RUNTRAILS' 2021 JOURNAL

 

  

Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia

 

   
 
 
Previous       2021 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

  SWEETWATER CREEK STATE PARK, GA:
  A LOLLIPOP ROUTE IN THE WESTERN HILLS,
HIKE #2 IN A SERIES OF SIX

 WEDNESDAY, JULY 7

 
"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things   
because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
 
~ Walt Disney
 
 
I love hiking the remote trails at Sweetwater State Park, located a little southwest of Atlanta. Each time I hike there this year I plan to try at least one new trail until I've covered all of the marked and unmarked trails in the park.

If I get lost, oh well. It won't be for long because I already know my way around the network of marked trails pretty well in this beautiful 2,549-acre park.


This photo from the White/Brown Trail intersection at Jack's Creek is from a hike in April
but I was also here the day I hiked the route I'm describing in this entry in late January.

This entry focuses on the 5.27-mile "lollipop" route I hiked with Dapper Don one weekday morning at the end of January. It incorporated two connector trails that were new to me -- the Green and Brown Trails, both in the hills on the west side of Sweetwater Creek, which is the main part of the park.

Although the Green and Brown Trails are well marked and shown on the park trail map, there is no description there except the distances. I like the challenge of exploring new trails and didn't do an internet search to see if others had described them. It was more fun to find out myself!

My route on this hike is highlighted in purple on this segment of the park's trail map

All trails in the park start at the visitor center. I headed south on the wide, most-used Red Trail toward the old mill ruins along Sweetwater Creek.

That Friday morning began with the wind chill in the 20s F. Brr! I didn't start hiking until 10:30 AM, later than usual. By then it was in the 40s, sunny, and quite comfortable to me. I pretty much had the whole route to myself until I returned to the parking area on the Red Trail three hours later.

Much of this hike was improvised as I went along. When I got to the park there were several large CBS studio trucks in the parking area loaded with 4WD "gators" and equipment.

Hmm . . . I wonder what they're filming?

Above and below:  sign for Douglas County Film Trail on the path
to the visitor center at Sweetwater Creek SP

It's not that unusual for us to see film companies around Peachtree City and in Fayette County. One time recently a large crew staging area was set up at Line Creek Nature Area in PTC and I was able to hike past some photographers and actors during my hike.

Douglas County is close, and I've seen this sign each time I've been to Sweetwater Creek.

The south metro Atlanta area was a booming place for film companies before the pandemic began but at the height of it in January, there wasn't much filming of movies, TV shows, or commercials due to COVID restrictions.

That was the surprise on this day -- not that the crew was at this location, but the fact they were there during the height of the pandemic. So I was more than curious what they were doing, and I was willing to alter my intended route to find out.


Gators by the mill raceway (channel of water); Sweetwater Creek is to the right and not shown here.

On the way to the ruins some of the gators passed Don and me, carting large spindles of electric cables. Some cables had already been spaced out along the trail, still coiled up.

I walked on the Red Trail to the ruins to see what they were doing, explored the Green, White, and Brown Trails, then came back to the ruins at the end of the hike to see their progress.

By then some of the cables were stretched out along the ground along the mill raceway on the Red Trail and up the hill on the White/Green Trail but I didn't see anyone working.


I stopped to get some pictures of Don, my favorite canine hiking buddy, on these boulders
overlooking a quiet bend in Sweetwater Creek about halfway to the mill ruins.

I also saw some lights mounted on a wooden bridge near the ruins, and figured some work and/or filming would be done after dark.

I never did ask what was being filmed because I didn't see anyone stationary to ask.

UP THE GREEN TRAIL

I knew how to get to the Green Trail because I'd seen the eastern end of it two weeks earlier when I was hiking with our friend Steve. To reach it, I turned right (west) on the White/Green Trail near the ruins.

The two trails are contiguous for several hundred feet. This is a wide 4x4 dirt and gravel road:


The trail markers are hard to see in this photo. Red Trail is on the right, looking north; the
mill ruins are nearby, farther to the right. The White/Green Trails are on the left, going uphill.

The Red Trail to this point is fairly wide and smooth. The White/Green Trail starts out wide, too. Although it has more ruts, roots, and rocks, it's not difficult to run or walk on.

About a quarter mile up the hill the Green Trail continues west when the White Trail takes a turn to the north at this intersection:

All intersections of color-coded trails like this in the park are well-marked. No one should get lost unless they aren't paying attention. Free trail maps are available in the visitor center or online at the park's website and are easy to carry if you don't have the park memorized yet.

