Monday, August 14, 2006

Camping Trip to Panther Creek

Last Thursday-Friday I went on a backpacking/camping trip with Sara. I'll save the pictures for last. The pictures are in no particular order. They were all taken with a shitty camera, and most by an incompetent camera operator (me). Higher resolution would be desirable, but I think that you guys are seeing them at full res.

So we headed out, after getting everything together. We bought gas, water, gatorade, and batteries at a gas station. It was easy driving, but when we got to the start of the trail we found out that the trail was closed. I think that the rangers finally went down the trail, from reports it is as bad as it was last year after the severe weather, so we COULD have hiked it. We decided to go to the other side of the trail. Panther Creek Trail is point to point, about 5.5 miles (or so they say. 3.5 miles to the falls the way I normally go, and 2 miles the other way. So we head off with vague directions, "go north on 184 from Toccoa, stay on 184 as it becomes Yonah Dam Rd, and take a left onto Panther Creek Trail." We get to the town of Toccoa and end up stopping at the local museum/information place. We get a local (town) map, and a slightly more useful area map that gets us on 184. We took Alt 17 from US 441 to Toccoa.

Once on 184, we found the point where it becomes Yonah Dam Rd. 184 continues into South Carolina, and we ended up about 500 ft into South Carolina before we turned around. In taking Alt 17 south, we went by Tallulah Gorge and stopped at that store with a view of the gorge. So you go down Yonah Dam Rd, and I start singing the song from Deliverance with the Banjo. We go down the road until it ends (at Yonah Dam) and can't find Panther Creek Rd. We pass this road that we thought could be it, but all it had was sign to some weird Baptist church. We go back to where 184 and Yonah split. That is the first place we could get cell reception. I called Matt O. , but maps don't go to deliverance country. The sherif came by, and ended up showing us where to go. He starts driving and turns down the street with the Baptist Church by Pastor (something). I start wondering if we are going to be dinner for the north georgia church canibals. Is the Sherif in on it?

We finally find the start of the trail, and some people are camped out right there. We start down the trail, and after maybe an hour run into an old man. He didn't make it to the falls, and warned us about a big hill. There are many millipedes on the trail. We start up this hill.


Think of your worst stair master experience. At the end of it, add a turn. As you pass the turn, add MORE HILL. It wasn't that bad, but it was a looooong way up. It wouldn't have been so bad, if it was up and down, but it was up. and up. and up. As we are fighting the hill, loud thunder almost became drum beats driving us forward. The sky looked ominous, but luckily we never got wet. We got to the falls and no one wass there. We setup camp with the new tent that my mom bought and change into swimsuits to swim. We hiked up the trail a bit, to get to the "top" of the falls, but decided that the swimming was better in the big "pool" at the bottom of the falls.

Sara and I went to the sandy area and tested the water. It was sort of cold and we waded for a bit. I spent the time gathering courage to dive into the unknown dark water where you could not see the bottom (or the Panther Creek Falls Monster). We ended up swimming to the sand bar in the middle of the pool, and then to the falls. We hung out in the falls, holding onto the slippery rocks and moss.

Ate, played cards, and decided to remove the rain fly. That way you could see the trees and sky in the tent. It did not look like it was going to rain, and we were feeling brave. A couple around our age showed up from the "closed" side. We didn't notice them for a while, we were in the tent hanging out and hiding from the mosquitoes (I forgot the DEET). I got out to talk to them, and asked about the trail. Seems like we could have taken that route, I bet it was not much worse than last year.

We found some crawfish claws on a rock, so I took a picture of them. In the morning we packed up and headed out. The big hill uphill became the big hill down hill. This is when we decided to record the slope of the hill, using a water bottle and my knife. About half way through we met three older men that were going to the falls. I warned them about the hill, but I don't think they listened. Lots of spiderwebs in the morning when you are hiking, I swished a stick in front of me to get them before they hit my face. We brought plenty of water, and had extra when we stopped. We went back to Atlanta the way that we came.

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