"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sassafras in South Carolina

Rocky Bottom, South Carolina
Table Rock State Park

It doesn't happen very often, but it did today.  With all the reservations I have been making over the last few days I didn't check on the cell connectivity at our next destination in South Carolina.  Oops.
I rely heavily on a certain App, but have found out that for some reason, even though these cell towers are very nearby, sometimes on the same mountain, it doesn't mean we'll have service.  I've been making sure to call each campground to verify as the service has been very iffy.

We had a beautiful spot at Table Top State Park.  There were 2 - 3 bars of Verizon LTE all along to the entrance of the campground.  Cool.  Once we got all set up and turned the computers on, nothing.  Not so cool.  Not even with our booster.  We knew there was WIFI at the camp store and visitor center, both very close by.  This works fine for me, but not for Steve.  Especially if he has conference calls to be on.  He decided to limp by for a couple of days, driving into the nearest town, but after that we'd have to cut short our visit here.  Too bad as there were some nice hikes and kayaking planned.

#16 was a nice long, level site with partial shade and a big grassy area.  $27 for W/E.  There is a beautiful lake for kayaking here.  They do have a tiny laundry room, $1.00 to wash and $1.50 to dry.

The visitor center had a nice dock you could fish off of and a nicely landscaped area in front of it that the ducks and geese were enjoying. 


The visitor center with Table Rock in the background that we had hoped to hike later.

- - - - -
We did another drive/hike to Sassafras Mountain.  At 3,553 feet in elevation, it is South Carolina's highest peak.  Sassafras.  It's a word I find fun to say.  Kind of like Rutabaga.  Something about the way it rolls off your tongue.  Or Salsa (think Jerry Seinfeld). Oh sometimes I'm easily amused.
They have a nice little observation deck that hangs out over the edge a bit.  Nice enough view.  They are starting to look quite a bit the same to me now.  Really, very beautiful, but I'm finding the scenery and views lacking a little in variety.

What is sassafras anyway?  According to the WWW, it is a deciduous North American tree with aromatic leaves and bark. The leaves are infused to make tea or Root Beer. Or in the drug world, Ecstasy or Molly is referred to as Sassafras, again according to the WWW. Ok.
As usual, there was a fun geocache up here.

Sassafras.  I knew Sassafras was the high point, but I didn't know this spot also separated North and South Carolina.  Too bad they didn't have something more exciting to mark it so that you knew exactly where the border was.  Then you could stand with one foot on both sides.  Corny, but fun!  Nothing up here but a HUGE cell tower!

On the way down there was a clearing for a fire break that looked like a huge waterfall of flowers. The sun was going down quickly but it was shining just on this break in the trees. It was much more impressive in person that this photo shows.

The rain came down for a bit and when it stopped the clouds would start to lift and made for a pretty picture or two.

A cute little gazebo/outdoor chapel with mountains in the background would make for a nice outdoor wedding.

Steve knows this is my favorite John Muir quote, so he picked it up for me at a little farmers market.
I love it!
There are more mountains calling, so we'll head Down the Road to North Carolina tomorrow!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

3 Hikes & White Lightning in Georgia

Blue Ridge, GA
Camp Alexander

Driving through the countryside on the way to our friends property in Georgia, there were interesting barns along the way. 

Our friends, Guy & Sue of Our Rovin' Journey invited us to stay at their property, Camp Alexander, near Blue Mountain.  They have it set up with 3 very nice campsites.  They weren't able to be there as they were heading to a trip up through Eastern Canada, but welcomed us to stay anyway.
Our nice campsite.  It was a very peaceful few days and we didn't have to worry about finding a place to stay over the Memorial weekend.  No crowds either.  Just peace and quiet.
I didn't get a picture of it, but other RV friends, David & Sharon of Two Lanes of Freedom had left a nice message in the fire pit.  It was a stone heart.  Just as sweet as they are.

Down at the parking lot looking up at the High Point Observation Tower. 
Of  course one of the first things we did was head to the High Point of Georgia.  Brasstown Bald is the highest mountain in the state of Georgia at 4784 ft. The Southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is about 30 miles southwest of Brasstown Bald at Springer Mountain which we will be hiking later.  The high point mountain is accessible via a 1/2 mile steep, paved trail to the summit, but if you don't want to hike to the top there is a shuttle. Brasstown Bald is not far from the North Carolina border, and lies in the middle of the Southern Appalachian Mountain chain.

