Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rivers...rain and complacency

Toccoa River Canoe Trail

 No doubt we live in an age of complacency!...Folks live more comfortably now than any other time in the past. Everything seems to get bigger, faster and just mo-better in general by the week.  I feel like I lead a pretty modest life...we are a single income family, I burn wood for heat, have old cars and trucks that are paid for, I have to repair my washer and dryer about once every three months....don't get me wrong, I'm not poor mouthing, this is the life we choose to live. I could go out and finance a new and improve, front loading hi-efficiency, does everything, save the world kinda washer and dryer (this thing is worth more than my truck)....but why would I? I could just buy propane for the central heat in our home, not fool with the hard work of splitting wood for the stove...but why would I? ...hard work and hard times build character right? all that being said, before you click the X in the top right corner of your screen because you think I'm being a touch holier than thou, I'll have confess, I am not immune to the magnificent things modern society has to offer.
 Big ol flat screen...yeah, I got could I  watch them DAWGS play if It wasnt in HD?!!! lawnmower is self propelled, I do indeed have a smart phone in my hey...Im not a total neanderthal here....Reckon I took the long way around to say this...I like a challenge....sometimes I take the hard way just because...and I do not like complacency. Unfortunately it sneaks its way into  life from time to time unrecognized until booom!...out of nowhere it rears its ugly ol head...speaking of heads.. ..this thing is growin a head of its own here, so lets get on with about some pics.

 Toccoa River Canoe Trail....about a 14 mile trip down the Toccoa river, from Deep Hole Campground to Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area. This trip has been on the agenda for quite awhile now...a few of us at work have studied on doing this 3 or 4 times, even pinning down a date only to have it fall thru. Thinkin we may just stop along the way....pitch our hammocks and finish the trip the next day, we decided to just paddle it out and camp there at Sandy Bottoms where we would have chairs to sit in and a pick-nick table to eat at.
 Loading up the old trusty stead with the kayaks, dutch oven, firewood and a few dry bags, we fueled up and headed toward Dial to set up camp and meet ol Hugh.

3 things you can count on..Taxes, dying, and this old truck
                After all the shuffling about we arrived at Deep Hole and shoved off down the river.

Deep Hole just ask,  +Jason Byers

This is a great river for beginners or people who like the majority of their trip slow and steady. A few sections have some class 2 rapids, and maybe a class 3, but for the most part is was easily negotiated and allowed for plenty of relaxing and even some fishing.

Hugh murderin worms
Best I can recall there were about three blow we just stepped over another we were able to pass under and the third was the worst of em, we had to jump out and carry our boats about 50 feet along the bank, no big deal tho.

only place we had to exit the river
gettin back in the water wasnt to difficult
after meanderin for quite a while we found a great spot to have lunch and relax, not to far ahead we had some pretty decent rapids to negotiate.

Hugh the kayak guru and +Jason Byers the river rat
The Benton Mackaye trail winds thru this part of the country, hopefully we'll get a chance to thru hike it sometime next summer. BMT crosses the Toccoa on a high swingin type bridge, and there seemed to be quite a crowd growing to watch folks shoot the rapids just beyond this bridge.

Benton Mackaye Trail
 Making it thru the biggest rapids of the day unscathed, I had to take a few min to sponge the water out of my boat, not having a spray skirt I took on a little water in this section. For the next few miles the water got deeper and slower. From here the river would wind thru private land, public land, and some pastures...plenty of great scenery.

Old Dial Bridge

 It got pretty wet from here on out....the last hour or so of our trip a steady rain started, and by the time we reach the takeout at Sandy Bottoms we had paddled in a full on down pour for about 45 min, it was a great time tho, all said and done we had been at it for about 6 hours.

I shuttled Hugh back to Deep hole to get his van, when I got back to Sandy Bottoms we decided to load everything up in the rain and head back to the house...being wet and cold, the thought of a warm shower and a dry couch trumped a damp hammock and cooking in the rain. Yet again complacency has robbed me of another night sleeping in the woods..just like I figured, when my belly was full and I was good and warm, I got to thinkin how I wish we woulda just stayed. ...I think I may be getting use to the comforts of home, reckon I'll have to do something about that.

Next time you get a chance to step out of your "comfort zone", I hope you dive in and paddle your way to a little bit of adventure...don't be complacent...I know I wont!!

