Sunday Hikes: Emery Creek Falls (Part 3)

And now back to the third installment of the search for the lost Emery Creek Falls in North Georgia…

After discovering that our upstream trek was all in vain, my Dad and I quickly planned our next excursion to Emery Creek. Having actually found the trailhead last time we drove straight to it in the ol’ Jeep and parked right back in our gravel lot. We took a picture of the trail map on our phones because we aren’t safe hikers that always have topographical hiking maps. We continued down the trail to where our creek on the right met up with the real Emery Creek and after wandering to the left a little bit from where we had been misled by a cairn we found the real green blazed trail we needed (I think it was green anyway, all the blazes from all the trails tend to blend together in my head). We crossed the creek twice back to back and continued up along the creek, crossing it occasionally. This trail was much easier to follow compared to our non-trail from before. The trail was also relatively flat with only a few little ups and downs. After crossing the creek again we walked into and open area with some rock fire pits and open areas for tents then as the trail narrowed back down and strayed from the creek a little we passed one of the famed landmarks of Emery Creek Trail… the rusty shell of a pickup truck! We knew the truck was there before we came across it but we didn’t know why so we looked at it for a second and then kept hiking while discussing how and why the truck was there in the woods. The trail continued to meander through rhododendrons, large oaks, ferns, and even a little bamboo and then we crossed the creek again where it opened up into what looked like an unused forest service or ATV road. We passed a small snake that didn’t seem poisonous or threatening in any way and the road quickly met a small stream that flowed into Emery Creek and turned back into a smaller trail. At this point our trail went up a little bit and flattened out about 20-30 feet above our creek with a steep hill to our right going into the water. The trail and the water eventually leveled out again and the foliage around us became thicker. We ran into a downed tree blocking our path and hopped right over it and continued to where the trail once again crossed the creek. At this point we could hear the sound of water rushing down from a height so we hurried our pace. Soon after we came to a split in the trail with the upper falls continuing straight and our waterfall to the left. We went left past a couple more camping spots and all of the sudden our waterfall was right in front of us!

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We decided that this was definitely more impressive than what we thought was Emery Creek Falls and after taking some pictures we continued up the trail that goes to the middle of the upper and lower falls where two people had set up their tents and had camped the night before. We looked around a bit and then went back to the upper falls trail. This is where the trail got a little steeper but not too bad still. We kept going up and passed where the top of the falls were and continued on the trail to find an overlook that our map showed. The trail veered to the right and we crossed the creek once again. Right after we crossed the creek we spotted a small camping stove and a tent with a small family outside making breakfast. We said good morning and asked how they were, the dad of the family said he would give us some coffee but he had none left and asked where we were going. We told him we were looking for the overlook up the trail and he warned us like an old crazy wizard to “Be careful, no ones been up there in a long time”. After departing from our creepy friends the trail crossed over another dirt road that once again looked unused. After this the forest floor seemed to slowly creep closer and closer to our feet. The trail also began going uphill and the blazes became few and far between. At some point up our trail we came to a fork in the trail that wasn’t shown on our map. The left fork had many fallen trees and thick thorn bushes so we went right. The trail just kept going up, passing the creek a couple times until we came to what seemed like the spring that Emery Creek was born from. Still having found no overlook we pressed on. The forest changed as we gained altitude and turned from deciduous to solely conifers with their needles littering the floor. The trail came to an open area that then turned into some semi-steep switchbacks. Not too long after the switchbacks started we stopped, sat down, had a snack, and discussed turning back since it had been over and hour since we left the falls and we were about 3 miles past where we had intended to go, on top of that the only water we had left was from my LifeStraw that I had refilled once already. So right there on our unknown mountain we turned back towards the Jeep. Once we had almost returned to the dirt road and back to the upper falls we heard a very loud snap and expecting a deer we looked towards the noise and saw a very large black bear running up a steep hill, away from us. This made our extra hiking all worth it just to see such a large and scary animal but to not be threatened by it. As we came back to where our wizard friend had been we found that their camp was completely cleared out almost as if they had disappeared into the void!! (Or just packed up and went home). We went to the top of the upper falls and looked down at the cascading water drop ten to twenty feet at a time. Wanting to get a good look at it from below I decided to climb down the falls a little bit and Dad followed. Now I don’t usually like to go off trail at all but I suppose I missed our previous creek hopping adventures so we ended up climbing down the entire group of waterfalls right back to the lower falls where the two camping people were packing up camp. We passed them and told them about our bear encounter and the hit the trail back home. We crossed the creek, passed the dirt road with the snake, passed our rusty truck and what felt like no time at all we were back at the Jeep! Feeling quite hungry we snagged some taco bell on the way home and were careful driving through White County this time. We felt quite satisfied with ourselves that day. We had found our waterfall, seen a bear, accidentally hiked a mountain (we ended up hiking almost 12 miles instead of our planned 6), and had a great time!

