On the Grid – September 2015



OK, maybe not.

But…September is complete. I’ve made it through my first full month of this quest! Only 10 months, 3 days and 121 caches to go!

September started off a little shaky but really picked up steam. It turned into a really fun cachin’ month. Had several DNF’s but fortunately I had picked out back-up caches for each of those days. It definitely pays to do the planning and have those back-ups in mind.

So let’s dig into September.

My office is located in one of the most culturally diverse areas in Atlanta and maybe even in the state. People representing practically any ethnic group you can think of can be found nearby. I was reminded of this fact as I pulled into the driveway of a Buddhist ‘meditation center’ to look for a cache named Hanging out with the Dalai Lama (GC1D1H4). Interesting place…


I picked up another cache at Chattahoochee Bend State Park. Jenna was in the midst of planning a camping trip for herself and a few of her friends so we made a trip down to Chattahoochee Bend to check out the campsites and see which campsites might be suitable for their group.


Since I needed a cache for the grid that day I decided to grab one of the many caches in the park. I knew the approximate location of the cache I wanted to look for (Last Chance Cache, GC5RP0V) but when we pulled up my cell phone didn’t have good reception and wouldn’t download the caches in the area. Bummer! We went on and checked out the campsites and visited the park office to ask a few questions. As we headed out I told Jenna we were going to stop and take one more look. As we pulled into the parking pull-off I popped on the Geocaching app on my phone and to my surprise, all the local caches appeared…and we were only about 50 or so feet from the parking pull out on the other side of the road…where the cache info wouldn’t download an hour earlier. Odd.

Bend Sign

We grabbed the cache and were on our way.

A note for anyone thinking about caching at The Bend…bring your handheld GPSr or download the cache info to your phone prior to leaving to head to the park…cell phone service is spotty and in some areas and not at all in others.

Another September cache took me to the French countryside. OK, I didn’t exactly go to France. More like Chamblee, Georgia…to The 57th Fighter Group restaurant to find Smurfs Form the Resistance (GC5THCR). The restaurant building and grounds are dressed up to look like a French farmhouse during World War II, complete with period Army vehicles, artillery pieces and even a P-51 Mustang in station to provide air cover during one’s search for the cache.




As you search for this cache, it doesn’t take much to imagine yourself as an American commando, deep behind enemy lines in France, cautiously searching for a cache of weapons hidden for the French Resistance for your clandestine mission against a German command post. Or maybe you’re a downed Allied pilot attempting to evade the enemy while waiting for rescue by the Resistance. OK, or maybe that’s just me…

As I looked at the cache page for Win – Place or Show (GC47KAG), I really didn’t expect much more than a quick cache to fill in another square on the grid…but as I pulled in the drive I was greeted by this cool gate…


There’s another one like it not far away. We used to live in a subdivision a couple of miles down the road from this location and I don’t recall these gates being there before we moved 14 years ago.

Early this month, while looking at the Geocaching.com website for caches around my office I noticed an unusual blue dashed line just across the interstate that had three caches scattered along its trace. As it turns out the blue dashed line represents the Cheshire Farm Trail, a new Atlanta walking path.

Cheshire Farm Trail

The caches are all D1.5/T1.5s (Creekside Trail: Paying it Forward – GC5K9PY, Creekside Trail – The Grand Bridge – GC5K9PZ and Creekside Trail – GC5K9Q1). Given the proximity to my office the Cheshire Farms Trail caches looked like a good opportunity to get September kicked off in style…but that didn’t quite happen. When I drove by for a look, the location that I thought I’d be able to access the trail from wasn’t accessible at all…Bummer! I went on to find a backup cache then did a little online research to find the actual trailhead and parking location to save for another day.

When I finally did make it onto the trail I was treated to a smooth crushed stone walk path, views of the North Fork of Peachtree Creek and some interesting bridges.

