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Trailside Sights March 31, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Georgia.
3 comments

I’ve snapped a few fun pictures this past week on the trail, which I will share with you today. I’ve also met a few people, and I always love meeting new people. It’s one of the greatest things about being out on a crazy adventure – sure I get a lot of strange looks and disapproving glares, but there’s plenty of people with rich personal histories of their own who share the spirit of adventure and discovery who never cease to fascinate me.

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I found this discarded piece of metal just off the trail around mile 12. For whatever reason it caught my eye, and it wasn’t until the next day I discovered what it was.

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Saturday, March 24th was my birthday. At the Hiram Trailhead in Paulding County, I was infinately fascinated by the sheriff’s office, which is located in this original train caboose in the parking lot. I recognized the wheels of the caboose from the rusted axle I’d seen in the woods the day before. The sheriff regularly patrols the trail in a motorized cart – the ONLY motorized vehicle allowed on the trail, as many signs will warn you of a $1000 fine and 30 days in jail if you get the bright idea of trying to race down the trial on a motorcycle.

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I also passed the memoral for Jennifer Ewing on my birthday. She was a 54-year-old mother of three who was tragically beaten to death on this spot almost six years ago. Considering that this is the only murder on the entire sixty mile stretch of trail – ever, as far as I can tell – it’s a REALLY safe trail, especially since traffic has increased and the sheriff makes regular rounds. (In my last place, there was a murder within a 15 minute walk of my apartment about every other month, and I felt safe enough to walk around the streets at 2 or 3 AM taking pictures.) Still, this was a tragic story and hopefully will never happen again.

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The Tara Drummond Park at mile 20.3 – in memory of Tara, who was tragically killed in a firearms training accident.

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This is the view from Pumpkinvine Creek Trestle, which was built in 1903 by hand and mule. It’s a HUGE bridge, over 700 feet long and 100 feet high.
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I spotted a table and umbrella set up on a senic spot next to the creek.
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It wasn’t till I almost passed that I noticed who was relaxing under the umbrella! Someone sure had a sense of humor. I’ll bet 99% of people who cross this bridge don’t notice who’s watching from below, but the few who do get a little chuckle.

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I met up with this father-daughter duo on Tuesday the 27th, then again on Wednesday the 28th. They live close by the trail and spend a lot of time biking on it. They were REALLY a lifesaver because this was during the longest stretch of trail with no water fountains (just over eleven miles, which is not very far, but I’m loaded down with a lot of gear and dragging a suitcase on broken wheels and I only travel about 4 miles a day – so 11 miles is more than two days for me). I was out of water when they found me on Wednesday, so they filled up one of my water bottles (cold water too!). I ran out of that water by the end of the day but pulled into a gas station pretty early the next morning. It would have been a FAR more miserable experience without their help.

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This is the Brushy Mountan Tunnel. Built in 1912, it stretches 800 feet long and divides the Paulding/Polk County line. It stays nice and cool inside the tunnel, and although it’s a nice place to hang out now, it probably wouldn’t have been so great back when the Silver Comet Trail was a railroad and a train was coming through. (I did notice two small door-frame sized spaces a person could squeeze into when a train passed, but it wouldn’t be a situation I’d care to risk.)
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Thursday March 29th I arrived at The Rock Campground. It’s an amazing campground, with spaces for both tents and RVs and even a couple of cabins that can be rented. I’ve ended up staying here a few days. I’ve found it to be undersold on its website – http://therockrvpark.com/ – it’s SO much cooler than I thought it would be. Anyway that’s what my next post will be about. Until then~

Back on the Trail! March 30, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Georgia.
1 comment so far

It took a few days longer than anticipated to get here, but I’ve been back on the trail for about a week now, today being my first time with internet access. Every morning I try to take a picture of my tent to remember my stealth (or not so stealth) campspot. Here’s a quick rundown of my campsites:

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I camped just off-trail on the 22nd, but forgot to snap a picture before I packed up my tent. You can see the dry square where the tent was (it rained during the night).

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On the 23rd, I found some proper woods to set up in. There was even plush seating to enjoy the senic view.

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On the 24th, I had to set up very quickly in the rain, and I found this VERY un-stealth spot RIGHT next to the trail. You can see my tent off to the right in the second picture.

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On the 25th, I set up off a trail in the woods. I was very close to the Silver Comet Trail but still could not be seen. I ended up staying in my tent a whole day, writing a letter to my next door neighbors in California (hi guys if you are reading this!), and resting my tired and blistered feet. So I spent two nights here.

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On the 27th, I set up between these two rocks, all while trying to think of funny captions: “I slept between a rock and a hard place,” etc. I was also sleeping on quite the incline, inviting phrases of a “slippery slope.” But my tent held together through the night.

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On the 28th, I had a goal to walk a considerable distance (based on my previous average of 3 or 4 miles a day) to a real camp site. But I still had a few miles to go by 9PM, it was really dark, I was out of water, and I was REALLY tired, so I just set up in the worst place ever. I got to the BEST place ever the next night, which will be for another blog entry…

Struggling along… March 19, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Georgia, Mishaps.
3 comments

I woke up the next morning realizing that all the rocks that had fallen off the structure over the past hundred years had somehow ended up on the ground under my sleeping pad. Undaunted, I stretched out and washed up a bit in the stream that flowed next to the mill.

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Nickajack Creek

After a long time of sitting around in my tent and feeling very clever about sleeping in such a cool spot, I finally packed up my impossibly too many bags and continued on my journey. I got about 20 feet and collapsed at the picnic table in front of the mill, where I talked a while with Sara and Jesse.

