Sunday, June 14, 2020

Yonah Preserve and Unicoi State Park

Some number of weeks ago I made it back to Atlanta, and I think a week later, but it might have been two, Billy called me to see if me and the girls wanted to car-camp with them at Unicoi. Was that even happening? The COVIDs were still upon us, and though the state was opening up a bit, parks were still closed, and I didn't figure campgrounds would be open.

Turned out I was wrong though.

Ok. Camping!

I forget now what, but we had something to do early Saturday morning, so we did that, then ran through Publix, grabbing random stuff to cook. There were no obvious marshmallows, so Sophie asked one of the stockers, who pointed us to where we'd looked already. Sophie happened to look to her right just then, and noticed marshmallows right there. Kosher marshmallows, in the ethnic foods section. That'll do. There was a motorcycle accident just up the road, which looked horrible at first, but upon closer inspection, looked like everybody was able to walk away from. This strangled traffic though, and it took us quite a while to really get on the road.

But, we did, and actually arrived a little earlier than we expected. But, then it took forever to find the actual campsite. Apparently I'd never actually noticed the Unicoi campground, and what I thought was it was the day-use area. Woohoo.

When we found the campground itself, there were still like 87 sites that we had to sift through, and we ended up finding them by spotting Ellie Claire's golden curls from about 50 yards away!

After getting settled in, Billy and I drove over to Yonah Preserve and ripped that singletrack.

I hadn't ridden there since me and Clark inspected the partially-completed system after a massive storm had knocked down hundreds of trees. Well, let me tell you, it's a lot different now that its finished and worn in.


Easily one of the best "in-town" type trails around. Preston really know what he's doing. I'm kind of excited to get back and ride it again, honestly.

The lake is now open to the public as well, and there were quite a few people paddling around on it, not to mention fishing.

We spun a couple of laps, and would have spun a couple more but for the time.

Back at the camp site, we played with the kids, grilled a bunch of hot dogs and chicken, and generally kicked back.

Billy, Megan, Ellie, Hank, and Snoopy slept in a big family tent. The girls slept in Billy's spare 2-person tent. I'd brought my bikepacking gear and though I had a tarp, there was no rain in the forecast, so I ended up just sleeping under the stars. Bugs, it turned out, were not a problem, and I slept really well.

It is still early in the season though, and I need to come up with a bug solution soon. I'm not subjecting myself to the same bug-related torment I faced last year on the TNGA. I rode with my brother right after getting back to the ATL, and picked his brain a bit about the subject. He gave me some ideas. We'll see what shakes out.

The next morning we woke up, lazed around a bit, packed up, and headed to the Huddle House.

Their dining room was actually open, but we ate at a picnic table outside, under a huge Southern Magnolia, which the girls promptly climbed.

We had to be out by 11, I think, so we didn't dally around, but we still had a good time eating, and the food was excellent. I forget how good Huddle House really is. And they have actual pancakes. I'd say "Take that Waffle House!" but I live in Atlanta, and it just doesn't seem right to disparage the Waffle House.

Also, I forgot, on the way out of the campground, I noticed an example of the confusing weirdness, as the state decides just how to reopen...

The Unicoi Campground is fully open, and fully packed. Hundreds of locals packed in together. Arguably, they are adequately distant from one another. But, then there's the bathhouse... On the other hand, the Hickory Nut trail (on NF land, not state), arguably one of the least likely places you'll run into another human, on any given day, is decidedly still closed.

I don't envy the decision makers, trying to figure out how to proceed.

The park trails were open, so while everyone else went down to the river for a while, me and Billy spun a lap around Unicoi.

I couldn't remember when I'd last ridden there. It might have been 10 years ago, post TNGA, with Norma, Johnny, and Russell. It seemed like I'd been there at least once since then, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

Unicoi is kind of a figure 8. Somehow we ended up riding the bottom part of it the right way, and the top part of it the wrong way. Don't ask me how.

Man, there are some seriously steep climbs on that trail. I forgot just how steep.

Billy really doesn't like snakes, so I took a photo of this one, but shooed it away before he rode up.

I did send the photo to him later though, with heart emojis.

Dang, so much climbing...

We met the rest of the family under the bridge, at the river, where there were a dozen or so people in little groups, trying to be friendly while keeping their distance. This one guy and his granddaughter were from Hoschton, so I mentioned the local dentist, "Justin Payne, DMD", that the girls and I had noticed there years ago, and we all laughed about it. Hank and Ellie loved playing in the river, and we only left when we ran out of time.

It was a great trip. I'm glad it all worked out. Everybody seemed to have a pretty good time. It'd be a good thing to make a habit of.

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