Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Family Hike to Long Creek Falls on the Appalachian Trail

Blue Ridge, Ga
If you want to impress your kids or grandkids, take them on a hike on the Appalachian Trail to beautiful Long Creek Falls, just outside of Blue Ridge, Georgia.  Many folks don't know that the southern terminus to the Appalachian Trail actually begins in Fannin County, near Blue Ridge, and there's a beautiful waterfall near Three Forks, where the Appalachian and Benton MacKaye Trails join.  A weekday just before Easter found an interesting mix of people on the short 1 mile trail from Forest Service Road 58 to Long Creek Falls.  Early on the hike, Lewis, age 9, was proud to get his picture taken in front of an Appalachian Trail sign.

Lewis on the Appalachian Trail

Lewis also loved the Appalachian Trail map we got at the Fannin County Welcome Center in Blue Ridge. 

On the way up to the falls, we met some members of the Appalachian Trail Club who were cleaning up sections of the trail.  There were thru hikers who hiked over from Springer Mountain.  And there were people like us, just enjoying a lovely spring day in Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains.  The hike is a gentle incline upward to the falls.  There are three short ascents before reaching the blue blazed side trail to the falls at 1.1 miles.  At the falls, there were several guys cooking their lunch beside the stream.  They had enough gear for a thru hike to Maine, but they were just having a weekend hikeout with all their gear!

Lew and  Eliza at Long Creek Falls

The road to Three Forks is also gorgeous, with Noontootla Creek forming several smaller waterfalls along the way.  We had a picnic near the parking area at Three Forks.  To get directions to Long Creek Falls from Blue Ridge, see and click on Self-Guided Tours. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race

By Ron Zadroga
Blue Ridge, Ga.  The 13th annual Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race in Blue Ridge, Georgia last Saturday, April 10, began with 77 of the 79 registered teams. It was a perfect day starting at 32 degrees with frost on the ground, and rising to the low 70’s – sunny and clear all day. The unusual start put one of the three team-members on a bicycle (6.7 miles) in a North Carolina cow pasture where the three states of GA, NC, and TN come together. A second began in a canoe (3.7 miles) in Georgia. The third began on foot (3.4 miles) from a Tennessee location. All three racers joined up at Checkpoint (CP) 1, which was ultimately the finish line. The best strategy for this prologue section was to use individual strengths to have all three team-members arrive at CP1 as close to the same time as possible. Leaving from there, the team began a 9.5-mile paddle plus a ¾ mile portage to the bike staging area. The race course led the teams into three states, two rivers, a lake, and two national forests.

CP3 on the canoe route proved to be elusive – only 30 of the teams, including the top 10, were able to find it. And by the way, CP3 was the exact same location as one of the CP’s in the 2008 USARA National Championship event, where every team found it, also by canoe. From there, things heated up. CP’s 5 through 10 of this rogaine-style race challenged the thinking and creativity of the teams. Every imaginable route was selected by various teams. Some rode bikes, some hike-a-biked, some dropped their bikes and went on foot. There seemed to be no end to the order in which CP’s were retrieved, routes selected, and mode of transportation utilized. Keeping their bikes with them, even when on foot, proved to be the better choice, as roads and trails appeared that were not on the map. The shortest distance between points was not always a straight line. Teams were required to stay together as a team. On numerous occasions at remote locations, one member would set off alone to retrieve a CP only to unexpectedly find a volunteer who was there to keep them honest. They would then silently retreat to gather their team and return to punch their passport.

The top four teams swapped position throughout the day, using different approaches to the various CP’s. Eight teams retrieved a bonus punch that gave them a one-hour time reduction, which proved to be of little value to the top finishers, as all of them got it. This bonus punch helped only one team, moving them from 40th to 37th place.

Heading home after CP16, Checkpoint Zero had a 20-minute lead over their sister team, Checkpoint Zero-Masters, and an additional 15 minutes over Rare Form, followed closely by Taint So Bad and Enduraventure/Outspokin’ Bikes. These five teams maintained their relative positions through CP’s 17 and 18 on the bike ride to the finish, but enroute encountered a mile and a quarter railroad track ride and a knee-to-waist high wet crossing, carrying their bikes. Checkpoint Zero, held onto top position and finished in 7:09:47.

Only 48 of the 77 starting teams crossed the finish line in the allotted time of 10 hours, 30 minutes, and 59 seconds. The balance were unofficial, but completed the long and difficult course, and enjoyed a well-deserved welcome from the large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at the finish line in Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville.

For more detail and a complete list of the teams and finishing times, go to  Lots of photos on our Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race Facebook page at!/pages/Blue-Ridge-GA/Blue-Ridge-Mountain-Adventure-Race/140564044050

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race

It's time once again for the Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race this Saturday, April 10, with 80 plus teams of three competing.  The Blue Ridge Ga race, one of Georgia's first adventure races, started in April of 1998 with 15 teams, expanded to 48 teams in 1999 and has averaged 75 teams every year since.  This year promises to be especially exciting, because teams will compete in a Three State Challenge including Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.  They will run, mountain bike and canoe, navigating their way through parts of the Chattahoochee and Cherokee National Forests.

Finish line festivities will take place in Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville between 12 noon and 6 p.m., with food, exhibits, activities for kids and music by the reggae band, the Natti Lovejoys.  Bring your own lawn chair or quilt and plan to spend the day enjoying this beautiful park on the Toccoa River.