Monday, September 11, 2017

Cochran's Falls

I worked on my rent house in Cumming for most of August. 12+ hours a day, two or three days a week, and usually both days on the weekend. Tenants can really, really beat up a house. I'd be amazed if I hadn't seen it all before.

Kathryn and the kids joined me as much as they could, and Billy was right there with me too, like 3 weekends in a row.

I said something like this at his wedding: Me and Billy have fun together. Bike rides, hiking, camping... And that's what most friends do, get together, and have a good time. But a REAL friend helps you move. A REAL friend helps you pull the engine out of your truck, and then pull it back out when you realized you put the oil pump in wrong. That's the kind of friend he's been to me. I guess I can add to that list that a REAL friend helps you tear up carpet, repaint, and turn your rent house too!

Doing work with friends is fun, or at least I like it, but at the end of the month, the work was done and we figured it was time to have a bit what normal people might consider fun. I'd last been to Cochran's Falls with the girls 10+ years prior, failed to reach the main cascade, failed to take photos of any kind, and failed to make it back since.

Long overdue!

We parked at the campsite on Cochran's Creek proper. Way back, I'd been able to ford the creek and continue driving until I hit a ridiculous mud puddle that looked like it would swallow my Durango. From there, the girls and I had walked a fairly short distance to the trail, and climbed as far as I felt safe taking them.

Since then, the road has been blocked, though people clearly take Jeeps and ATV's up the hill behind the blockage. After walking it, it looked navigable, but we were there to hike, not to drive illegal Jeep trails. Plus, like 500 yards down the road, it was blocked again, so it wouldn't have netted us much anyway.

It looked like the Forest Service rehabbed the road a bit before closing it. I couldn't easily locate the mud pits I'd wrestled with the last time. They'd clearly been bulldozed. Some of the long, deep holes had trees felled across them.

And, speaking of downed trees, the monster poplar at the end of the road now lies across it. Apparently it came down some time ago too.

At the end of the road, we made quick work of the trail up to the first cascade.

Me at Cochrans Falls (Lower Cascade)

The trail above that has several steep and sketchy kicks though.

Billy Climbing Steep Cochrans Falls Trail

I remember taking my girls on it, when they were like 6 and 8, being completely confident they could negotiate it, and then watching them validate my confidence. Looking at it the trail with fresh eyes, I'm not sure I'd take them on it today. Maybe, but I wouldn't be so confident.

There's one spot with a rock that bulges out into the trail, and you have to ease around it. It would be easy to think you have room, not have room, slip or fall backwards into the creek, and go tumbling downstream over this ledge.

Cochrans Creek

There's another section further up where you have to negotiate a slab of mossy, slanty rock with very small hand/foot holds. It's safer to cross the creek, and then cross it back. I remember taking the girls up past that rock.

Further up there was a rope-assisted scramble.

Rope-Assisted Scramble

We didn't take it though, because the trail led on. Also, Billy was like: "Remember the rope swing." Referring, of course, to the rope swing debacle on Stamp Creek the day we found the Pool Furnace and Jones Mill. Those were the days, but we didn't want a repeat.

It was a little steep and sketchy through there, and that's where I turned around with the girls. They were just too small to reach from hold to hold safely. Plus, they were a little overconfident, playing around, getting off-balance, and I was like: "ok, we're out of here."

Billy and I were grown though and made it to the base of the main cascade.

Me at Cochrans Falls (Primary Cascade)

Unfortunately, you can't get a decent look at it. The uppermost cascade is at the very top of the photo, but it doesn't look like much. Maybe in winter it would be better. I wonder how safe those bulgy and slanty rocks will be that time of year though.

Did I say we were grown?

Billy Screwing Around

Maybe not so grown :)

A steep, sketchy scramble continued from there, and I followed it a bit, but it went for a long way, and didn't look very well used. Billy didn't seem too confident, and I have a rule that you don't do anything in the woods that you aren't confident you can do. So, we headed back.

Steep, sketchy trail is trickier downhill, I generally find.

Steep Sketchy Trail

On the way in I tried to spot a giant pine tree that I'd seen the last time, but I couldn't find it. I did spot it on the way out though.

Large Pine Tree

10 years bigger now even than it was last time.

I also wanted to check out a side trail that I'd marked on my map way back and seen on the way in.

It became overgrown after a few hundred feet, but there were 2 distinct, though very old, rock-armored terraces on the north side.

Super Old Rock Wall

It looked like maybe the land had been leveled for a house or something.

Legend has it that the Cochran's Creek area was one of the first settled in North Georgia. There were lots of houses back in there at some point. It allegedly remained settled through the early 1900's, and as such, managed to avoid ever being logged. Very rare in North Georgia.

Driving back, we took Hwy 53 towards Tate and stopped at a gas station that I've been to a few times. There was a lady sitting at a table that you walk by if you're heading towards the drinks and food. I'd seen her sitting there every time I'd been in. I don't think she recognized me per-se, but as I walked by she was like: "Hi there... High-five!" and held out her hand for a high-five. I high-fived her on instinct, and it was really funny to both of us. I'm not sure if she does that a lot, but it kind-of made my day.

When I got home, I did a little research and it looks like we could have scrambled up that steep section and taken a cleaner trail all the way to the very upper cascade, which is visible from underneath a cool-looking overhang. Dangit!

Now I'll have to go back AGAIN. Hopefully I can get that done sometime sooner than 10 years from now.

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