Pickett’s Mill Trail – #22 from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Creek at Pickett's Mill Trail

Creek at Pickett’s Mill Trail

First hike of 2013!  Between the weather and the holidays it’s been a while since I’ve been hiking.  My Christmas and New Year were spent with great friends and filled with plenty of food and drink, it’s definitely time to get back at it now.  This wasn’t a long hike, it was only supposed to be 3.1 miles going in but with some trail section closed I ended up with 2.37 miles total.

Pickett’s Mill Trail at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site
$4.00/person for adult admission
Trailhead Coordinates: 33.973908, -84.759223
Distance Hiked: 2.37 miles
Hiking Time: 1:11:20
Click to download GPX file

There’s a good bet that  unless you live in the area, or are a Civil War buff, you’ve never heard of The Battle of Pickett’s Mill.  One reason being that Sherman got his butt kicked so thoroughly at Pickett’s Mill that he decided to leave mention of it out of his notes and memoirs, and as we all know it’s the victors that write the history books.  It’s understandable he’d want to forget it, the Union lost 1,600 troops compared to the Confederacy losing just 500.   I use “just 500 lives lost” only as a reference to the fact the Union lost over 3 times that many.  The battle took place on May 27, 1864 and covered a rather hilly and heavily forested area.  In some cases the soldiers were entrenched less than 100 yards from each other.

Soldier Keeping an Eye on the Battlefield

Soldier Keeping an Eye on the Battlefield

Hiking Pickett’s Mill Trail I can imagine what it must have been like to do battle there.  Most of the terrain is hilly with a couple rather steep sections where the soldiers faced each other on opposite sides of a ravine.  There’s a small creek that runs throughout the area and it is heavily wooded.  Almost 150 years later it made for a very nice hike, it’s humbling to think that over 2,000 men lost their lives on and around these hiking trails.  The trails are very well marked with like-new blaze markers up as well as numerical points of interest which you can refer to on your map.  There’s also a nice visitor center with a small museum and gift shop and restrooms, water and a soda machine are available just outside the center, there are no other facilities at the park.

Overall this is a nice, leisurely hike with a great history lesson.  Definitely worth checking out.

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Sweetwater Creek State Park – 58 and 59 from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Sweetwater Creek

Sweetwater Creek

We had a gorgeous weekend in Atlanta and as I’m wont to do (I’ve always wanted to say that) I had to get a hike in.  A buddy suggested Sweetwater Creek State Park, so that’s where we headed.  I didn’t check my book beforehand and when I got home and looked found out the area we hiked actually covered two of the hikes in the book.  There are a few trails throughout the park and we started out on the red blazed trail, also called the historic trail (more on that later) and finished our hike via the white blazed trail, along with the Blue blazed trail these are referred to as the non-game trails.

The park is located approximately 25 miles west of Atlanta in Lithia Springs.  We entered the park via the Factory Shoals Road entrance and paid the $5.00 per car fee to enter the park.  As you enter the park Sparks Reservoir will be immediately on the left.  Drive straight back to get the visitor’s center and trailheads, you’ll pass several picnic areas along the way.  The park was very busy the day I went, I’m sure people are taking advantage of the gorgeous weather knowing that cooler temps are just around the corner.   We parked, got our gear together, put the leash on Boo, grabbed a map and headed out.  Jumping topics here but I really should get a little better with reading and navigating via a map.  In all fairness many of the maps the parks give out can be confusing as they only put things on the map they feel are important and sometimes things I think are important to pinpointing where I am are left out.  That’s right… I blame my shitty map-reading skills on shitty maps.  Don’t hate.

As mentioned the park was busy and traffic, especially at the trailhead, was heavy.  Just a short ways in we saw a Blue Heron perched high up in a tree, it looked odd as I usually see them along the shore or wading in the shallows. Later on I saw a Bald Eagle, unfortunately it flew over quickly and I didn’t get a chance to take a pic.  That was very awesome, first time I’ve seen one in the wild.  We proceeded along the trail which ran parallel to Sweetwater Creek, about 1/2 mile in you come to the ruins of the New Manchester Mill.  If you’ve read some of my other posts you know I love a hike with history so this was awesome to see.  The factory was burnt to the ground on July 9, 1864 by Union troops.  All employees were taken prisoner and moved to Marietta, later they were moved north and given the option to pledge allegiance to the Union and be released as free Northerners, they were commanded not to travel back south while the country was still at war.  I didn’t find any info as to what the other options were if you didn’t choose to become a Yankee.

New Manchester Factory ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park

New Manchester Factory ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Past the ruins the trail continues along the creek and offers a bit of challenging terrain as the area is quite rocky, as I attempted to navigate the rocks my pup simply ran up and down them pulling me along on the leash and getting frustrated with me for not keeping up.  For some reason she was extra rambunctious on this hike and hard to control, maybe there were just too many smells to process all at once.  I was too focused on looking at the scenery and navigating the rocks and forgot to take more pictures but did get a few of  the creek.  My buddy that went with me said he’ll be back soon with his fishing pole.  We saw several smaller fish along the banks so I’m sure there are larger ones out there.  He doesn’t have a very good record anyhow… I’m pretty sure the fish are safe.

