Buried within the Chattahoochee National Forest, hidden off a very worn dirt road along Aska Road, resides Benton MacKaye Trail. The trail climbs upward along Rocky Mountain for a few miles and has some beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shane, Julia, and I were content with hiking just to the falls and back as Shane has a herniated disk and his back was bothering him from cutting lumber a few days prior. I chose this hike because it is a short jaunt to the falls and back coming in under 1 mile total (score! I got to see a waterfall and he didn’t have to hike too far.)
NOTE- Before you go: LTE in them thar hills is limited.
I am a techie and an IT manager by trade. I use my phone for EVERYTHING; and glancing down to see “No Service” doesn’t make me overly thrilled when I have: no map, no documented route and no sense of direction. “I ain’t got no map nor directions and I have no earthly idear where we’s at,” flashed into my brain as we trudged along the dirt road. We saw a neat house that had hitching posts out front and the coolest cabin railing (literally made of sticks that seem to be collected from the forest).
Cabin with hitching posts in Blue Ridge
The neatest cabin railing ever
We rounded a sharp curve on the packed Georgia clay road and came upon an abandoned shack and a barn that looked like it was about to cave in. My mind immediately took a wrong turn to a horror movie and I said, “This is where the city folk from Atlanta ‘gets it’ by the country folk that don’t like ‘no trespassin‘ on their land’!” This is a whole lotta nope and I looked for a place to turn around to go back to civilization.
The road was about as wide as our car and we had no choice but to continue passed the scary dilapidated house. We crept by slowly as “the hills have eyes” watched. Not a single bird could be heard as Julia mentioned that this shack reminded her of “Until Dawn” a horror video game.
Greeeeaaaat… queue the chainsaw sound effect now.
The windows the house were dark and the weeds had grown up over the entrance but we could see rocking chairs sitting abandoned on the front porch. A screen door slapped in the cool autumn breeze.
At this point I just knew we took a wrong turn and my phone continued to flash “Hey you idiot, there isn’t a cell tower up here” A.K.A No Service.
Thankfully, just ahead we saw the white diamond marking the trail head. Whew! we survived. Turns out, with a little research, this abandoned shack is the homestead of Garfield Stanley of the Stanley Settlement that is prominent in this area. Garfield was the warden of this mountain area, and took care of the area until his death.
We parked and headed to the trail head. You will see the sign pointing to the falls so from here it is pretty clear which way to go. The .5 mile hike to the falls is pretty easy, however the trail is muddy and goes up a fairly steep incline.
The trails are lined with rhododendron, that bloom in late June. We went in September so the flowers weren’t in bloom but that didn’t change the beauty of the trail. Moss covered the trees and mushrooms peeked up through the soil. The sound of the babbling brook resonated through the trees and there was a soft breeze. The smell of damp earth made us feel in touch with the environment in which we walked. Our legs could feel the strain of muscles being worked and our lungs were filled with the cool morning air.
Along the way we saw two cabins, one appeared to be abandoned and the other occupied. Oh! To have a cabin on a creek with a waterfall at its end.
Cabin on Benton MacKaye Trail
Abandon Cabin on Benton MacKaye Trail
.4 of a mile you will encounter a fork in the trail. If you take the left trail you will continue climbing Rocky Mountain for fantastic views of the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Mountain range. There is a sign here pointing to the right to the falls. Once you take the right fork the, terrain takes a slight decline and the waterfall is just ahead. The ground has eroded and the trees root system in this area are showing so be careful not the trip. It is much cooler here under the thick canopy. Moss is thick on the trees and the air is damp. The forest floor was littered with colorful fall leaves when we visited. The sound of the waterfall is not deafening like a lot of falls but you can hear the water tumbling over the smooth rocks before you round the bend to see it cascading across the stone surface.
The double waterfall with falling leaves, mountain laurel, and rhododendron surrounding it is beautiful in the Fall, I can only imagine it in the Spring and early Summer. If you visit during this time please comment with photos!
Directions to the falls: Hopefully you aren’t like us and are looking for directions and not depending on your phones GPS. So getting there is easy but first…
IT Manager Pro Tip: While in Blue Ridge go ahead and search for Fall Branch Falls on your phone. If you are traveling to other locations, make sure you add each location to your phone in the order you want to visit them. Leave this app open, do not close it because if you have zero service it will not search, but the phone is smart, it will continue to direct you if it is already open.
Address: Fall Branch Falls, Stanley Creek Road, Cherry Log, GA
From Blue Ridge:
Follow Aska Road south for eight miles.
You will see a sign on right side of road that says “Fall Branch Falls –> Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is on the left side of road.
Turn right on Stanley Creek Road right before the restaurant.
At about 2 miles the road goes from paved to gravel. Keep going.
You will see the hitching post cabin on a curve. Keep going.
You will pass the scary homestead of Forest Warden Garfield Stanley’s (not so scary now that you have read who it belonged to, right?).
The trail head is maybe 100 yards past the homestead. The road widens a little for parking and there is a white triangle on the tree.
You can either head left or right down a trail. You will head right if your back is facing the homestead. Look for the sign pointing the way to Fall Branch Falls.
Enjoy! Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Shane and I both have pretty stressful jobs. He is in law enforcement and I am an IT manager. Not a day goes by that we don’t feel the overwhelming stress associated with our jobs. Do you hear the squeak of the world tiniest violin? Anyone want to give me some cheese for all this whine? Or can you relate? Face it. We ALL have stress. Whether it is our jobs, our kids, our significant’s. We all have to deal with it.
