Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chestnut Flats

Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, so everybody had Monday off.

Billy and I had spent the previous Wednesday evening burning brush from his backyard in a 55-gallon drum "Detroit-homeless style", and had such a good time of it that we I decided to get together and do something even more fun on that Monday. Some manner of Adventure.

We were all excited, but then Sunday night it rained, and was still raining Monday morning. At least, it was in our county. This seemed like a drag at first, but the forecast called for only a 15% chance for the rest of the day, and according to the weather radar, all of North Georgia was clear.

All right!

So, we drove up to the Chestatee WMA, and it rained on us the entire time. We drove back up in there, past Dick's Creek Falls, and parked just up the road from the Crow Mountain Cliffs. There was no one at the falls. Maybe because it was in the 50's outside, and also maybe because it was still fricken raining. We did pass two horse trailers parked in the lot, but that was it. Normal people had stayed home that day.

We climbed up the road a bit and then up the Old Blood Mountain Creek Road, which I'd never climbed before. I'd only ever divined my way over to it from above the last waterfall on Blood Mountain Creek, and taken it back down. Turns out it goes a little further, and tees in to FS34. There are about 100 yards or so though, that are really flat, were probably once part of the nearby clearing, and would probably have been overgrown if it hadn't been winter. In fact, I'd come from the other direction once, with my family, and tried to find the intersection, unsuccessfully. Funny how much easier it is in winter, and from the other direction.

We hung a left on 34 and it was a short walk up the road to the clearing at Chestnut Flats.

Chestnut Flats

Note that it is still raining in that photo. 15% chance or not, it never stopped raining for the entire rest of the day.

Chestnut Flats is what the old USGS topo quads call an area along the border of the Blood Mountain Wilderness kind of above Crow Mountain. There is a much larger area up there that is flat or flat-ish than the area specifically designated on the map, so I wonder if the whole area wasn't once called "the flats" rather than just that one little corner, but who's to say?

The quad alleges an old road or trail of some sort leading northish out of the clearing up along some unnamed creek, deep into the Wilderness.

We searched for this road along the edge of the clearing, and thought we'd found it in the northeast corner. I still don't understand what it is we found though. It was sunken into the backslope, like a road that had been worn in below grade, but it only went for 100 yards or so before petering out into nothing. There was a little ridge to the left that appeared to get plenty of traffic, and it even appeared to have been rock-armored at one point. It had little berms every few hundred feet though, like a firebreak, and quickly became pretty overgrown. It didn't look like what I'd expected to find either.

Looking around a little harder though, we spotted this little treasure.

Chestnut Flats Homestead

I guess someone lived back there at some point.

In the past, I'd found what appeared to be other homestead ruins, and there are lots of spots that looked like they'd been artificially leveled. It seemed likely that there might have been a community back in there at some point. It was nice to find some less controvertible evidence.

Mmm, hmm, that imaginary fire is nice and warm.

Billy Warming His Hands Over the Nonexistent Fire

It looked like we weren't the first ones to make that particular discovery though. It looked like it had been a stop on some old Poker Run.

Poker Run

I guess someone had forgotten to collect that particular card.

It reminded me of a time once when I found a checkpoint from an adventure race on the south face of Frozen Knob. The race had been held weeks prior and someone had just forgotten to pick up that particular checkpoint. At the time, I even knew who to contact about it, and when I did, he was like "Yep, that's mine. Must have missed that one."

Those were the days.

We never found the road we were looking for, though in retrospect, I have a new idea about where to look for it so I'll probably go back up and do that sometime soon.

I had several more dotted lines on my map from previous outings in the same area, so we hit some of those. None of them really went where I expected though. In fact, each of them just went a little ways up into the woods before looping back to intersect themselves or the main road.

And it continued to rain.

General Blood Mountain Wilderness

I realize now that I keep "complaining" about the rain, but I don't mean to. I really just mean to point out the irony of the 15% chance. I was having a great time. I remember mentioning when I took that photo that it might look dreary and miserable, and that looking at it in the future, it might be difficult to imagine how appealing the experience actually was at the time. On paper, it should have been terrible. It was cold enough to see my breath. I was soaked head to toe. My feet were wet. Water was falling from the sky constantly. Pushing through brush was the walking shower. I was a little cold. But none of that really matters except when you first make the transition from dry and warm to wet and cold. Once you're wet and cold, it seems normal, as long as its sustainable. I.e. as long as your body's natural functions can keep you warm, and as long as the clothes you're wearing don't chafe.

Speaking of which, I was wearing running tights, a base layer, an orange hunting vest (still big game season until Jan 8), barefoot shoes, and a camelback. Billy was wearing more traditional clothing: jeans, layered shirts, hiking shoes with socks, and an orange jacket. Super comfortable when it's dry. Not so great when it rains.

I once read in National Geographic that cold weather is only miserable for those who don't know how to dress. I might say the same about wet weather. How you dress makes all of the difference. Tight and stretchy. That's the way to go. Bib and bike jersey or base layer and running tights. To stay warm, opt for the fleece-lined versions of those, or add layers on top of them.

Mmm, hmm.

We eventually ended up back on FS34 and just walked down it back to the car. We passed some old boys a tear-assin' up and down the road in an old truck. Yee haw!!! But they were friendly to us. We also passed a guy who, from the neck and forearm tattoos, looked like he'd spent his fair share of time in the pen. He wondered if we'd seen any deer or bear. He and his girlfriend seemed to be out driving around, hoping to spot some wildlife. I realized that we hadn't seen any wildlife at all, the entire day. I couldn't remember a single squirrel even.

Just as we arrived back at the car, two ladies on horseback came down the road from the direction we'd come from. We talked to them for a second or two. I'd seen their tracks all day, and hoped we'd run into them. Funny that we didn't until right as we were both finishing up.

I had plenty of warm and dry clothes to put on. Billy had to sit around in his wet and cold clothes. I felt kind of bad for him. I hope he wasn't too miserable.

We ate at Big D's Barbecue in Dawsonville. They are so generous with their portions... One of their "plates" is easily enough for two grown men. Also, we ordered Mac and Cheese but they didn't have any ready, so they gave us extra fries, and 2 slices of key-lime pie to make up for it.

Ha Ha! Yeah! Score.

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