Sunday, May 31, 2015

Upper Chattahoochee

Yep, still exploring the Upper Chattahoochee. My map had a half dozen little dotted lines running from FS44 off into the woods, and this past Saturday seemed like a good day to find out where they go.

Sadly, few of them went anywhere interesting, but there is still a bit of a story to tell...

I drove up to Unicoi Gap and descended 44. I'd park at each little side trail, go walking off down it, come back, and repeat, over and over, all day.

The first trail I hit was some little trail along some little unnamed feeder of Wilks Creek, not even a blue line on the map. It was overgrown from the start and based on the trash, it appeared that people camped across the street like to use it as a bathroom. The trail started as a little bench cut, but after crossing the creek, there's a bunch of deadfall, and after that it's clear that nobody goes that way any more.

There was a bunch of this weird fungus growing all over up there...

Weird Fungus

...but other than that, nothing else all that interesting up that way.

The next little side trail wasn't any more interesting. It started off wide open, but I think people still just camp there regularly. A trail continued, but it was choked with deadfall. According to the old topo quads, there was a food plot back up in there at some point, but it's long, long gone today.

The third trail was, finally, somewhat interesting. It dove down to the Chattahoochee, crossed it, crossed Wilks Creek, and ascended in the general direction of FS178.

Down by the river it looked like people still camp sometimes. There was some modern-ish looking trash down there, but it seemed like most of the traffic that campsite gets was pretty old. There was a corroded old 55 gallon drum nearby with what looked like garbage spanning 20 years or more spilling out of it.

The most interesting thing though... Somebody had lugged this big chunk of metal down there, I guess to grill with.


I couldn't identify it. What's that from?

I guess it makes a good grill.

Further down the trail, at the next creek crossing, there were remnants of an old bridge.

Old Bridge Remnants

Boards and boards, some still nailed together. Big square nails.


The trail was punctuated. After each tangle of deadfall, it was noticeably more overgrown. I guess people just got less and less motivated to keep following it over the years.

For a while, I could hear loud cascading falls to the right, but the woods was so dense, there was no way to see anything. The trail finally crossed the creek up near this tiny little 4 foot cascade.

Tiny Waterfall

But that was the best view I could get of what sounded like it must be an impressive falls.

I followed the trail as far as I could. It eventually appeared to dead-end into another one. I wasn't 100% sure where I was though. The terrain was fairly complex, the woods was dense, and I couldn't see any landmarks. Turned out later, when I got home, and looked at my GPS data on a map, that I was where I thought I was, but I wasn't certain at the time. It also turned out, that the trail I was on is actually shown on this old map from 1980 (or is that 1960? I can barely read it) and if I'd kept going, it would have teed into 178 near Horse Bone Gap. Dangit. Guess I'll have to get back up there and connect the dots someday.

On the way back, I did some rock hopping along the Chattahoochee itself to try and find where that creek with all the cascades tees in to it. I found it, but from the bottom it looked almost exactly like it had up at the top. The backslope was basically a cliff too. There was no easy way up. If there's a decent falls back up in there, it's possible that nobody has ever seen it.

The river itself was pretty interesting at the confluence there, though. There was a natural pool that turned out to be about waist deep. The water was cold though, and the air down there couldn't have even been 80 degrees. Rivers are great when it's super hot. Not so nice when it's cool.


Next stop, Jasus Creek. For years and years, I'd seen a gated road that appeared to parallel the creek. Old maps show it too. Turns out, it goes right where the maps say. Right up to a food plot.

The road is beautiful. I'm sure it's less spectacular in winter, but it was beautiful yesterday.

Jasus Creek Food Plot Trail 1

Seems wrong to call it a road, even. It's singletrack on a roadbed. Doesn't look like it gets much traffic.

Of course, I found a balloon.

Mylar Balloon

Or what was left of one, at least.

