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Camping and Hiking DeSoto Falls, Georgia

by JP on Jul.20, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails



Desoto Falls Scenic Area is a federally managed area that offers approximately 20 or so camping pads located just south of Blairsville, Georgia and just North of Dahlonega. The site offers decent camping accommodations for campers and RVers alike, but I can’t really say that an entire day can be spent here. Fortunately, it isn’t too far away from several wonderful other areas offering numerous outdoor recreation opportunities, such as Brasstown Bald, Vogel State Park, and portions of the Appalachian Trail. The falls themselves are somewhat  small and weak, compared to other Georgia falls, so unless you also enjoy hiking for hiking’s sake, I would probably say this is a place that is enjoyable to see if here, but ultimately not worth the drive on its own. Camping accomdations are Desoto costs $12.00 per site, and is closed from late November until late April.


One of the best things about camping here is the amount of privacy and isolation offered at many of the campsites.

The campground is laid out in two loops. Many of the lower loop sites sit along the creek, just below the falls. Because of their proximity to the creek, this makes these sites very appealing, and therefore more crowded. While these sites are larger than most sites at other campgrounds, they are still aligned next to each other. Noisy neighbors or later arrivals could definetly spoil the tranquility of the creek.

The upper loop on the other hand has equally large, if not larger campsites and are typically not adjacent to one another. I could not see a single RV or tent from my site, although I must admit there was one empty site across the road and downhill from me (still a good distance from my site).


The downside to camping on the upper loop, especially in the upper part of the upper loop is the distance from the highway. While not necessarily close to Hwy. 129, one can hear the faint sound of traffic over the birds, bugs, and toads. I personally opted for light sounds of traffic, but pick your own poison, or head down to the Boggs Creek Scenic Area for privacy, a creek and quiet (that would be my choice of venues on my next trip to the area).



Each campsite contains the standard square, limestone pea-gravel tent pad enclosed by 4×6 posts. These seem to be the only type of material used for federally managed camping in Georgia. I have found that I rarely have a good night of sleep on these pads, but I can’t really beat the price of camping on federal land.

Additionally, each site has metal fire ring, two metal hooks and  a very sturdy picnic table. Just remember to pick up your food and trash at night or the raccoons will be having a party next to your tent. Restrooms and showers are available through the campground.


Desoto Falls

Distance – 0.75 miles to Upper Falls, 0.25 to Lower Falls

Like just about everything named after DeSoto in Georgia, the falls gets its name for an supposed Spanish piece of armor found near the falls years ago. The armor, as every Spanish artifact found in Georgia, was believed to belong to DeSoto (or as the sign likely more accurately states any other Spanish explorer that came through the area). Nevertheless, DeSoto Falls is actually two trails going to two different sets of falls along the same creek.


Upon entering the trailhead, hikers get to decide which trail to see first. The Upper Falls is the longer distance at 0.75 miles, but is likely the easier of the two hikes. The Lower Falls is a slightly more steep, continuous climb, but clocks in at only 0.25 miles. Both trails are relatively easy hikes, so be sure to hike them both.


To start the Upper Falls trail take  the right on the trailhead. This hike is fairly flat with only a few rolling hills that go up and down. Most of the trail follows parallel to the Creek.


At the top of the trail, hikers reach an observation deck to view the falls. The Upper Falls is made  up of essentially three tall cascades, but unfortunately their height does not really correlate to their power. I viewed these falls not long after a good hard rain, but was not really impressed with them. There was only a little water coming over the cascades.

After returning to the trail head, continue past the bridge to the Lower Falls. This hike is slightly more steep. The trail itself is made up of several switchbacks leading to yet another observation deck. These falls are unfortunately less powerful than the first, but in my opinion somewhat neater to see. The Lower Falls is only a single fall, but here the creek trickles over a flat cliff-like rock. After viewing the falls, return back to the trail head.


Overall there is nothing bad about Desoto Falls Scenic Area. It is just a little underwhelming when surrounded by so many other wonderful things to see. Stay here if you’re thinking of hiking on the A.T., in Vogel, or at Brasstown Bald and Boggs Creek is full. Otherwise, I recommend Boggs Creek.


Helton Creek Falls Trail -0.1 miles

Vogel State Park

Brasstown Bald

Boggs Creek Scenic Area and Campsites


1. Take Highway 19 North from Dahlonega for 18 miles.

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Gear Review: Vibram’s FiveFingers KSO (Keep Stuff Out)

by JP on Jul.02, 2009, under Gear Review


Rating:  A+

I have recently purchased a new pair of “hiking” shoes that I can definitively say are not like anything I was aware existed before this summer.

If you are like me, and spend enough time around “outdoorsy” people, you may have noticed these strange new “toed” shoes popping up on the trails, beaches, rivers and lakes. Vibram, the maker of a very durable boot soles has recently started gaining a lot of attention for its making of the FiveFingers shoes. These shoes are branded as “a barefoot alternative,” and I for one agree with that slogan, but think that it does not go far enough.