Cheshire Trail



Wish I could say it was a quiet walk in the woods but the concrete bridges carried I-85 traffic. Definitely not quiet but still a nice place to walk during lunchtime.

Bring on October!!

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On the Grid – Planning and Strategy

In my August 2015 On the Grid post, I mentioned that it takes a bit of planning and strategy to complete a 365 or 366 Grid. Since then I’ve had a few folks send e-mails or comments asking me what I meant by planning and strategy.

Since an explanation might benefit more folks than just those who asked, I thought it might be a good idea to put my thoughts together as a blog entry. Keep in mind that these are MY thoughts on planning and strategy. They work for me but may or may not work for you. I’ll let you figure that out on your own.

First let’s set the stage for this discussion. When I decided to start a 366 Grid, I’d been caching for almost 6 years and had found just over 700 caches, needless to say, the days on which I had actually found a cache were spread all over the calendar and I still needed to find a cache on each of about 150 days to fill in all of the blank spaces. Also, I do most of my caching in two areas…the areas within a few miles of my home and office (let’s call these my home areas).

OK, let’s dive in and start with planning.

When I think of planning I think of two things, planning for today’s caching effort and planning for future caching efforts. Planning for today’s caching effort is fairly straightforward. I take a look at the maps of caches in my home area or wherever I will be for the day, read the descriptions of the caches and pick one that I want to look for. I also pick out two or three additional caches as ‘back-ups’ in case I can’t find the cache that I had initially picked to hunt.

Planning for future caching efforts is a bit more involved and goes hand in hand with strategy. Understand that I’m a calendar-dependent person. There are some dates/events that I can remember pretty well like ConnieLou’s and the kids’ birthdays and I’m pretty good at remembering mine and
ConnieLou’s anniversary…but on any given day, I pretty much have no idea what might be on the schedule for some other day…so I keep a calendar. Personal events, work events, school dates, social events…they all go on my calendar. And I try to keep my calendar fairly up to date to at least a month or two out. For my 366 Grid, I also mark the days that I need to find a cache to fill in a grid square. Now I can tell not only what days that I need to find a cache but I also have a pretty good idea where I’m likely to be and what I might be doing, besides geocaching, on that day…thus allowing me to plan and pick caches to hunt at locations convenient to wherever I might be on that day.

Now let’s talk about strategy…

To me, strategy is the process of making sure that there are enough available caches to find with a reasonable amount of effort and within a reasonable distance to complete my grid. Here are a few things I do to keep the process rolling…

  • Save the easy caches. I try to tackle the more difficult caches in my home area before the easier ones. The easier caches are saved to be used as back-up caches when I can’t find the initial cache I’ve selected to hunt or to hunt on days that I don’t have much time or when the weather is crappy and I need a quick, easy find.
  • Take advantage of location. It’s not unusual for work or some other event to take me outside of my home areas, I usually know what’s coming up on my schedule thanks to that calendar I mentioned earlier and I can plan to find a cache outside my home area, thereby saving caches in my home area for later when I need something more convenient.
  • Take advantage of different types of caches. Traditional (single-stage) caches make up the bulk of the caches spread across the globe and it’s not unusual to encounter cachers that hunt primarily for traditional caches (hey, I’m one of ‘em). But…it doesn’t take much more than a quick look at the cache map for any given area to realize that there are plenty of other types of caches out there that can greatly increase the number of caches available to find and log. When time allows, do the multis, take a crack at solving some of the puzzles (there are plenty out there that aren’t hard at all), visit the earth caches or go to an event. Go beyond the traditional caches and increase your chances.
  • Use the days that you don’t need to find a cache to plan for the days that you do. It’s much easier to pick out caches to hunt when you’re not in a rush to get out the door and go find one. Pick out the cache you want to hunt and your back-ups then plan your route to all of them. Off-days are also a good time to spend some time solving puzzle caches to add to your list to find later.
  • Keep it fun!  Geocaching is supposed to be fun.  If it wasn’t there probably wouldn’t be over two and a half million caches and 6 million cachers scattered about the globe!  Knowing that you have to find a cache on a certain day or else your grid carries over for another year can add some pressure and take away from the fun.  Just hunting for a bunch of lamp post or guard rail caches can get pretty boring.   Hunt for the more challenging caches when time permits, go to a new location, go to a scenic location, do some multis and puzzles, cache with friends, cache at night.  Keep it fun!!

