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Big Rock Nature Trail – Fort Mountain State Park

by JP on Jan.31, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Big Rock Nature Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 0.75 Miles

Blaze: Yellow

Big Rock Nature Trail in Fort Mountain State Park is perhaps my favorite short loop trail in Northwestern Georgia. This trail has almost everything, a great hike, two babbling creeks, wonderful overlooks, and cascading falls.

The Big Rock Nature Trail begins just past the road crossing the lake. Parking for the trail is in a gravel area to the left of the trail.

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Don’t let the beginning of the trail discourage as it does not look like much, as it is somewhat muddy, and crosses under a section of power lines, but shortly after continuing down this hill, the hiker will enter a section of deeper forest where the trail really begins to become enjoyable.

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Follow the Yellow blazed trail down the pathway for a few hundred yards where it will begin to run parallel to a babbling creek, and intersects the the much longer Gahuti Trail at a wooden bridge marked with Orange Blazes.IMG_1987 IMG_1988

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The trail does not cross the bridge, instead, follow the trail to the right. Although I do recommend standing on the bridge as the creek runs underneath, as the forest opens a bit for a beautiful overlook.

The trail then descends farther into the mountain hollow before turning back up the mountain ridge as a Yellow and Orange Blaze (marking Gahuti and Big Rock Nature Trail). This ridge provides some wonderful overlooks.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

As the trail bends back around the ridge, it will meet up with Gold Mine Creek.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Gold Mine Creek cascades down the mountain ridge. The Creek provides some beautiful views of cascading waterfalls as it runs towards the hiker. Hike up largest section of the cascades, and don’t forget to look backwards now and again for overlooks.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

At the top of the trail, Gahuti and Big Rock separate. Gahuti crosses over the creek via a bridge, Big Rock continues back up the mountain. The trail leaves the forest at the base of a dam blocking the lake.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

At the base of the dam, there is also small birding area with signs indicating some of the local birds in the area. The trail ends back at the road that crosses the lake.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort MountainBig Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Nearby Trails:

Old Fort Trail – 1.1 miles

Gahuti Trail – 8.8 miles

Lake Trail – 1.2 mile loop

301 Biking Trail – 14.6 mile loop

Gold Mine Loop Biking Trail – 6.3 miles

Directions:

1. Follow I-75 to exit # 333 towards 411

2. Take GA Hwy. 52 8 miles past Chatsworth onto Fort Mountain

3. Turn left onto park entrance.

4. Once in park, turn left towards the lake, and follow to the right of the trail, cross the dam.

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How to Play Disc Golf

by JP on Jan.29, 2009, under Disc Golf

Disc Golf appears to be a somewhat rapidly growing outdoor activity. I have noticed in the past several years that the number of courses in the Southeast has been steadily increasing.

I, myself, must admit that when I was first exposed to this activity in college, I laughed it off as the kind of sport that gets played when frat boys got bored with Ultimate.

The first time I played, I used a standard Frisbee disc and threw at some trees for holes. We just picked a spot, and agreed upon our target.

Last year, however, I found myself reintroduced to disc golf, but this time I had a very different experience.

A friend showed me a course at a local college, and this course had this strange metal baskets for holes, and identifiable tees. My friend even used a special disc designed for disc golf in particular. These discs were flatter, had sharper edges, and weighed more than the standard Frisbee I tossed with at the beach.

This game I liked a lot, and immediately took interest in learning to play, then getting better, and then trying to break par and be competitive. Disc Golf has now become something I play, weather complying, on a nearly weekly basis, sometimes multiple times in a week. The rules of this game are somewhat simple. I’m not going to go into competitive rules just yet, merely the basics of the game for those getting started.

Disc Golf Rules and Objectives:

1. Like regular golf, players take turns sending his or her disc from the tee to the hole (typically one of those metal baskets with chains hanging down).

Disc Golf Hole

2.  Players begin in a tee box. These tees are usually marked on good courses with either a set of boards, a block, or a concrete pad, but on less developed courses, there may be little indication of where the tee actually is. If this is the case, I try to bring along a course map, usually available on the web, or I look for dirt patches where the grass has been worn down from consistent driving footwork.