I think the technical age in which we are living, adds to our stress. 200 years ago our ancestors worked hard from sun up to sun down and by evening they kicked back on the porch with a jug and a fiddle. They worked very hard and went to bed early. They had stress but it was different than today’s. In today’s world, we go all day, work through lunch, and in the evening we have to rush to cart the kid to one activity or the next. That device in your hand, keeps you connected to your boss and co-workers 24/7. For example, I left work yesterday at noon for a doctor appointment. While I was in the appointment, I answered 10 emails and made 7 calls to trouble shoot issues at work. Tonight a coworker called me at 7:30 PM, because something wasn’t working right for him. Just now, my laptop just notified me that another co-worker was logging into our server. I mean come on people! Your OFF, why are you working? Go spend time with your wife and family already dude! There is no escaping work these days!
Bottom line: We stay connected and therefore we feel as if we don’t get a break from the dreaded four letter word, “WORK“.
Returning from vacation, a worker feels refreshed and it is about 6 weeks before that same person really starts feeling the urge to throat punch someone.
It’s a Fact!
Yep! He is right
I conducted an experiment. I started paying attention to what my body and mental state were telling me. All is great when you first return from your lovely holiday, you are ready to help anyone with anything and all is wonderful in the world. Then about 6 to 8 weeks in you utter the words, “Imma kill somebody“.
Realistically we can’t take a vacation every six weeks. We ain’t Kardashian’s (I just threw up a little just typing the name) or any other insanely rich person. So how can we have a mini vacation without spending a ton?
Here are a few ways we get out of our rut and feel better.
Camping – Camping is expensive at first. But once you own the supplies it only costs the park lot feet and food. You have to eat whether you are in the woods or not.
Go on a Mural Hunt – There are tons of murals in the city of Atlanta. Check out the Belt Line, Cabbagetown, and Krog Street for starters.
Take a Train Ride – Hop on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway or the SAM Short Line for a wonderful afternoon. The trains go from point A to B and back again. Stopping at small towns for a bit of shopping in between.
Pick fruit – There is something very satisfying about picking your own blueberries, strawberries, peaches, or blackberries. All these can be done in Georgia, check your local area for farms.
Enjoy Silence – I have this great hammock swing in my back yard. On nice days, you can catch me outside relaxing with a good book.
Be Alone with Nature – There is a quiet trail near my kids schools that I like to hit by myself. It is kind of creepy being alone in the quiet woods and I must admit as I approach, I pull my ear buds out so I can be more aware of my surroundings (Michael Myers might be waiting for me in there, I need to be prepared to run screaming). As I walk through the small trail between the two schools, I hear the rustling of leaves, squirrels running from tree to tree and birds chirping. It pulls me in and centers me. Always be aware of your surroundings when exploring alone and have your cellphone on in case of an emergency.
Find a Hobby and Do it in a Park – Shane and our daughter Julia are artists. Recently we visited the Goat Farm in Atlanta where Julia sat and sketched the old mill’s buildings. Shane likes to take his painting supplies to the woods where he gains inspiration. Me? I am not creative, so no art for me, but I do jot ideas for my blog while engulfed in nature.
Find a Weekend Festival. There is always something going down somewhere. Check my blog for ideas, I try to post once a week what is going down.
Walk a Lonely Pup – The city of Augusta’s animal shelter has a dog walking program. Check out a pooch and hit the Augusta Canal trails for a morning or afternoon constitutional. Contact with your local animal shelter to see if they allow people to take their pup’s on a walk. The dog will enjoy it. You will feel great and the shelter will thank you. A lot of shelters also allow people to come love on the kitty cats if that is more to your liking. These babies need love and while you can’t take
them all home, you can give them the affection they so desperately need no strings attached.
Take a “Photo” Trip – Recently my oldest daughter, Emily, her friend Morgan, and I went on a afternoon photo trip, taking photos of abandoned churches in Shadydale, Monticello, and Jackson. Find a topic, hit the road for photo ops. Need ideas for your area? Ask me in the comments. Here are a few: Libraries, street art, birds, old iron gates, architecture, machinery, abandon buildings, exotic animals at a zoo, or flowers in a garden to name a few. Note: I did some research on locations before hitting the road.
Find a Covered Bridge – There are 16 covered bridges in the State of Georgia. Make a list and start crossing them off. Use this map to locate them! NOTE: Callaway Garden bridge is not open to public.
Hike to a Waterfall. – Pick one, pack a lunch, grab some water and go! Use this link to Google for the closest waterfall to you.
Start a blog about what you see and do! – That’s what I did! I feel better just typing this and sending it out into the interwebs! Thanks for letting me share, I no longer want to smack someone upside the head.
People love festivals for various reasons. Some people go for the crafts, others for the music. Some people like the livestock shows and others for the carnival rides. I go for the atmosphere and Shane goes for the food. It doesn’t matter the size of the festival to me. It could be a small town celebration with 20 tents, or a huge production with fair rides and livestock shows. I enjoy the people watching and eating an apple dumplin’ served up from a trailer by friendly southern folk. Festivals are a great way to get businesses or organizations some publicity. Some festivals have a purpose in mind: to raise funds for a community project. Below are 15 festivals in Georgia that give back to their community.
Decatur BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival
August 12, 2017 – Decatur, GA
Benefiting Community Center of South Decatur is in it’s 17th year.
All proceeds benefit the Historic Oakland Foundation
Come dressed in your best Victorian garb at the 38th annual Victorian-inspired festival features a variety of live musical entertainment, living history demonstrations, Irish dancers and an opportunity to enter some of the magnificent mausoleums.
Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children aged 4-12, and free for children 3 and under
Benefiting the Foxfire Fund, Inc. and support many educational programs at museum and in schools.
One-day celebration of the rich heritage of the Southern Appalachian mountains, featuring traditional music from numerous regional performers, showcases and demonstrations of time-honored heritage skills and trades, and all manner of traditional games and puzzles for young and old alike.
Benefiting Project Green and Back to Basics Kids Camp
Health & Wellness, Green Living Eco Festival help attendees learn how to integrate health and wellness plus natural, organic and green products into environmentally responsible eco living and to create a positive impact on the world as a whole.
It is a time for thousands to come and see fall colors peaking and celebrate Dahlonega’s 1828 discovery of gold. Over 300 art and craft exhibitors and food vendors gather around the Public Square and Historic District in support of this annual event. It is estimated that a crowd of over 200,000 visits over the weekend to join in the fun and excitement!
Chomp and Stomp Chili Cook-off and Bluegrass Festival
November 4, 2017 – Cabbagetown Neighborhood, Atlanta, GA
Benefiting Cabbagetown parks, green spaces, and community center
A little bit of country in the big city, featuring music that was popular when residents and mill workers. They played that old-time music and preserved rural traditions right here in the middle of Atlanta! Hard work and home-cooking, small houses and big hearts, recipes and religion, family and friends, stories and songs – relics of times past kept the community vibrant as it struggled to keep strong in a fast changing world.
This is a token event. Purchase spoons and drink tokens on website if you want to avoid lines. They’ll also be available the day-of at each of our 5 Welcome Centers (we will accept cash or credit / debit).
While camping in June, we decided on our first night, to cook fish that we brought from home. It was 8pm when we arrived at the campsite and we were hangry! EDIT BY SHANE: (That’s hungry and angry if you don’t speak “Fran-ese”). After seasoning the grouper, I wrapped it, along with potatoes, carrots and onions in aluminum foil. I started a camp fire using charcoals and a few limbs. It is hot in GA in the summer and making a roaring fire is not exactly what we want to do, so I kept it small. I threw the foil packs on the fire and helped Shane finish unpacking. By 8:30 we were all setup and ready to eat. I pull the fish off the fire pit and open it to find that after 30 minutes the fish is still raw and the veggies are hard.
Lesson Learned: Using charcoals on a fire pit only is not how to cook outdoors. You have to stoke the fire and make it hot. If not hot enough, the grill grate is too far away from the flames for it to heat effectively.
We pulled out the Coleman grill and finished cooking using propane. For future reference: We decided because we were now eating at 9:30 PM that we should either A.) grab dinner on way to campground B.) cook something fast like hotdogs or C.) eat a sammich or…
D.) Let’s go a step further. COOKING DINNER IN THE SUMMER HEAT SUCKS! I am done. I got so hot cooking the dinner meals that weekend, that I had no appetite. I am not cooking dinner over a fire, or on a portable propane stove during the summer months again!
Lesson Learned: Cook breakfast every morning and eat raw healthy foods like fruits and nuts or sandwiches the rest of the day.
Eat at Local Eateries:
Local joints struggle to stay in competition with chain restaurants. We try our best to search these places out when we are out and about. The locals sometimes tell you stories or things to see when you are visiting their area. If you really want to know how to find the coolest things to do, ask a local. They usually love to tell you about their town. They will tell you where the best place to eat. After this June trip we decided that during the warm weather, we will leave the campground every evening in search of a local grub hub.
Potatoes should be hot, chicken pot pie should be hot, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts should definitely be hot (There’s an app for that!). Human beings are not meant to be hot! I really want my family to camp with me, but if going into it, I told them it was going to be hotter than #@$@ out there, I would get a big ole’ “nope”. I mean seriously, who likes to be hot? As I am always saying,
You can put layers on to get warm, but you can be butt nekkid and still be hot!
This was tested while we were living in Germany 1992. It was August, it was hot, humid and we were living in the attic of a non-air-conditioned apartment building. I stripped down to my skivvies and walked around the apartment like this all month and as a result we have this kid.
It’s Hot and Humid in Georgia, Y’all!
Did I mention it is hot? There is no way of avoiding it. If you do not live in the southern part of the United States you have NO IDEA how hot and sticky it gets. We have two seasons here. “Warm-ish” from October until March and “Get behind me Satan” hot from April until September! I swear the devil himself has us by the big toe and is pulling us straight into the fiery pits of Hades. Summer usually means the thermometer will push 98F/36C. But the temperature isn’t the only bothersome issue. Humidity: oh how I loathe you! Imagine living in a sauna. That is what it is like for us in the deep south. By the time August gets here there is no point in styling my hair every morning because I walk outside and the humidity immediately styles it like a French poodle. Shane really hates the humidity. He can not stand feeling sticky. When he was a small boy, his mother used to have to sprinkle baby powder on his hands and arms to stop him from complaining. Today he just sits there quietly, brooding over how hot he is.
So How Do You Stay Cool?
I have read blogs from people camping all over the world and even if you don’t have high humidity, the heat gets to people. The dry heat, un-shaded climate in Nevada, New Mexico isn’t fun either.
Cool down ideas:
Swimming in the lake or pool or splashing in a stream
Venture into a small town for some shopping.
Grab an ice cream at a local shop.
