The Georgia Traverse - Solo ..... let's try this again

wngrog

Adventurer
#1
The forum got hacked last week and my Georgia Traverse trip report got "Hoovered" up with the Russian hackers......so, let me see if I can put this fella back into action.

A few weeks ago the stars lined up in a way that allowed me to take a few days off before picking up my kids at Summer Camp in Brevard North Carolina. In summers past, I have taken some really nice routes up to North Carolina from Mississippi, but never one through the Georgia Highlands.

After looking over the route at www.georgiaoverland.com it looked like a superb way to burn 3 days and 3 nights in the cooler mountains of North Georgia

I generally fly by the seat of my pants on my backcountry trips due to the distances I have to travel to get to the places I want to go. Because of this I had no idea what time I would begin and what time I would end so I gave myself a little cushion time so I would not be in a hurry.

The Traverse is designed as an East to West route with turn-by-turn directions at every waypoint. I had to ignore the "turn lefts" and make them "turn right" but basically I just downloaded the .gpx file so graciously provided on the Georgia Overland site and followed the line.



Looking at this route on Google Maps I just had to laugh. What the hell are all those dots? I don't know about this. I even broke out the Paper maps atlas of Georgia and was going to just trace the route and use Google Maps as I went.

Luckily after downloading the route into GAIA GPS with just route and waypoints it got much less busy and intimidating. I downloaded the area along the path of the route onto my iPad Pro and decided this deal was doable.



Disclaimer. Of the thousands of miles I have driven backroads and trails in the US I have never been one to follow someone else's route blindly. That's just not my thing but heck, after reading some of the reports on the trip on various forums I took a leap of faith and loaded up and pointed the 1998 Land Cruiser northeast.

 

wngrog

Adventurer
#2
Normally I load the Land Cruiser up with all the creature comforts that I have collected to make car camping/overlanding pleasant. Being solo, room inside would normally be a non-issue. The problem was, once I finished the trip, I would be picking up my wife at the Asheville airport and my kids AND their duffle bags and trunks from being away at camp for an entire month. So, I actually had to pack light.

Looking at the route I knew gas would not be an issue nor would ice and food. I would be zig zagging in and around towns a lot. So, the jerry cans stayed home as did the ARB fridge. Only the latter would be missed as it was replaced by a Yeti 20 that conveniently fit in the Slee accessory tray in the rear.

After working in Meridian and Tuscaloosa, I made my way across Alabama to the kick off point. It was 5:15 PM EDT when I hit the first waypoint at the AL/GA border.



When you read the Georgia Overland site, David (the route creator) clearly says that the western part of this trail was just there to finish the traverse. I had fairly low expectations so I was just enjoying the scenery. I was fired up though to have a water crossing so early :)





July in the Smokies means rain every afternoon. I was fully expecting the wet stuff and being in a car all day it did not phase me a bit

 

wngrog

Adventurer
#3
At about 7:30 pm I made my way around Dalton Georgia and into the Cohutta Wilderness which would begin the meat of the journey. Immediately I hit a cool possible campsite along a fast running river.



Knowing I had a least 90 minutes of daylight left I pushed forward deeper into the track.

If you look at the Georgia Traverse you will see that there are certain places that there is a loop in the trail. I did not research it enough to know which way I should go, so when I got to the fork in the road, I read up on a few of the waypoints and a couple things of interest that took me on the south loop.

1) An overlook facing west into the sunset



2) A campsite or two....I chose the end of the road near Lake Conasauga Overflow Camp. This is the first time I saw other human on Forest Service roads but I kept driving until I was all alone


It was still raining pretty good when I popped the tent but I stubbornly tried to start a fire to watch as I sampled some brown water. I had no luck since it has been raining so much an I was too cool to buy dry wood at the store.

Luckily I has this little gadget my wife bought me for Fathers Day that is supposed to charge your phone battery while burning twigs and ****. It met my need for a campfire while I whittled away on a Four Roses on the rocks.

 

wngrog

Adventurer
#4
The next morning I woke up after a superb sleep in the light rain with temperatures in the low 60's (Mississippi was a low of 78*)



I was up with first light and decided to take a look at the real Lake Conasuaga campground. Entering camp I made a loop through the upper campground and it was completely empty, however when I rounded into the lakeside portion it was packed with "campground" campers and people. Dogs. Kids. Campers. Hook ups. All that stuff.

It was odd to see in the middle of the wild, but made me happy I was just driving through.

I decided to keep traveling east, so I have the other 2/3 of the" Frogmore Loop" to check out in the future.



The Smokey Mountains in the morning are a sight to see......

I just blindly followed my GPS line east taking in the sights. The road alternated from gravel to pavement as the creator of the route picked as many gravel roads as possible while keeping the East/West theme going



One cool turn in the trail took me across this bridge. I live for old bridges.



