Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Trail Creek Park and the North Oconee River Greenway

A week or so ago, I was itching to do some exploring. There are plenty of trails within an hour or two that I've never ridden, but most of them are only a few miles long, and not worth burning a whole Saturday or Sunday on. Some of them have second trailsytems nearby though, so you can combine them. One such system is the one at Trail Creek Park in Athens. I'd actually tried to ride it once before - drove all the way out there, in light rain, to find it still raining when I got there, and the Weather Channel app still saying that there was a 0% chance of rain.

Well, there was a 0% chance of rain a few weeks ago too, but I didn't fully trust it until I arrived at the lot under blue skies.

When I got there, I really, really needed to pee. I'd followed the signs to "parking" and "restroom", but the restroom was hundreds of yards away from the lot. The lot was completely full too, as there were multiple soccer games going on, so I had to park on the outskirts. Annnddd... The restroom was part of a building that served a little water park, that was going full bore, with plenty of wet, splashing, rushing sounds to tempt me as I approached it.

I can't put into words the sense of relief I felt after finally getting to the bathroom.


Back at the lot, I got ready, and hit the trails.

Almost every trail in the park is somehow named after a band from the Athens area. There are: Orange Crush, Drive By Truckers, Widespread, and Panic. There is also, for some reason, The Green Trail. If that name is somehow related to a local band, it's not clear to me how. Widespread and Panic are two separate flow trails, but they parallel each other. You'd think Panic might be more difficult than Widespread, but it's the other way around. Maybe because the gaps are more widely spread on Widespread?

Drive By, Green, and Orange Crush are fairly tame, but also a lot of fun. They reminded me of the Chicopee College trail. Not a lot of elevation, but not really flat either.

They both have flow-trailish side loops, but Widespread and Panic are full on flow trails with berms and jumps and drops and gaps.

Having recently crashed over and over, I wasn't in the mood to even try and manual tame doubles. I'm glad nobody was behind me on either of those runs or it would have been pretty embarassing.

At a point, one of them ends up down by Trail Creek proper, and there's a little shoal there that you can walk down and gawk at if you like.

It took a few laps to ride everything. I think there are 4 and a half miles of trail there, but I rode more than 15 before calling it quits. Getting to and from Orange Crush required me to cross the Trail Creek Greenway, so when I'd had enough singletrack, I picked that up.

I didn't know how long it was, but I knew it headed toward the river, which had its own greenway. Turns out there's a little chunk of surface street between them, where you have to climb this big hill, then drop down to the river.

At the river, you're at about the halfway point of the greenway. It's basically just a sidewalk there though.

I took it north for a while, discovered the popular corner for the city's homeless to hang out, kept moving, and eventually dropped down to a more proper path.

It looked like more path was under construction to the south as well.

There had apparently been some kind of summer camp hike there recently because someone had written all kinds of stuff in sidewalk chalk on the trail. Like "Campers! Do you see the fish?"

This being the fish:

At the north end, the greenway continued through the Sandy Creek Nature Center.

There was some side creek there, and from the bridge, I could see an large, old, abandoned building on the creek. I couldn't get a good look at it though, so I didn't see any good indication of its purpose. It wasn't on any of the maps in the area either. Hmmm...

There were plenty of side trails, but they were all hike-only. It might have been wishful thinking, but it occurred to me that maybe someday Kathryn and I could drive out there and check them out - make a day of it.

At the far north end, the trail just becomes the Sandy Creek Parking Lot, and beyond that, a local road. I backtracked to where I'd originally gotten on, and continued south.

To the south, the trail was even more diverse, crossing various roads, and alternating between purpose-built trail and sidewalks.

It passed through a parking lot at one point, for The Heritage Trail section.

There had been a waterwheel on the river there, way back.

Several different wheels, actually, at different times. They had apparently powered the machinery in the Cook and Brother Confederate Armory across the street.

The building is now the Chicopee Building or something like that. The facade looks like any of the old stacked-stone mill ruins that I've run into way back in the woods, but it's clearly been gutted and renovated several times, and these days, it's probably like any modern building inside.

The trail led through Dudley Park, and there was a side loop down toward the river and back. The park was full of these weird boulder collections.

If they have any significance other than just being decorative, it wasn't clear.

I went under at least 2 trestles too. One looked abandoned, and the other looked like maybe it had been converted to use as a path, but I couldn't really tell from underneath.

Eventually, the trail became a collection of sidewalks with markers at the corners telling you which way to keep going. Then, there weren't any more markers. I wasn't sure if I'd ridden everything or not. I wandered random streets and climbed the same hill 3 or 4 times before finally just backtracking and calling it a day.

When I headed back toward the park, I had to climb up off of the river, and passed another guy on a mountain bike, apparently headed to the park as well. I was pleased that I felt fresh enough to climb strong and pass him, even though I'd ridden close to 30 miles already.

I might not die in the woods during this year's TNGA after all!

Downtown Athens has various pretty good restaurants, and I ended up at Amici's. After a ride around the Oconee NF some years back, we'd eaten at Amici's. Maybe at that one, I don't remember exactly. I liked it, but my brother thought that I only liked it because I was starving. I figured I'd give it another try. Nope. I still liked it, and I wasn't just starving. No accounting for taste, I guess. Not sure which of us is right, but I'll keep eating there.

The drive home seemed interminable. I swear there are 3 times as many red lights on 316 as there were 6 years ago. Sprawl, I guess.

Progress! Marching on.


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