We chose the trail of course.  Short, but lined with Rhododendron and Laurel. 

Rhododendron                                                         Mountain Laurel

The American Chestnut was once abundant until Blight killed many of the trees.

The Rhododendron grow in twisted trunks and roots that grab on to the rocks. 

The view from the top looking back down at the parking lot.

Ya, that's my finger in the way.
The Observation Tower was not open until after Memorial Day so we walked around on our own.  Unfortunately Georgia is one of the few states that does not have a geological marker at the highest point.  Bummer.   

- - - - -

The weather turned out great for the day we planned to head out to the beginning (or ending depending on which way you were headed) of the Appalachian Trail.  Since we lived in Upstate NY, and Steve's family is from Virginia, we have hiked portions of the trail over the years in different states.  It was very exciting to see the terminus.  If we make it, we might even hit the other terminus in Maine when we hike Mt Katahdin at the other end of the Appalachian Trail.  The Appalachian Trail is 2190 miles in length and runs through 14 states.

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Georgia, Springer Mountain has an elevation of about 3,782 feet and serves as the southern terminus for the Appalachian Trail.  It's a quick, 1 mile, moderate hike up to the terminus.

              The first white blaze on the Appalachian.                                  The plaque.

 The view from the beginning of the AT.

Steve talking to one of the Forest Service employees who counts those that are through-hiking.  He keeps a count of those using the trail and making sure they have the correct supplies, equipment and maps.  He had a lot of great info.  The lady in blue is also a fulltimer that solos in a fancy van.

The road to get there took us about an hour up some dirt forest service roads.  It's pretty remote.  On the way up we noticed something up high on a tree branch.

It turned out to be a stuffed animal wearing a handkerchief wired to the tree branch.  Why?  Some people answered, lock the doors and get out of there, some said to watch out for banjo music and Lee had the funniest answer, Hiker Bait!

- - - - -

Finally we had some challenging trails to hike!  Most of the high points are drive ups, so it's great to find some other trails.  Blood Mountain was a perfect choice!   At 4459 feet, Blood Mountain is the Appalachian Trail’s highest-elevation ascent in Georgia. Four and 1/2 miles, rated difficult.  Dog friendly too.

Hurley loves to romp through creeks and if he can hear the water running, he takes off to splash around.

The trail crosses some creeks and switchbacks through the thick forest and up to the craggy open peaks above.

Lots of roots and rocks and steps to climb.

The flowering trees and shrubs added some color to all the green of the forest.



Almost at the top and people are soaking up the views along the way.

You can tell when Hurley has about reached his limit.  He'll just flop down.  When he found this little stream, down he went to cool off and have a drink.  We let him rest a bit.  He'll be 9 in June and I have noticed him slowing down when it gets hotter out on the trails.


At the top is a stone shelter for backpackers built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp.

Steve striking a yoga pose at the top!

A couple of hours later heading back down through the ferns and we were back at the truck.
- - - - -
On the way back from the hike we wanted to stop in to Mimms for some Moonshine Tasting.

This beautiful bar is the original from the movie Coyote Ugly.
There is a sign on the bar stating:
"This bar is one of the four bars built to film Coyote Ugly.  And yes, Piper Perabo and her friends danced on this bar in the movie, but due to health and safety regulations.... you can't."

I'm not really a moonshine fan, but I liked this high potency one better than the flavored  ones.

The stills out back.
Moonshine is not aged.  Still beer is run through the stills and heated to 170 degrees.  The steam evaporates through the copper tubes and mixes with water, which creates the liquid moonshine.  The moonshine is 120 proof after the first run through the stills and 180 proof after the second run.  It takes about 16 hours to run both batches through the still.

Moonshine Trivia
- The first still was brought to the US by a Scotts-Irishman to Pennsylvania.
- More moonshine has been made in New York City than all of the southern states put together.
- Other names for moonshine were Mountain Dew and White Lightning.

- - - - - 

Hiking the short waterfall trail, made for 3 days of hiking in a row.  Helton Creek Falls was just one of them.  The mist was nice and cooling on the humid trails.

Some people cooling off at the base of Helton falls.

We're glad to get a few days of rest before our next round of hikes start in South Carolina.