Old Growth Timber Hike

North Georgia’s Old Growth History

Many, many years ago nearly all the forests in the area around Mountain Crossings (and all over in these mountains for that matter) were clear cut for their timber as industrial logging swept the south. Poor farmers sold off thousands of acres of forest land to northern timber industries for very low prices. In 1911, the Weeks Act brought about the creation of the U.S. Forest Service, which was intended to collect up large plots of lands for sustainable timbering. Between 1933 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted an estimated three billion trees throughout the country. Thus the nickname, Roosevelt’s Tree Army! This is largely the canopy you see today in the woods of North Georgia, though in the 1950’s the U.S. Forest Service began to clear cut many, many acres of their so called preservation land, taking down nearly all the remaining old growth forests. Things have since changes and thankfully, there are a few pockets in the mountains around us that still house a few old growth trees of incredible size.

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In the 1800’s a nursery owner imported some Japanese Chestnuts that had a fungus that the native American Chestnuts were unable to build a resistance to.

Old Growth Forest Hike

Cooper Creek Wildlife Management Area is one such area that holds a grove of these massive trees. The WMA covers 30,000 acres of land in Fannin and Union Counties. There is a hike in particular that leads down to the “Valley of the Giants”. These trees are not as massive as the Redwoods of Northern California or as large as the American Chestnuts that were wiped out in the 1800’s, but they are way bigger than anything we are used to seeing!

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The Old Growth Forest hike in Cooper Creek WMA takes you along side creeks, down old road beds, through coves and over ridges. It is a very easy hike with only moderate elevation changes. Because of the remoteness of this hike, maintenance is rare and the hardest part is maneuvering around, over or under blow downs.

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Directions for the Old Growth Hike

From Rte 60, turn onto Cavender Gap Road. Follow the road until the pavement ends and the gravel road begins. The first gated road on the left has a small pull off, this is the beginning of the trail to the “Valley of the Giants”. Sherpa Guides has an excellent excerpt detailing the trail as it leads to the old growth trees.

“OLD GROWTH FOREST HIKE. [Fig. 22(11)] About 1 mile. Park at a low gap [Fig. 23(17)] about .4 mile from the end of the pavement going east on FS 33. There will be an old road pitching steeply north, the first road to the left after leaving the pavement. Walk down this road and take the first left-hand log road [Fig. 23(13)] just before the Turkey Creek ford. This nearly level log road passes through several moist coves with wildflower displays. Across Cooper Creek is a 6-acre bottomland that has been continuously in cultivation since the time of white settlers and probably since Indian days.

After passing two small coves, watch for the first place where a vehicle could be turned around (the turnaround is on a ridge that leads down to a fine pool at the mouth of Bryant Creek [Fig. 23(6)]). From the turnaround ridge, the first of the big trees [Fig. 23(9)] is only several hundred yards along the old log road. The old growth forest has widely spaced specimens of large white and northern red oak and black birch, but the largest trees are giant tulip poplars with circumferences of up to 18 feet. Storms through the ages have broken the tops out of many of them. While many big trees can be seen from the log road, others must be searched for above and below the road. The log road continues, crosses a white pine ridge, and in about .25 mile reaches the “valley of the giants” where the largest poplars grow [Fig. 23(16)]. The trail continues to parallel Cooper Creek for an undetermined distance.”

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Here is the map that Sherpa Guides provides. Park at #17, follow the gated road to #15 and that trail will lead you to some excellent trees!

 

The Perfect Mountain Vacation Near MTX

This time of year at Mountain Crossings we get a fair amount of drive up traffic from folks vacationing in the local area. As the weather cools and Autumn sets in, this grows with the amount of people coming up to view the changing leaves. If you’re planning a trip to the area, here is a guide of Things To Do as told by the local staff up here at Mountain Crossings. Click on any underlined words in this post to get ore information!

Places Within A Stone’s Throw of The Shop

Helton Creek is a waterfall 2 miles North of Mountain Crossings. After turning off of 129/19 and into a small cabin community, the road becomes dirt and you follow it to a small parking lot. The walk to the falls is very short and the pay off is spectacular! Beware, the road is rough but any car is capable of making it.

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Desoto Falls is a three part waterfall and rustic campground (no hook ups for electricity). The falls are broken up in to two parts, the upper and the lower. The hike is only 2.5 round trip if you visit both. The lower falls sports two drops and has a steeper climb, but the upper falls is a moderate walk with a beautiful, tall falls at the end.

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Brasstown Bald is the tallest mountain in Georgia and has an observation tower on the top. From the parking lot below you can either hike up the path to the top or take the shuttle. An interpretive display is on top of the mountain and a gift shop sits below at the parking lot. It is an excellent hike for the entire family.

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Pappy’s Trading Post is the epitome of family fun. A collective of interesting shops offer something for everyone. Check out the general store for nicknacks or the olde time candy shop for fudge. Visit the gift and craft shops and feed the carp in Nottley River. Just walking around the place is fun!

