High 5 – High Falls State Park

*still uploading pics… Continuing my exploration of Georgia State Parks, I had planned to hit High Falls & Indian Springs State Park as a “two-fer” since they are a couple of exits apart north of Macon.

I had never heard of High Falls State Park – and it’s only an hour’s drive from Atlanta. The park’s layout was a bit confusing at first, but not a problem. The Visitor Center is on one side, but you have to drive to the day use area on the other side of the river. And the river campground and fishing area were across the street. I took a quick whirl around the 2 different campsites. There’s the lake campsites, which also include a few yurts, and the “river” campsites. I decided the larger river campground was definitely more in tune with what I sought. I drove back across the street to the Visitor’s/Campground check-in and secured 2 nights. The person checking me in wasn’t exactly the most helpful, forthcoming person, but she was not representative of the rest of the gang.

I staked my claim on a campsite (#88) which was on the ‘end’, offered a sorta river-view, and had a decent amount of woods surrounding me. Even though it was a Thursday, the number of RV’s in the 100-ish campsites was overwhelming.

I had quite a challenge setting up my tent b/c the ground on the tent pads was so hard, I could not get a stake in the ground. I tried numerous spots and camp sites. I even poured jugs of water on ground trying to ‘soften’ the ground. Ended up tieing off my guy-lines to the picnic table, guard rail & grill. Not exactly thrilled with the result, but it would do for the time-being.

I set off down the road back toward the “Falls”. I was exploring different ‘openings’ along the road that offered access to the Towalinga River.  Most were unimpressive, but I struck ‘gold’ a short distance before the “river campground gate”.

Awesome place to sit, read, picnic, watch lizards, tadpoles, geese, and heron. I could hear cars/RVs occasionally driving down the road, but otherwise, it was quite private.

I headed back to my campsite at sunset, had dinner, made a kick-butt campfire. I enjoyed listening to the cacophony of frogs and crickets as I dozed off.

*Despite what the campground rules/policies are, someone drove in & set up around 11pm in the site next to me. They were super-noisy. I was surprised in the am to see that they were in a very old van. From all the noise they were making, I figured they were setting up a huge tent. I admit, when “quiet hours” were over at 7am, I was quite happy to reciprocate with using the water spigot for my site which was next to their van…repeatedly. 🙂

I took off hiking up the road again, to the designated ‘fishing area’ and caught the trail by the “old Power Plant”.

The trail was very well-blazed. It was a bit rooty and I was disappointed to see so much trash along the trail. Diapers galore. (Really people!)

There were 2 overlooks at the Falls which were nice previews of the High Falls.

I crossed the road, to explore the overlook of the remains of the grist mill and the dam.I watched numerous turtles of varying sizes as they ‘sunbathed’ or attempted to crawl up on a stump.I headed over to the side of the dam by the Visitors Center and saw lots of baby turtles swimming in a run-off pool. There were several picnic tables, grills and a pavillion or two in the area. Also, lots of Canadian Geese. (they scare me)Crossing the bridge to the “day use area”  gave views of the dam and lower area. Access to get anywhere close to the dam is fenced off. It has a huge grassy area for picnic tables and shelters. I found the variety of rocks and their positioning interesting.The Heron seemed to pose. I saw it fly up the river the next day with a snake in its beak.

The scenery below the dam was diverse and offered plenty of interesting things when one paid attention:

I headed up to the lake – it was large, not my ‘thing’. Supposedly, the fishing in the lake and the river are noteworthy. One can rent canoes and paddleboats in season. *See website for details.Time to cross the road to take the Falls Trail which goes along the other side of the river. The trail begins with stairs, intersecting with a few overlooks and bare rocky, rooty ground. NOT ideal for flip-flops.

Plenty of warnings about not getting into the water. And plenty more trash. I started to pick up some garbage, but that’s when I encountered one of the snakes. I opted to be ‘selective’ of what I picked up. *More reason for no flip-flops!

The trail offered great views of the Towaliga River, the falls, and went in a variety of different directions. On the same side as the river trail is “the nature” trail. I followed red blazes down a lot further than the official park map indicated.

The trail has a lot of mini-spurs where you can go along the river or further up into the woods. I ‘discovered’ several boggy ponds.The plant diversity in the river and bogs were interesting.Walking slowly, I saw a slew of baby toads about the size of a penny, green lizards, alligator-looking lizards, and some with blue throats.

