The last stop on the CurbCrusher Fall 2007 tour was Cloudland Canyon State Park in north west Georgia. On Tuesday morning, we spent a lazy morning cleaning up camp at Raccoon Mountain and then moseyed a bit south, twenty-five miles to be exact, to Cloudland Canyon. We approached from the west, taking I-24 west from Chattanooga, then exiting a Trenton, Georgia (exit 11) and heading east on state road 136. 136 is a mountain road (Ok I know the people out west laugh at the mountains on this side of the country. But for someone that lives in the flat lands of Florida, when the elevation exceeds about 40 feet above sea level, you’ve got a mountain.) that winds up to the park entrance about seven miles from the interstate.
We arrived and headed for the West Rim camping loop. Cloudland Canyon has two camping loops that are about a two – three mile drive from each other. The West Rim has the bigger sites so we headed that way. Georgia State Parks let you reserve a “type” of site, and then when you show up you look through the available sites of that type and choose the one you want (as opposed to Florida State Parks were you reserve a specific site number). So we drove through the West Rim loop and looked at all the “green” sites. There were about a half dozen RV’s in the loop, and probably another three or four tents. We finally settled on a pull through (one of four in the loop) that was behind the playground and a bathhouse, although the woods were so thick that you could not see the playground or the bath house from the site. The site was extremely large, and gave you a good sense of privacy. There was electricity and water on the site. There were a number of “gray water dump” sites located around the loops, and then a full dump station located on the way out of the camping area.
One of the attractions of Cloudland Canyon is that there are two waterfalls located in the canyon. Well when we checked in the ranger told Mrs. CurbCrusher that because of the drought the waterfalls have dried up. This was a bit of a disappointment, as I am a waterfall fan. We decided to hike to the waterfalls anyway. So we started our first hike of the day. One big problem was that we started the hike without looking at the map closely. The Waterfall trail starts on the East Rim of the canyon. We were on the West Rim, and needed to take the West Rim trail over to where it crosses to the East Rim. Since CurbCrusher was responsible for reading the trail map, and he didn’t do it right, the family started off toward the 4.2 mile loop section of the West Rim Trail, instead of toward the Waterfall Trail. There were some beautiful views of the canyon, and different rocks and fauna, but after about a mile we reached the start of the loop. Needless to say Mrs. CurbCrusher and Little CurbCrusher were not amused that we were at the start of the 4.2 mile loop, and so CurbCrusher actually read the map and we turned around.
After a bit of a rest, we drove over to the East Rim. The East Rim camping loop is more compact, and the sites do not seem to have as much foliage between them. There is also the parking for the day use near-by the campground, and the East Rim cabins are located right next to the camping loop.
We hiked the Waterfall trail to the dried up waterfalls. This trail is a mix of walking along a packed dirt trail, and descending steps to the canyon floor. You get about half way down and the trail splits, one way going about a tenth of a mile to one waterfall and the the other going about three tenths of a mile to the other. CurbCrusher is not convinced that the signs indicating the distance are accurate, as it seems that you go three tenths of a mile horizontally, and about six tenths vertically. And of course the real problem is that once you get to the bottom of each of the trails you have to climb back up. Somewhere I thought I’d heard Mrs. CurbCrusher say there were 400 steps to the waterfalls. On the way down I quit counting at 170. On the way up, I figured I’d count and when I got to about 230, I should be where I quit counting on the way down. I quit counting at 300 on the way up and I still could not see the place I’d quit counting on the way down.
While hiking and walking around the camping loop, we had seen a number of different leaves. We stopped by the Ranger Station and they lent us a guide book for identifying trees. After we had tried as best we could, we took some leaves back up there when we returned the book and they helped up identify them. Little CurbCrusher completed the Junior Ranger program during our stay at this park, and was able to get three nice patches.
The weather was wonderful. When we arrived in the park it was sort of drizzly and cloudy, but with a nice breeze that kept it feeling cool. The first morning we woke up to our outdoor thermometer reading 62, which is the coldest we’ve seen since February/March of this year. At night once the sun went down the temperature dropped in to the low 70’s fairly quickly and we were able to enjoy the ambiance of a small campfire for the first time a few months. This was what CurbCrusher had in mind when he talked about going to the mountains in September on vacation.
We would definitely like to visit this park again, especially once the waterfalls come back. This park is only about a half hour from Chattanooga, so it would be possible to use this park as a base to visit Chattanooga. The only thing is that the gates on this park are closed from 10PM until 7AM, and they don’t give you a code to get in and out like they do at other parks.
Some pictures can be found here.