Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fletcher Peak Approach - 5/31/11

Well, sometimes the best made plans simply can't come about. Our hike to Fletcher Peak, today, was aborted at the Fletcher Peak / North Loop junction. Eighteen hikers were disappointed yet understanding on the hike coordinator's decision to turn around. The harsh strong northwest winds and the increasing amounts of residual snow on the trail made the hike not only difficult but somewhat precariously dangerous.

We hiked just under five miles and climbed around 1600 feet in elevation using the North Loop Trail from Deer Creek Highway. After the last switchback from the meadow, snow covered the trail and sent us scrambling along the ridge above. We came down onto the Raintree portion of the trail and the wind hit us pretty hard. Fletcher Peak just wasn't meant to be hiked by us today. Tuesday's and Thursday's hikes for the 7th and 9th of June are changed because of conditions. Please note the new schedules to be listed on the right of this page.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Atlanta Area Walks & Hikes 2011 (Updated 2013)

Being from the Atlanta area, (born and raised in Marietta, Georgia), the writer recently made a trip back to visit family. Wanting ... and needing ... to stay in some kind of shape, (with so much sitting in the car on the road trip), she took three decent walks / hikes that were easily accessible around Atlanta. For "real" hikes, the hiker needs to travel at least an hour or two into the mountains of north Georgia, however, within the metropolitan area, we have several ways for Atlantans to stay fit.

One of the most popular places to go is Stone Mountain. Its carving is seen in the photo above. The hike up to the top (1.3 miles one way with a 786 foot gain in elevation) and the walk around the mountain (the Cherokee Trail at 5 miles) are both fun. The writer has been hiking up the mountain since she was a little girl ... long time ago ... and even remembers when you could drive up to the top in a jeep!

Another historic park is the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. The hike up this mountain is 1.4 miles with 700 feet of elevation gain. If you keep hiking over the peak, the trail continues over Little Kennesaw Mountain and through the Cheatham Hill area. Seventeen miles of trail are found in the park. This was another frequently visited place during the writer's childhood. Wikipedia sums up the battle fought here as follows: The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, fought here between General William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union army and Joseph E. Johnston of the Confederate army, took place between June 18, 1864, and July 2, 1864. Sherman's army consisted of 100,000 men, 254 cannon and 35,000 horses, while Johnston's army had only 50,000 men and 187 cannon. Much of the battle took place not on Kennesaw Mountain itself, but on Little Kennesaw and the area to its south. 5,350 soldiers were killed during the battle. The battle resulted in a Confederate victory.

Below are some more beautiful places to walk and hike which are not too far away from suburbs of Atlanta. For more, visit a site the writer stumbled upon while writing this entry: www.atlantatrails.com

Little Mulberry Park

Little Mulberry Park is found in Gwinnett County. The day we visited, there were many other people enjoying the park. We hiked / walked around 8 miles on paved paths, equestrian trails and hiking trails. We saw a few types of water fowl and a black king snake. We heard that sometimes you can also see deer. The purple thistles were blooming every where. To get there, it is an approximately 30 minute drive up I-85 from I-285 to the Hamilton Mill Road exit #120. See the internet for further directions. There are three entrances to the park.

Big Creek Greenway

The Big Creek Greenway is settled in the Northpoint Mall area of Alpharetta, Georgia. The eight foot wide concrete path is a total of 6.2 miles long. Great for roller blading, biking, jogging or just plain walking. It strolls along residential areas and Big Creek which is a large muddy creek overgrown with vines, foliage and fallen trees. One of the best parts of the trail is the small herd of deer who reside among the tall grass. They look very healthy this year!

Cochran Shoals (Chattahoochee River NRA) and Sweetwater Creek State Park
Two other walks / hikes that may be recommended by the writer are Cochran Shoals, part of the Chattahoochee River NRA, and Sweetwater Creek State Park. The former is a 3 mile fine gravel trail along the Chattahoochee River located north of the I-285 bridge between Northside Drive and Windy Hill Road on Interstate North Parkway. The trail is popular with joggers, bikers and walkers. Views of the large river are spectacular as it flows over the shoals in the area.

Sweetwater Creek Trails boasts 9 miles of hiking trails along a decently wide flowing creek as seen in the photo above. The State Park has history from the Native American Cherokee Nation and later mills located on the creek. There are ruins from one of the mills which include a large water wheel. It is located in Douglas County around 15 miles from Atlanta out the I-20 West. Exit at Thornton Road, exit #44.

Sope Creek

Sope Creek, located in Marietta off of Paper Mill Road, has a wonderful system of trails for hikers and bikers. These trails also connect to the Cochran Shoals system of trails as Sope Creek empties into the Chattahoochee River in this area. In addition to the large wide creek, the trails also pass by a quiet pond as seen in the photo above. The map below should give you an idea of the park.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fletcher Canyon - 5/16/11

Around fifteen hikers came out for Fletcher Canyon in the Spring Mountain NRA today. It was a chilly morning but the wind was at a minimum and the exertion in the 7000 foot elevation range warmed us up quickly. As we delved into the forest of pine and juniper, we relaxed into a nice easy pace with Rosie strongly in the lead for her first time.

