October 23-24, 2021
Two miles above Georgia and barely in Macon County, North Carolina (NC) is a wonderful, short loop. It is a quintessential Nanthala Ranger District hike.
The trailhead for the loop starts at the end of Blue Valley Road (a gravel road about 6 or so miles south from Highlands, NC). It is a wonderful drive, fairly level with lots of dispersed camping spots for car camping. About halfway, Overflow Creek will appear on your left. The road dead-ends with a gravel cul-de-sac. As you are looking at the trails, to the north (right) is the West Fork Trail and to the south (left) is Hurrah Ridge Trail.
My friend Perry met me on an unseasonably warm fall day at the trailhead. We hiked up West Fork Trail, a short (1 mile trail). There are no switchbacks and the trail either descends (or ascends) sharply. West Fork meets the Bartram and we found our campsite for the night, a wonderful spot right beside Overflow Creek.
Perry and I have been friends for quite some time, but it has been a while since we had been out hiking and even longer since we backpacked. I set up my tarp, made a fire and enjoyed the warm sun shining through the fall foliage. We began dinner around 5:30 pm, and I heard a commotion above the campsite. A young guy was hobbling, and I mean hobbling down the trail towards us. I asked him, “Are you a thru-hiker?”. He responded that he was, but was getting off the trail tomorrow. Chris had started the Bartram Trail yesterday, and had thrown down 25 miles out of the gate. His knee was completely messed up now and he had to get off the trail. It reminded me of a quote that I had read from Pharr Davis, quoting her mentor/coach: “you can’t finish a thru-hike on the first day, but you can sure end it”.
Chris was fresh out of Georgia Tech, lived in Atlanta and was now in Computer Technology. He was a nice guy, but confident for sure. Even when getting off the trail he found time to critique my gear. I enjoyed his moxie though.
This is not exactly a high traffic thoroughfare on the Bartram, so it was interesting seeing another person. I told Chris that there was a sweet spot just above the campsite. He declined and said he would just set up further back on the trail. When I walked back to my tarp, Chris had set up literally two feet from me. Fair enough.
From talking to him, I realized, his moxie was an act. He was just lonely. He sat by us at the fire and talked, but turned in early. It was great to get to know him.
Perry and I sat for an hour more just talking and catching up. It was interesting to see how the pandemic has changed our lives. Both of us have rediscovered our spiritual lives, started reading the Bible and are generally more at peace. It was very nice to spend so much time with an old friend in the woods.
In the morning we hiked south on the Bartram for .8 miles and then took the Hurrah Ridge Trail back down to the campsite. It’s short, .8 miles, but again steep with no switchbacks. According to the United States Forest Service, Hurrah “is part of an historic trail used by Blue Valley residents to drive livestock up to grazing grounds in “The Flats” of Scaly Mountain.”.
Once we got back, we decided to drive back down Blue Valley Road and hike the easy, but beautiful, 1.2 mile trail to Picklesimer Rock House Falls.
A delightful weekend.
Total mileage is 5.2 miles.