell remained.

The raceway was largely intact, or at least the stone structure was and little bits of some of the gates.

 Olde Rope Mill Raceway

The dam was about half-intact.

 Olde Rope Mill Dam

There was a group of teenagers playing in the water. Most of them appeared to be having a fun, but two of the girls were screaming like they'd never been in water before in their lives. Somebody would move an inch and they'd get startled and scream. Over and over. It was really weird.

I would swear that, when I was standing there, the water was running southeast. This made the orientation of the dam and raceway seem totally backwards. It wasn't until much later that we realized that the river must flow northwest, towards Lake Allatoona and everything made sense. I wonder if Allatoona is high right now though, and occasionally reverses or at least stalls the flow of the Little River if its other feeders are really pouring. I wonder.

The trail continued on past the dam but I could just imagine the spiderweb that lay beyond. With no GPS it wasn't really worth exploring. We headed back, spun another lap around the Explorer Trail and headed home.

The trails at Rope Mill are great. It'll be even better when there's an easy way to connect them to Blankets and if I'm reading the map correctly, there should be pretty soon. The park was pretty cool too, between the Mill Ruins and fishing opportunities in the river, I really need to get back there soon with my GPS, fishing rod and a little more time on my hands.

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