Have lunch or dinner at a local grub hub (restaurant)
Showers: Thank goodness for showers because it does immediately cool you off and get you ready for sleeping. Your hot body inside a tent will make for a miserable sleeping arrangement. So take a shower before heading off to slumber.
Take a wanderlust trip: Taking a look-see drive in your car to cool off is my favorite! I love to get in a vehicle and pick a direction and go. Have no direction just drive. You find the neatest shots of cool things by just taking a back county road.
I snapped this photo of a old farmhouse and windmill from the side of the road that we were exploring. My girls hate it when I turn around for these kind of photos but I don’t care! It makes me happy and Shane is more tolerant, so he indulges me and stops for a snapshot. The best when I am thumbing through photos and one of these gems pops up.
So if you see something neat, stop! If you see a sign that says, “Natural Bridge” in Virginia. Get off and go see it! *Ahem* (jab at my sister, Tracy.)
So how do you stay cool while camping during the sweltering summer heat? Let me know in the comments below!
Do you want to hike 3 miles into the woods, find a clearing, set up camp and live like they did 200 years ago in the wilds? Or do you want to drive into a campground, find a plot that has electricity, running water, a camp pad and driveway for easy loading and unloading?
Shane and I differ in our thoughts about what is needed for camping. We have had to find a common ground and meet each other half way. If you camp with others you also must find what works for all of you. As Shane said to me, “It isn’t just me that is camping, I have to think about what you want too.” Ain’t he sweet y’all? I replied back to him with, “That’s great because, I need the following things to be comfortable”
He Said vs. She Said
This is our first attempt at co-blogging. We feel that both our points of view are valid and we want to make sure that both sides are offered up so that it is an honest portrayal of what is is like to camp consistently with someone who thinks a bit differently than you.
NOTE: Neither of us read each others blog until after we had finished writing. Once we were finished we went back and added our own comments to each other’s. It amazes me that even after 27 years of marriage we still think very differently when it comes to comfort vs. needs.
Shane’s Idea of “Camping”:
Definitely a minimalist.
I would be perfectly content to carry just one back pack (or “rucksack”) that would have everything I need for two to three days.
Fran: This is ideal, but if I put everything I need in a rucksack, I would tip over from the weight.
Instead of lugging around 30% of everything we own, each person carries everything they need in one back pack.
Fran: It isn’t 30%, Shane. It is ONE Rubbermaid tub of supplies, 2 chairs and a cooler!
I don’t necessarily want or need the “luxuries” of home.
Neither do I, but basics are necessary, man!
Ideally, I would take MREs (meals ready to eat) instead of food that had to be cooked. For two days, which is the length of time we have decided to spend in the woods on this little experiment, you would need only 6 meals each. They are small and compact, have plenty of calories, and taste…edible. Of course, you would also need something to eat with if the MRE does not come packaged with utensils.
I can sleep on the ground using a mat and a sleeping bag just fine. The first night we were in the woods, we actually slept on the ground (inside the tent of course) and I felt great the next morning. The blow up beds are nice, but take up unnecessary room when packing. I don’t need a pillow because you can roll up a towel or jacket to keep your head off the ground. Again, pillows take up unnecessary space.
Water is the tricky part. For two people spending two nights in the woods you need two to three gallons of water. And that’s just for drinking. So obviously, the space needed for water would be considered necessary. The prepared campsites inside the state parks almost always have running water, though I am not so sure I would drink it right out of the faucet.
There is also no need to pack a lot of clothes. A couple pair of underwear, 3 pair of socks, one change of clothes and the clothes on your back. Some type of rain gear is important (poncho, rain suit, etc). A towel is nice to have because there are showers at the bathrooms in the State Parks. A shower after a hot and sweaty day feels awesome, but you have to wait until the sun goes down so you don’t just get sticky all over again.
Fran: At least we agree on the showering part
Other than what I mentioned above, the only thing left is the tent. Our tent is a small two man that weighs less than five pounds when rolled up. I could easily strap that to my rucksack without taking up any extra room.
As you can see, you can fit all you need in one large back pack. Of course, that is not how we camp. I swear it feels like we are freakin moving when we pack our car…
Fran’s Idea of “Camping”:
Definitely a “What else is necessary?” kind of camper
I don’t have to waste money on a Better HomeCamp and Gardens version of camping, but I also don’t want to starve, freeze, roast, or become a smorgasbord for bugs.
Shane says he doesn’t want to pack a bunch of crap but he was the first to be picky about his egg sammich. I started to scramble eggs for breakfast and he says, “Can you make mine a fried egg?” Well no, no I can’t because I don’t have a spatula. If you want to have specifics then you must pack for those.
Scenario: I want fried egg sandwiches so therefore I need to pack the bread, toaster, spatula, frying pan, eggs, and butter, and grill or wood for camp fire.
Scenario: I want to eat a prepackaged breakfast bar, therefore I need to pack breakfast bars.
If you aren’t picky you can pack light, however if you want specific items you must be prepared to bring the kitchen sink if needed.
I, for one, want to eat a nice significant breakfast when camping because you are expending more energy and will need the protein and carbohydrates to power you through the morning and into the afternoon. A small breakfast bar won’t do it for me, within an hour I will be wanting to eat again.
When not camping, I am a grazer, with a lowish carbohydrate intake (100 carbs a day or less). This means I eat something small every 2 hours, i.e. a handful of nuts or a cheese stick. I can’t do this when camping because I feel run down from lack of carbs.