These are just a few of the things that work for me. Got other suggestions? Leave it in a comment so we all can benefit from it!

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The Word for Today is ‘Granola’

ConnieLou and I took Jenna and a couple of her friends camping down at Chattahoochee Bend for the weekend. Taking a group of teenage girls camping is almost always an interesting experience. This time around I learned about words. Not new words but different uses for words that I already knew. Take ‘ENO’, for example. ENO is actually an acronym which stands for Eagles Nest Outfitters, the maker of a popular brand of hammock. ENO is commonly used as a proper noun for the name of the hammock brand these days. Example: “Did you bring your ENO?” I was a bit surprised to learn that it is also used as a verb. Example: “Hey, come over here and ENO with us.” I have to admit that one caught me sort of off guard. Granola is another word with a bit of a different meaning these days. Granola isn’t just a breakfast cereal or snack bar these days. According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s also an adjective for a person who is “a new-age/more civilized hippie who can be found journaling in an Eno in the middle of the forest, wearing Chacos, Birkenstocks and athletic shorts (always ready to hike or go on an adventure at any moment), and a backpack with a CamelBak water bottle attached with a carabiner”.

OK, enough of that.  So here’s how the weekend went down…

A couple of weeks ago Jenna asked if we would take her and several of her friends camping for a weekend down at Chattahoochee Bend State Park. I told her “sure” and we began making plans. Jenna and I made a trip down to the park a couple of weekends ago to check out the campsites in the various camping areas and decided that we wanted to stay in the West Platform Campsites which work well for tents and has plenty of trees for hammocks too.


Over the course of the next two weeks, as I suspected might happen, the group dwindled down to just two in addition to Jenna….


We found out last week that we couldn’t reserve a campsite for less than two nights. Friday night when I checked Georgia State Parks reservation website there were still three campsites out of eight available so I loaded up the truck and headed down early Saturday morning to make sure we got a site. Fortunately I was able to grab a couple of sites and got our tents set up. Yes, I said tents. I slept in a tent instead of a hammock. Call it taking one for the team. ConnieLou and the pups were sleeping in one of the tents and I knew she was likely to need a little help with them…OK, and I help balance out the air mattress.

Setting up the tents was a bit of an adventure. Our big family tent is 17 feet long and the tent platforms are 16 feet by 16 feet. You do the math. It was a bit awkward but I got it set up, more or less on the platform.

Tent 1

I encountered the opposite problem with the smaller tent. I haven’t set this one up before and didn’t realize that the ends needed to be staked (not so with the big tent). Since the park rangers frown on driving nails into the platforms, I had to put on my MacGyver hat and come up with an alternate solution.

Tent 2

Our neighbors for the weekend were a local Boy Scout troop and a couple of younger couples. For the most part the Scouts were pretty good neighbors. The boys did get a bit out of hand a couple of times, running through others’ campsites and getting the dogs riled up…but a short discussion with an assistant Scoutmaster put a swift stop to that.


I pretty much had our campsites situated when ConnieLou arrived with the girls and the pups. Camping is nothing new for Sophie, our older dog…


But was an entirely new adventure for our younger dog, Lyla. Fortunately she did pretty well over the weekend


Jenna and her friends decided that they wanted to camp in their hammocks rather than in the tent so they hung their gear up in a small group of trees.


With camp situated, the girls wanted to hike up the River Trail to the observation tower. The tower is about a mile upriver from the trailhead and the walk path is nearly pancake flat. We took our time and found a geocache or two along the way…



It was mighty nice to hunt for ammo cans in the woods instead of the urban caches I’ve seen so many of lately.


