Saturday, April 24, 2010

Northeast Georgia Invaded by Eleven Avid Hikers!!

Black Rock State Park, cabins #2 and 4, was the humble abode for our three days/two nights in northeast Georgia. And what a fantabulous time it was! Anxious to get there, our spirits soared and we settled into a happy groove after glimpsing our first near panoramic view of the surrounding mountains as we checked in at the Visitor's Center. It is located near the top of Black Rock Mountain which has an elevation of 3,640 feet. After unloading our vehicles, we took off on a short 2.2 mile hike in the Park on the Tennessee Rock Trail which climbed to an overlook and treated us to more scenic views. It took us downward to what is called an Appalachian boulderfield, the remnants of the ice age, and then along the Blue Ridge Mountain backbone following the Eastern Continental divide a short distance before looping back to our cars. We misread a sign pointing to a short .25 mile hike to Ada-hi Falls and descended down before realizing our mistake. We found the actual beginning of the trail, but discovered a good sized bear lounging in a tree, and decided it was time to head back and get to dinner at the Dillard House. Talk about good southern food- yum, yum. The night was made perfect by Bob's campfire. (Gail even contributed a 'bundle' of firestarter-ha!)

The next morning cabin #2 provided a delicious breakfast (thanks Karen!) before the hikers took off for Tullulah Gorge State Park. We arrived and tried to beat it to the trail ahead of a bus full of 4th graders. The initial trail was the North Rim which took us to the first spectacular view of one of the falls in this two mile long gorge (I read it is 1,000 feet deep.) Then we started down the canyon along a series of metal steps which the Park nicely numbers for those who want to know. I prefer to be ignorant! The steps take you to the suspension bridge which allows you to view the tumbling river waaayyyy below and another gorgeous waterfall. Richard, Gail, Gary and the Trail Chronicler continued down a final set of steps that ended closer to the bottom where another waterfall awaited. Then it was the trip up the steps...slow and steady got you to the top of the South Rim and back to the Visitors Center. About 2.5 miles for just the morning hike.

We gathered together again and headed to nearby Panther Creek Recreation Area and began a 3.5 mile trip hike in to the Falls. What a nice trail! Beautiful hardwood stands, pines, and wildflowers aplenty- buttercups, trilliums, nodding mandarin, gaywings, and one shy jack-in-the-pulpit. We soon found Panther Creek and followed it down to a beautiful camp spot and enjoyed lunch. After crossing a nearby bridge, we found ourselves on a soft, flat trail for about a mile which is a rarity in these mountains. We passed inviting campsites and all was well til we got to some boulders that had to be climbed down to get to the bottom of the falls. It was a tricky spot! Finally, we took respite at pool beneath the falls and some of us braved the cold water to stick our toes in! We did find out that Richard had taken a tumble getting down into the area and we were all concerned and grateful he was able to hike out.

At the cabins that night, we enjoyed appetizers while Richard worked hard to build a fire to grill burgers. It was a challenge until he read the charcoal bag. The wiser Richard began a search for the liquid firestarter which Gary insisted he had brought. Gary joined in the search for the elusive firestarter and decided to search cabin #4. Mystery solved! In no time, (almost) the burgers were ready! By then, we were all quite happy, thanks to wine, food, and good company. Bob built another campfire which we enjoyed..too stuffed to even try for smore's. By this time, Valerie had taped up Richard's ribs, but he kept losing his implants which he declared "quite embarrassing". He still felt good enough to regale us with a story about Sidetrack whom we all visualized.

All good things must come to an end and it did for us the next morning. Cabin #4 provided breakfast before we departed. Bob and Karen stayed for some more down time. We stopped to walk around Black Rock Lake Trail (.85 miles) then Trish guided the rest of us through some inspiring mountain vistas through the northwestern corner of North Carolina. We stopped at Standing Indian Mountain and hiked a short 1.7 mile hike down a spur trail off the AT to see a huge poplar (sadly, now dead). It took 8 of us to encircle the trunk! We enjoyed lunch at this idyllic spot before Richard and Gary took off for home. This little trail was also dotted with trilliums in different colors and other wildflowers. With a bit of wistfulness, we hugged, said our goodbye's and headed for ChattTown.

Memories were made, lives enriched, friendships formed...the stuff that makes a trail feel like home.
Thank-you, Trish and made it all so wonderful. Pat, Kathy, Gary, Richard, Karen, Bob, Gail, Arlene, Trish, Val, and Reggie had a fantastic time!!