In my desire to explore more parks in Georgia, I headed southeast to Mistletoe State Park which offers a backcountry trail with primitive camping. I planned to do the backcountry overnight, shower & spend a night in campground and move on.
Checked in at Park Office. Unfortunately, individuals working counter didn’t know much about the trail other than the trail is “mostly flat” & there was water. Also could offer no interesting facts about the park or area other than “its a new park, it was created in the ’70s.” There are 3 campsites and “most people camp at #1”. I paid my $10 & got my map.
Oh well. Apparently this is a major fishing destination…I hope they know their lures & bait.
Moved my car to parking by trailhead and headed out at 2:30pm.
The trail is well-blazed (with one exception) and mostly wide enough for a vehicle. I took the Cliatt Creek Nature trail to the Rock Dam trail.The water was fairly low – we haven’t had a good rain in a few weeks. The majority of the trail is along water (various creeks). I noticed a beaver dam (see the end of sticks chewed pointy?)
I kept walking and noticed I wasn’t see blazes. I backtracked until I saw poorly placed blazes again & noticed the (really crappy) creek crossing. No way I was going to cross w/ my pack over those logs. Took off pack, took off boots/socks, put on water shoes, put pack back on & crossed really icky water. This was the only place where the trail is seriously thumbs down.
I continued on, the trail was mostly flat, no jaw-dropping views. Passed granite that supposedly is part of the same outcropping as Stone Mountain.His & Hers Black Oaks
Into a gulley
(make sure you have ‘skeeter spray on here!), and then you emerge to campsite 1 aka “Rock Dam”. It was not even 4pm, so I didn’t spend much time, as I planned to camp at #3. *More on Rock Dam later…
A few muddy / wet stream crossings throughout the trail (depending on amount of rain):
Split Rock:Encountered campsite #2 – plenty of wood, small fire ring, water not particularly close /easily accessible. The rock by the fire ring reminded me of a coffin. I did explore some & noticed a lot of barbed wire near large rocks – so if you choose to camp here, keep an eye out.
Saw a few interesting things, like these leaning trees:Then finally approached campsite #3 & “the vista”. Campsite was TINY, barely any flat ground, no easily accessible wood…but according to the map, water was right across the trail.Despite there not being any recent rain, the Vista (completely lush & gorgeous) is like quicksand mud. The grass is really high & I had a close encounter with a snake. There is a stream in the middle of it. I noticed plenty of paw prints (more on that later too). It was *really* windy. I went back to the campsite & decided I was not camping there. No way I’d start a fire (if I could find enough wood) with the wind gusts unless I had water very close. It was almost 6pm. I decided to book it and finish the trail before dark.
So I hauled tail past Devil’s Gorge (not impressive at all), and crossed several muddy/somewhat wet streams. If we’d had a good rain, it would have required more than a flying leap or carefully stepping on rocks/wood. There is a small section (about 1/3 mile) that is noticeably rocky and inclined. But you have a nice view of more “Vista” as you make your way up.
The creek crossing at the end of the trail is much easier than the initial crossing. Even without a recent rain, I still had to walk very carefully over the slick / wet rocks. There are a few other possible places to cross downstream if the path (by the bench) is too deep.
I made it back to the trailhead close to 7:30. Park office closed, so I figured I’d camp in walk-in sites. I gotta say,those were the longest walk-in sites I’ve seen. And they weren’t particularly remote – could see RV in campsite from Walk-in campsite #1. Was too tired to explore more (#2-4).
Feeling like the Goldilocks of campsites, I drove to campsite #87ish, set up tent there because it offered view / trail to lake coveand was treated to an awesome sunset.
Wait..it gets better!
Some of the campsites are on top of one another (particularly the other campground with lower-numbered sites). Each has the typical fire ring, lantern post, picnic table & grill. Bathroom facilities were okay – standard.
I decided I was going to explore shoreline in the morning because I noticed a lot of paw prints, catch some sun & go back to camp at Rock Dam. Although no official trail, I really enjoyed the walk. Canadian Geese are loud annoyances, but watching them with their babies was a treat.
I was able to take plenty of pics & start to learn differences in paw prints. Raccoon & possom prints look similar, but raccoons have claws.
I discovered several skeletons. Not sure what they were. I don’t think the head/spine are to the same animal. Skull has 2 huge teeth, but skull is too big for a beaver. *Think it’s a feral pig.
The striations of rocks were beautiful.I found one stream with a lot of paw prints, had enough of the shoreline, so decided to explore. After getting to point in stream where it felt really “snakey”, so I crossed into woods. Nothing noteworthy but encountered a recently deceased goose.
Packed my gear up for backpacking attempt #2, paid another $10 and headed out about 4:30pm. Commented about how sucky that 1st water crossing was. Park staff said the state was concerned about liability building one. (There are several simple wood bridges/platforms elsewhere.) I decided I was not going to cross near beaver dam, but backtrack to easier crossing and bushwhack it to rejoin the trail. (Thank you GPS)
Made it to the Rock Dam campsite in under 90mins. The area is quite large. Could easily accommodate 20+ people. One picnic table & fire ring. Decent amount of wood but bring a hand saw unless you want to watch fire a lot. There is a good amount of wood in the 1/4 mile before campsite as well.
As I was collecting wood, I noticed several large bonesAnd numerous feathersand 4 copperheads right by the dam (it was windy, if you squint…)And a crab?
Views along creek by Rock Dam campsite:Set up tent, started campfire, eating my spicy chicken pasta salad…
Actually had intermittent cell signal (meaning it would go from 3G to NO signal sitting in same place). I was tweeting & Instagramming. Putting wood on fire when this spider appeared. I’m not particlarly squeamish about spider, but this f’er LUNGED at me. I did not kill it. I hoped it wasn’t a killer spider that was the cause of the bones & feathers…
Waiting for fire to burn out when I start hearing a BB gun. I thought it was really odd for someone to be shooting in backcountry in pitch dark. Then… crash! Apparently a large tree makes BB-like sounds as the roots/branches breaking. It landed 20 ft away from my tent across the creek. In the dark, it was scary!
Heard owls, nothing nearby disturbing me (ie squirrels, raccoons). Woke up, had breakfast & hiked back to my car via return loop. Nothing noteworthy but I noticed the remnants of (guessing) old bridge.
As I was taking a picture of the rocks, saw what looked like an odd place for a critter to poop…and then realized it was a large rat snake. I didn’t want to disturb him, so zooming was fuzzy.
Made it back to trailhead before 10am. Random shots along the trail:
Verdict: pass. Too many other cool places to explore. It has a sand beach in another area. As for fishing, I encountered quite a few guys fishing – none had caught any. Maybe they weren’t biting?
Headed to my next destination… I’ll update with gpx files soon.