Disc Tee Disc Tee 2 DSC09574

3. From this tee, each player typically “drives” towards the hole. Driving is somewhat different in that the player is allowed a long run up in the tee box before the throw. (Note: like in golf, stand behind the person driving to avoid injury).

4. Each player then plays his or her next hit from the final resting place of the drive.The player whose drive is the longer distance from the hole (shortest drive) is supposed to take the next shot, and is considered the away player. This rule remains the same no matter what shot the player is on.

5. Players continue to take turns throwing towards the hole in this fashion until he or she reaches the “green.” Unlike ball golf, there is no marked “green”, rather then green is considered to be a distance of a 10 meter radiance from the hole (again this really does not matter for recreational play).

6. On the green, players, technically, are required to keep both feet planted, and not follow through with their feet. This should rarely matter if within 10 meters, as no movement should be necessary to make such a throw.

7. The hole is complete when the disc lands in the basket, or hangs in the chains above the basket.

8. Score is kept similar to ball golf, and pars typically range from 3 to 5 shots. Each throw constituting one shot. Fewest shots win.

9. The winner of the hole drives first on the following hole.

Be aware that different courses have different numbers of holes. While most are like ball golf and have 9 or `18, I have played at courses with 6, and heard of courses with 19.

When I play with a group of four, some of which finish at par or below, and some of which finish with 15+ above par, it generally takes about 1.5 to 2 hours for us to play 18 holes.

Disc Golf is really a lot of fun, a much cheaper, less time consuming hobby than ball golf, and for me, it tends to create less frustration, and more simple enjoyment than I usually get out of ball golf. Not to mention, it feels as if the time it takes to become at least decent is much less than in ball golf. After playing for six months, I now tend to shoot par or better on the courses in my local area.(Don’t get me wrong I enjoy ball golf too).

The other major benefit I find that disc golf has over ball golf is the tendency for courses to be out in the middle of nature, surrounded by forests, wildlife and beautiful views. Disc Golf allows me the opportunity to play a competitive game while also getting to hike through the woods.

Now that I have gone through the rules of disc golf, I will be following with a post on disc golf game play (how to drive, how to putt,  disc selection, etc…), as well as future posts on other aspects of disc golf. If there is anything I have left off of the basic play, please feel free to drop a comment below.

If interested in disc golf, there are several great beginner sets on the market.

For a good kit to get you started check out these packages from Amazon.

And if a kit of discs are too much, I suggest starting with just a good basic driver like the following. All of the other discs are really useful, but there is nothing wrong with making sure you want to keep playing and minimizing your investment.

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Creek Trail – Amicalola Falls State Park

by JP on Jan.26, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Amicalola Falls State Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 0.6 Miles

Blaze: Yellow

This will be the last trail I write about from Amicalola Falls State Park, or at least until I get back up there for the Springer Mountain Approach Trail.

Creek Trail completes the hiking loop that I have taken from the Visitor’s Center to the Falls, and back again.

Creek Trail essential runs from an area close to the Base of Falls parking area, and the reflection pond and then begins to run parallel to Amicalola Creek, and ends in the parking area opposite the Visitor’s Center.

At the top of this trail, near the Base of Falls parking area, Creek Trail runs along with Mountain Laurel Loop Trail, and descends Amicalola Ridge. Officially Creek Trail becomes its own trail once one hikes down a set of broken wooden stairs off of Mountain Laurel Loop Trail. Be careful with the stairs, especially if it is wet. They are slick and in disrepair.

IMG_1857 Creek Trail in Amicalola Falls State Park Creek Trail in Amicalola Falls State Park

From the bottom of these stairs, follow the sign and the yellow blazed trail down to the Visitor’s Center.

Creek Trail in Amicalola Falls State Park

The trail actually does not meet up with its namesake Amicalola Creek for some time, and when it finally reaches the Creek, it sits well above it along Amicalola Ridge for quite some time.In fact, the trail does not truly run close to the Creek until a little over half of the trails completion.