Above the food plot, the road became braided and overgrown and crossed the creek over and over. If it emerges from the creek somewhere, it's not clear where, and at the time, I wasn't sufficiently motivated to keep pushing through the rhododendron.

Instead, I just got up on the backslope and headed back downstream. The cove itself was as scenic as the road had been earlier.

Jasus Creek Cove

As was the creek itself.

Jasus Creek

It's easy to see why it's such a popular place to camp.

There were fishing trails up and down the creek too. One approached the same food plot that the road had led to, but didn't seem to go any further.

Hmmm... It seemed that I'd explored the area sufficiently well.

I moved on.

My last stop was down at the intersection of 174 and 44. There was a scramble along the east side of the river and two old logging roads. The scramble was kind-of fun, actually. The roads, less so.

The first just paralleled the river. It seemed to get a bit of traffic too, as it was pretty wide open for a while, and most of it was carpeted with mountain laurel.

Laurel Carpet

Eventually though, after crossing a little feeder, I encountered the tallest tangle of downed trees I've ever tried to climb over, in my life. At the highest point, I was probably 8 feet off of the ground. After climbing down from the highest trunk to the next highest, I took one step and bam! Ate it. It would seem that my that-looks-slippery skills are not yet back up to par. Fortunately, several amazing things happened. I landed on my back, on the same log that I'd slipped on, and somehow, managed to remain on that log, and not fall any further into the tangle below. I also managed to keep from hitting my head. And, most amazingly, at the time, I had my iPhone, GPS, and map, all three, in my right hand, and didn't drop any of them. That is important to note for later.

Ok. So, shaking that off, I much more carefully climbed down off of the pile and pushed on. It seemed that I was alone in pushing on though. Nobody had come that way in a very long time and before long I gave up even trying to keep going.

On the way back, I opted for the under-rather-than-over route through the tangle, and it worked out a lot better.

The last trail of the day ascended up to Hargret Ridge and ran along it for a little while. It's flat up there, and it's hard to follow an old road across flat terrain. There's no bench cut to look for, just old tracks. I'd go for a while without seeing anything, and right when I'd figure I was just following a game trail, I'd find two clear, linear impressions again, usually leading directly into another laurel thicket.

It was getting late. I was thinking about calling it a day, and at that point, I realized that my iPhone wasn't in my hand. Oooh. I'd thought it was. I checked my pack. Nope. Checked again. Nope again. Maybe I'd left it in my truck. This has only happened once before, and that time I had left it in my truck. I hoped I had again. For all I know, I'd dropped it randomly pushing through some bit of brush though. On the way back, I looked hard. And, as it turned out, I had one thing going for me in my search. I keep the phone in a Lifeproof case, and I'd recently replaced my old worn out black case with a new purple one. The purple one was gaudy and thus cheap, but being purple, it was also a different color than anything else in the woods. A black phone might go unnoticed, but a purple one was much less likely to.

No luck on the trail though. I checked the truck too. No luck there either. I could imagine my phone, lying there in the woods like all those balloons and beer cans I've found, but safe in it's case, good as new, until some explorer from the distant future randomly runs across it.

About that time, it occurred to me that I might have dropped it when I fell earlier, and just not noticed that it was missing while I was shaking off the hit. That seemed to be the most likely scenario. I still had time to get back to that location before dark too, so I took off up the trail. Not 100 yards later, I found it, lying in the middle of the most wide open section of the whole trail. Nothing challenging there. No idea how I managed to drop it there, nor how I managed to not notice that I had.

Ahh, the relief though! The relief!

Time to call it a day.

Middle of the Chattahochee

I grabbed a chicken parm sandwich at the Nacoochee Tavern. Some guys were ziplining by as I returned to my car. The drive home was definitively peaceful. This time of year, there's this blue haze everywhere right after the sun goes down. Every window is a dim yellow glow. Sometimes the fields are foggy and sometimes there are fireflies. I was tired and a little beaten up. My stomach was full. It was easy to relax...

The perfect way to end the day.

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