Grazing means you eat every two hours from 8am-4pm. So think about it this way. Pack a lot of snacks or pack the supplies to make a full breakfast. Either way you are packing a lot of items. My philosophy is: “carb up” in the morning and it lasts me until lunch time when I eat a sandwich and a piece of fruit, this pushes me through the afternoon until 4pm when I can have some granola or trail mix.
Bottom line either way you look at it. You gotta eat and unlike my Army Veteran husband, I am not going to eat an MRE – Meals Ready to Eat.
SIDE NOTE: Shane, You should totally be crushing on me right now, I knew what the acronym “MRE” meant.
– Love, F.
There are so many other supplies that I feel are necessary but I am only going to list the top 10
Air Mattress – I am not sleeping on the ground. I did it the first night of our first trip and that’s a nope never again.
I am going to take a shower, therefore I need: soap, shampoo, conditioner, towel, shower shoes. I am not going 3 days without one, Nuh-uh.
Shane: Soap and towel, you don’t need all that other crap.
Fran: You’re almost bald… You don’t have long hair.. I need shampoo, and you agree with me about shower shoes.. admit it!
Several changes of clothing. I need shorts for in camp and pants for hiking. I need fip-flops and sneakers. I also need several shirts in case I spill my coffee, wine or food down the front of the one I am wearing.
Shane: I will give you this.
Um bug spray and sun screen! Helllooo!
Shane: I hate insect repellent, but if you don’t have it the mosquitoes will destroy you.
Extra tarps and air mattress. OH MY GAW what if we NEED these?!
Shane: You don’t need this crap either. You need ONE water proof bag that you put in your backpack and pack all your crap in that.
Cooling towel, hand towel and fans – I am not spending another day with a hot crabby husband. He needs these!
Shane: I am not a huge fan of the cooling towels, I think a normal, small towel, to wipe sweat off would be sufficient.
First Aid Kit – what if we get a boo-boo?
Shane: Yeah I suppose.
Blankets – what if in 90 degree weather we have a significant shift in global warming and the ice age 2.0 hits!
Shane: Blanket OR sleeping bag, you don’t need both.
Grill – *ahem* Shane bought this one.. not me.. I was happy to cook on the firepit
Shane: If you insist on cooking, then the camping stove is the way to go during the warm months.
Only Breakfast in summer months is now my motto. Read here why.
COFFEE POT – nothing else to say here.
Shane: I need my coffee, but I could settle with instant coffee and boil water over a fire. Many MREs come with a packet of instant coffee.
Fran: Instant Coffee is NASTY.. that’s a big fat “Nope!”
Indian Springs State Park is the Oldest State Park in Georgia and it Shows.
There are old oak trees and a lazy creek that falls slowly over stones that were there when the Creek Nation inhabited the lands. The park is old and beautiful. As you pull into the entrance, to the left, you see the water tumbling down the rocks with a picturesque view of an old bridge in the background. In front of you there is a lush, tree lined, lawn with a creek running behind. You might glimpse a picnicking family throwing a foot ball or children chasing one another. People grilling hamburgers and hot dogs on the park provided grills while pet dogs run along side their owners.
What did we see?
We were really lucky and had the pleasure of seeing one guy with his pet snake wrapped around his torso. Why would you bring your pet snake to the park?
People are fascinating!
Old stone buildings that were built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps are standing as strong reminders of the labors who built them. As you curve up this shaded road towards the visitor center you can’t help but love the southern charm of the park. At the top of the hill is the visitor center, which is an old white house. You either turn left to enter the visitor center and museum or right for everything else. There is a beach, dock and boat ramp, a play ground, putt-putt course, cottages, and camp ground. Back towards the entrance is the Spring House for the natural spring and the slow moving falls.
Most of this park is still beautiful but a few aspects of this park needs some tender loving care and an overhaul. Which is what it is getting!
At the time of this writing June, 2017 Indian Springs State Park was working on the lake and the dam and all fishing, swimming, kayaking, and aquacycle was prohibited. Always visit the state park’s website to see if there are any warnings or closures before heading there.
Our Camping Experience:
We came into the park through Jackson, Georgia down Hwy 16 If you are a fan of the Netflix Original show “Stranger Things” you will want to note that Jackson square was used for filming. Make sure you pay attention to all the old houses in the area, some are beautiful! We even saw a house that had it’s Christmas Tree up in the window still with lights on.. IN JUNE! The best thing I saw on way into the town was this water tower!
Checking in was Confusing and Irritating.
Shane and I arrived at 6:30 PM to find the visitor center closed. We looked around for a on duty ranger but no one was to be found. 5 O’clock comes and “dem bitches be gone.” We looked around the porch for some sign of how to check in and couldn’t find anything indicating what we were suppose to do. I pull up the website and start reading to find zero information on what to do if the visitor center is closed. The site does state that you can check in as late as 10pm, but where?
For 20 minutes we wandered around, asked campers, looked for clipboards or signs and drove back and forth between the visitor center and campground. Finally, Shane spots an information board directing us to see the camp host in plot 62. No one was home but there was a note, “if not here see camp host in plot 29“. Shane, at that point, was crabby as I sat in the cool car happily playing Bubble Witch Saga on my phone. At plot 29 we were greeted by Angie who said, “well, alright, go register in the morning at the visitor center” Shane got into the car and stated, “well that was about worthless!”
Lesson learned: Every park’s check in is different. If no one is on duty when you arrive, look around for signs and read them! The next morning, the host from plot 62 came by said, “good morning, go check in at the visitor center before 10am“. Yup talking to Angie was about worthless.