At some point the trail jumped out on pavement and I saw a sign for a swinging bridge so I had to go look.....

 

wngrog

Adventurer
#5
The entire time I had been on the Georgia Traverse (which was coming up on 24 hours), I had not seen a single user of any of the trails on the marked route. Sure, there were some people at the campgrounds scattered along the route and of course on the paved portions, but the large trains of decked out Instagram Tacomas and JKs I was expecting to see the entire time just were not there.

How can this be? This trail is located near one of the most densely populated areas in the US, its freely plastered on the internets for all to see, yet no one else was using it.

I found it strange and nice and against my rule of thumb that I keep most of the routes in the mountains people show me off-line so they don't get wrecked. Maybe I've been wrong about that.

About this time I rolled up on a waterfall that was next to the road and well marked. Lots of cars were there and I really wanted to skip on by but I needed to stretch my legs and I love waterfalls. After a quick look and a bit more of humanity than I wanted to see (including Japanese tourists and very very large women in bathing suits) I high-tailed it back to the parking lot where I saw a couple of dudes casing my Cruiser. As I approached I passed a nicely equipped 100 series in the lot so I knew they were just checking out my ride, not looking to smash a window.

Turns out they were Cruiser folks from North Carolina and Alabama, NC LX on IH8MUD. We swapped tales. They had been coming in from the east and me from the west so I showed them a couple good spots to camp and they told me about Helen Georgia up ahead where I could fill up with fuel, ice my beer and grab dinner before heading into the mountains to find a campsite.



What a surprise Helen was. I have never heard of the place but it looks like a German village. I have to go back. Seems like Gatlinburg without the crowds.


At this point it was raining again and I had been going about 12 hours so I was ready to find a place to fire up my bundle of store-bought wood that I had just purchased.

Again, once I hit the Forest Service roads I was alone. I passed one TRD Pro with some mountain bikes headed out but still no sign of the Jeep/Tacoma trains I feared.

I ended up driving high up near Tray Mountain and found a little ridge that I was hoping to be able to find a break in the trees for some sunset action after the storm passed. Once I pulled in i found a nice fire ring and plenty of room to camp well off the road (that had zero traffic)

At the end of the site there was a fairly well used 2 track heading further up the hill to which I imagined was an even better spot so I took off to see for myself.

I should have backed out instead of dropping the Land Cruiser into 4Low but it was kind of narrow so I kept going.

I REALLY should have stopped when I needed to engage my real electric locker but man, the Cruiser was in its element and thus far on the trip, 4 wheel drive had been barely necessary.

Then near disaster struck. Just around a steep turn and up a steep grade the 2 track abruptly ended. Stopped. No bonus campsite. No sunset view. Worse, no where to turn around. I tried to back out but the steepness and the wet ground just pushed me into the trees. Instead, I slowly and methodically pulled as far forward as possible and began an full on Austin Powers 30 point turn on a 20 degree slope on a narrow wet trail.



This is where I ended up. Trees to the front, Stump to the rear with the passenger side front door tightly pressed into a tree.



Not so bad huh? Well, maybe so.



This is not good. You can't tell from the pictures but all the weight has transferred into the passenger side and my drivers tire is wedged. As I pull forward it pushes me harder into the downside tree.

Maybe this one gives you a better idea of the pickle I am in. Solo. Somewhere.

 

wngrog

Adventurer
#6
I dug out my recovery tools and started working on a plan. Once a plan formulated I realized that I was woefully under equipped for self recovery but I had to try.

First shot at it took my rope about 3' forward and around 2 trees and back to the bumper of the truck to try to slide it uphill enough to get logs, rocks or my Maxtraxx built up so I could slide around the tree.



This worked a bit, but there was no room to go forward because of the angle of the winch, and the tree I used in the rear was too small and was coming out of the ground.



I ended up going forward 15' then around the tree at the 9:00 position and then through my recovery strap to my bumper. Once the slack stretched from the recovery strap the plan worked and I was up and around the tree with no damage.



Blessed beyond to have lots of experience in these matters. Blessed for being able to not trash my 20 year old Cruiser. Blessed that the rain only started back right after the last photo was taken and the winch was spooled up.
 

wngrog

Adventurer
#7
I made it back to flat ground, fired up the store bought dry wood and the rains came.



I badly needed to drain some Four Roses before I climbed up in the tent but the rain made it no fun to sit by my fire.

Then I discovered that this worked. And the open hatch on the 100 series does not leak onto the tailgate while the rain is coming down. Outstanding discovery for solo travel



(This is the only selfie I promise )

It ended up raining so hard I was able to get the wood in the morning and reuse......



The next morning I was able to get started early for the last section eastward to South Carolina. The morning fog was incredibly beautiful.



 

wngrog

Adventurer
#8
I ran into a closed road shortly after I started back into the loop.