That wraps up my stories about the search for Emery Creek Falls, thanks for reading and if you are ever in North Georgia and looking for a hike, I recommend Emery Creek Trail just make sure you go more prepared than me!

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Sunday Hikes: Emery Creek Trail (Part 2)

It was a warm Georgia saturday in June when we set off to find the real Emery Creek Falls. My dad and I hopped in his Jeep Wrangler and drove up Georgia 411 towards the Chattooga Wilderness. This time armed with the map and directions in my book we drove north to Chatsworth and then east till we reached CCC Camp Road (This time on the other side of the mountain from where I had tried to find the falls before). After following the gravel road for about 5 minutes we pulled into the parking lot with a yellow lettered sign reading “Emery Creek Falls”. We had found it! We climbed out of the Jeep, put on our bug spray, and quickly went to examine trail map. We looked at it for a few seconds and quickly hit the trail. The trail begins to go up a little bit then flattening out with a steep hill going down to the creek on your left and then opens up to an open area where two creeks meet up. We crossed to the middle ground between the two creeks where there was a little area to camp with a rock fire pit. We looked around for where the trail continued and spotted a cairn about twenty feet up the right fork of the creek. We followed various cairns and a small trail for about two thirds of a mile before finding that we had lost our trail. We had read that the trail was very difficult to follow and had twenty plus water crossings so we figured instead of getting ticks in the thick brush we would just hop from rock to rock up the creek till we found our trail again. So we hopped and hopped debating which rock was the best to hop to next and which ones were exceptionally slippery. At one point we came to another fork and decided to stick left. Just as we began to carry on hopping up the left creek we couldn’t find a good way to carry on because there was a sudden lack of hopping rocks and thick rhododendrons growing on either side of the creek. So we took of our socks and shoes and walked through the shin high water till we arrived to where the second fork met back up with our creek and it became better for playing leap frog on the rocks. After a little more hopping up the creek like young kids exploring the vast wilderness of their backyard, we were walking in a rocky island in the middle of the creek and just as I was about to hop onto a little beach on the shore I spotted a quite large copperhead snake basking in the summer sun right where my landing zone was. I decided not to jump there and instead retreat a little bit with my dad as the snake had spotted us and was slithering in our direction. We quickly put our socks and shoes back on and concocted the genius plan to just run swiftly around the snake that had slithered behind a rock in the water about a foot from the shore where we would be running. My dad went first (While I held a large rock just in case the snake decided to strike) and he made it through clean. I made my attempt and successfully passed the snake by without agitating it anymore. After that we kept on hopping (Looking out for snakes behind every rock) and we passed a few more creek forks and came to a spot where the water was too deep and rockless to pass so we shimmied up a large fallen tree and climbed through brush and pine straw all while cursing the non-existent trail. We made our way back to the creek and started back at our rock hopping until we ran into two young hikers that seemed just as lost as us coming from the other direction. We asked if they knew where the falls were but they said they were just exploring but had seen a few small waterfalls earlier. With hope that these were indeed our waterfalls we kept on for about half a mile until we came to a one or two foot waterfall and admired it for a second and kept on. Then we came to a nice little water fall that fell into a pool and then again into our creek. At about eight feet high we decided these were the falls we were looking for and took some pictures while eating our peanut butter sandwiches we had packed for a snack. After resting and looking at our waterfall for about fifteen minutes we decided it was time to head back and then went back the way we came. We passed our friends from earlier and passed all the forks in the creek and we didn’t see the snake again and we arrived back at the trailhead in what felt like no time. We felt satisfied in finally finding our waterfall despite the trail not being there but then we got to talking with a man that was about to go hike. He informed us that the waterfall was sixty feet tall and impossible to miss. With those words our hearts sank because our waterfall was definitely not sixty feet tall meaning we had not found the real Emery Creek Falls after all. We went and looked at the map to see where we went wrong and quickly discovered that we had been fooled by the cairns and we should taken the other fork at the very beginning of our journey. “Oh well” we said and planned to follow the real trail another time. We went and got some Taco Bell on the way home and then to end off our day on a nice note we got a ticket for going too fast through White County (Although we still think the ticket was ridiculous). notemry.JPG

