Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Friendship Baptist Church Loop

This past Sunday I'd been fever-free for more than a day, and though I was still a little rough, I'd slept well all the night before, and hadn't succumbed to any coughing fits yet that day. I felt cooped up, and needed some fresh air. My first thought was to spin my legs out on the Silver Comet, but I tend to overdo that when I'm getting well. If anything, I should do some light hiking. I didn't feel like driving up to the real mountains, so I ended up settling on a loop that I'd seen in the Paulding Forest.

The Paudling Forest is pretty much right next door. Just one county to the left, and less than an hour away, with weekend traffic, at least. It's legal to ride a bike on the ungated roads, and I'd already ridden everything I could ride last summer, but the vast majority of the roads and trails in the forest are gated, and they've been languishing out there, as-yet unexplored, by me at least.

One spot, in particular, got my attention as I glanced over the map. The Friendship Baptist Church Loop. I guess it caught my eye because "Friendship Baptist" is also the name of the church at the foot of Noontootla that I'd been parking at so much recently.

Totally different church.

Friendship Baptist Church Lot Friendship Baptist Church Friendship Baptist Church Dedication

This one is a bit newer, though only a bit, and sports a much larger cemetery. They're both popular trailheads though.

I parked at the one in Paulding at about 3:45. Yeah, I was getting a late start, but I had plenty of time, now that the time has changed.

There's a forest road loop leading south from the church that eventually bends around and tees back into the main road. I figured I'd follow the loop and check out the various side trails as I had the opportunity to.

The road itself was pretty well unmaintained.

Friendship Church Loop

It looked like no one had driven on it for many, many storms. The soil was loose and weathered. There were lots of prints too - deer, turkey, small animals like maybe raccoons, and even a few shoe prints. I remember thinking that it was no big loss that I couldn't ride my bike on it. It would have been a bit of a wrestling match.

The trees all around were exclusively pine.

Exclusively Pine

There were lots of little strip cuts too. The road I was on mainly followed a ridgeline, and it looked like the top of the ridge had been clear-cut, replanted with pine, and was now basically used as a tree farm. Looking hard through the trees, it looked like maybe there was a more diverse forest downhill a bit.

One of the spurs looked like it would lead down to a creek, so I followed it, and yes, just a little bit downhill from the ridge, the forest was much more diverse, and it looked like if it had ever been logged, it had been done a very long time ago.

The stream down there was idyllic, and a really nice little bed of round gravel struck me as the closest thing to a beach that I was likely to run into, so I spread out my jacket, threw down my camelback and relaxed there, lying on the ground, next to the water for a half hour or more.

Cochrans Branch

The temperature was perfect. The breeze was perfect. The sound of the water was perfect. It was all perfect.

I remember thinking that I wished I'd been able to lie there for the past 5 days instead of lying on the couch.

At length though, I didn't feel like lying down any more and I got up to take a look around. The water was teeming with little cone snails.

Cone Snails

I followed the old road downstream for a while, where it eventually crossed. I didn't cross though. I figured I'd save that for next time.

There was an old road sign there though, chucked to one side, near the crossing.


I wonder what it means. I wonder if I'll find more of them elsewhere in the forest.

On another spur, I found some old tree stand.

Tree Stand

And a chunk of old road gated behind a cable-gate that has become a trail, rather than a road.

Trail Through Piney Woods

At its furthest extreme, down by Raccoon Creek, I found the WMA boundary.

Posted WMA Boundary

I was kind of bummed though, because it's so close to the creek, but the creek is actually outside of the WMA.

Back on the main road, there was one spot where it dove down off of the ridge, crossed a creek and then climbed back up to the ridge.

There were what looked like the ruins of an old hunting camp crumpled up along the creek.

Hunting Camp Ruins

I assume that's what they were. I saw all the constituent parts of a camp - corrugated metal roofing, wooden walls, several mattresses, chairs, a bit of glass... It looked like maybe it had been demolished and then bulldozed into a pile. It clearly hadn't just fallen down. Or, at least, it didn't look like it had.

There were other bits of weird stuff lying about too.

Like this.

The Heck

What in the world is that? Whatever it was, it was clearly under pretty high pressure. That's 1/4-inch cast iron that something blew apart, right there.

That was all of the interesting stuff that I saw out there though. The rest of the hike back was somewhat less interesting than I'd hoped for.

But that was fine. It was just what I'd hoped for, really. Not too tough. Not so intriguing as to lure me deeper in.

I felt great the next day, and OK on Tuesday, but today was rough. No fever, just a lot of coughing, and no energy. It would appear that I'm not well yet. Not quite yet.

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