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Sara and Jesse

I planned to stealth camp in an old graveyard which was supposed to have some old, haunted structures on the grounds. Taylor told me how to find it the day before. I dragged my cumbersome suitcase up the leaf-covered dirt trail to finally find the graveyard… any old buildings there were since torn down, and the whole graveyard fenced off with barbed wire. So much for ghost pictures in the middle of the night. disappointed, I dragged my suitcase back down to the main trail to find another place to camp.
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The graveyard, through the fence.

So I kept walking a couple of hours. By the time I finally set up my tent, it was dark and I couldn’t see very much of what I was doing. I was also pretty tired and my blisters were hurting and I was just ready to be done walking for the day. I set up my tent behind a building that had some construction going on in the back, but I found a nice little patch that was out-of-the-way and hidden from sight. Not as nice as I thought, I found out later…
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My tent behind a thrift store.

Just my luck, I picked a spot right under a bright floodlight. It flickered on when I first started setting up my tent. “Ah, motion sensor light,” I thought to myself. “This is handy. Light to set up my tent with.” But it was NOT motion sensor, it was on a timer, and every ten to fifteen minutes the light came on… all night long. I couldn’t sleep at all, and finally around five or so I packed out.

One thing I should point out about the Silver Comet trail: 98% of people who use it are on bicycle. So for them, the bathrooms being 8 miles apart is no problem. But for someone dragging a bunch of stuff, traveling at a 3 mi/day pace, this can be somewhat of a problem. A very uncomfortable problem.

I stopped around mile five to relax, enjoy the beautiful day, write in my journal a little bit. After an hour or so, I realized I would need a bathroom pretty soon, so I gathered up my things and started walking. I walked. And walked. And walked. No bathrooms. Finally, after three or four hours of increasing desperation, I came to a crossroad that had a pick-a-part junkyard on the corner by the trail.

I dragged the suitcase, which now had BOTH wheels split in half, across the gravel lot. As I slowly got closer to the building in the front (which appeared to be an office but was not), the door opened and a man came out, looking me over warily.

I threw out the best bathroom pitch I could muster. “Could I please just use the bathroom really quickly, I’m walking on this trail and the next bathroom isn’t for another five miles and I’ve been looking for one since noon….”

He cut me off before I even finished. “Sure, come on in,” he replied. I left my many, many bags at the front porch and went inside. To my surprise, it was not an office, but his home, which just happened to be on the pick-a-part property. Jacob lived there with the sweetest little dog imaginable, Lil’ Bit. We got to talking; I told him about my adventure and he told me about his experiences. I ended up hanging out there for a good three hours, making friends with Lil’ Bit and even taking a shower! Jacob had some great stories to tell.

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Jacob and Lil’ Bit

The visit with Jacob greatly lifted my spirits and I set off again with renewed energy. I got a pretty considerable distance (comparable to previous days anyway) and finally set up my tent directly UNDER the Silver Comet Trail at the 8.6 mile marker.
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My tent under the bridge – the sidewalk is a shorter trail called the “Wildhorse Trail” in Powder Springs.

When I woke up the next morning, I wasn’t feeling very well. It seemed I had a million bug bites, including a rather uncomfortable one next to my eye. So I stayed in the tent all day and fell asleep early. I woke up on Sunday and realized it was definitely NOT a bug bite, I had poison ivy or something of the sort. My eye was all red and swollen and itchy. I had first noticed the itching on Friday at Jacob’s house, but had assumed it was bug bites. Now I was thinking back to the building with the floodlight where I set up my tent a few nights before. I had a weird feeling about those plants, but I knew it wasn’t poison ivy or oak (leaves of three, let it be)… a quick glance in my wilderness first aid book confirmed I probably slept in poison sumac, and although I had it all over, I only got a bad rash in my eye. It could have been a lot worse but still not much fun.
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Yikes!

One of the good things about going so slow: I wasn’t very far from home. My dad came to my rescue and brought me medicine, cremes, insect repellant, and Diet Mountain Dew (my favorite drink ever). Then he brought me home so I could wash my clothes, as the oils of poison oak, ivy, and sumac can stay on clothes and re-infect you for a month.

Now I am better prepared for the bugs and poisons of the trail, and got a chance to update the blog (finally!). I’ll return to the trail later today or tomorrow and continue the adventure – stay tuned for more fun!

The Journey Begins! March 19, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Georgia.
1 comment so far

On Wednesday, March 14th, I FINALLY started my trip again. My sister Hannah drove me out and I started the hike down the Silver Comet Trail with my many assorted bags. I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks, and deservedly so – I look REALLY strange. I have a backpack on my back, a funny “Police Line” utility bag holding my camera slung acoss my front, a sleeping bag under one arm, and dragging a purple rolling suitcase behind me. Yes, that’s correct. I’m pulling a rolling suitcase down a bicycle trail. Embarrassment is part of the fun, right?
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Here’s one of my first shots of the trail.

It was very slow going, but I finally made it to the 2.6 mile marker, where there was a parking lot and bathroom. I used the facilities, refilled my water bottles, and met Taylor, who was going out to collect driftwood and such for his aquarium. He’s lived in the area his whole life and knew a lot about all the cool stuff to see on the trail, and I followed him back a short distance to see the remains of the Concord Woolen Mill Ruins (more info here: http://www.cobblandtrust.org/html/Woolenmill.htm). These giant, crumbling walls have been abandoned for almost a hundred years and are an unexpected sight in the middle of the woods.
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Taylor in front of the ruins.

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I set up my tent inside the smaller of the two buildings and settled down for my first night of (not so) stealth camping.

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