Last Friday (April 11) around here was not a "fun" day. Bad weather came roaring in and for most of the day I was torn between watching the weather radar and standing outside and watching the sky. More than two inches of rain in a one-hour period late in the afternoon. Hard rain, high winds, hail, and a very dark sky. Not fun!
The sky was still dark and vicious looking on Saturday morning as I hit the road to go meet with Glenn (FellGlenn) Fell for a day of climbing and exploring up on Pigeon Mountain up in the northwest corner of Georgia. The weather channel had said things would clear up, but at six-thirty in the morning I wasn't feeling all that optimistic.
A little after seven in the morning I was standing on Glenn's doorstep and he was ready and waiting. Ten minutes after my arrival, we were on the way-not to Pigeon Mountain, but to the Waffle House. Pigeon Mountain would have to wait. You don't go on an adventure around here unless you have paid the mandatory early morning pilgrimage to see Alice, wherever she might be.
By eight o'clock we were really on the way, Pigeon Mountain a hundred miles away. The sky was still overcast, but looking better. There was only a light mist on the windshield. After a little navigational confusion (I had forgotten my Alabama roadmap(Don't ask why I needed an Alabama roadmap, that's a whole other story!) we arrived in beautiful downtown LaFayette and moments later were on the way to the mountain a few miles out of town.
The Crockford/Pigeon MountainWildlife Management Area is a topographically rough thirteen-thousand-plus acres, with numerous rock outcrops, limestone caves, and lots of forest. There is a lot to do here, most of it legal, including hunting, cave exploring, mountain biking, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and even-yes!-tree climbing. Allen Padgett (Who co-authored On Rope along with Bruce Smith), has been the supervising ranger for several years, and is open to a lot of new ideas. Being a Wildlife Management Area, there is also a lot of hunting going on here, so recreators need to be aware of hunting seasons, and stay out of the way of the hunters when it is their turn. There was no hunting season here last Saturday, so Glenn and I were free to do our thing.
It started out with a nice little hike into an area called The Pocket. I had never hiked into The Pocket before and I wanted to check it out for trees. We saw lots of good trees there but we didn't climb. Instead we headed out, taking a little "shortcut" to get ourselves back to the car and on the way to Atwood Point, where I remembered there being a very nice pine tree sitting right on the edge of a cliff that should afford an awesome view. I will let Glenn elaborate on the "shortcut."
On the way to Atwood Point we spotted a sign off the side of the road that looked like a registration spot for exploring a cave. I remembered from a long time ago that there was a cave in this area but I wasn't sure this was it. So now we are on the way up a trail to check out a cave, having detoured from our route to Atwood Point.
Sure enough, there was a cave and it turned out to be the same that I remembered from the past. Four Kings Cave is only one of its several names. Very nice place to go wading and crawling as the entrance requires walking up the middle of a cold creek coming out the mouth of the cave. A short way in, the creek is running out from an underground pond. Nice!
In addition to a cave, however, there is also a very interesting tree just outside the entrance. Dead as can be, totally hollow, but interesting nevertheless. We didn't try to climb the thing, but it was fun crawling inside and doing a short "chimney climb" to an opening in the trunk just a few feet up.
So. We are now on the way to Atwood Point again, but there are navigational difficulties to be overcome, as I have never been to Atwood Point by way of the dirt forest service road before and I'm not sure whether we can get there. After several exploratory forays down roads that all turned out to be wrong roads (Remember, I didn't have my Alabama roadmap!), we finally see a side road with a sign proclaiming the way to Atwood Point, two-point-nine miles away. Off we go.
Two-point-nine miles later there is a closed gate in front of us, but there is a side road heading toward where Atwood Point ought to be. We continue on the side road.
Then another gate appears before us, all shut and locked. I look at Glenn, Glenn looks at me and we discuss the idea of continuing on foot. I am claiming a sore back and I question the sensibility of walking an unknown distance in search of a cliff that might not be there. My claim works! Glenn grabs a pack with all our gear, with me carrying a camera, and off we go into the nether regions in search of a cliff with a big pine tree. We walked all the way to the end of the road but we never found the cliffs and we never found my pine tree. But we did climb another tree instead and it had magnificent views of all the countryside below us.
By this time the weather had cleared and we were moving along under sunny skies, ready for the next adventure. Back to the car, Glenn huffing along like a pack mule, me with the camera. Our next stop was on a long road that winds on past the famous Hood Overlook, a virtual Mecca for Saturday night teenage parking, beer drinking, and a jumping-off place for hang glider pilots. Once past the tire scratch marks and the empty beer cans we are once more in the forest looking for more trees.
Far on down the road Glenn takes me to a primitive roadside campsite that he has used before and there, alongside the fire ring, stands an absolutely lovely white oak. After a very nice climb to its top, we decide we've had enough and head back into LaFayette for a Mexican dinner at Don Lolo's.
Not a bad day! A hike into The Pocket, including a "shortcut" back to the car, that has yielded some nice trees for future climbs. A bit of non-serious cave exploration. A visit to the interior of a really dead and really hollow big old tree. Exploration along never-before-travelled roads in search of the "right" road. A long walk to Atwood Point, with Glenn carrying the gear, to a cliff that couldn't be found with a tree that didn't get climbed. Then another tree that could be climbed, with an awesome view across North Georgia. Onward to the Hood Overlook and still another tree at a primitive campsite. All this followed by a great dinner at Don Lolo's before heading home.
A very good day, I thought!