Wandering North Georgia - Part One

“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” 
 Winston Churchill

When it comes to 'adventure trips' I've recently started taking more of a 'general idea' approach than an actual plan. Our trips almost NEVER go according to plan and so we are saved a lot of frustration and disappointment. This past weekend was no exception. 

'The Plan' as it were, was to meet up with our friend Don on Saturday morning and join him and 2 other rigs for a couple of days as he took on the Georgia Traverse from west to east.  

Due to outside circumstances the two other rigs has to drop out before the trip even began and unfortunately Don had mechanical problems that left him broken down on Friday afternoon only a short distance into the trail. Thanks to AAA he was able to get home safely but the girls and I now had a rig full of camping gear, a cleared weekend calendar, and no obligations. We talked through some options Friday evening finally deciding to just 'head north' and take it from there. 

Saturday morning came early and we were on the road by 8 am driving north in i575. Along the way we continued to consider our options and settled on the nearest thing to a plan - grabbing some breakfast in Blue Ridge. In our eagerness to set off - ok, probably more my urgency to keep a completely arbitrary departure schedule - we had neglected to eat. So we made for a little restaurant in downtown. 

We had a good breakfast at Serenity Garden Cafe, stopped by a couple of shops and got back on the road. We plotted a route that would point the Jeep southeast and hop on the Georgia Traverse along the Toccoa River. We would follow the Traverse as a guide departing as we saw fit for whatever we felt like doing. That was our 'plan'. To basically wander in a generally eastward direction until we found something else to go do or see. 

Somewhere along the way the girls spotted a broken down bridge and wanted to take some pictures. They went about their normal 'photo shoot' rituals and I took advantage of the time to practice flying the new drone a bit getting some really cool footage of the bridge. Once everyone was satisfied with the expenditure of digital 'film' we piled back in the Jeep and continued on. 

We hit dirt and things began to get a little more interesting as we turned toward Hurricane Gap only to find a closed gate about a half mile in. We backtracked to Dial Road and attempted to rejoin the trail from Morganton road but when we got there - more gates. FS-460 - West Skeehan Road - was closed as well. Disappointed but not defeated we dropped back down and road pavement to Coopers Creek Road. 

Coopers Creek Road was uneventful and it was nice to be riding on dirt finally. We followed the road's namesake water feature and enjoy some nice views of the river before turning onto Duncan Ridge where we began to gain elevation.  

As we came to a section of road in the saddle of two peaks I noticed that a hiking trail intersected the road. I pulled over to check the map curious to see what trail it was and realized it was the Coosa Backcountry Trail. We were right in between Wildcat Knob and Coosa Bald. 

Among the items on our TO-DO list is the Georgia 4000 Challenge - the goal is to reach the top of the 32 qualifying peaks in Georgia. Coosa Bald is among them. We grabbed the daypack and drone, locked up the Jeep and headed up the mountain to bag our first of the 32. 

Quickly we realized we were not exactly in our best hiking condition. The girls did pretty well but I've clearly been spending too much time behind the wheel and not enough with boots on the ground! The trail was very clear and well maintained but it was steep and had no switchbacks to speak of. Nonetheless we made it to the top with the only damage being my ego. There was a great view and from there we could see Blood and Slaughter Mountains.

Somewhere along the way and again at Coosa Bald, Zara expressed an interest in going to Brasstown Bald. Indigo and I went there a few weeks ago but Zara was not with us on that trip. Once again we set our sights to the east and made for the highest peek in Georgia continuing along the Traverse as far as we could before deviating for the next landmark. 

Brasstown Bald never disappoints! Rising to over 4700 feet, it's the highest point in Georgia and the observation deck at the top is always accessible. Before we set off to hiking the paved trail from the parking lot to the top we decided to grab lunch at a picnic table with a view at the far end of the parking lot. We made veggie wraps (i spiked mine with turkey), took in the view, and reflected on the trip so far. The weather was great and soaked it up knowing that it would soon change.

We made pretty good time on the hike to the top and the girls took full advantage of the opportunity for more photos.

I always enjoy the views from the top. I say views because there is nothing to obstruct them in any direction. Everywhere you turn there are more mountains and I like to identify the ones I've been to and have heard of - Bell, Springer, Cowpen, Big Frog, Beasley Knob, and the list goes on. (check out the Peakfinder App!)

It had been a very full day already so we decided to head to camp. Though we were fully equipped to camp in the backcountry we decided to head to Vogel State Park (no one was really wanting to have to do the needful in the wilds so we opted for bathrooms!) and call it a day before it got dark. 

We rolled into Vogel just after the main office had closed but we talked to a campground host and picked a great spot in a fairly secluded area where we finished setting up camp just as the sun set. 

Our 'overland' camp consists of a Kelty tarp fixed to the Jeep and two backpacking tents partially under the makeshift awning. A recent purchase of led lights provided some nice ambiance. Space is limited in a Jeep so we use a lot of our backpacking gear. Indigo and I each had a tent and Zara slept in the rig. We cooked fresh vegan chili, made smore's and enjoyed the campfire before finally calling it a night. The far off howl of a squatch (or maybe it was an owl) closed out the day.

Continue Reading Part Two...

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