Sunday morning seemed to come too early. I awoke to the sound of pouring rain on the roof of my Land Cruiser around 3 a.m. The sound made me suddenly have to get up, get dressed and get outside the truck so I could find the bathroom! Everything was soaking wet outside and I was having a hard time seeing with my LED flashlight because the rain was coming down so hard. I got back in the Land Cruiser and crawled back into my bed…soaking wet from the rain.
I had fallen back to sleep quickly and woke up again around 6:30 a.m., well before anyone else did in the Wildcat campground. I got up and hopped out of my truck. My air mattress had lost all it’s air throughout the night, so my body ached from laying on the hard floor of the truck and I had to stretch and get moving. It was still fairly dark outside but the sun was just starting to get the sky light enough that I could see where I was going without aid from a flashlight. I could hear the creek across the road roaring from all the rain we’d had that night and then I remembered that I had my Nikon camera and decided to grab it and try my hand at some long exposure photos…we’ll see what happens.
Now, I’m no professional photographer, but I do enjoy experimenting with my camera to see what I can make it do. Here are a few photos of what I got that awesome, wet, foggy morning.
A couple of our campsite…
And then just a few fun ones…
After I got done playing with my camera, John had gotten up and we started getting everything packed away to go hit the breakfast joint we had planned on hitting. We knew it was supposed to be rainy saturday night, but thought it was going to be raining through the morning, so we didn’t plan for another breakfast.
We got everything packed away while the boys played down at the creek before we loaded in the trucks and made our way to the Old Batesville General Store for a most wonderful country cooked breakfast of hash browns, eggs, pancakes, grits and of course…biscuits and gravy!!! Let me just say this, if you’re in the area and are wanting a good breakfast, thats the place. I don’t know if it was just because we were so hungry or what, but it was some of the best food I’ve had in quite a while.
After a very hearty breakfast, we said our goodbyes to each other. If we went anymore west on the traverse, John would have to back track several hours to make it home that same day. So he headed home and I headed back to hop on the traverse. Now for some time by myself on the traverse. I was hoping I wouldn’t run into any trouble while out there since the cell service has been so spotty the entire route thus far.
So, from the general store, I headed towards Tray Mountain but decided to skip this part due to already traveling half way up the evening before. I bypassed this and stayed on the paved road. Eventually this paved route goes over the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway and is a fairly steep climb all the way up the curvy road. By the time I got near the top, it had gotten foggy again and I pulled over to get a picture. I wish I could’ve seen the view here, I’m sure it’s amazing.
When I got back on the road, I started descending the mountain on the other side. As soon as the descent is over, there’s a turn to the left onto Hatchet Creek Road. Well, I missed it and had to drive about a 1/2 mile and turn around. I made it back onto the correct route, and I’m sure glad I did! This starts out as a skinny little paved road and quickly turns into a gravel forest service road with a few pretty creek crossings and a nice waterfall right off the road. I first passed the waterfall up thinking it wasn’t going to be anything spectacular. As I was passing, I could barely see it through the forest and thought, why not stop and check that sucker out.
I threw it in reverse and parked at the little parking lot designated for the waterfall. There was only one other vehicle parked there. The hike to the falls was short but it did go down into a small valley and then ascended back up to the falls. It sure was nice to get out of the truck and stretch my legs a little
I only stopped for about 5 mins, then jumped back in the FJ and took off back down the traverse.
I kept pushing forward to get as much done as possible. The track goes north on Highway 129 and turns, with a hairpin turn to the left, onto West Wolf Creek Road that starts out paved and turns into gravel/dirt. This was another nice little section that was unexpected as it wound through the forest and you truly felt as though you were out in the middle of nowhere. It dumps out onto Wolf Pen Gap Road and you drive a short distance on the pavement before a right hand turn onto Duncan Ridge Road. At the beginning of this road, there was a sign that said road closed to thru traffic. So after a long debate, I decided to not head down this road just in case it was blocked so I wouldn’t have to back track miles and have to figure out a different way anyway. So I went ahead and figured out a detour around this section.
Well, needless to say, that didn’t work out as planned. I took Cooper Creek Road which parallels Duncan Ridge Road for the most part. There was a split and I decided to try to make it a short cut since all the maps I had on hand showed 2 roads connecting back to the traverse. That is not the case. Neither of these roads even exist, nor do they appear to have ever existed…maybe 100 years ago, but not within any recent memory. So I ended up on Flatlands Road, which is a nice road until it takes a drastic off camber, rutted drop. You can see in the photo below where my tires slid, even though I was not driving fast, it had a good downhill slope. Very hard to see in the photo, since it looks completely flat, but I assure you, it is not.
I normally wouldn’t shy away from such an awesome looking trail, but with it being so muddy and I was alone without any kind of cell coverage, I very reluctantly turned around and did the “safe” thing and back tracked back to the fork in the road and went the other direction where I finally caught back up with the traverse.
When the trail gets around Coopers Creek/Mulky Gap, there seem to be some nice looking primitive camping areas. They’re near a nice little creek and the roads aren’t bad, all gravel and not rough at all. From here, it gets onto Highway 60 for a while which is a nicely paved highway. Be careful though, you’ll miss your next turn if you aren’t paying attention.
It turns to the right onto Skeenah Gap Road, which is paved, and goes for a few miles. The next left isn’t marked well in reality, but if you’re paying attention to the gps/maps, you shouldn’t have a problem finding it. I was not paying enough attention and was looking at the church across the street from my turn as I passed it. The only reason I realized I had passed my turn, was because I remember seeing during my research, there was a small church across from the trail. Sure enough, there it goes, flying by. I get up the road and turn around, again, in a safe place to do so.
This trail ended up being another one I enjoyed. I passed another vehicle right at the beginning and I imagine they weren’t sure where they were going and needed to get out. It was a newer Chevy Equinox and they shouldn’t have been down that trail on that day. It was a complete muddy mess and there were several places that I thought I might need 4wd just to have traction, I’m pretty sure the Equinox was not 4wd. This trail got skinny as well, with several downed trees that I had to go around, leaving their marks on the side of the Land Cruiser as I passed by. This trail was interesting on this particular day because the weather was so wacky. One minute it was pouring down rain, the next it was bright and sunny. I stopped to grab a bite to eat real quick in the truck while the rain was falling. I continued on and passed one more vehicle on this trail, a new Chevy pickup. Not sure if he ever turned around because I wouldn’t have wanted to scratch it all up on the downed limbs.
When I got to the end of this trail, I had the decision to make whether I was going to continue on or just head to the house. It would be a 1.5 hour drive home from where I was or several more hours to stick to the traverse. I decided to go ahead and head home at this point. I was tired, it was going to be at least 6 p.m. by the time I got home if I stuck to the pavement and I was ready to get out of the truck. I hopped on highway 60 which took me to Blue Ridge, Ga and from there I meandered home through the Ocoee river road and various other main roads to the house.
I got home and immediately crashed on my leather chair. I recapped the weekend’s adventure and thought, “Once I rest for a couple hours, let’s do it again!” I’m ready to get out there again and have another adventure. There’s something about getting out there in the unknown and exploring, even if it’s right out your back door. These trails aren’t too far from me and I’ve never been on them. Why have I not? Good question, but I plan on getting out there more often in the future to find more of the beauty that’s out there.
“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” Irving Wallace