First Impressions – Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover 

After first seeing these shoes, I immediately assumed they were just another outdoor, hippie gimmick and fad, but the shoes, I admit, did capture my interest. As such, I began doing a little research, and found that a number of reputable health & outdoor companies recommended these shoes for their health benefits and comfort. One more article by Tim Ferris discussing these “gecko feet” in comparison with bare foot cultures (found here), and I decided I’d at least try them on next time I was at my local outfitters.


The first issue I came across with these shoes was sizing them. I can’t recommend anyone buy them online without first trying them on at a retail shop as the sizes of the shoes are listed in European sizes (that’s the 40 something number for most men in your shoes’ tongue), but I have found that I wear a much smaller Vibram FiveFinger than I do tennis shoes (46 sneaker, 43 Vibram). Luckily, Vibram makes it easy by providing a foot fitting mechanism to their retailers. Let a retailer help you find the right size, they got it right on their first shot with me.

The next issue to deal with these shoes is trying to get them on. Admittedly the  first fitting is a bit awkward, as learning to separate your toes into each of their compartments is not something that happens naturally. Despite this fact, once these shoes were on, I knew immediately that I was buying them.

I am not one for exaggeration, or to buy impulsively, so please trust me when I say this.  These shoes were simply the most comfortable pair of shoes I had ever put on my feet. The elastic, mesh material was not pinching or tight, and the sole of the shoe did not cause any discomfort like most new shoes.

Leaving the Store-”the shock effect”

I had gotten pretty excited about the way these shoes felt, and so I decided that i would wear them out of the store.

It wasn’t 10 minutes later at a local eatery where I was immediately questioned about my new shoes by the waiter. This will not likely be a one time occurrence if you buy these shoes. Since owning these shoes I have probably answered questions about them from over 50 people (that’s only after wearing them for around two weeks). If you decide to go with these shoes, you can probably expect the same results, so if you embarrass easily or are very shy, you have been warned.


The Vibram FingerFingers KSO have a number of functional features that appealed to me prior to purchasing, and these functions have not let me down. First, the “KSO” part of these shoes is a thin mesh-like elastic covering over the top of the foot. I was concerned this material would rip easily, and not “Keep Stuff Out” as its name implies. I can say that this has not been the case yet, nor does it seem to be weakening yet. This material has proved to be extremely comfortable around the top of my foot to the point that I forget it is there. It is a cool material that allows the foot to breathe while effectively keeping dirt and rocks out.

Additionally, the shoe’s sole is extremely durable and functional, as one would expect from Vibram. The sole of the shoe is made up of a semi-rigid rubber similar to that of a car tire, but thinner. This sole allows the foot to move comfortably while also feeling the ground as if bare foot. While it does not keep all rocks from hurting one’s foot while hiking, it does keep those sharp stabbing rocks from poking the foot, which is typically the major problem with walking around bare foot.

The sole of the shoe is also lined with jagged micro-treads that provide better grip on wet and smooth surfaces than I have ever found on any other hiking boots. These shoes excel in wet conditions. I have been amazed at how well these shoes gripped the side of boulders I was hopping along in the desert this past week, and how well they grip stones at the bottom of creek beds in the Georgia Mountains.


When first wearing these shoes, the retailer recommended that I not wear them for more than an hour for the first day or so. He claimed that the muscles and tendons used when walking in these shoes were not normally stretched as much in other types of shoes, and that my feet and legs would be very sore if I didn’t get used to them.  Being stubborn, I wore them for 3 hours the first day, and found that while a little sore the next day it was nothing significant. Also, the difficulty in getting the toes into their compartments soon goes away. By the third time I put the shoes on, my feet were sliding right into them.

What I did find is that my feet get a little more tired walking on very hard surfaces with these shoes. But that each time I hike in them that seems to be diminishing. I suspect that this is because my feet are getting stronger as I wear them.

Three Weeks Later

Since I have bought these shoes, I have put them through some pretty serious testing.

In the first three weeks of having these shoes, they have been worn in the snow of Yellowstone, the desert in Arches, in the swimming pool in Georgia, during a soccer game I was playing/coaching in, at the grocery store, the beach in Florida, and along creek beds in the Georgia Mountains. With the exception of the grocery store and in the snow, these shoes have not only been comfortable, they have been exceptionally functional in all of those situations. At the grocery store, they were simply a pair of shoes on a hard tile surface, and really no more or less comfortable than a pair of tennis shoes. The shoes do not keep water out, but drain and dry quickly, and so while they were great walking shoes in Yellowstone they do not provide, nor are intended to provide sufficient insulation from the cold snow in the higher elevations.

I have noticed that over these two weeks, my feet are noticeably wider. Normally, I can’t say that is something I would have noticed, but I have two broken little toes from my  not so illustrious soccer career which has caused them to turn and bend slightly under the toes beside them. Since wearing these shoes, there is a definitive space between the little toes and their neighbors.

Must Recommend

I am not one to rave about shoes, but in this case I feel that I must. Vibram has made a product that must be worn to be understood. These shoes, while a little weird looking at first, are more comfortable and functional than any boot or sandal I have worn. I must recommend these shoes to any outdoorsman.

Has anyone else had other experiences, positive or negative with FiveFingers? I’m interested to hear what the other styles offer and feel like? Let me know what you think about these shoes.

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