We enjoyed some time at the observation tower before heading back to the campsite for supper.


From the Tower


What would a good ‘ol fashioned camping trip be without cooking hot dogs on a stick over a campfire? Honestly, it would be most of our camping trips…but we were trying to keep this one as simple as possible so hot dogs cooked over the campfire and chips were on the menu.




We found out a bit too late that hot dogs didn’t agree with one of the girls but she had already solved the problem by bringing a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Chick-Fil-A chicken reheated over a campfire apparently is pretty tasty too!


S’mores for dessert were a big hit…




Smore Girls


As the evening grew long everyone decided to get ready for bed. Apparently glow necklaces and bracelets are required for bed.


While the girls talked themselves out, ConnieLou and I spent some time out on the ‘porch’ in front of the big tent before turning in ourselves…


Sunday morning was spent sleeping in, eating a quick Pop Tart and granola bar breakfast then packing up to head home. After a bit of a whirlwind Saturday I think I could have handled a couple more days in the woods to chill out and relax a bit.

Posted in Camping, Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Day Hike, Geocaching, Georgia State Parks, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

On the Grid – August 2015

I started a new geocaching challenge this month. OK, maybe it’s more like I started a geocaching challenge this month…given that I haven’t started a geocaching challenge previously unless you count hunting and finding a cache or two now and then when the urge hits.

While listening to ‘The Podcache Show’, a geocaching podcast based out of the U.K., I heard numerous references to the hosts and listeners filling in their 365 and 366 Grids. I thought it might be fun to take on the challenge myself.

Soooo, just what are 365 and 366 Grids? Simply, they’re calendar grids, 365 days on a grid for a regular year and 366 days for leap year.

Blank Grid

The goal…to find a cache on every calendar day, thus filling in a day on the grid with each cache found. One can try to find all 365 or 366 caches on consecutive days in a calendar year or, if the person has been cashing for a while, plot the dates on which they’ve already found caches and fill in the gaps. I chose the latter. I’ve been caching since 2009 and when I stated the challenge had just over 700 finds but still had around 150 open days on my grid…mostly a day or two or maybe three here and there, but also a few strings of four and five days.

Sounds easy, right? It can be…but it also takes some planning and a bit of strategy. It also takes more than just finding a bunch of super easy caches to keep it from being boring. Sure, sometimes one needs a quick lamp post skirt or guard rail cache to fill in a day here or there, but it really pays to mix in some interesting locations or types of caches to keep the interest up.

By now some of you are thinking ‘This is all great but exactly where are you going with all of this?’

OK, here’s the deal. I thought it would add to the fun to be able to share the adventure. As I thought about how to make it happen and how to present it in a blog form I decided that the best approach might be to do a monthly post with the highlights (and maybe even lowlights) from the previous month and toss in a few pictures from some of the more interesting locations

All that said, let’s dive in to August 2015

Unfortunately I didn’t think to start this little adventure on August 1 so I still have three days to complete in the first week of August next year. Unless I miss a day somewhere in the next 11 months I should finish up on August 4, 2016… so put that date on your calendars.

I got things going with a walk in the woods in northwest Atlanta along the Whetstone Creek Trail, a PATH Foundation trail, to find Path7 (GC41VR9). To get to the cache I took a walk on the boardwalk over Atlanta’s only remaining bog…


The cache itself wasn’t overly remarkable but finding a rocketship in the woods on the way back to the truck was. It might not have been a real rocketship that took men to space but I’m sure it took the imaginations of quite a few kids to space over the years.


I was afraid my quest had come to an early end when I DNF’d Path4 (GC3BWDM), another cache along the Whetstone Creek Trail, the next day…but fortunately I found a backup cache on the way home.

College campuses are usually good places to find a cache or two and the University of West Georgia campus in Newnan, Georgia is no exception.


