It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to go play in the woods. Between summer’s heat and a case of plantar fasciitis showing up in my right foot in June, I haven’t gotten out much. Fortunately the weather is cooling and I’ve done the stretches the doctor told me to do, bought a couple of pairs of shoe inserts and wore the night splint and the foot is feeling a good bit better so it seemed like a good time to give it a test drive and see how it would hold up under a load over a few miles. I was in the mood to go to the mountains (OK, I needed a YHC fix) and the trail up to Raven Cliffs Falls seemed like just the ticket.
Ashley had a slow weekend at school so I asked her if she wanted to go and suggested that she invite Jared. I sweetened the deal a little bit by offering to come up Friday night and cook a pot of chili for Ashley, Jared, her roommates and a few of their friends. It was an offer they just couldn’t turn down.
I had to run out to Lake Oconee for work Friday morning but by 11:00 I was headed toward Young Harris. I planned to make a quick stop in Commerce for gas and some lunch but the stop got extended by a few minutes when I noticed a Lodge factory store that carried both Lodge cast iron and Big Green Egg products in the in the strip mall behind the Quick Trip on Hwy 441 near the Interstate. There was no way I couldn’t go in. Talk about being in heaven. I could have done some serious damage in there…but I didn’t and I got back on the road quickly before I gave in to temptation.
Once in Young Harris, me and Ashley hopped in her car and headed to town to get chili fixin’s. I didn’t know she was going to kidnap me, take me to Gibson’s and make me drink a peanut butter milkshake on the way back to the college.
As the chili cooked I has flashback of making pots of chili for ‘chili parties’ in the dorm during my own days at YHC. The chili must have been pretty good since more than half of a double batch disappeared and the kids were all piled up on the sofa, chairs and floor and nearly asleep while watching Gladiator on video.
Saturday morning I was up bright and early and ready to go. I wanted to be on the road by 10:00 so told Ashley and Jared to meet me at 9:00…hey, it wasn’t that long ago that I was in college myself and never got to bed early on a Friday night either. I took advantage of the spare time to repack my pack and ditch a few items that I decided that I didn’t really need and that were adding weight and taking up pack space.
By 11:00 we were pulling into the parking lot at the Raven Cliffs trail trailhead, loading up and getting ready to walk.
I’d read that bears were active in the area back in the spring, particularly around the large campsites near the parking lot. Guess they still are…
The 2 ½-mile trail back to the falls is generally described in most guides as easy to moderate with the exception of the last couple hundred yards leading up to the cliffs and the falls and I wouldn’t disagree. There were a few rocky and rooty patches and some little roller hills but overall it’s a nice trail and, as such, it gets a LOT of weekend traffic.
Once at the cliffs Ashley and Jared climbed the hill to see the upper falls back in the cliffs.
I’d been there before about 30 years ago so I stayed back at the base of the cliffs and let them have all the fun. OK, yeah, I wimped out. Get over it. We hung around below the falls for a bit, drank some water, had a snack and watched the expressions on other folks’ faces as they approached the hill up to the upper falls.
After a short break we headed back down the trail to find a campsite. We’d noticed several campsites with good trees on the way in. It’s sort of funny how one’s thought process of looking for a good campsite changes when camping in a hammock instead of a tent. Tenters want flat, level ground with no rocks or roots. Hammock campers just want two good trees, not too far apart and not too close. Ground not flat? No problem. Not level? No problem. Rocks and roots? No problem.
It didn’t take long to find a campsite with good trees about half a mile back down the trail from the falls. We were at one end of a huge campsite and we were all surprised that we didn’t have company by dark and we ended up having the whole place to ourselves. We set up camp, gathered up some firewood then got down to the important business of relaxing for a while before supper.
Don’t feed the bears!
The view from my hammock was pretty nice…
Ashley got to try her luck at boiling water to rehydrate her supper over a home-made alcohol stove and Jared was able to refine his technique a bit. Fortunately there were no melted freezer bags this time around and everybody was happy.
I got the fire going but we let it burn out after an hour or so…we were all ready for some hammock time and a good sleep.
I was up with the sun this morning but I let Ashley and Jared sleep in a bit…
Once they were up and moving we ate a Pop Tart and granola bar breakfast, packed up and headed back out, passing lots of day hikers heading in…and with the drive back to YHC, another fun weekend adventure came to an end (OK, except for telling the story).
So…how did the foot hold up? So far, so good, no major pain that I’ve noticed. The real test will be when I get out of bed tomorrow morning.