The Green Trail goes about 3/4 mile west to the top Jack's Hill on the far side of the big White Trail loop. You can see it on the map section above.

Going west, the Green Trail is primarily an uphill climb but mostly gradual. There is one short, steep section with a wooden bench at the top:


View going uphill (west)


View from bench looking back at the steep part I just climbed (doesn't look steep in the photo!)

The dirt and gravel road surface is pretty easy to walk. The trail is all wooded except for the meadow at the top of the hill:

DOWN THE WHITE TRAIL

The Green Trail dead ends into the White Trail loop a little past that meadow. That area is called Jack's Hill.

Turning left, we hiked south on the White Trail for about a mile. The trail is wide until it reaches another meadow at the intersection with the "top" (high end) of the Brown Trail connector, which I took on the way back during this hike. Outbound, I turned right and stayed on the White Trail down to the big creek.

After the intersection with the Brown Trail, the White Trail passes through another high meadow area, then takes a gradual descent through mostly hardwood forest.


Near the start of a long descent going westbound


Looking back up the trail on the way downhill; Jack's Lake is down to the left.

There are views down to long and narrow Jack's Lake, which is easier to see with no leaves on the trees. I didn't take a picture of the little lake on this hike.

At the lake outlet the White Trail takes a hard left and goes down some wooden steps to a single track path along Jack's Branch. The pretty little creek flows into Sweetwater Creek farther down the path.

This is one of my favorite trail sections in the park. It's not as easy to hike because of the rocks, roots, and elevation loss or gain (depending on the direction you're going), but it is scenic any time of the year.


Don waits ahead for me. He was off-leash for some of this hike
because there were so few people around and he doesn't chase wildlife.


Looking back during my hike (this is what you'd see going the uphill direction)

The little bridge in the photo above is the southern intersection of the White loop and Brown Trail. Jack's Branch runs into big Sweetwater Creek a little past the bridge.

At this point I was about halfway through my hike.

EXPLORING THE BROWN TRAIL

The single-track Brown Trail connects two parts of the big White Trail loop.

It also goes south from this bridge along a thin strip of park property next to the creek for about a mile before dead-ending on private property downstream at Nickson Creek.

I decided to go over the bridge and walk south on the Brown Trail, knowing that it would dead-end in about a mile.

I walked only about a quarter mile downstream on the narrow but smooth Brown Trail until I came to a drainage area full of water -- and no bridging. Sweetwater Creek wasn't as interesting here so I decided to turn around and go back to the "connector" part of the Brown Trail.

Sweetwater Creek continues another three miles, approximately, before flowing into the Chattahoochee River. You can see it on the large trail map but not on the map segment at the beginning of this entry.

I crossed back over Jack's Branch on the little wooden bridge and continued straight ahead on the Brown Connector Trail. Before proceeding up the hill I stopped for a water break and snack at the bench shown in the photo below:

Taking a short break was a good plan, because the Brown Trail is quite steep at this point! It's easier, however, for me to hike up a steep grade than down, so I don't know that I'll ever go the other direction on this trail.

The Brown Connector Trail is about 1.2 miles long. On the way up to the Jack's Hill area it passes through an old homestead. About all that remains on the overgrown property are a crumbled chimney, covered cistern or well, and some daffodils blooming nearby.

At the top (north) end of the Brown Trail I came to the open area where it intersects with the White Trail loop. I had closed the "lollipop" loop part of this route.

BACK TO THE START

The rest of the hike was a repeat of the first part, going the other direction -- north on the White Trail for a few hundred yards to the Green Connector Trail, right (east) through another meadow in the Jack's Hill area, down the Green Trail to its intersections with the White and Red Trails, and left (north) near the old mill ruins on the Red Trail back to the visitor center and parking area.


Green Connector Trail


Obligatory picture of Don on a bench overlooking the New Manchester Mill ruins

I enjoyed most of this route. The Brown Trail was the least interesting part to me but really, there are no bad trails in this park (although there are a couple gnarly or exposed sections I'm not fond of). The weather was great (40s-50s F. and sunny) and there were very few people on the trails even near the ruins when I got done about 1PM.

Next entryanother day, another scenic 5+ mile hike with Dapper Don at Sweetwater Creek State Park (early March, third entry in this series)

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

Previous       Next

2021 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-