Hello again fellow adventurers! You may have noticed my long absence over the last part of Summer. I did not give up hiking rather an injury that I made worse through stubbornness prevented me from doing anything physical. Lessons learned: 1) When you have a sport injury, see a sports doctor not a regular doc. 2) When you have a groin PULL do not wait two weeks and immediately jump back into exercising full strength. This results in a complete groin tear and a pelvic stress fracture. I am indeed a genius.
I actually did my first hike since completing my recovery in September but it was a quest I’ve already done before. Sweetwater Creek State Park, which will always be my go-to hiking place when I want something easy and fun. My first hiking quest back was not as serene as I thought it might have been. Yellow Jackets are an incredibly horrible stinging, alien, nightmarish insect. In case you didn’t know that. I’ll say it again, Yellow Jackets are alien creatures set upon the earth to annihilate humans not paying attention in the woods. I must say that all the zombie training I have had paid off because I ran from those alien horrible insects like they were a zombie horde. Four stings to the leg, three to the arm and one on my finger. Yes, my finger.
So now that you all know the story behind my brief absence and learned a valuable lesson through me about paying attention when hiking. Let’s begin with my first real quest back from the “dead”, Black Rock Mountain State Park. Now there are a lot of trails to do at this park but we did the Edmonds Backcountry Trail. I’ll get to the trail in a moment but lets to the customary introduction of the state park.
Black Rock Mountain State Park is up in North Georgia and depending on the way you go, you’ll actually pass Tallulah Gorge. It’s located in Mountain City and is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s the highest state park in Georgia. There are several overlooks including an amazing overlook shown below which is right at the visitor center.
On a clear day you can see Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The park has four additional peaks over 3,000 feet. The park was established in 1952 and at the time was just 1,000 acres. Over the years the park has acquired more land through various donations and programs. There are five hiking trails in the park. If you take the Rock Trail it crosses Black Rock Mountain’s north slope and follows the Eastern Continental Divide.
Out of all the trails myself and two fellow-questers choose, we did Edmonds Backcountry Trail. Now we knew that it was going to be a hard trail, in fact, many websites list this trail as the hardest hiking trail in Georgia. A friend of mine who had recently done the hike warned of two-day leg pain, I find this was completely accurate. The last mile of the hike I honestly didn’t think I would make it. I started questioning my existence. Wondering if maybe I should evaluate my life goals. I work out six days a week. And not just a little 30 minute walking and light weights, I mean actual manly-like exercises. I workout like my life depends on it because the zombie apocalypse is nigh. I can leg press more than most of the guys at the gym. That being said, my fellow quester who has a steady diet of beer and pizza and does not work out, did the trail with moderate difficulty. He isn’t human and I won’t hike with him again because he’s a freak of nature. Rant over.
We were confident that we could kick this 7.2 mile hike. A few websites I looked at says that the trail is 6.25 mile loop but the state park and my GPS tracker said 7.2 miles. Not sure where the extra mile comes into play but just don’t expect 6.25 miles. The hike is extremely difficult because of steep rise and fall of elevations to get to the summit of Lookoff Mountain (not to be confused with LookOUT mountain). The trail is mostly a romp through the woods and over fallen logs. When you start to hear water, keep a look out for tiny waterfalls that make for some great photos. You might have to deck under brush to reach them but it’s worth it.
At the start of the trail you’ll go down some steep changes before coming to an intersection. Take the right to continue through the loop counter-clockwise. I can’t say that the trip up to the summit was very hard because it was the first half of the loop and you really feel confident in yourself. However, the trail is a sharp and difficult climb as you pass several bizarre named Knobs at 3,060 foot summits. The view at the top of Lookoff Mountain is well worth the torture. The rock outcrop provides a good point to collapse in a heap and question your choice of weekend activity.
The trip back is when mentally you decide that this was the worst idea in the history of worst ideas. After you crossover the dirt trail you’ll hike a few more grueling miles and have to cross the Taylor Creek at 4.3 miles. This is the point where I looked at the rock I was going to step on to cross the creek, knew I would fall off it, and indeed ended up calf deep in the creek. You’ll eventually reach the main road of the state park right near the entrance. If you think you’re going to die, you can wait there for your party to complete the trail and pick you up. Just be careful about standing around by yourself in North Georgia, cue the banjo.
You’ll see a sign eventually after the road that says 1.75 miles left and you’ll want to cry because deep down you think you won’t make it. After you hit that intersection you’ll know you don’t have too much further but it’s mostly uphill so you’ll again want to fall to the ground, curl into a ball and sleep for a year under some leaves.
Once you hit the top though it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. We all hugged it out like we had gone through battle together. I will say that it would have been easier if I had actually eaten more. I was so excited at the summit I forgot to eat my protein etc and by the time I remembered, I felt a little sick so I couldn’t eat it. I had four liters of water and I drank all four liters. It helped to have the MIO energy and MIO electrolytes in the water.
If you are going to check out this gorgeous state park, better hurry on soon. Their season is March 16 – November 30th. You only have a few weeks left to check the park out. As I said earlier, there are many easier trails to do with just as amazing summit views. If you do Edmonds just make sure you have food, water, maybe some music to get you through the last mile, a healthy dose of mental confidence and you start the trail early in the morning. For those who have done the trail, I’d love to hear your experience
Happy Questing to all!