The Healing Waters
Before this was a state park the land belonged to the Creek Indian Nation. The park was signed over by Chief McIntosh in 1821 and 1825 to the Government. I won’t go into the history of all this, my opinion is that the Creek Indians were done very wrong and Chief McIntosh “got his due”. Curious? Read about it here and here.
The tribe visited the area to bathe and collect the “healing water” of the natural springs, thus giving the name to the park. There are several springs within the park, but the most known and used is within the spring house, near the entrance of the park. This where the Indian Springs mineral water is delivered. This pump looks kind of looks run down and dirty. There is an (oh not so beautiful) PVC pipe sticking out of the stone that drips the water onto the floor of the pump house. The dome covering the natural spring is plastic that has been scratched and is dirty making it difficult to see down in the hole where the natural spring comes out. I am not even certain why it needs to be covered as such. The water smells straight up like sulfur (rotten eggs) and tastes like rock when drank. Even still, this doesn’t stop people from coming from miles around to fill up their jugs. Locals say that the smell goes away after two days and they use the water in local products such as jams and soaps. You can taste the pungent water straight out of the fountain or head up to the visitor center where they have it chilled and in a much more pleasant looking pitcher. There are 12 different minerals found in the water and there is a small sign that tells you the chemical compound of the water at the spring.
Check out the museum in the park for a history lesson on the Creek Indians in the area. Right outside the park is the Indian Spring Hotel and Museum. Built by Chief McIntosh in 1823 and is the only known antebellum mineral springs hotel in Georgia still standing. Once you have learned about the Native American’s that lived here, come back to visit the park during the fall when they host the 28th Annual India Springs Festival and PowWow
Okay here’s the skinny on the old cemetery that resides within the parks boundaries. If you turn right at the top of the hill from the entrance and go past “Swimming Area Road” there is a VERY old grave site to your left. These graves date back to the 1880’s and at least one confederate solider is buried there. But the wonderful thing about these graves is that even though they are over 130 years old, someone visited their family’s graves in the recent past because a few had sun bleached flower arrangements on the headstones. The poor cemetery is in disarray. The stones are smashed, the slabs are broken from the sink-in effect, the little fence that surrounds one families plot is lying on the ground and over taken by weeds. It is just sad sad sad. But who is responsible? It amazes me the legal system in the U.S. I found an article from 2014 that Friends of Indian Springs State Park finally got the go ahead to begin overhauling the grounds and here we are three years later and it still looks as if no one has gotten a thing accomplished. I hope they are still working towards this and making progress. The State Park system cannot update this old place because of the cost. We walked around the grave yard trying to read the headstone but many of them are not discernible. I snapped several photos using the “live” feature on my phone and as I was viewing them I saw this…
(Note we were out there alone and the road was to my back) Any thoughts on what it is?
Hiking the Trails
Indian Springs trail system is minuscule. A 3/4 mile nature trail and a 3.25 mile trail, leading to Dauset Trails Nature Center, is all there is. This is plenty for us, but if you want a real hike head over to Dauset Trails were there are 25 miles! (don’t get lost). Dauset Trails is not part of the state park system. It is privately owned wildlife preservation. You can read about it by clicking here.
The map above has been highlighted to show you the trail as it starts at the park entrance and continues to Dauset Trails. The Spring House is circled in purple on the right side of map. As you can see McIntosh Lake, beach, boat ramp, and dock are closed until 2018 for renovations. The X on the upper left side of the map is our camp site and the red dot is where we took the photos below.
Cooling Off in the Springs
One of the best things to do at ISSP is to climb on the rocks and play in the stream. My mama and dad used to take my siblings and me down there in the summers to play in the park. I too have taken my kiddos down there when they were growing up. The rocks get crowded in the late afternoon but in the morning it is pretty deserted. Go early and leave when the crazies arrive. The rocks get slippery and hot so you may want to take some swim shoes. When we were there the water level was pretty low, but it didn’t stop people from sitting the pools that are created from the downward pull of the creek.
The Village at Indian Springs
Another thing to do on a hot humid day is to eat ice cream and shop in neat little (and air conditioned) country stores. This brings me to The Village at Indian Springs. This village deserves it’s own blog entry and I will be adding it over the next few days, so head back to read about this wonderful little place!
First up on our Georgia State Park bucket list is Hard Labor Creek State Park.
Why did we pick this one in particular? Well two reasons:
The name is fascinating! I mean seriously, how did it derive it’s name?
It is close to home and on the way to our daughter’s apartment in Augusta.
So let’s talk about the second reason first. Our daughter, Olivia, lives 2.5 hours away in the most eastern area of Georgia. She has epilepsy and cannot drive so we visit her every other weekend to to check up on her. We figured this would be a good park to hit first so that a large portion of our day Saturday could be spent with her and we would not have to figure out what to do all day in the woods. I know, I know, we are camping losers! But I swear we will get better!
This brings us back to the number one reason for choosing this park as our first to visit.
So What’s with the Name?
My husbands first thought was that maybe it used to be an old prison camp. Wouldn’t THAT be fun with the rich history and ghosts of dead inmates running around. But alas, that is not how the name came about. The park is named after Hard Labor Creek, a small stream that cuts through the park. The creek’s name comes either from workers who once tilled the summer fields, or from Native Americans who found the area around the stream difficult to cross. Still kind of cool.
How Did Our First Camp -Out Go?
We came unprepared, un-supplied, and unworthy of calling ourselves “campers”
In my very first blog I discussed camping supply list. My husband and I didn’t want to invest in a lot of items for camping until we knew that this is really something we wanted to do. Therefore we purchased four main items before setting off for the woods.
