Often my adventures are a bit of a drive, usually an hour and a half to two hours. While this time is okay for all day adventures, sometimes I only have an afternoon, or I just don’t feel like driving that far. A while ago, I found myself with a free afternoon and beautiful weather. I searched for a new place to explore, but with the caveat that it had to be close by. Sope Creek, a unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, fit the bill perfectly since it is only 30 minutes away.
Those of you who know me well, know that I go mountain biking. Often. Most weekends in fact. However, I have somehow managed to not write a blog post about mountain biking!
My guess is that I generally write blogs posts when I have pictures, but I usually don’t take as many pictures (or any at all) when I go adventuring with friends. On my own, I often remember to take pictures, mostly so I can share them with friends and family after my adventure. Conversely, when I’m out with other people, I am usually just enjoying the moment. Since I almost always go riding with my dad, I don’t tend to take pictures.
In anycase, my dad and I went riding at Tribble Mill Park on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. It’s pretty awesome having Dad as my biking buddy. Anytime I want to ride, chances are he was alreadying planning on riding that day and would love for me to come along.
Although we do not ride at Tribble Mill all that often, we do have an established route that we customarily take. This time though, when I asked Dad about a Sunday ride and suggested we ride at Tribble Mill, he declared that it would be an exploratory ride! He wanted to check out all the trails that he didn’t know where they went. So with that in mind, not knowing how long of a ride I was in for, I set off at an easy pace.
We began by taking our usual route, which starts off with a slow, gradual climb. We had not ridden at Tribble Mill in a long time, so our memory was a bit rusty. After successfully navigating several intersections (there are lots of intersections here, but no signage at all!), we breezed through a conglomeration of intersections. We made a wrong turn somewhere! Dad and I recognized a bridge that we typically don’t encounter until much later in the ride, so we turned around and rode uphill on a different path. Popping out at a previously ridden section of the trail, we did some backtracking and re-riding before I found the missed turn! It was the first turn in the conglomeration.
In good humor, we were exploring after all, Dad and I continued on our route. If we had continued without turning around when we missed the turn, we would have cut out a huge chunk of trail.
Every now and then, we came to an intersection, where Dad would question “I wonder where that goes” and thus, we followed the trail to find out. Unfortunately, the unknown trails just lead us back to portions we had already ridden, effectively making them shortcuts between sections. The only new bit we added, was to include the trail around the lake. I suppose that means that the route we usually take is pretty good already.
In the end, Dad and I rode down the shoals and reminisced about the numerous trips we took when I was a child. I remembered back before there was a playground nearby. We had to ride through a giant field, where the playground is now. There was a huge “elbow” tree that we always stopped at. My sister and I used to beg my dad to pick us up so we could sit in the tree. Then, after playing there for a bit, my family and I would ride the rest of the way to the shoals, where we took an even longer break to play in the water.
The trail now seems so short, but as a child, getting to the shoals was had work! Even still, I have the desire to play. If it was still warm outside, I probably would have splashed in the shoals for a bit. After a break for fond memories, Dad and I left the shoals to ride back to the car. All told, we rode 12 miles that day.
There was a last minute change of plans. Originally, Tyler and I were planning on spending Thanksgiving weekend with Nancy, like we did last year. We packed up our bags Wednesday night and left for Tyler’s parents’ house. They had agreed to watch Gauss for us. We spent Wednesday night with them so we could have Thanksgiving lunch with Tyler’s family at the Smith House in Dahlonega.
Just like last year, Tyler and I drove to Dahlonega with all our things to visit Nancy in D.C. We enjoyed tons of tasty food at the Smith House: turkey, ham, fried chicken, green beans, fried okra, cream corn, sweet potatoes, cranberry relish, collard greens, mashed potatoes, sweet tea, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. After stuffing ourselves, Tyler and I hit the road.
We had been driving for about two hours, when I got a phone call from Nancy. She was sick! And had been for a few days. She had hoped that she would feel better by the time we were supposed to visit, but unfortunately, she was still not feeling better. Getting ready for our arrival really took a lot out of her, which made her realize that she was not going to be up for walking all over the city with us or staying up for long chats over tea.
Nancy still offered her place, if we wanted to come visit and go about the city ourselves, but Tyler and I decided it was best if we turned around. We weren’t very far into the drive. Additionally, as nice as it to explore D.C. we did see much of the city last year. We were really going up to visit Nancy. If she is ill, there would’t be much visiting, or at least there shouldn’t be much visiting so she can get better and Tyler and I can stay well.
As we began our journey home, Tyler and I wondered what we should do with our newly unplanned Thanksgiving break. The weather reports were predicting beautiful weather, sunny with a high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Tyler suggested making a trip up to Rocktown, and I jumped on the idea! Rocktown is a popular destination for bouldering in LaFayette, GA. It is part of the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area, so a GORP pass is necessary. Luckily, I had bought a small group annual pass last spring. Tyler and I have been to Rocktown a few times before. The rock formations there are awesome! The boulders are made of sandstone, so erosion from water has created very unique features, which make for good hand and foot holds. It is my favorite place to climb outside (admittedly, I’ve only climbed outdoors one other place).
As we drove home we called some of our friends to see if anyone was interested in joining us, but predictably everyone else had plans. Since it was just the two of us, and we didn’t have to coordinate plans with anyone else, Tyler and I slept in the next morning. This lead to a later start than originally planned, but again, with just the two of us, we could relax and go at our own pace. We ate lunch on the way up, and arrived at the parking lot around two.
At first I was a bit nervous. Driving down the gravel road to the parking lot, we saw a ton of cars parked on the side of the road. I was worried that it would be super crowded. My fears turned out to be unfounded. It seemed as though about half of the people we encountered were just strolling through the rocks, looking at the beauty of them, with no intention of climbing.
We hiked about a mile or so to some of the boulders farther back. We went straight to a little alcove-esque area that had some rocks I wanted to climb, but did not have the chance to the time before. Tyler and I spent a good bit of time here. It was secluded, quiet, and had some interesting things to climb!
There were some really tall rocks that look like they’d be such fun to climb. However, we don’t have the equipment, nor do we know how to lead climb or set anchors, so we settle for just admiring them. The super tall rocks also provide fun challenges of the horizontal, rather than vertical variety.
When we finished climbing everything that caught our eye in the immediate vicinity, we gathered our stuff and hiked to the next area with promising looking boulders. We did this several times, slowly making our way back toward the front.
At the front, we climbed a boulder that I return to everytime I visit Rocktown. It presents a good challenge. The way that water has eroded the rock makes for solid footing, but the handholds are all sloping. You have to practice trusting your feet.
We made it to the front boulder fields with enough sunlight left for a few more climbs and the walk back to the car. The video below shows my last climb of the day. Full disclosure, I had just fallen on this route right before this video was taken, so I was pretty excited when I made it up without a hitch. Hence my excited arms in the air (but really arm in the tree!) celebration.
After nearly four hours of climbing, hiking, shoe donning, and shoe removing we were tired! As we walked back to the car, we watched the beautiful sunset through the trees: a wonderful ending to a wonderful day.