Had a nice day enjoying the outdoors in the North Georgia mountains/the Tennessee border. Went with a friend of mine, Tony Foushi, for an all day hiking/photo op.
We figured we would go as far noth as possible, considering the 1/2 foot of snow the mountains were supposed to get. We managed to reach our planned destination, and we even took the scenic route through unnamed, unpaved mountain roads, although at higher elevations the gravel road became a bit dicey, especially with the light rain we enjoyed the entire day, turning the road into a muddy trail. In places the drop off to our right was pretty severe, so the road was of concern, especially when an oncoming vehicle, usually a Jeep or other type of 4WD, met us on the narrow road. With snow and ice on the road's edges, passing was a chore.
Had so many beautiful photo ops along the way; at one point we turned around to revisit a nice waterfall at the road's edge. Tony got out of the truck and directed my backing up to ensure I didn't go over the edge of what was a cliff at this point, and it was this way throughout the higher elevations.
When r\we reached a crossroad at the top, where we could go on four directions (counting the way we just came from,) we realized only one option was open. The trail we wanted to take had a warning sign; only 4WD. Tony, knowing these roads well, said we needed to heed the advice, in consideration of the steep down hill descent, plus the fact that particular road ran along the ridge line, which meant droppoffs on both sides of the road in places. The trail that went further noth was out of the question, due to terrain and the certainty of deeper snow. Ice was already hanging on tree limbs and shrubery at this elevation, so going higher would have been a mistake. I want to take the higher trail at some point; it goes deep in the woods according to Tony; he has met mountain men on this trail.
Our only option was to go back down the way we came up. We then took Hwy 411 a short distance, and headed toward Jack's River Trail.
This is Tony's favorite trail up here, and I can see why. It follows the river, with numerous small waterfalls that crash down the side of the mountain and spill into the river. Hiking this trail means walking through the stream of water as it feeds into the river. With a steady rain all day, but not heavy enough to park my camera gear, much standing water existed along the trail. Opportunity to be boys and splash in the water if we liked, although the thought of dripping wet socks in the mid 30's temps did not sound enticing. Maybe in the summer. Had to scale rocks in a couple of places, walked through sections of what looked like a wooded forest, enjoying the sights and sounds of the river throughout the hike.
I was bundled up in a fleece pullover, a hoodie, and a leather jacket over that. The sole purpose of the jacket turned out to be protection of my primary camera; the secondary camera stayed in the gear bag I carried. One photo exists of me on the trail. I look like a space alien with the garb on. No way it will ever be posted.
Ran across a couple groups of campers; had their tents set up, enjoying the scenery.
I have photos on my Facebook page from the trip under the "Winter 2010" folder. There is so much more to see in the area, we'll be back soon.
As we reached the truck, a nice snow began falling, as if on cue. We decided to drive a little further up the road, and saw a beautiful waterfall on the right. Just past the falls, a red sedan was spinning its frnt tires in a mud hole, hopelessly buried in the mud. A guy was standing on the hood, a woman in the driver's seat, trying to drive. The sun was quickly disappearing w/no cell phone service, and two babies were asleep in the back. We pulled them out using a chain, and they were on their way. We turned around and headed home, enjoying a heavy snowfall on Hwy 411 for a time until the temps rose a few degrees.
As we left, we looked over our lunches/dinner we had packed, and I gave Tony one of the two sandwiches my wife had made. We then threw everything else in the console, and had a nice buffet between us.
All in all, quite an enjoyable day.