And a King Snake slowly crossed right in front of me on the trail.

Then I noticed the ‘beaver trees’. Most showed that they had been downed a while ago, but I found a ‘fresh’ one with recent ‘shavings’. (Made me curious to find the beaver habitat). 

I think this was their lodge (couldn’t get too close to get better angle)

I also found several paw prints.

As I made my way along the river trail, I was parallel to where I had been ‘chillaxing’ the previous day. There were several men fishing in the water near the opposite side of the river. I brought my water shoes and my plan was to cross the river and end up back at ‘my spot’.

The water wasn’t cold (like Tallulah Gorge). The bottom wasn’t slippery (like Tallulah Gorge), and I crossed without incident (unlike Tallulah Gorge). The water, at the deepest, came up to my butt. I did a little happy dance when I reached the other side. Chatted with one of the unsuccessful fishermen (I apologized if I scared away any of the fish). He used to live on the lake until “the flood of 1994” which wiped away a lot of homes and the steel bridge.

The clouds were starting to fire up. I excused myself to take a quick shower and get my tent ready for potential rain. (Remember, guy-lines not securely tied down.). I used my extra tarp to hang over my tent/rain-fly by a couple of inches so I’d have some wiggle room if we had a hard rain. 

It was sprinkling when I left the comfort station (nice enough – 2 showers, couple of toilets, clean but quite a bit of flying skeeters, etc in there). Everyone was fleeing inside their RV’s. I sat in my chair, under my tarp, enjoying my dinner with the light rain. Then huge lightning bolt struck nearby, apparently knocking out their power. The family in the RV next to me got in their car to drive off to find dinner.

Rain stopped. Skies cleared. I started my campfire. The frogs and crickets provided a nice soundtrack. 

Then the rain came back. Hard. My campfire was still going – so I chuckled as I sat on the picnic table in front of my campfire in my poncho in the pouring rain. I had eight frogs join me. They were ribbeting away. I started naming them & I even ‘petted’ one. He kept hopping closer and closer to my foot. (I was not drinking. There was no frog-licking either – I was not hallucinating.)

It rained hard all night but I stayed dry. I got up at sunrise, packed up my wet gear and giggled at my RV campmates who were complaining b/c they didn’t have a/c or tv due to the power being out. (rolling eyes)

The comparison of the falls before and after the rain was unmistakeable.

The trails were muddy and the rocky sections were slippery – wished I had worn my other boots with more traction. I was eager to find fresh paw-prints. Since it was Saturday, the park was noticeably more crowded. 

I headed down the path along the river, past the old power plant and noticed some fresh and very odd poop (aka skat). Looked someone had been eating a lot of freshwater shells.

I found a nice spot for lunch, close to the opposite side of my ‘chillaxing spot’. The water was significantly higher and running faster – no one was even fishing – I knew I wasn’t going to attempt to cross again.

The huge boulders were fascinating to me – the contrast of granite and quartz was noteworthy.

I headed further along river, following the red blazes and other paths until I reached a sign that said “Private Property”. I doubled back, looking for the red blazes & encountered this steep muddy path heading in same vicinity as the “private property” sign…but there was no sign. I continued along the loop – there were several blazed spurs that weren’t in sync with the map (but then again, I followed red blazes far beyond where park map indicated). There were some steep hills, but the trail felt like just a walk in the woods. 

As I was heading back on the ‘river campground side’, I noticed several idiots playing in the water at the base of the falls. I recalled a very nice Park Ranger telling me that there are lots of metal poles with sharp edges protruding under the water. I tried calling all of the park phone numbers listed on the park map. They all went to voicemail. Repeatedly. (So don’t do anything stupid because you’re on your own.)

I also encountered another baby snapping turtle. This poor fella had part of it’s shell broken and there was blood. He was alive but didn’t try to run – he did open his little mouth to threaten me. I said a little prayer and tried to camoflauge him a bit with some leaves so others would let him be. 

Recommendations: 
Don’t miss. Don’t go on weekends. Bring plenty of bug spray & sunscreen. Don’t wear flip flops -not only for snakes, but to out run Canadian Geese. Go slow on trails. Don’t molest the critters. 

*kidding about the geese.

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