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Sunrise Grocery is an excellent little stop along the winding mountain roads. This little roadside grocery has been a staple in our community since the 1920’s. They offer fresh fruits and veggies seasonally, old time candies and are famous for their boiled peanuts!

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Paradise Hills Winery is one of our favorite of many wineries in the area. They offer cabin rentals and spa services but we always go for the wine tours! In the summer time they often times have concert series and other weekly festivities.

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Outdoor/Adventure Options 

Cartecay River Experience in Ellijay, GA offers the best tubing in North Georgia! They are a laidback bunch of folks ready to set you up with an afternoon of sun, fun and relaxation as you float the best tubing river in the area. It’s not too slow, not too fast and promises to satisfy the thrill seeker and the sun tanner alike!

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Ocoee Rafting in Ducktown, TN is the best outpost on the wild and wet Ocoee River! The experience of the guides is sure to offer you the trip you are looking for, whether that be a fun yet safe trip down the river or a wild ride you won’t soon forget. The outpost feels like a beautiful mountain cabin with breath taking views of the mountainous surroundings. It is an afternoon to remember!

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Blue Ridge Zip Line Canopy Tours is a whole new kind of adventure for most! With over 6000 ft. of lines, you can choose the length of your trip and tailor it to the members of your party, but remember, over coming your fears is a good thing! Fly through the beautiful forest of North Georgia for an afternoon. You can even double book a trip with the rafting company and have the ultimate day of adventure!

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North Georgia Water Sports has everything you could possibly need for a great day on Lake Nottley. They offer rentals of boats, jet skis, canoes, kayaks and more! And don’t forget about their guided fishing tours.

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Nearby Towns Worth Visiting

Blairsville is where we call home so we may be a bit biased, but it is an up and coming town for tourism in North Georgia. Some of our favorite neighbors to check out would be Bearding Bottle Shop for all your beer needs, American Catch for the best (and freshest!) seafood you will ever have in the mountains and Meeks Park.

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Blue Ridge is a great little mountain town for shopping and dinning. Main street and the depot offer many food options and gift shops of all sorts. You can even take a train ride into the quaint little town of McCaysville/Copper Hill along the Taccoa River.

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Helen is one of North Georgia’s more unique little towns. It is fashioned after a Bavarian town and every building in the downtown city center follows the trend. If you are looking for a good German beer, this is your place. They also offer copious shopping and dinning experiences.

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Dahlonega is another little mountain town with a great downtown area for dinning and shop. It was the location of the biggest gold boom in North Georgia and has tons of history to meet with its modern day past times.

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New Speed Record of Appalachian Trail Thru Hike

About a month and a half ago we spotted a really cool van out in our parking lot. It was one of the Dodge Sprinters with the high ceilings and it had the decals of several well known companies on the side of it; Clif Bar, Brooks, Pro-Tec… and the name that was about to take over the interest of the Appalachian Trail Community: Scott Jurek.

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Jurek’s van in our parking lot on May 27th.

Scott Jurek is an ultramarathoner and the New York Times best selling author of the book Eat & Run. He has won more ultramarathons than one can count and, in 2010, he set the record for the longest distance run by an American in 24 hours; 165.7 miles. Scott has a string of unimaginable feats and now he’s really outdone himself.

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A typical set up for what Scott carried during a day of hiking.

On July 12th, Scott Jurek broke the speed record for assisted thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, toppling Jennifer Pharr Davis’ record by 3 hours. It was 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes of exhilaration, torture, triumph, despair, beauty and pain followed by a sense of accomplishment so extraordinary that many of us will never know the half of it.

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Scott started his journey on May 27th, passing through Mountain Crossings a little over half way through his first day. At Neel Gap (mile 37.1) he checked in with his wife, Jenny, who was manning the van and surely crushed a few protein bars and bottles of water before heading on for Unicoi Gap (mile 52.9). This was his routine for a month and a half. He essentially ran an ultramarathon every day in order to complete his goal!

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Fans and friends run with Scott in support as he crosses the Hudson River in New York.

It wasn’t easy. He had a few minor injuries that put him behind schedule a time or two. Even as he was closing in on Katahdin, the record seemed elusive. On Sunday afternoon, Twitter was ablaze with folks awaiting the big news. Under the hashtag #SJAT15, there were innumerable posts per minute cheering him on and begging for updates. By 2:15pm, the deed was done. Scott Jurek was the new record holder for the fastest time thru hiking the Appalachian Trail!

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Scott and his wife Jenny on a mountain top in Maine.

 

MTX Hosts a Folk Show!