Jenna and I found Book Worm II (GC5XJ3H), one of two on-campus caches following a quick search after dark.

It pays to use days working out of town to your advantage and save easy caches near home for those days when you need a quick cache nearby to fill in another day on the grid. Fact or Fiction (GC3Y4BK) in Greensboro, Georgia worked just fine.


By the end of the month, my grid looked like this…


Ain’t that a pretty solid line most of the way across August? I think it is…

Onward to September!

Posted in Geocaching | 4 Comments

A Different PATH

Some of my blog entries are planned in advance and some just happen. This morning when I left for work I had no real intention of doing or seeing something that would be blog worthy. All I planned to do was spend the morning at a jobsite doing some preparation for some work that’s supposed to start tomorrow, hopefully finding a quick cache to fill up an empty space on my 366-day grid, then head to the office for the rest of the afternoon. It was the ‘finding a quick cache’ part that surprised me.

Earlier this week I took a look at the Geocaching.com website to see if there were any caches close to my jobsite. As luck would have it there was a series of seven along a walking path close by. According to the cache page, the path is known as the Whetstone Trail, which is one of several trails in the Atlanta area developed by the PATH Foundation.

I’ve heard many times that Atlanta still has a lot of trees for a city it’s size, and not just in parks and around residences but also in undeveloped patches of woodlands scattered in and around the city. I’m always sort of surprised when I step into one of those little patches and momentarily forget that I’m inside the city limits. As I stepped onto the boardwalk that carries the Whetstone Trail over a creek and through one such patch of woods I found myself surrounded by a lush green forest, probably no more than 100 to 150 yards wide…but wide and dense enough to hide the commercial and residential buildings on either side in places.


At first I hurried on toward the cache but as I walked I found myself slowing down to enjoy my surroundings…the bamboo patch, the writing spiders in the grass, leaves with the last of the morning dew still clinging to them. After I found the cache and signed the log I turned around to head back to the car…but this time I was in no particular hurry. As I reached the end of the boardwalk another feature caught my eye.


It’s not every day one finds a rocket in the woods. It was obviously part of an old playground but I couldn’t tell if it was part of a former park or just a forgotten fixture in someone’s back yard. If nothing else it was the inspiration for this blog entry. It usually pays to take a different PATH…

Posted in Day Hike, Day Trip, Geocaching, PATH, PATH Foundation, Whetstone Trail | 7 Comments

Yet More Wings…The Third Time’s the Charm!

If you’ve read my other two wings posts over the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed that our quest to find a new or different marinade or sauce recipe for wings hasn’t exactly met with resounding success. The recipes we’ve tried haven’t been ‘bad’, so to speak but they haven’t been anything to get excited about either. A few days ago I was reading Jason Griffin’s latest entry on his “Griffin’s Grub” blog about his attempt at making Alabama White Wings based on a recipe that his wife found in a recent issue of Southern Living magazine and found new inspiration.

I’ve heard of white sauces in conjunction with Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ restaurants in Decatur, Alabama and, like Jason, I have no experience with white barbeque sauces. So I spent a little time Googling up white sauce recipes and discovered that, in general, most consisted of a mix of mayo, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, black and cayenne pepper and salt. Some recipes also included onion, garlic, prepared horseradish, sugar, corn syrup or some other ingredient. I decided to try one particular recipe for Alabama White Barbeque Sauce that I found on About.com just because it was simple and used mostly ingredients that I already had on hand. The only thing I had to pick up was some ground black pepper.

Mixing up the sauce was a snap…measure the listed amount of each ingredient into a bowl, whisk, done. I gave the wings a sprinkle of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub and put ‘em on the Egg which was heated to about 400 degrees and set up for an indirect cook. Once on the grill, I gave the top side of the wings a coat of the sauce.


After about 20 minutes I gave ‘em a flip, painted the other side and let them go another 30 to 40 minutes. Rather than basting ‘em yet again I simply put a small bowl of the sauce on the table…just in case someone decided that the sauce wasn’t for them.

