Days 30, 31 & 32: Chattahoochee-Oconee NF – Conasauga & Blue Ridge Ranger Districts

Road Miles: 101

Total: 3806.8

Trail Miles: 0

Total: 101.1

Sites: Chattahoochee-Oconee NF – Bear Creek Trail Campground / Conasauga RD; Morganton Point Recreation Area & Chestatee Overlook / Blue Ridge RD

I was awakened again by Leon crowing at me. Leon has poor boundaries, and little consideration for my desire to sleep in. I threw him some Triscuits, and may have called him a few family-unfriendly names as I slammed myself back inside the van to try to sleep some more. Shortly, however, a couple of USFS guys came through to collect trash and check the bathrooms. They caught sight of Leon protectively stalking around in front of the van. “That rooster still here?! I figured he’d have been eaten by now.” 

They told me Leon had been there at least three weeks. Leon is a little bad-ass! We chatted a bit more about the Easter weekend crowds, and one of them mentioned that they needed to come back out to clean up the abandoned tent; it had been on the campground over a month. Later in the afternoon, a lone man pulled into the lot, and began walking around the perimeter, looking off to the sides. I smiled and waved from the van when I caught his eye. With a scowl and silence, he turned away, and continued whatever it was he was doing. He left after a few more minutes, not making eye contact as he drove right by me out of the lot. The encounter struck me wrong, and suddenly I felt very uncomfortable staying. The Forest Service guys had already come and gone. No one really knew where I was now, since I’d been ambiguous about how long I’d be parked here. Cell service required a 5+ mile round trip hike. Also, it started to rain. Heavily. This was concerning, since getting in and out of this site required driving through a creek. Dammit. It was time to move on.

I packed up, and looked around for Leon to throw him some farewell popcorn, but he was nowhere to be found. Heading back toward Ellijay, I heard the familiar “ding! ding!” of connectivity, so I pulled over at a Dollar General and plopped myself on the sidewalk with the phone and atlas to figure out my next spot. I got in touch with Gemstone, one of my PCT family, who lived nearby with Captain Crunch. They’d invited me to their place, but they have a new baby, and I felt like I needed at least one more day and night to shake this cold. The last thing I wanted to do was give it to Bodhi. A man stopped and asked if I needed help. I told him I was trying to find a campground nearby. He apologized, saying he wasn’t familiar with any. A few minutes later, the cashier came out and asked if I was ok. “A guy just came in and said there was a hot chick on the sidewalk who’s looking for a campground.”

I immediately looked around to see who she meant, but there was no one else outside. Then I considered my bedraggled state, how long it had been since I had a shower, my snot-chapped nose, my increasing level of sweatiness as I sat in the sun roasting, and cracked up. “Wow… Well, that was generous of him!”

She referred me to a local private resort and campground she said was cheap and safe. I called and was told they are only open to members. Finally, I found the Morganton Point Recreation Area campground on the Chattahoochee-Oconee NF website. It had just opened for the season, and I figured it should be easy to score a walk-up site since it was Monday. They had showers, electricity, water, and it was only about 45 minutes away. 

I picked up some more tissues (box #4 for anyone counting), and thanked the cashier and guy who had sent her out for their help. I finally got to the campground early that evening and since I wasn’t feeling having to get up and move again the next day, I paid for two nights. Regularly, the single & tent sites are $18 / night, but with the Interagency pass, I got 50% off. Exhausted again by now, after checking in with people, I crawled into bed and knocked out.

In the middle of the night, I was awakened by the sound of something scurrying around inside the van, which was not good, because the only living thing that should have been in there was me. I sat up with a start, just in time to avoid a mouse scampering across my pillow and down the wall, behind the bed. Seriously? Now I have a mouse. The rooster was better – at least he stayed outside. 

I banged on the walls, accomplishing nothing but more scurrying, and set the solar lamp to shine under the bed. That was effective for about another hour before the mouse started running around again, in the walls, the ceiling, across the floor. Oh, and now it was clear that there were actually at least two of them. Double dammit.

The next day, I finally got a decent shower in, albeit short; this campground takes liberties with the phrase “warm showers.” At best, it was not freezing. It was still cold and rainy outside, and I hoped my cold wouldn’t be exacerbated. It was the perfect weather to be lazy: dreary, overcast. and damp. I slept as much as I could. I thought I’d scared the mice out, with all the periodic banging against the ceiling and walls I’d done. I hadn’t heard so much as a peep for hours by the time I turned out the light. 

No such luck. Within an hour they were back and bolder than ever. They scampered up, over, and around the food boxes. They raced back and forth in the ceiling. From the incredible racket they were producing, I think they may have built a tiny bowling alley up there. It was a long, sleepless, frustrating night. I realized that if I wanted to sleep, mouse traps were in order. 

The next morning, I was finally well enough to visit Captain Crunch, Gemstone, and their new baby Bodhi in nearby Dawsonville. I found a scenic route in that direction, GA-60 near Suches, which was absolutely beautiful. Just after an AT crossing, I pulled into the Chestatee Overlook which offers a sweeping panoramic view of the Blood Mountain Wilderness.

I had also learned that Georgia has wineries! Lots of them! So I made a little side stop at Frogtown Cellars for a tasting. Although the tasting room had a fancy feel to it, the people could not have been friendlier. My favorite was the 2011 Audacity, a Sangiovese-Cab Sauvignon blend. I picked up a bottle I thought my friends would like, and sat outside with a sweet, super-soft kitty before getting back on the road. 

I hadn’t seen Crunch & Gemstone since Stehekin off the PCT in northern Washington in 2015. Now they’re settled back home in Georgia, new parents to the cutest stinkin’ baby I have ever seen, Bodhi. We celebrated our hikertrash family reunion with a delicious dinner they whipped up: Crunch’s specialty salsa, and what Gemstone described as “vegan Dutch soul food,” a sausage/kale/potato concoction that was amazing. 

Finally, I hit the rack, my heart and stomach full, happy and tired. Soon, I heard the now-familiar skittering of my nocturnal rodent hitchhikers. Dammit! I hadn’t heard them all day; I thought they’d bailed out of the van. I *knew* I should have cat-napped that cute kitty!