Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park is located just west of Atlanta near Lithia Springs, Georgia.  We had seen signs for it several times, and I was amazed when I saw it listed on GeorgiaWhitewater as being Class IV-Class V rapids.  Whitewater rapids in metro Atlanta? What?! As I started reading more about the Park, I thought it seemed like a cool place to visit and hike. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when visiting the park:
* The directions online are incomplete.
* There is a sign for "Sweetwater Creek State Park" on Thornton Road informing you that you need to turn onto Blairs Bridge Road to get to it.  However, there are NO other signs indicating you have to turn on ANOTHER road to get there. 

Because of the beautiful weather this weekend, Andrew and I decided to go hiking at the park.  We turned onto Blairs Bridge, as the trademark brown state park sign told us, and we ended up coming to a "T" in the road in which we could only turn left or right.  There were no signs for the park.  We stopped at the gas station, and the clerk told us we had to go back the way we came, and then we had to make a right at the first light (Mobler or Mobier Road.) 

After turning onto the road, we came upon a large lake (reservoir) and a sign welcoming us to Sweetwater Creek State Park.  Of course, being Labor Day weekend, there was traffic, and it was busy (to an extent.)  Andrew went to the Interpretive Center to get a hiking trails map. 

Some things to consider when going into the Interpretive Center:

* Yes, that is the overpowering stench of ammonia and decaying feces you are smelling AS SOON as you walk in the building.  I'm pretty sure that when the USGBC awarded Platinum LEED status on the building it was done before the building had been used.  Apparently, someone didn't verify HOW the center had planned on disposing of the human waste as generally green-building locations have biodegradable, 100% environmentally-friendly disposal methods including "green" chemicals or enzymes to break down the human waste.  Prepare to hold your breath as you use the restroom facilities (aka glorified outhouses....toilet seats hovering over an 8 foot hole leading to an open space of feces, urine, and paper products festering under the building.  Don't drink the sink water.  It's recycled rainwater and hasn't been purified for human consumption.

* Yes, the water fountains ARE safe for human consumption.

* Ask the Ranger for a description of the trails (in-depth and moreso than the brochure.)

Dogs geared up.  Andrew and I ready to go.  We headed out on the "Red Trail" to the New Manchester Mill ruins.  We passed by several people, and we took our time strolling on the clearly-marked trail until we hopped down to the creek to let the dogs swim.  Talk about pollution.

Empty drink cans. Wooden pallets.  Sheet metal.  Tractor trailer tires.  Napkins.  Used diapers.  Needless to say, once we saw all of the garbage in the water, we pulled the dogs out. 

We continued on the trail to the ruins.  Unfortunately, we couldn't take a picture from the area we wanted to because a wannabe professional photographer decided to set up camp on the platform and prevented anyone from being able to appreciate the view.  He looked back at us several times.  Me with our hiking camera in hand, dogs' leashes in Andrew's hand, but he continued shooting.  Thanks.

We kept on hiking until we got to a part of the trail in which it was almost vertical up a rock face with some steel cables to hold onto. I told Andrew, "I can't believe they don't make mention of this in the brochure."  Now Andrew is 6 ft. 3 in.  I am only 5 ft. 6 in.  He could step up the rocks, eroded steps, etc. with ease.  I, on the other hand, had to lean forward, lift my foot up to the height of my thigh and hoist myself up (yay for German Shepherd assistance!)

When we finally got near the intersection of the Red Trail and the White Trail (on top of a cliff) we could look down and see "the overlook to Sweetwater Creek Falls."  Prepare yourself....here they are.....

< That's right.  Those are the "Falls."  Of course, I guess for metro Atlanta a 4 foot drop would be "Falls," but Andrew and I are spoiled.  Waterfalls to us mean several feet tall (20+ feet) in the middle of the mountains.

We took some pictures, and we headed back on the Blue Trail (we didn't know where the White Trail went.)  The Blue Trail was VERY easy and was, more or less, a walk through the woods versus a "hike" like the Red Trail.  We warned some people that were coming down Blue Trail to the Red Trail that it was treacherous coming in their direction (imagine sliding DOWN the rocks and cliffs because you couldn't just walk down.)  Like I said, I wish the trail descriptions had been more thorough than "rocky terrain."  Rocky terrain to me means some rocks or rocky areas.  It does not mean steel cables implanted into rock so you don't die.  That's part of the adventure, I guess.

We came back around on Blue Trail that met up with Red Trail again at the ruins, and we were able to take some photos of the ruins this time (see above.) 

All-in-all, it was a nice little hike.  It took a few hours to do, and it was about 4 miles round trip.  There is the White Trail (which is 3 miles on its own) and the Yellow Trail (I think that was the color) that is described as "difficult" due to the 300 foot rise on the side of the rocks, but it is supposed to be one of the most beautiful trails in the Park.

I wish people had the same amount of respect for the outdoors as we do and would pick up their trash, learn the rules of the trail, and teach their children to be more respectful. 

Needless to say, we all slept well that night.

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