So how did they turn out?


Let’s call this one a home run…maybe not an ‘outta the park grand slam’…but a home run nonetheless. There was a good bit of the sauce left over so now that we know that we like it, it’ll get used at other times when we’re in the mood for a something different than a more traditional barbeque sauce. Many thanks to Jason for his post and inspiration!

Posted in Alabama White Sauce, Big Bob Gibsons White Barbeque Sauce, Buffalo Wings, Chicken Wings, White Barbeque Sauce, Wings | 4 Comments

A Different Sort of Adventure…

The MacMillan (on-line) Dictionary defines an adventure as “an exciting, unusual, and sometimes dangerous experience”. I’ve never been to a wine tasting so this was definitely an ‘unusual’ experience for me…and it was a bit ‘exciting’ to do something different and somewhat out of my comfort zone. As for dangerous…well, sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning these days can be dangerous so we’ll claim it for good measure.

Each year Main Street Newnan hosts more than a dozen different events in downtown Newnan, all aimed at getting area residents to visit Newnan’s Court Square and the immediately surrounding area.


Some events are annual events, some occur a couple of times a year and others are monthly or weekly. To tell the truth, we haven’t been very good about enjoying any of the downtown events since we’ve lived in the Newnan area. Like many folks these days, we’ve had a lot going on and sometimes we only realized something was happening in town when we read about it afterward in the local paper. Here lately, something has sparked an urge to get out and do something different…something unusual, for us anyway. Wait…did I say unusual? Maybe for…an adventure?

A week or so ago I overheard Ashley and ConnieLou talking about the Summer Wined-up, the annual wine tasting in downtown Newnan. Ashley’s friend Austin from YHC was coming into town for a few days and she mentioned to him that it might be fun to go. OK, I have to go off on a bit of a tangent here. It’s sort of a weird feeling when you realize that your first born is 21 and is now of legal drinking age…and is interested in going to a wine tasting. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. Anyway… the next morning, ConnieLou sends me a text asking me if I wanted to go. I responded that I thought it would be fun and the next thing I knew I received another text letting me know she had bought tickets for us. It was a good thing that we bought our tickets early as the event completely sold out prior to the day of the event.

Fast forward to Friday night…

After a really fun hour and forty-five minute ride home from work, we changed clothes, piled in the car and headed to town. We checked in at the registration table and got our ‘Over 21’ wrist bands…

Over 21

And our commemorative glasses…


And our program and map…


One of Newnan’s Finest was on hand to check our IDs to make sure we were legal. I couldn’t help but be a little bit amused as I don’t exactly look like I’m anywhere near 21 anymore, much less under 21. I haven’t been carded in years. Yeah I know, they were just obeying the law and checking everyone…but it was still amusing.

We checked out the program and map, decided which way to go first and then we were off…



Twenty-nine downtown businesses stayed open late to host the event. More than 30 different wines ranging from typical reds and whites to specialty blends and even mimosas were available for tasting. It was easy to tell that this was somewhat of a high-brow event as there wasn’t a bottle of MD 20/20 or Boone’s Farm to be found anywhere.


Most of the host businesses provided hors d’oeuvres to accompany the wines. The hors d’oeuvres generally consisted of cheese cubes and crackers and chips and dips but there were a couple of notable standouts. Meat ‘n Greet, a specialty burger restaurant just off the Square served up pimiento cheese sliders, The Alamo, a bar on the Square served pizza squares from Fabiano’s, located next door and Let them Eat Toffee, a specialty candy shop on the Square served samples of their candies.


Wines and munchies weren’t the only things on the agenda. There was a free jazz concert in the nearby Wadsworth Auditorium as well as the “Horses, Trains and Pick-Up Trucks, All Roads Lead to Newnan” art installation on the Square.