2 sleeping bags
Cooler with 2 meals in it (Hamburgers and eggs and bacon)
After spending one night in the woods, on the second afternoon, we went shopping for a wee bit more supplies, such as bug spray. Lesson #1: Don’t get caught without the right gear ya’ll. Check out a complete (and ever growing) list of items needed here.
So, I could lie and tell you it was all sunshine and happiness, but I won’t. Here is the dirty truth of our first camping weekend.
It starts here…
Y’all, let me tell you something, I am like the princess and the pea when it comes to my pillow. I can tell the minute my head hits the pillow if I don’t have the right one. I also will wake up with a crick if I don’t have it. Can I get an “amen” from all you out there who understand me on this?
The weekend started by Shane picking me up at work on Friday evening. I glance in backseat and see my bag and squishy pillow. My man, being thoughtful, packed the right one for me. I get in and give him a quick kiss and say,
“Thanks for making certain that you got my squishy“.
His reply was a matter-a-fact: “well yeah I was so worried about getting all your $h!t, that I forgot my own pillow……”
*wow! I am already hearing crickets and we aren’t even in the woods yet!*
After the song of silence, I have a brilliant, “save the day” idea! I jumped out of the car and run back into my office building. I came out holding a small square pillow from the 1980’s that I stole borrowed out of the owner’s office.
Look carefully, you can see the pillows in the photo. Shane still wasn’t impressed, but as usual, I was please with myself.
We arrived at the park around 7pm, checked in and headed down the quiet, tree lined road towards the camp ground. We found the perfect spot that was a little secluded and unpacked our supplies. Seeing that the packing list was very small it took all of about 45 seconds.
Tent went up in a cinch! Whooo! we are off to a good start!
Shane had picked up some food to cook in the evening and some charcoal so he started preparing the hamburgers to cook on the grill while arranged our sleeping bags out in our tiny two man tent.
Shane thinking that charcoal would do the trick for cooking, started the fire only to realize it wasn’t getting hot enough. The grill inside the little fire ring was too far away from actual coals. We needed wood. We don’t own a truck so hauling wood around in our cars trunk is not exactly what we would like to do, so it was not purchased. However, my man had thought ahead and purchased this little cable saw so off we went into the woods to gather some fallen limbs to stoke the fire. So far we hit two obstacles but over came both pretty easily! Not bad for two middle age city dwellers who have no idea what we are doing. Edit by Shane: he knows what he is doing it has just be a while since he has done it.
As Shane is tending the fire, I decide that I am going to send a text to my girls to let them know we made it to the site and to keep in touch with us and each other in the event there is an emergency. I have a 23 year old, who lives on a lake with her boyfriend, a 19 year old who is attending college and a very soon to be 18 year old who was staying home for the weekend. I unlock my phone and open my messages and quickly type a message to Emily, Olivia and Julia stating what should happen in case of an emergency. I hit send and immediately I get a bounce back saying, “MESSAGE UNDELIVERED“. I look at my signal expecting to see one bar and was horrified to see the words “No Signal”.
Don’t Expect to have a Signal in these Woods.
Oh.. my … gosh.. that is SO uncool! Technology is my friend!
I NEED MY PHONE!!!
My ADULT children have no way of knowing I am UNREACHABLE!
I start to slightly panic. I consistently ride the crazy train of anxiety when it comes to my family and I know that I am going to be channeling that very Ozzie Osbourne song in about 2 minutes. I can hear the lyrics resonating in my head, “All Aboard… hahaahahahaha”. This is the first time in 24 years of being a mother that my children have no way of contacting me. This is not an option… Or is it? I start walking around holding my phone up in the air hoping to see a tiny bar pop up. Nothing. So I move around closer to the fire. Nothing. How about towards that tree over yonder? BINGO! I hit the sweet spot! One bar! I quickly hit send again and call my sweet sister to tell her she was on emergency duty all weekend. All I heard from her through the garbled signal was, “I heard you! On it!” Whew! No panic stricken Crazy Train singing needed. My chair was planted in the spot and it stayed in that spot all weekend. Turns out, I didn’t even need the phone again. It was an option and it was going to be okay.
Fire Pits are Hot in Georgia Summers
As the fire began to roar and the heat coming off of it (combined with the Georgia summer humidity) caused lines of sweat to run down our torsos and into the cracks of our butts, now we’re cookin! Shane threw our frozen hamburger patties on the grill and looked at me and smiled. I went to the cooler and opened it. Looked around at the bags on the table and rummaged through them and then announced, “um, we forget the condiments and seasonings” *sigh* Now boarding the crazy train! “All Aboard! Hahahahaha” (Please tell me you get the reference, if you don’t you should definitely go listen to a lil’ Ozzie.)
Seriously, we were either very hungry or those frozen patties came pre-seasoned because they were dang good! Or maybe it was what was in my solo cup that made me care less.
By the way: Alcohol in GA State Parks is Prohibited.
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya if you get caught playing “True American” in your campsite.
Best keep the noise down and the drinking to a minimum if you are going to break the law and all. I also saw the rangers drive by a few times right after dark checking on things before they bunked for the night.
As we ate our condiment free burger in the twilight fleeting evening a sense of relaxation came over us. We quietly sat there just listening to the crickets, bull frogs, and owls. The sun was slowly setting and the sky grew darker and darker until….