Tray Mountain Road and Corbin Creek Rd section Tray Mountain Rd 1 had a ROAD Closed sign.

I ended up traveling north on Unicoi Turnpike north to Hiawassee HWY 76 and picked up the Traverse again at Barefoot Rd and Hwy 76.

It did not matter......all of this area was so beautiful. I don't think there is a bad road in this part of Georgia.

This portion of the Traverse was my absolute favorite. The trail was excellent. Water crossings, big forests and some nice altitude changes.

The longest crossing is marked as a legal river crossing on the Talulah River but I still got some grief from an old fly fisherman. I am glad I was going nice and slow and not clowning around. Coming in from the west, there is no sign and the fishermen are all on the opposite side of the river, so I had no warning I was driving up on a road full of fishermen.



 

wngrog

Adventurer
#9
I'll rat myself out here for a mistake I made so no one else makes the same mistake I made.

Abe Gap Rd / FS 32c leg is closed. If you come in from the west like I did here is a well worn path around the gate that could be mistaken for a hazzard marker since the road is washed out.

The east end at Patterson Gap Road is gated and impassible so this required a full backtrack to Persimmon Road.

I got to the gate on the west end of this section and there was a road around it that looked fairly well used. I took it and drove all the way to the closed gate on the east end at Abe Gap. Ugh.

I took this on the way out. I thought the gate was a hazard marker, not a full closure.



Coming in from the EAST you will see a real gate with no way around it so you won't have this issue. Just stay on Abe Gap and you will pick up the Traverse again easily.

Here is the look from the INSIDE where you don't won't to be.



Again, coming in from the east you won't make this mistake or better yet, don't drive around any gates and you won't lose two hours and risk a ticket!
 

wngrog

Adventurer
#10
The final section of the Traverse takes you through a section of North Carolina on a beautiful paved stretch where you can gas up and fuel the body and grab some ice. It quickly gets back to gravel on a long nice section along a river with a lot of possible campsites.

I got within one mile of the end and this tree was across the road. It had recently fallen as there were very few tracks under it. I barely fit with a lot of turning and getting out to see.


I was VERY fortunate that all the fresh trees that had fallen were cut out by locals prior to my arrival. I would not do this trail again without carrying a chain saw.

I made it to the end at about 2 pm EDT.

In review,

Day 1 was 110 miles and it took about 4 hours.

Day 2 was 158 miles and took me 11 hours

Day 3 was 96 miles and took me 7 hours.

All of these were running and stopped times. Being solo I did not spend much time stopped and I pushed hard on the full day on the second day.

This was a superb trip and the creator is a great guy for sharing his work. I was, and still am, shocked that I ran into ONE other person on the entire route doing the Traverse. That flies in the face of my conventional wisdom of sharing routes and they will get destroyed. I saw very very little trash along the trail. What I did see I tried to grab it.

Thanks again David, I hope to host you in Mississippi one day in return.

 

wngrog

Adventurer
#11
So, it's 2 pm and my beautiful wife does not fly in until 11:15 on the next day.

I can see a lot of beautiful country in 19 hours so I made a rough plan and set it into motion.

I took off north from the end of the trail to Cashiers NC then took Highway 64 east to Rosman and then north on Parkway Road (NC 215) which is one of the best roads ever to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I took the Parkway from the southern terminus in Cherokee to Asheville two summers ago so I was going to see what I could see north of Asheville and then find a place camp up near Linville Gorge.







 

wngrog

Adventurer
#12
That section of the Parkway was outstanding. This late in the day I almost had it to myself. Unreal.

I was able to make it to the base of Table Rock Mountain at dark and find a roadside campsite. Add another 6 hours to that last leg of the Traverse and you get to see a lot of beautiful country.

All was superb until I reached for my handle of Four Roses and realized I had spilled the entire thing in the back of my Land Cruiser. The only saving grace was that it spilled onto a fresh roll of blue shop rags. Weak ass 80 proof doesn't burn by the way. I was at least hoping for a hell of a firestarter.




Final chapter. Table Rock Mountain.

A long 1mile hike from the parking lot straight up to a beautiful place to watch the sun come up.








I packed up and took 15 miles of dirt roads to two lane and landed on I-40 at about 9:30 am EDT. I made a quick stop at the Lowe's Truck stop for a shower and rolled up to the Asheville airport in the nick of time to grab the redhead.

I truly packed it in over a 3 day period but I really saw some incredible country. I highly recommend the entire thing. The Smokies are incredible.
 
#14
My neck of my the woods. Very nice. Wish I’d have know about this prior. Would have suggested a couple good camping spots. Could have hooked you up with the cabin off hwy 215. And what? You were at the Asheville Airport and no mention of Sierra Nevada? You were just a few hundred yards from adult Disneyland.
 
Top