Saturday, December 29, 2018

Cooper's Furnace Day Use Area

Billy called me yesterday, right before I left work to see if I wanted to go running around in the woods today. His in-laws were apparently going to be in town, and give him and Megan a break, however momentary, from raising their little ones. It took me a while to get back to him, but late last night we firmed up some plans, and he met me at my place around 8:30 with Adventure on his mind!

The destination I had on my mind was the Cooper's Creek Furnace Day Use Area, home to both Allatoona Dam, and the Cooper's Iron Blast Furnace.

When we got there, it turned out that the front gate was closed for the season. So, we ended up not being able to park in any of the lots, but there was a clear enough spot up the road a ways, and we didn't mind walking in, so our plans weren't totally ruined or anything.

On the walk in, a guy passed us in an F-250, windows up. Even with the windows up, the asphyxiating aroma blasting out of his rig made me wonder if Snoop Dogg had recently taken up farm work.

My god!

It's everywhere these days. I can't walk through the Wal Mart parking lot without getting knocked down twice on the way to my truck.

On approach, the Cooper's Furnace towers over you like an Aztec temple.

Cooper's Iron Blast Furnace

It's remarkably well preserved, compared to the other, smaller, and even younger furnaces in the area. I'm not sure what to attribute that to, especially considering it's size, and output capacity - like 9 tons of iron a day or something. I'd think Sherman would have made a point to destroy it as completely as possible.

You can't get too close to it these days, at least not legally, but it is certainly impressive.

The other impressive engineering feat in the area is the Allatoona Dam.

Billy At Allatoona Dam

It was built in the late 1940's to "hydro-electric up the whole valley" and it's the only dam I've been to where you can walk up so close to the base. I haven't been to all that many massive concrete dams though. Lanier and Hoover are the only two that come to mind. At Lanier, you can barely even see the powerhouse. Hoover is several levels more amazing, but we could only walk around on top of it. It's way more impressive when it looms over you.

While we were there, we could see across the river into the parking lot on the other side. A family drove up in a pickup, bed full of garbage bags, and proceeded to unload them into the dumpster at the back of the lot.


Garbage day!

There's a whole system of trails in the area too, and we got to exploring them directly.

We first followed the signs for the Nature Trail, but ended up not actually taking the trail itself at first. Instead we followed this super steep gravel road up to the Allatoona Lake Project Management Office/Visitor's Center, and a nearby overlook above the dam.

There was a surprisingly clear lake along the way.

Nature Trail Lake

And the view of the dam from up there was pretty amazing too.

Allatoona Dam from Overlook

I liked it better from below, but still... Pretty amazing.

From there, we followed the surprisingly well built, and surprisingly technical Laurel Ridge Trail for a while, picked up a connector at the end of it over to the Pine Mountain Trail, and ran into a bunch of mountain bikers in the Pine Mountain Lot.

What? Was there a bike trail in the area?

Turns out yes!

Pine Mountain East is apparently open to bikes 2 days a week. Wednesday and Saturday, I think. Don't quote me on that though, I need to double check the Wednesday. I'm pretty sure about the Saturday though, as today was Saturday.

They took off, we backtracked, and picked up the Cooper's Furnace Nature Trail. I think. Or maybe it's just the Cooper's Furance Trail. I need to double-check that too. I should have taken a photo of one of the fifty or more maps posted all over the place.

Whatever that trail is called, it follows an old railbed that leads up from the furnace, through the draw there, and up over the ridge. I assume from there it follows modern Hwy 249 (or whatever the local road name is), but I couldn't find any direct evidence of that, or info on the web about it.

A couple of old rock walls remain though.

Old Railbed Rock Wall Old Railbed Rock Wall Near Switchback

That second one is near a switchback.

The switchback is odd though. It's clear, from the grade, where it ends, but more trail continues beyond the end of the switch. There's also a little trail paralleling the old railbed. It made me wonder if there's a mine further up, and the rail cars might have been loaded from the trail above the track.

There's a little info about the rail in the park, but not much. It must have hauled ore in and ingots out, but it's not clear which direction it went with either. There was more old railbed on the way in and out of the park too. I know the old Iron Belt used to run a bit to the west. Presumably this rail was a spur of that, but it also looks like it heads north on a totally different route, so who knows?

There was a cool sign nearby too. The tree was eating it.

Tree Eating a Sign

It had pulled through the nails, and the tree itself is now the only thing holding the sign in.

We took another little trail up above the furnace.

Cooper's Furnace from Furance Overlook

Ore would have been run up there on another rail spur, unloaded, and then hand-trucked over a wooden bridge from about the point where we were standing to the top of the furnace, and loaded in from the top.

There would have been a massive water wheel in the Etowah itself, driving bellows and who knows what else. Apparently there was a whole iron works there at some point, not just a furnace. I wonder if there are any photos, drawings, or diagrams of that somewhere...

We needed to be out by about one, so Billy could get back by two. So, we didn't get to hit every last thing there. But, we still had a satisfying hike - 6 or more miles, and we saw a ton of cool things.

Traffic was unusually heavy on the way back, but we still made it home on time. I was starvin like Marvin when I got back though, so the girls and I grabbed some late lunch at Willy's. So satisfying.

Tomorrow's the Fireball Fiasco at Mulberry Gap. One part ride, one part weird games, one part potluck. I just made a huge dish of Bulk-Chunk Macaroni and Cheese. It's traditionally been a hit with my extended family. I'm curious to see how well it goes over among the general public.

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