Despite this fact, the trail still provides a beautiful hike, and an excellent view of the lower portion of Amicalola State Park.

Prior to reaching the Creek, there is an interesting building, that appears to be made of concrete, to the right of the trail. I am not sure what the purpose of the building is, but it appears to have some maintenance purpose.

Creek Trail

Finally, just past this building some of the first views of the Creek can be seen in the distance.

Amicalola Creek Trail

While continuing down this trail, there will be a few short, steep switch backs, some of which can be quite tricky when wet, while others are well established staircases.

Creek Trail

These staircases and switchbacks will eventually lead the hiker down closer to Amicalola Creek. From here the trail continues to run almost completely parallel to the Creek.

IMG_1876 Creek Trail Amicalola Creek

The trail finally ends at a Creek crossing that puts the hiker in a Parking Area and Grassy Field just across from the Visitor’s Center.

Creek Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park Creek Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park Creek Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park

Nearby Trails

East Ridge Trail – 1.0 Miles

Base of Falls Trail – 1.0 Mles

Spring Trail – 0.4 Miles

Mt. Laurel Loop - 1.0 Miles

Appalachian Approach Trail – 8.5 Miles

Hike Inn Trail – 5 miles

West Ridge Falls Access Trail -0.3 Miles

Directions from Ellijay:

Follow GA-52 approximately 21 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park.

Directions from Dawsonville:

Take Hwy. 53 west to Hwy. 183 north to Hwy. 52 east.

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Mountain Laurel Trail – Amicalola State Park

by JP on Jan.19, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails, Hiking Trails

Mountain Laurel Loop Trail


Length: 1.0 Miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (somewhat technical descent)

Blaze: Green

Mountain Laurel Trail is a loop trail that serves as a connection between Spring Trail and Creek Trail. The trail creates a loop that a points runs along with Creek Trail. Mountain Laurel Trail is marked by a Green Blaze.

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If descending from Spring Creek, I recommend taking Mountain Laurel Trail’s path to the left. This side of the trail serves as a shorter route to the Creek Trail and back to the Base of the Falls reflection pool.

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The trail continues descending down the Amicalola Ridge through a leafy forest. This forest contains both its namesake Mountain Laurels, Pines and several Oak trees.

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As the trail descends, be careful on the switchbacks, several of these “step downs” can be very slick shortly after a rain, and difficult to go down without falling or sliding.

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Towards the ends of the trail, the path becomes rockier, and potentially more slippery.

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The trail connects with Creek Trail shortly after a rocky switchback. From here, the Creek trail and Mountain Laurel Trail continue together for a short distance before Creek Trail forks to the left. Mountain Laurel Trail then continues in a loop back up the ride to the Spring Trail trail head.

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Creek Trail continues back to the Visitor’s Center at the beginning of Amicalola State Park.

Notes:

Avoid this trail after a rain, it can be dangerous to descend when it is wet and muddy. Also, hiking a wet trail can increase damage to the trail itself. Otherwise, this is a fun trail to complete a loop from the Visitor’s Center to the Falls and back again.

Nearby Trails

East Ridge Trail – 1.0 miles

Creek Trail – 0.6 miles

Appalachian Approach Trail – 8.5 miles

Hike Inn Trail – 5 miles

Spring Trail - 0.4 miles

West Ridge Falls Access Trail - 0.3 miles

Base of Falls Trail – 1.0 miles

Directions from Ellijay:

Follow GA-52 approximately 21 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park.

Directions from Dawsonville:

Take Hwy. 53 west to Hwy. 183 north to Hwy. 52 east.

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Fort Mountain State Park – Old Fort Trails

by JP on Jan.14, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails, Hiking Trails

Panoramic Fort Mountain Overlook

Length: Slightly over 1.1 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Blazes: Red, Blue, Yellow

The Old Fort Trails at Fort Mountain State Park is a combination of three trails that are in the same area, and can be made into a few different combinations of hiking loops.

Each trail has its own unique features and benefits, and as such, I will cover each individually, then discuss the path I believe provides for a great combination loop.

The trails that make up the Old Fort Trails are the CCC Stone Tower Trail, the West Overlook Trail, and the Stone Wall Trail.