-saw em

Friday, August 16, 2013

Trip Report: Jumping Gaps and incidental slack-packing

Hogpen Gap to Neels Gap

Seems like lately these section hikes we plan as overnighters turn into incidental slack-packing trips. I reckon as the amount of mileage a man can endure increases,  his need to set up camp for a 15 to 20 mile section  decreases. Throw in an intense hunger, living close to the trail and a little missing the family and you have a recipe for slack packing. Sleeping out in the woods is one of the best parts about backpacking, and the last couple of trips I have missed it, but with a great desire to spend time with my family these trips will fuel my outdoor needs till our little family is old enough to go along with. 
This short little 6.6 mile jump from  Neels Gap to  Hogpen Gap is all that was keeping us from checking Georgia off the list (and had been for some time) Originally the plan was to shoot on over to Neels from Hogpen head back north to the half way point and pitch camp early, that would have left us with a short hike out just in time for some sausage, eggs and grits. Up to this point we have been northbounders on our section hikes, this time we decided to hike south...cant give you a good reason as to why tho.
Pulling in to Hogpen early that morning we were greated by a round fellow from "Atlanta"...he commenced to telling us all there is to know about backpacking, equipment and all other means of outdoor knowledge...I'm still convinced he would have a hard time walking to the mailbox, but I would guess he's way to important to do so anyway....guess I'll exit this topic, but it will never cease to amaze me about the "experts" from the city I run into on the trail that seem to think I know nothing about the woods where I live, hunt, fish and roam...maybe its my own fault for just minding my manners and hearin folks out. Hopefully one day I'll bump into to someone who can give me some tips and advice on grammer and thats something I could use!

This trip was fairly uneventful.....we ran into a couple of nice fellows that were also from Atlanta, they seemed pretty tired after just a few miles in, but were very excited this being their first time out. While we talked with them for a bit It was warming up and the black flies seem to be out in abundance.

We meandered down the trail taking our time hearing a boom of thunder every now and again and figuring on getting wet just about anytime. Next thing ya know we were dropping off into Neels gap just like that.

+Jason Byers Cowrock Mountain

Levelland Mountain View

Borrowing the picnicking tables at Mountain Crossings we sat down for a was kinda nice having a cold coke-a-cola with lunch on the trail for a change. Watching people come in and out of the store and parking lot was dang amusing to..this one poor kid was car sick from riding over the Mountain....he was standing next to his parents car gagging. A couple of dudes that work in the store were standing at the door chanting puke...puke ...puke!!!...I couldn't help but laugh, and at the same time I couldn't help but to feel sorry for the kid. Thinkin back it reminded me of my childhood, riding threw the smokies in 70 chevelle with a old starcraft pop-up in tow, sittin on hot vinyle seats with a coloring book in my lap thinking oh laaawd im gonna ralph..... I always choked it down tho, knowin my dad wouldn't be so happy with vomit all over that fine automobile.I sure do appreciate  the way that man put up with all kinda nonsense to get us outside and take us camping.

Jason B @ Neels Gap

Not long after lunch wrapped up the bottom fell out! was a bonafide  frog strangler! We duct under the breezeway and were no worse for the wear...still dry as a bone, dumb luck it happened that way..pure capitol D-umb luck. Talked to some good people waiting out the rain, a few hikers, a few bikers and even some cyclist riding the six gaps. After the rain slacked up a bit we donned our pack covers and took off back up the mountain. We stopped and studied on setting camp a couple of times but it was so early we just couldn't bare the thought of sitting around for hours on end with nuthin to do. Making camp at the shelter back where we started seemed like the thing to do. 

Wildcat Mountain

After coming back across Levelland Mountain and such, we took a right and headed down to the shelter, it was a mile and a half of the trail but it seemed like 10!...I will not be making that trip ever again, and I would advise such to anyone who asks my aint worth it! To ice the cake on this whole shelter soon as we walked up there were to old dudes snuggled up in the shelter by its 90 degrees in July in the south at 5:30 of the  afternoon...and here sets a couple of guys in sleepin bags zipped up to their ears. I may not be the smartest cat you'll ever run across but c'moooon!!!..GOOD GOD MAN!!!...if that's your thing great!...but keep it at the house, or a motel!.,..nobody wants to see that garbage. It didn't take but a min to decide there were no suitable trees for hammocks, so we were on our way, heading back out to the truck..and gladly so might I add. 

Whitley Gap Shelter

Back at the truck we loaded up and headed down the hill to Huddle House in Blairsville, not being satisfied by that we skipped across the road to top off the pattie melts that were just consumed with some Zaxbys chicken and a milkshake. It was a good day, met some great folks..good hiking and good fellowship.
This is a great section to hike, not to hard, but not to easy and you can make it as long or short as you like. hiking.. thru-hiking...whatever your method, get out there and get some dirt under your  feet!

-Saw em