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Here at the shop we have a special night coming up. On Sunday night of July 12th, we will be hosting Jill Andrews as she covers the Southeast on her Push Play House Tour. If there is one thing that hikers can agree on, besides the fact that food is awesome, it is that music is awesome as well. Particularly when it is live! Jill is a folk singer and song writer who’s music had been featured on TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Nashville. She has a new album coming out soon and has offered to play at the houses of fans everywhere as a part of her newest tour. Shop owner, George Seamon, is a huge fan of Jill’s and jumped on the chance to have a night of excellent live music here on the mountain.

Jill Andrews started her music career with a band called The Everybodyfields. They spent several years touring the country with three albums until Jill and co-frontman, Sam Quinn, each decided to pursue a solo career in 2009. Jill has since put out an EP, a full length album and is on the verge of releasing a second full album.

Come hang out at the shop for a night of great music. Jill’s hauntingly beautiful voice and acoustic guitar will speak to your soul. Grab your tickets while they are still available by following this link.

Staff Insights: Meet Jason!

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Jason standing outside of the breezeway in Winter.

If you’ve been in the store in the last two and a half years, the chances are good that you’ve met Jason. He is a staple here at Mountain Crossings. None of our staff really ascribe to position titles or any sort of hierarchy, but if we did, Jason would be the Store Manager. He encompasses that happy medium between ounce shaving, dirt bag hiker and operations minded businessman that makes him a very unique asset. And no matter which facet he is currently working with, all situations are handled in his signature laid back, logical, thoughtful and unhurried manner. Jason is the guy you want in charge when the world ends and that’s not only because of his excellent bow drill skills!

Jason thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2008 leaving in mid February and reaching Katahdin in September. He had grown up traipsing around and camping in the mountains of North Georgia not far from the shop. The Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area, which houses Springer Mountain and the first 20 or so miles of the Appalachian Trail, was a favorite weekend spot for Jason and his high school buddies. Thru hiking the AT taught Jason the importance of and the art of improvisation, he says. Of all the lessons he learned, the most outstanding was the ability to work with what he had on hand to complete whatever task may be at hand.

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A photo taken of a shakedown during the 2012 thru hiker season, Jason’s first months at Mountain Crossings.

After completing the trail, Jason began studying Business in college and working for an event coordinating company out of Atlanta. As the years passed he began to realize that he had much more of a pull towards the mountains than the city. In the beginning of 2012, Jason started working at Mountain Crossings, where his formal training in business has been beneficial in countless situations. He is in charge of a lot of product ordering, meaning he has to discern what products will be useful to potential customers. Jason says he often asks himself a question when order products or selling a product, “Does this deliver value?” Meaning, “Will hikers benefit from our shop providing this product?” or ”Is this the proper product for the customer’s needs?”

Jason’s kind and caring demeanor overflows into his business practices. He is a proponent of quality time spent and only necessary and quality items sold for the specific purposes of each individual customer. If a quick buck is made or a bad experience is had, he believes that the repercussions of these negative interactions travel further than just the walls of our store and affect more than just the customer directly involved. By striving for honest and friendly business, Jason encourages the entire MTX staff to build a more selfless and positive environment.

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Sizing shoes is a serious thing at Mountain Crossings. Here, returning customer Zach is back for a new pair of Solomon Trail Runners and Jason checks him out for a good fitting.

One of his favorite parts of working at Mountain Crossings is the ability to take someone in as a timid, beginner backpacker and help them grow into a seasoned veteran of the trail. Over his years he has been able to watch return customers transform from scared day hiker to mile crushing, trail machine. In my own early days of backpacking, I visited Mountain Crossings before my thru hike in 2013 and did a shakedown with Jason. I had never been out for more than a night on at a time on the trail and yet an hour with Jason culling through my over stuffed pack had me feeling more confident than I expected possible. When I finished the trail, I sent a post card to Mountain Crossings to thank Jason for his help and most for his encouragement, not knowing that one day I would be able to gaze at it as a pass by on a daily basis.

In thru hiker season Jason says he gives out two pieces of advice the most: 1) Treat your feet well and 2) Always readjust your pack. Too many people jump out of the starting gate and wear their feet down to nothing, he says, just because their muscles can handle it. A pair of happy feet is an important part of a successful thru hike. As far as packs go, many backpackers can go unfortunate lengths of time before they are properly fitted for a backpack or taught how to adjust the pack for maximum comfort. Jason enjoys easing the ride for hikers by teaching them how to properly use all the straps on their packs.

This is a snow scuplture made by Jason on a day off back in February after a nice snow storm rolled through.

This is a snow scuplture made by Jason on a day off back in February after a nice snow storm rolled through.

Jason’s existence at Mountain Crossings has had a very positive affect on innumerable hikers but none of it would have happened if backpacking hadn’t had such a huge affect on him. He says that when he realized he enjoyed hiking and backpacking as much as he did, he decided to stop more injury prone sports like skateboarding in an effort to elongate his life of hiking. “That’s the greatest thing about hiking. Anyone can do it and its something you can do later into your years as well,” Jason says.