Art - Horse

Art - Truck

Art - Train

I kinda liked this particular train…

It took us about two hours to make a complete circuit then we wound up at Fabiano’s for supper. During our little adventure I learned a few things. First, I still don’t like red wines. I haven’t found one that agrees with my palette yet. Chardonnays…too dry. Moscatos…mostly too sweet. Pinot Grigio…these I like, not too sweet, not too dry. The mimosas…a fun switch! And the jalapeño-infused muscadine wine, well, let’s just say it was interesting, it wasn’t bad, but it’s certainly not something I’d want very often. All in all, I’m still not much of a wine guy. Craft beers are more my speed…and Oktoberfest on the Square is just a few short months away!

For more information about the Summer Wined-up and other Main Street Newnan events, check out their website at http://www.mainstreetnewnan.com/

Posted in Main Street Newnan, Newnan, Summer Wined-up | 2 Comments

A Quick History of Walasi-Yi


So how many of you have driven up Hwy 129 from Cleveland, GA, to Blairsville and noticed the old stone building on the right at Neel Gap? Back in the mid 80s when I was a student at Young Harris College I passed by on trips to home and back. I knew the building housed a small hiker store but never knew much else about it until just a few years ago. The folks at Mountain Crossings have given us a little lesson in its history. Check it out!

Originally posted on Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap:

Here at Mountain Crossings we answer a lot of customer questions about the history behind our shop. Its just the kind of place that seeps interesting tales and makes you wonder. For all those of you who are history buffs, this ones for you!

The building that stands nestled in Neel Gap is iconic in the state of Georgia and has a very colorful history to it that goes back long before white settlers came into the area. The Cherokee Indians were the first to settle the area. A small village formed just south of the gap, which they called Walasi-Yi, meaning home of the great frog. In 1883, the Cherokee inhabitants were forcibly removed during the tragic Trail of Tears and nothing remains of the village besides the name Frogtown Gap.

sites_vogel A tiny picture of Augustus Vogel and Fred Vogel Jr. who donated the land.

Several decade later, the parcel of land…

View original 443 more words

Posted in Appalachian Trail, AT, Backpacking, Hiking, Mountain Crossing, Walasi-Yi | Leave a comment

Goodbye YHC…

I guarantee a few folks just had a “Wait, what?” moment when they read the title. They’re wondering if I’ve gone mad and have decided to forsake my alma mater. No, I haven’t, but I thought it might be fun to make a few folks wonder…

OK, so what’s this entry really about? Well, it’s about new traditions and a day walking in the woods. Here’s the deal, over the last 3 or 4 years, a couple of new traditions have been started at Young Harris College. In short, at the beginning of each school year, members of the incoming freshman class hike the old wagon road from Brasstown Bald Mountain down to the YHC campus, a trip of about 7 1/2 miles. The hike to campus symbolizes their entrance into the Brasstown Valley and “the beginning of their YHC experience.” Conversely, in the spring during commencement week, members of the senior class hike from the campus up the old wagon road to Brasstown and gather for a picnic and Vespers Service in the parking lot below the mountain’s peak. The hike up the mountain symbolizes their leaving YHC to go on to further studies, to pursue careers or to otherwise chase their dreams.


This past year was Ashley’s senior year at YHC. Back around Christmas we were talking about graduation and such and Ashley asked me if I was going to hike the mountain with her. Of course, I told her that I would. I’ve hiked the mountain before, once up and twice down and I remembered down being much worse than up. Of course, the last time I hiked up was over 30 years ago when I had younger legs and a slightly less, ummm, let’s just say ‘robust’ physique.

Fast forward about five months to Thursday during commencement week in May. The hike up the mountain was set to start at 2:30 but a small group of us, made up mostly of faculty and students from the Biology Department, decided to start an hour early…and in the end, it was a good thing we did. The pace we set wasn’t overly fast but considering that nearly half of the elevation gain for the hike is in the first mile and a half, we were moving along pretty good…and building up a good dose of lactic acid in the legs as we went along.