Thanks for reading! Join us next week to see if Emery Creek Falls really exists or is just some sort of Twilight Zone!! -Josh

Sunday Hikes: Emery Creek Trail (Part 1)

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I love Goodwill. I try to go often and see if I can find anything good like the original pressing record of Led Zeppelin’s CODA I found or maybe a $70 North Face flannel for only $5 but one day I went to goodwill and found a book titled “Waterfall Walks and Drives in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama”. This book, written in the mid 90s, has nearly all trails that lead to a waterfall in North Georgia which is great for me because I am always looking for new day hikes. With this book I began picking out a waterfall hike that seemed interesting and I’d make it a day trip on days I wasn’t working. Then one day I came to Emery Creek Falls. It was one of the higher ranked falls in the book (the writer ranks the falls on a scale of (1-10) and was a good distance of about 5-6 miles. The book also warned that the trail was not marked well and had many water crossings but that did not deter me! So one afternoon with my sisterand nephew we drove up highway 411 through Elijay and to CCC Camp Road just like our GPS told us to. The GPS took us up some sketchy mountain road (that my sister’s Scion XB was not designed to traverse). We passed a small parking lot for Bear Creek Falls but that wasn’t our destination so we passed it by until we reached the top of the mountain and our incredibly useful GPS told us we had arrived despite there being zero trailheads on this small gravel road. We kept driving for a few more minutes to find a Trailhead with about 2000 “Bears are active in this area” posters. We parked and figured this must be our stop. I strapped my 18 month old nephew to my back and we headed down the trail. It was almost completely downhill the entire way and we saw dozens of millipedes on the trail but no bears. We hiked about a mile or so till we made it to a small open area that looked like a good spot for camping and that is where we gave in to the fact that this wasn’t our trail so we turned around and went back. A mile downhill with a kid on your back isn’t too difficult but a mile uphill makes you realize how much of a lard ball your nephew is or perhaps how weak you are. Once we reached the top we returned to where our GPS thought the trailhead was and we once again found no trails. We decided to give up on Emery Creek Falls for the day and we went and played in Bear Creek Falls which my nephew quite enjoyed because what kid doesn’t love splashing everyone with water and getting as dirty as possible for the car ride home. After a good thirty minutes of splishing and splashing we headed off to get food at Chick-Fil-A and head on home. Despite having a fun time I still felt like I needed to discover the real Emery Creek Falls so I made plans soon after that to go with my Grand Canyon hiking partner AKA. my dad.
Tune in next time for the excited second part of the Emery Creek Chronicles where our hiking heroes attempt to discover the real Emery Creek Falls!!!

Sunday Hikes: The Piney Point Trail

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The Piney Point Trail is one of my favorite short hikes.   At only 2 miles round trip it packs some great scenery in a short trail.   Piney Point is located on top of Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee.   If you are a Midwesterner driving south through Nashville towards Atlanta (probably on the way to Florida) you are familiar with Monteagle.    At the summit of Monteagle take exit 134 on I-24 and head west towards Sewanee: The University of the South.   After a mile or so you will see the sign welcoming you to the University campus and immediately after the sign is a gravel parking lot on the right.   The trailhead offers several trails including one that is an 18 mile loop.

