STONE MOUNTAIN REUNION
We finally got the group together for a hike last weekend. Christy and I hadn't seen Myron and Dorcas since getting back from Washington. Since then, they'd taken another major trip, this time canoeing for two weeks in Minnesota. Bob and Laura had also just returned from their big summer outing to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies. Joel also joined us, and Saucony and Izaak were overjoyed to see each other again.
We carpooled to Stone Mountain State Park and parked in a pulloff where Garden Creek meets Roaring Fork. It was a cloudy, humid day that seemed to promise rain. Our plan was to follow an unofficial trail up Garden Creek, and then bushwhack up to the Parkway. We expected to find a newly built section of the Mountains to Sea Trail there. We hoped to follow it back down to Widows Creek, which would bring us out about 1/2 a mile up the road.
The hike started out easy enough, with a gentle climb along an old road. Things got tricky though with the first of many creek crossings. The water was low, but the rocks were slippery, and there were more than a few wet boots to prove it.
We hiked for two hours and stopped for an early lunch at the remains of an old homestead. We had just settled in when Joel caught up to us with the news that he had lost Bob's walkie talkie somewhere along the way. Bob went looking for it, to no avail.
The trail remained easy to follow until we came to another crossing. After this one, Christy and I followed the obvious trail steeply up the ridge on the far side. We found out the hard way that we had gone astray, as the path died out high above the creek. We returned, and found that we had to go more or less up the creek to proceed. This part of the old road had washed out. We went a short ways before the road reappeared.
The trail began to climb, and then the rain came. It had seemed poised to unload all day, and it was almost a relief when it finally did. We continued the climb, and finally the trail petered out in the Devil's Garden. We were in the headwaters of Garden Creek, and it was difficult to determine which branch to follow. Eventually we gave up, and bushwhacked up the ridge on our left. I was confident that we would reach the parkway without much difficulty. Joel decided to turn back though, and make another attempt at finding Bob's walkie talkie.
The bushwhacking wasn't too bad, as we were able to avoid most of the rhododendron thickets. Eventually we could see the ridgecrest ahead, but it was pretty apparent that the Parkway wasn't on it. When we reached the top, we found a well-defined trail marked with the white blazes of the MST. As it turned out, we were farther east than I expected. This was advantageous, as that was the direction we needed to go.
We followed the MST, which was fairly well marked in most areas. This was fortunate, because the route followed a never-ending series of trails and old roads. It was a total maze, and despite the markings we eventually found ourselves off the trail. We hadn't seen a marker in quite some time, but continued ahead. We reached a junction, and found the trail. At one point we passed a side trail that led up to the landing platform for the old cable car that used to operate up here. Normally we would have climbed up for the view, but the steady rain made it seem pointless.
We descended steeply on the MST, and joined with the trail from Mahogany Rock. After another knee pounding descent, we reached Widows Creek and the trail to the backcountry campsites. We turned downstream, and rock hopped Widows Creek 3 more times. We then climbed high above the creek to avoid Widows Creek Falls. We decided to skip the side trip the waterfall, as everyone was ready to get out of wet clothes and go to dinner. Our adventure had been a good one, with the hike covering around 11 miles in 7 hours.
We met Joel at the cars. The good news was that he had found the walkie talkie. The bad news was that he found it on the bottom of the creek.
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