The old wagon road enters the Brasstown Wilderness a mile or so up the trail from campus. We stopped at the wilderness sign for a photo op and a drink of water.

Wilderness Sign

Sign 2

One of Ashley’s bio professors, Dr. Schroeder, and Rev. Moore, the campus minister, caught up to us as we rested, Once we were moving again it became apparent that Dr. Schroeder and I hike at a very similar pace and Ashley and her classmate Hana hung with us as those with faster legs moved on ahead. At this point our little group was made up of three biologists and a geologist.

The Group

Needless to say, we made plenty of stops to look at plants, rocks and wild flowers in addition to rest stops, water breaks and stops at scenic overlooks. Though Dr. Arnold had moved on ahead, Ashley and Hana would have made Dr. Arnold proud as they pointed out almost every plant they knew the name of along the way.

Lady Slippers


Things were going along fine through the first four miles or so until I felt a twinge in my right calf, a twinge that steadily grew into a full-fledged cramp despite my efforts to stretch or rub it out. To make matters worse, it wasn’t long before both legs were cramping. Lactic acid is hateful that way. Now just to be honest, I had not prepared for this little adventure other than to eat a good breakfast and lunch before we left. I hadn’t hydrated during the week before the hike, nor had I done any hiking or walking other than the walking I do normally on any given day. Add in the early pace and I had pretty much set myself up for cramps. Fortunately stubbornness and determination took over and with a lot of starts and stops, water and a bottle of PowerAde, I made it through the next couple of miles. Once the cramps let up it was fairly smooth sailin’ the rest of the way up the trail with just a few stops to rest a bit and enjoy the views.

View 1

Destination 2


About a mile out I sent Ashley and Hana on ahead so they wouldn’t miss any of the Vespers service.

When I finally stepped into the parking lot I was met by ConnieLou and Jenna who were practically in tears. They were glad to see me…not so much because hiking the mountain was some major accomplish but more out of relief. Apparently someone had told them that early in the hike I was hiking with great difficulty and stopping a lot and was practically dead on the trail which, of course, conjured up visions of rescue teams and medevac helicopters and such…basically creating an unneeded panic when, in reality, I was fine.

We caught the end of the of the Vespers service and nibbled at a little bit of what was left of the picnic before enjoying a ride down off the mountain and enjoying a soak in a steaming hot Jacuzzi tub at the hotel.  THANK YOU Holiday Inn Express Hiawassee!!

Two days later the students that had gathered at the top of the mountain received their diplomas. Some said their goodbyes to YHC and others, like ConnieLou and I did 30 years ago, simply said “see ya soon” and began thinking of excuses to come back to visit.

Hana(Sorry Hana…Ashley made me do it!)



Posted in Brasstown Bald, Day Hike, Hiking, Old Wagon Road, Young Harris, Young Harris College | 2 Comments

7 Waterfalls Near Mountain Crossings


Like waterfalls? The folks at Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap have put together a list of seven waterfalls near their location that are worth checking out. Some are easy to get to, some not so much but are worth the drive and hike. I’ve been to 3 of the 7…now I need to go see the rest…

Originally posted on Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap:

North Georgia is famous for its waterfalls. The Cherokee Indians who first settled this area called it the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls”. Out of Georgia’s more than 200 falls, we can boast the 3rd, 4th, and 5th tallest falls in the eastern half of the United States. Even within a short proximity of Mountain Crossings, there are several great waterfalls to check out.

1) Upper Desoto Falls

How far from MTX: 4 min, 2 miles
Height of Falls: 200 ft.
Trail Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Upper Desoto Falls is the tallest of the three falls at Desoto Falls Recreation Area. The Middle and Lower falls are on a separate trail.

Desoto Click to enlarge

2) Helton Creek Falls

How far from MTX: 9 min, 3.8 miles
Height of Falls: 80 ft.
Trail Length: .25 miles
Difficulty: Easy

Helton Creek Falls is barely a hike…

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