BOOM! DARKNESS FALLS
Dude, there is absolutely zero light under the canopy of trees. I mean I know the moon was up there but dang.. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face! I tried to record the hundreds of fireflies that were in the woods beside us, in front of us and above us. They were everywhere, but it didn’t pick up on my camera. This show was so much better than watching TV or playing on my phone. We sat there and talked about catching lightning bugs (that’s what we call them here in the South) when we were children. Did you know that lightning bugs are not out west. I read that and was shocked. People in California say they have never experienced them before.
Interesting fact: The main reason Lightning Bugs flash is to attract mates. Males fly about flashing while females perch on vegetation. If the female sees a flasher and she’s ready to mate she responds by flashing right after the male’s last flash.
Electricity in the Camp Ground? Maybe, Maybe Not.
Right before bed we decided we should probably charge our cell phones over night in case of emergency so we headed over to the post with all the outlets on them. By flash light we read the directions and plugged our phones in. Nothing happened. For the life of me we never did figure out how to get the electricity to work. But as a note, this camp ground like most GA State Parks do have electricity (if you know how to work it.)
Sleeping on the Ground is .. HARD
Only thing to say here is: Buy a sleeping pad, air mattress or something. Don’t sleep in just a sleeping bag.
We bought food to cook for breakfast but instead decided to head to the small town of Rutledge to eat at a local dinner before heading to Olivia’s for the day. We ate at Yesterday Cafe and the biscuits were to die for. They were these huge fluffy pillows that melted in my mouth. Shane could have used one of these the night before to sleep on! I also hear that the buttermilk pie is heaven on a platter, but seeing that it was 8 am we didn’t partake. The workers were so nice and it has just this quaint little cafe in a small town. And I do mean SMALL. Right next door is an old time hardware store that is really neat. It is a museum of sorts about plumbing and such things.
Hiking the Trails
Every morning we had two lovely cardinals greet us. It looked to be a male and female. The male would come sit on the log while the female stood guard in the trees. They enjoyed our bread very much.
Every Morning these two
This park has 24 miles of trails. We hiked 3 of them. The terrain was very easy with several bridges to cross. There is a swampy lake that is picture worthy. We saw flowers and odd trees. One tree grew up the side of a cliff, ran along the ground and died, sprouted new roots and then up it went to the sky. Very cool indeed. If you stumble upon this wonderful old oak, look inside the dead part for a Geocache.
Don’t be a schmuck… see this beauty. We missed it… before heading to a park, check out what the park has to offer. I didn’t. I relied on just the site map and because we didn’t do our homework we missed this.
About the State Park
HLCSP is just outside the Atlanta metro area. It is located between Madison and Covington off I-20.
The park has a plethora of things to do.
24 miles of trails
Horse owners can bring their horses and house them in stalls
Twilight and night hike guided tours
Night sky observations during summer months
Breakfast with Ranger John
The Creek Golf Course provides one of Georgia’s best golf values, along with a pro shop, driving range, rental carts and special rates for seniors and children. The 18-hole course is a favorite for its challenging layout and well maintained greens combined with a pristine, natural setting. The first hole has been called “the hardest starting hole in Georgia.”
The Trading Post has a few supplies if you forget something like salt & pepper, like we did. But be willing to pay a bit more for the luxury of not having to leave the park to run get ice. Make sure if you visit the trading post you say hello to “Evander Holifield Kitty” (that is the name we gave him, not his real name) any guesses why we named him that?
Warning: I have no idea how to camp, and if you are reading this, chances are: neither do you.
Once, 20 years ago, my family went camping and while my husband (an Army veteran) embraced the challenge, the rest of us failed miserably. However, after recently watching wilderness shows my husband, and I decided that “We should camp!’
So what did we buy to get started? Here is our quick and dirty list of supplies:
2 man tent
Warm weather sleeping bags (2)
Folding chairs (2)
That’s it. We bought nothing else! “Be Prepared” was not our motto in this scout troop!
The day before the trip my husband stated, “I guess we should buy some food for tomorrow?” I was out of town so he offered to do the shopping. So, he picked up:
Camping Coffee pot and coffee
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Paper plates and towels
Now, we are ready! Right?
Mistakes were made:
First, let me say that the “baby wipes” were not for babies. They were toilet wipes meant for wiping bums. So when we used them on our face and hands the cleaner got on our lips and food and made it taste like astringent, but that’s OK: lesson learned.
While my husband did a great job of picking up easy to cook food for us, he forgot the condiments for our burgers. No big whoop we got this!
Pillows to lay our heads on at night were left at home propped up on our bed, ok…now THAT is frustrating!
“I don’t get bitten by mosquitoes” will never be uttered from my mouth again. Bug spray should be brought!
“I don’t need to wear long pants while hiking”, is also very incorrect. I am shocked that I did not get poison oak, ivy or sumac.
Shower shoes are for sissies, and apparently my manly husband. He ended up showering in his socks.
Wood – you kind of need it for camping. We made it to camp before dark! GO us! Tent goes up very easily, and while I spread our sleeping bags out within, my husband gets down to cooking dinner. It is after 7 and we are hungry and I hear my husband say:
“we have no wood”
“wood is not supplied for us?!”
Thankfully, he bought charcoal, right? So, off we go into the woods to find limbs to burn. As you can see we managed to scrape up a few measly limbs to make a fire to cook.
GA State parks allow you to use fallen trees and limbs as long as it is already down. At this point I said, “maybe after dinner we need to make a list of things we need and add it to our ‘to buy list’.“
What I am getting at is while you don’t want to spend a fortune on your first trip camping, you do need essentials. Such as your pillow! Yes, ours were left at home.