Saturday, May 30, 2009

2009-05-30 Three Forks Hike

Saturday, May 30th, 2009
Three Forks Hike
Somewhere in the far North-East Corner of Georgia where the Banjos play!

Chauga Bill posted a hike to the Upstate Hiking and Outdoor Adventure group:

I usually don’t like to drive this far for a dayhike, but it is getting to the point that if I want to check out new places, I have to travel a bit farther. This would definitely be a new place for me, as I have never even heard of Three Forks.

There were eight of us who RSVPed for the hike, but half the group cancelled at the last minute and we were down to four; Chauga Bill, his wife Marianna, Kelly and me. We met at the Wal-Mart in Seneca, SC.

Bill originally planned the hike as a shuttle hike, but that would require crossing one of the creeks, which Bill figured would be a difficult crossing due to all the rain we had lately. Since we wouldn’t need a shuttle vehicle, the four of us just piled into Bill Truck and drove up Hwy 28 towards Georgia.

If you pull up a topo map and find the far North East Corner of Georgia, Three Forks is the spot where Big Creek, Overflow Creek, and Holcomb Creek meet up to form the West Fork of the Chattooga River.

I wasn’t keeping track of mileage since I wasn’t driving, but coming from SC, about 2 miles south of the NC state line we parked at a large pull-off on the left side of the road, a short distance after the road crosses Big Creek. If you cross Talley Mill Creek you have gone too far. From the parking area we started the hike on an old logging road.

Almost immediately, the trail crosses Talley Mill Creek. If you have a 4x4 with good ground clearance you can actually drive this section, which Bill though about doing to avoid getting our feet wet so soon into the hike. But instead we just shed our shoes and walked through.

We continued hiking towards the west on the mostly level logging road. Lots of large puddles and quicksand like mud filled much of the trail. Several impressive sounding cascades could be heard far down the left bank.

We passed a 4-way intersection. To the left would take us down to Big Creek, which I plan to check out on a future hike. To the right, I believe would take us to a spot further North on Hwy 28. We continued on straight.

The next fork in the trail we stayed to the left, and at the third major fork at what Bill’s hiking book called a “Frog Pond”, which was actually more like a big puddle, we turned right and started descending towards Overflow Creek.

Bill had never done this section of trail so what follows would be new to all of us! We came to another fork and turned left continuing to descend down towards the creek where we emerged to find a pretty impressive waterfall. My map showed (3) waterfalls on this section of creek, but with the high water levels, we didn’t attempt to wade upstream or downstream to find the others.

Instead, we backtracked and hiked the trail in the other direction. This ended up upstream at a fairly flat section of creek. It looked like the trail continued on the other side, but we didn’t venture any further.

We were about 3/4 mile upstream from the Three Forks area. Rather than backtracking we decided to take the faint remnants of an old logging road downstream. My map did show a trail going this direction and we figured this old logging road was it. It started out pretty smooth, with just your normal deadfall that frequently falls across seldom-used trails.

But, it kept getting worse and worse and eventually we were pretty much bushwhacking. We knew we just had to keep heading downstream and we would eventually get where we wanted to go, but that is easier said than done.

We gave up on the bushwhacking and made our way down to the creek for a little creek walking. That worked well for a while, but eventually we got to a point where the creek got narrower which means the current got stronger. Bill decided to continue on in the creek, while I led the lady’s back up the bank for some more bushwhacking through the forest.

Eventually the bushwhacking got to be too much, so we made our way back down to the creek and reconnected with Bill.

The Rhododendron and Briars were too thick for easy bushwhacking, and the current was too swift for safe creek walking. However, none of us wanted to turn back. Bill pointed to the other side of the creek and said it looked a little easier over there, so we crossed the swift current and picked up some sort of fisherman’s trail.

That worked for a while, but eventually petered out and we found ourselves back in the creek. After about 3 hours of creek walking and bushwhacking we managed to travel that 3/4 of a mile and finally arrived at Three Points.

While bushwhacking and creek walking is definitely not for everyone, I had a blast! And we did pass by several nice cascades along Overflow Creek, which most people will never see.

About 2 hours behind schedule, we found a nice campsite and “stopped for lunch” and for some further exploration of Three Forks. It turned out that we could have done a shuttle hike since we were now across the creek that we didn’t plan on crossing.

There are some really nice small waterfalls and cascades on both Holcomb Creek and Big Creek just upstream from Three Forks, which we checked out. This required more creek crossings. One time the current swept me off my feet and I ended up taking a nice swim while trying to hold my camera bag above my head.

After a nice break, we crossed back over to the other side of the creek and picked up the main trail, which climbs steeply. Even though it was steep, it was still felt good to be on an actual trail.

We arrived back at the “Frog Pond” fork and the remainder of the hike was an uneventful, but fairly level and very relaxing hike back to Bill’s Truck.

Despite the unplanned bushwhack and creek walking (or maybe it was because of the unplanned bushwhack and creek walking), I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Thanks Bill for leading us on another adventure!

For the last three years I have been saying stuff like, “I gotta get back there when the water levels are higher”. This time I say, “I gotta get back there when the water levels are lower” Plus, a little cloud cover would have helped with the photography.

It was a beautiful bright and sunny day. Perfect for hiking, but definitely not for waterfall photography. Therefore my photos are rather snapshotish. However, they should still give you a feel for what the area has to offer, so here they are:

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