Upon leaving the trailhead you take the right fork and follow the signs.   Shortly down the trail it splits again (take the right fork again).   The left fork has a rock face that seeps water and the creek you pass over taking the right fork has a pretty waterfall in the springtime that you can only see by venturing down the left fork for about 20 feet.    In the spring and early summer, it is worth a quick peek to see the small waterfall.  In autumn, the creek is often dried up.

The Piney Point trail will shortly come into a field, walk left and the trail picks up again with a boardwalk over a wet area.   This spot can be confusing the first time you hike it.  After you continue to pass through hardwood forest you will eventually come to a big overlook where you can see the valley below.   The overlook is actually a large rock protrusion out of the mountain with a several hundred foot drop straight down if you take one step too far.    This is a great place to sit and soak in the view.   There is a second rock about 200 feet to the left with a similar view of the valley as well.

It is a quick walk back to your vehicle from overlook and you can be back on your way.   I hope the next time through central Tennessee you are able to try the Piney Point trail.

rk

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Sunday Hikes: Corona Arch

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It was 8 o’clock in the afternoon in beautiful Moab, Utah. We had spent the whole day hiking at Arches National Park but we hadn’t seen enough arches for one day! So we decided to go to Corona Arch, recommended to us by my sister’s friend. We had dinner and asked our waitress about the hike and she warned it is a difficult trail to follow but we figured it couldn’t be too hard to find a sixty foot arch in the middle of the desert. We pulled off the road that ran parallel to the Colorado River and into a gravel parking lot. The trail started off by going up a steepish hill and then across some rail road tracks with fences around it (presumably to keep bighorn sheep from getting hit by trains or to keep outlaws from tying people to the tracks for Roy Rogers to rescue). After the tracks the trail continues to walk along a small ridge overlooking the parking lot and the river but then takes a turn to the right and then hits a big step up and thats where the trail turns into looking for wear on the rock and keeping an eye out for cairns rather than just following the trail. At this point my sister and I were a good bit ahead of my dad and our two younger siblings, but instead of waiting around for the slow pokes we kept on trying to follow the trail. Pretty quickly you are at a large open area with no sights of the arch and we were somewhat confused about where to go until we heard people speaking french coming from the left of us so we went that-a ways. we turned a corner and ran into a nice french family that were on the way back. Just after we passed them we spotted approximately 12 billion cairns all together having some sort of party. We were so fascinated by the rocks that we didn’t even realize that we were in eyeshot of Corona Arch! When we spotted the arch we headed that way till we came to some chains and a ladder going up small inclines (a small taste of the ropes we would be holding onto with white knuckles a couple days later on Angel’s Landing). We followed the trail in a horseshoe pattern and then looked up to see Bowtie Arch just before Corona and were surprised that we didn’t know there were two arches on this hike. Corona is the much more impressive of the two however so we moved on. Pretty soon we were under the arch looking out across the way where we could see our small ant-sized family approaching the ropes and ladders. We went around the corner to stand on the edge of the cliff on the other side of the arch and to look out at the beautiful view of Corona arch with a storm going the other way in the distance. Standing on the edge of a cliff is a scary thing but it gets all the more terrifying when the storm you thought was going the other way violently hits you with sand and winds that blow you off your feet. Well thats what happened to my sister and I as we stood put taking in the view and waiting on our family. We began to crawl away from the edge and back towards the arches as the wind tried to blind us with sand and rip my glasses from my face. Eventually we got away from the edge and tried our best to run back to the car without tripping over cactus, rocks, and our own feet. Once we got back to where the trail is a real trail it had begun raining hard on our unprepared heads and we had seen no signs of our family yet. As we turned the corner we saw them hiding under a rock sticking out of the cliff waiting for us (Because I had the car keys). As we met up with our family my dad proceeded to whisper in my ear that the storm had literally scared the crap out of my younger brother. We ran back to the car and out of the rain (which stopped as soon as we got into the car). After that is was a nice drive back to the hotel to clean up and then go to Arches National Park to stare at the Milky Way for hours. Overall I’d say it was a great day and a great hike despite the sand in my eyes and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

-Josh

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