Stone Wall Trailhead - Fort Mountain Stone Tower Trail Red Blaze - Fort Mountain

To begin this hike, I suggest starting with the CCC Stone Tower Trail that is an uphill climb which will first arrive at the Stone Wall.

The CCC Stone Tower trail head begins near the parking area. The trail head starts with a red blaze, and slowly climbs up a rocky path.

Fort Mountain

This path is made up of several rocky staircases and is an easy to moderate climb.

Fort Mountain - Tower Trail

Fort Mountain - Tower Trail Fort Mountain - Tower Trail

Fort Mountain - Tower Trail

Approximately halfway up the CCC Stone Tower Trail the hiker will intersect the Stone Wall Trail. This is where I suggest the first detour.

Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall - Fort Mountain Fort Mountain Steps

Fort Mountain Fort Mountain

Instead of continuing along the CCC Stone Tower trail, climb to the top of the rocky wall, and read the marker about the legend of the Moon People and about some interesting theories on the creation of the stone wall. From here, take a right down the Stone Wall Trail.

Fort Mountain Stone Wall

Fort Mountain Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall

Fort Mountain Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall

This trail runs parallel to the mystery stone wall. Along this trail, one can see  the true extent of this wall, and some of its more unique features, the “love” nests that periodically dot the wall. These nests, like the wall itself are a bit of a mystery, and only local legends can be relied on as to their reason for existence.

Take in one of Georgia’s interesting mysteries as you follow along the blue blazed trail. At the end of the Trail, the trail will again intersect a portion of the CCC Stone Tower Trail.

This time take a left and return onto the CCC Stone Tower Trail, marked by a red blaze.

Keep  your eyes open in these forest, last time I hiked here, I was surprised to find two white tail dear grazing in these woods. They apparently had little fear of hikers, as they never darted off (although I did keep my distance).

CCC Tower Trail - Fort Mountain

CCC Stone Tower Trail -Fort Mountain

Continue down this trail and you will reach the park’s namesake Tower. This large stone tower is an interesting site, and one can enter the bottom of it, although the top is chained off and boarded up.

CCC Tower - Fort Mountain

Take a look around the Tower, or take a seat on one of the near park benches for a short rest.

Once finished enjoying the Tower, head straight across the opening from where you entered the area. The red blazes will continue for a short time before turning into yellow blazes as you begin a descent towards the West Overlook.

Western Overlook  - Fort Mountain Western Overlook - Fort Mountain Western Overlook - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

The West Overlook is at the end of several sets of stairs. Once your arrive at the Overlook, you will be able to see a 180 degree, unobstructed view for miles. of the Chattahoochee National Forest and Chatsworth, Georgia.

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Western Overlook - Fort MountainWestern Overlook - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook - Fort Mountain Western Overlook - Fort Mountain

This may be one of the best overlooks in all of Georgia, mainly due to the face that there is little to nothing obstructing the views.Be careful while on the Overlook, however, the wind can get pretty hard up there.

Once finished with the Overlook, proceed back up the first set of steps, and notice a large boulder marked with a red blaze on your right. Follow along this ridge until it intersects back up with the West Overlook Trail (yellow blaze).

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

Follow back along this ridge and enjoy the boulders in the area, including the other end end of the Stone Wall, This last portion of the Overlook Trail provides for some additional views of the Chattahoochee National Forest area.

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

The trails ends in the parking area close to where you started this hike.

Old Fort Trails - Fort Mountain Picnic Area

Nearby Trails:

Big Rock Trail - 0.5 miles

Gahuti Trail – 8.8 miles

Lake Trail – 1.2 mile loop

301 Biking Trail – 14.6 mile loop

Gold Mine Loop Biking Trail – 6.3 miles

Directions:

1. Follow I-75 to exit # 333 towards 411

2. Take GA Hwy. 52 8 miles past Chatsworth onto Fort Mountain

3. Turn left onto park entrance.

4. Once in park, Stay straight, and keep right towards Old Fort (not towards Lake area).

Fort Mountain State Park

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