Monday, August 8, 2016

Dockery Lake

Yep, getting the backlog knocked out now...

Dockery Lake. That was just two weekends ago, I think.

I remember that it started off bad. Kathryn was pissed at me for driving up Hwy 60 because it's just too twisty and it made her carsick. Then the road leading in to the lake was bumpy and she didn't like that either. Then I wasn't sure which way to go because there were signs indicating that we needed to go left, but a one-way sign pointing to the right. I was indecisive about it and had to back up. When we finally got to the correct parking lot, Kathryn was "ready to be done" with the whole experience. Fortunately car sickness wears off fairly quickly.

There are really two trails out there, the Lakeshore Trail, which leads around Dockery Lake proper, and the Dockery Lake Trail, which leads from Dockery Lake proper up to the AT.

You have to hike a bit of the first to get to the second, so we did. Near the lake dam, there's this little pierish thing...

Dockery Lake Pier

...and apparently people fish there so often that schools of tiny bream followed us back and forth as we walked along the pier. I found some bits of a Cheez-It or something on the dock and you'd have thought the fish were piranha the way they attacked the little bits that I threw in. My god, I've never seen such chaos.

In comparison, the lake itself was super, super calm. A clean, clear mirror for the sky.

Dockery Lake

The tiny fish weren't alone. We noticed several of these 8-inch bullfrog tadpoles lurking about.

Bullfrog Tadpole

I wasn't even sure what they were at first. Biggest tadpoles I've ever seen.

We didn't spend too much time looking at them though. We really needed to get going if we wanted to get in and out before dark.

The trail started off as purpose-cut singletrack, before eventually joining an old roadbed which merged in from the west. I had expected the trail to merge with an old roadbed at the head of Waters Creek, but it did so much earlier than that. It made me curious where the rest of that road goes, but we didn't go bushwhacking off into the wilderness to find out, at the time.

At the head of Waters Creek, there was a bit of a trail leading off to the east, and I suspect if I followed it, I'd eventually find Waters Creek Road, but again, we didn't go looking for it that day.

We did run into a lady with a pair of dogs, washing her hands in a little stream, but other than that, we were alone on the trail for the rest of the day.

Kathryn and Sophie on the Dockery Lake Trail

Man, it was really pretty back in there. The photos really don't do it justice.

My mind wandered though, as it often does, to the previous life that trail must have had.

A lot of trails in North Georgia started as something else. Many had something to do with logging - either a skid or a railbed. But others are just old wagon roads. Outside of the Forest, a lot of those wagon roads were improved and became county roads or highways. Inside of the Forest, they were largely abandoned, but a few became trails, or at least part of them did. Such seemed to be the case with the Dockery Lake Trail.

The grade was too steep and inconsistent to have been a rail. It had once been horribly braided too. In a lot of places the trail followed the fall line, and you could see old versions of itself all over the place.

In other places it was deep below grade, and the slabs of rock that had gotten uncovered as it dug itself down into the hillside had been pulled up and piled up, manually, to either side.

Kathryn and Sophie on the Dockery Lake Trail Again

The placement was wildly inconsistent though. In some places it had been located really well and was still in really good shape.

Dockery Lake Trail

It also led all the way up to Miller Gap and actually, kept going beyond that. Skids invariably stop at whatever point logs can easily be dragged down to them.

I'd seen all of these features before, on East Mountaintown, on the Logan Turnpike, on the Hightower Express, along Cane Creek, and in a few other places that don't immediately come to mind. Logging seemed like an unlikely source for that road. It seemed much more likely that it was just the way people used to go to get over the mountain. There may even have been a community back there, as there is today along the road on the other side of Miller Gap.

I thought about all of this as we walked, but I didn't bore the family with it. Not too much at least.

When we got to the AT, we took a bit of a break in the campsite on the north side.

Dockery Lake Trail Sign Snack at the AT

Sophie had brought a bunch of cheese puffs of some kind with her and I was a little jealous watching her wolf them down. All I'd brought was Clif Blocks.

I explored the area a bit, and that's when I discovered that the old roadbed kept going over the gap. There was a spur leading away to the north too. Someday I'll have to go back and see where they go.

Not that day though, we needed to get home before dark.

The descent went by much more quickly than the climb, but about 3/4ths of the way down Kathryn slipped on a rock, and as she was describing how she had slipped, I slipped on the same rock and fell all the way to the ground. It was like crashing my bike. I think it's only the second time I've ever crashed hiking though. The first was at the very end of the first hike I ever did in Shining Rock. That time, I caught a root, tripped, and fell. This time, I slipped and fell. My injuries were insignificant. I bruised my right hand and bent my left thumbnail back a bit, but that was the extent of it. More than anything, I was just disconcerted. Looking back at the rock, it still didn't look dangerous. I'd probably step on it again. Kathryn had apparently thought the same thing. It didn't look dangerous to her either. That's the kind of thing I worry about: the rock that still doesn't look dangerous, even after you know it is. I missed some subtle thing. I might miss it again.

When we arrived at the lake there was a family there fishing. They'd had no luck though. The schools of little bream were even gone. It was getting late in the day, and the bullfrogs were calling. I'd never heard frog calls as deep as the ones I heard that evening. I heard the pitch that I usually associate with bullfrogs, but then there were more that were so much deeper. The frogs must be enormous. If it hadn't been so dark, or if I'd had a flashlight, I might have tried to track one down.

All that for later though. We needed to get home.

I think we tried to eat at Longhorn and Ruby Tuesdays in Dawsonville, only to find both closed, and resort to the Wendy's-Taco-Bell combo. That sounds right at least. Yes, I remember now, because my Spicy Chicken Sandwich came with everything on it, even though I ordered it plain, and then when they fixed it, I got a non-Spicy Chicken Sandwich, but I was too hungry to send it back again. I've eaten at that Wendy's more times than I can count though, and it's always been good, so I'll forgive them that particular mistake, and barring some catastrophe, I'll certainly eat there again.

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