The sound of rushing water reached us even before we saw the wash to the side of the trail. There was a lot of water coming down from the canyon. Soon we began crisscrossing the stream which ran about a foot deep in some places. We saw only one patch of snow which resided next to one of the canyon walls as we entered the slot area. Some of the stream crossings were necessary to avoid brush that had crossed the path over the snowy winter.

Making our way up the water filled slot canyon was the highlight of the morning. Several steps had to be made in about two inch deep flows. Small waterfalls were everywhere but soon, we found ourselves at the Obstacle Rock area. A large waterfall flowed to the right of Obstacle Rock but after further inspection, we found that there was no water falling through the rabbit hole. After coming over this ten foot fall, the water swirled down through the trough and shot out the end with about a two to three foot span.

We sat here to take our break and delightedly watched the water all around us. A few hikers explored the rabbit hole area but no one really wanted to climb up and get wet for the hike back. After starting back through the slot, we met up with two more hikers from the club who had missed the meeting at the casino because of morning traffic. They continued up to Obstacle Rock and we made our way back down through the water.

The hike was fun and exciting. The weather was beautiful. And, Rosie did a great job arranging for all the water coming down off of the mountain!... Well, okay, she didn't arrange for it but we did enjoy it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Harris Slot Canyon - 5/14/11

The full Around the Bend Friends contingent arrived at the Spring Mountain NRA today for the first Saturday hike in the higher elevations. Thirty- six hikers trudged through the rocks for a six mile out and back hike at the Harris Slot Canyon whose trailhead is located at the corner of Kyle Canyon Road and Harris Springs Road. We were hiking just above the 5000 foot elevation mark. It was a beautiful albeit slightly warm day with a cool wind sliding off of a snowy Mt. Charleston peak.

After circling the wagons in the parking lot, we headed out Harris Springs Road and turned right before the incline. This led us to the tall slot made of caliche as seen in the first and last photo. All of the canyon walls in this area are made of the composite rock and Wikipedia gives us these details:

Caliche is a sedimentary rock, a hardened deposit of calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate cements together other materials, including gravel, sand, clay, and silt. It is found in aridisol and mollisol soil orders. Caliche occurs worldwide, generally in arid or semiarid regions, including in central and western Australia, in the Kalahari Desert, in the High Plains of the western USA, and in the Sonoran Desert. Caliche is also known as hardpan, calcrete, kankar (in India), or duricrust. The term caliche is Spanish and is originally from the Latin calx, meaning lime.

A small herd of healthy deer were spotted on the side of the canyon.

Caliche generally forms when minerals are leached from the upper layer of the soil (the A horizon) and accumulate in the next layer (the B horizon), at depths of approximately 3 to 10 feet under the surface. Caliche generally consists of carbonates in semiarid regions, while in arid regions, less soluble minerals will form caliche layers after all the carbonates have been leached from the soil. The calcium carbonate that is deposited accumulates, first forming grains, then small clumps, then a discernible layer, and finally a thicker, solid bed. As the caliche layer forms, the layer gradually becomes deeper, eventually moving into the parent material, which lies under the upper soil horizons.

However, caliche can also form in other ways. It can form when water rises through capillary action. In an arid region, rainwater will sink into the ground very quickly. Later, as the surface dries out, the water below the surface will rise, carrying dissolved minerals from lower layers upward with it. This water movement forms a caliche that tends to grow thinner and branch out as it nears the surface. Plants can contribute to the formation of caliche as well. The plant roots take up water through transpiration, leaving behind the dissolved calcium carbonate, which precipitates to form caliche. Caliche can also form on outcrops of porous rocks or in rock fissures where water is trapped and evaporates. In general, caliche deposition is a slow process, but if enough moisture is present in an otherwise arid site, it can accumulate fast enough to block a drain pipe.

We made our way through deep narrow washes up through the wide caliche canyon and stopped for our break at the "outdoor antique car museum" on the hillside suspitiously accumulated below an old dirt road on the cliff above. There were other things in the museum like a washing machine, hot water heater, cement mixer and, yes, a kitchen sink! What a find! At any rate, it was kind of fun looking at all the old stuff and starting to feel old ourselves ... okay, that part wasn't fun.

After our break, we left Mr. Spiny Back Lizard to his sunning on the warm old tire and returned through the canyon and slot to our cars. It was easier finding good routes through the washes on the way down than it was on the way up. Logically, many routes from a higher point converge to one route that goes through the slot. Great day! Great hike!