RUNTRAILS' 2021 JOURNAL

 

  

Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia

 

   
 
 
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  SWEETWATER CREEK STATE PARK, GA: 
  ANOTHER VISIT TO THE RUINS + THE BLUE
TRAIL LOOP, HIKE #4 IN A SERIES OF SIX

FRIDAY, JULY 9

 
"This 1.44-mile loop trail . . . begins on the east side of Sweetwater Creek, heading 
north off of the Orange Trail just east of the Yellow Trail bridge which spans
[the creek]. It passes through varied terrain and habitats in the
northeastern part of the park. "
 
~ Description of the Blue Trail from the Sweetwater Creek SP trail map
 
 
My intention for this hike was to explore at least one trail that was new to me. I had two new marked trails left, and several unmarked ones. All of them require starting on other trails I've already hiked.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny weekday in late March with more tiny new leaves on the trees and shrubs than on the previous hike I did in the park a few weeks earlier. There were even a few flowers blooming here and there:

A lot of rain had fallen recently in North Georgia and it had made its way down to Sweetwater Creek. The creek was running higher, faster, and more chocolate brown than I'd seen it before.

These shoals are visible from the Red Trail, the popular route to the New Manchester textile mill ruins:

Hmm. High water might cause a problem with my original plan for the day -- to explore the remaining section of the Red Trail that runs next to the creek south of the New Manchester textile mill ruins for about half a mile before rejoining the White Trail. Parts of that trail could possibly be under water or washed out. It happens.

Here's my route for this hike, which I modified after seeing how high the creek was:

Dapper Don and I began hiking at about 10 AM from the visitor center and headed south on the Red Trail to the old ruins. Although there were more vehicles in the parking area than I'd seen before, we saw very few people on the trails we hiked.

We've been on this trail numerous times but I'll show more photos from this hike because it's so scenic.


Rock outcropping along the Red Trail


Narrow mill run leading downstream toward the old mill; Sweetwater Creek is on the left.

The old mill ruins are fenced off to preserve what's left of the structure and keep people safe. There are good views of the building from the trail and several decks.

I don't believe the rangers have resumed guided tours of the ruins yet. Although the park has been open during the COVID pandemic, programs like that were suspended. I've read all the historical signs about the mill and folks who lived in this area at one time but haven't done that tour yet.

 

 

Just past the mill is a very long set of wooden steps that does down to the creek (and another deck). The Red Trail heads down those steps and continues downstream right next to the creek:

From what I've read and heard, that trail is indeed "difficult" because of all the rocks. That's why I haven't done it yet! I don't have as good balance or flexibility as I did when I was younger.

With the creek as high and fast as it was on this day, I decided to postpone that little adventure to a day when the trail and rocks would be more dry.

OK, WHAT'S PLAN B?

Plan B was to hike the other marked trail that is new to me, the Blue Trail Loop. It's on the other side of the creek. I took these photos after Dapper Don and I turned around and headed back north on the Red and Yellow Trails to the big bridge:

Above and below:  Don on a rock outcropping along the Red Trail;
the creek looks quite still when it isn't losing elevation.

 


View of creek along the Yellow Trail; there were more green leaves on this hike.

 

 


View upstream from the bridge

Once across the bridge, the Orange Trail goes straight on a wide Jeep road and the Yellow Trail turns right and continues as single track.

On this hike, I followed the Orange Trail up the 4WD road for a few hundred feet to the sign (below) for the Blue Trail:

The Blue Trail is rated moderate in difficulty. I considered the mostly-smooth, undulating path to be rather easy as it wound through the trees for about a mile and a half.

I walked CCW on this hike, continuing uphill through the forest until the trail peaked about halfway through the loop. I think that's the more interesting direction because of the nice views ahead as you approach the creek about halfway through the loop. When the leaves are out, the views aren't as expansive so maybe the direction wouldn't matter as much if it's later in the spring and summer.

 

The trail dips down to the creek for a little while,

 

then heads back uphill until the loop closes near its intersection with the Orange Trail.

We turned right (west) on the Orange Trail and went back down to and across the bridge, retracing our steps on the Yellow Trail. When the Yellow Trail turned west away from the creek, we headed up the hill to the visitor center and our car.


Scene along the Yellow Trail

Total distance of this pleasant hike was just under five miles. I'd rate it as easy to moderate, depending on one's fitness level. I'll do it again someday, probably in conjunction with the Yellow Trail on that side of the river.

Next entry: the fifth hike in this series at Sweetwater Creek State Park - White, Green, White, Red Trails in a figure-eight loop

Happy trails,

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

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2021 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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