In total we hiked 3.85 miles in 2.5 hours.  I’d say overall the trail was moderate difficulty. There was one hill that seemed to go on forever but other than that the hard climbs were pretty quick.  All in all it was a very fun hike and I will definitely return again to explore the other trails.

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Cheatham Hill Trail at Kennesaw Mountain – #16 from the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

View from the top of Kennesaw Mountain with Atlanta in the distance.

Once again I hit a trail that not only gave me a good hike (5.6 miles) but also was chock full of history.  As I mentioned before in my post about hiking #14 – Allatoona Pass, I love a hike that has historic value, especially Civil War era and there’s no shortage of that in the Atlanta area.  Cheatham Hill is inside Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park and is one of several you can choose from covering a rather large area.  This trail was 5.6 miles and is, amazingly, the first trail I’ve hiked that match up with what the book said.

First, a little history… The battle at Kennesaw Mountain lasted from June 19 to July 2, 1864 with a total of 5,350 casualties between the Union and Confederacy.  The heaviest fighting took place on June 27, 1864.   The hiking trails throughout the battlefield cross through many historic sites and the ruins of the encampments there.  The Confederate troops were camped all over the mountain with the Federal troops scattered around the base.

I met up at the visitors’ center with my friend Brian and before heading out to hike we checked  out the visitor’s center museum and took the shuttle bus up to the top of Kennesaw Mountain.  You can hike to the top, that hike is The Burnt Hickory Loop #19 in the book, and the most difficult hike of the 60.   I hiked some light trails at the top of the mountain and took a few pics from the top before heading back down to hike.  If you are in the area to hike any of the trails and have not been before, the visitors’ center and mountain top are worth checking out.  We went on Labor Day and they were having artillery demonstrations so I also got to hear a presentation on the use of cannons and see them fire one a couple times.  Very cool to see but those bums wouldn’t let me shoot it.  Whatever.

After checking out the history we drove to the trailhead as it’s a few miles from the visitors’ center.  Almost immediately after hitting the trail you come to some earthworks with two cannons on display, a little further and you come to the Illinois Monument.  After the monument there are a few more historical markers but from here on it it’s mostly your basic hiking trail.  I’m assuming Mr. and Mrs. Golden (the book’s authors) are in better shape than I am as on a couple occasions they’ve ranked trails as easy that I would say are moderate difficulty.  To me an “easy” trail is going to be simple flatlands where the Cheatham Hill Trails does have a nice scattering of moderate hills.  My buddy agreed with me that he would rate this as moderate.

I really enjoyed this trail.  It had some great scenery with a mix of heavy tree cover with narrow trails, wide trails through lush fields, streams/creeks and and decent hills.  There was also a decent amount of flora and fauna to see with lots of unusual mushrooms, insects (lots of spiders, which I thought was cool), squirrels and chipmunks and I’m sure others.  One note, this trail allows horses on it and that is very obvious but the massive amounts of horse poop on the trails, I mean seriously a lot of poop.  I don’t know how many horses it would take to poop that much but my guess would be around 850.  No but seriously, there was a lot of poop on the trail.

Huge mushroom along the trail at Cheatham Hill. One Brian included for scale.

We chugged along at a pretty good pace and thankfully there was a strategically placed water fountain about 3/4 of the way through the trail.  Speaking of that, make sure to take plenty of water and maybe some GORP or energy bars and charge up your cell phone or GPS before heading out – this hike took right at 3 hours.  The pace of flatlands and hills is just enough to keep your blood pumping without overworking those that are in less than stellar shape.  At one point Brian wanted to throw a rock at a young lady who ran by us at the end of the trail and up a hill just as we were dragging ourselves up it with out last bit of energy… I just barely talked him out of it.

As I type this up I realize how much I enjoyed this trail.  It’s never boring as there’s such a variety of history and nature to check out and it gives you a good workout.  I definitely recommend this hike.  Pack a light bag with water and a camera and go enjoy a great day hiking.  This is my favorite hike of done so far.

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Allatoona Pass Trail – #14 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Allatoona Pass, also known as Deep Cut.

One thing great about living near Atlanta is that so many of our trails have a lot of history surrounding them, especially Civil War history.  I love to learn and I love to hike so enjoying both at the same time is great.  I hiked this trail back on 06/09/12, before I started the blog, so I’m playing a bit of catch up here.

Allatoona Pass (also known as Deep Cut)  sits on the western shores of Lake Allatoona and was the site of the last Civil War battle in the Atlanta area.  The pass was built by slaves during the construction of the Western and Atlantic railroad and is flanked by two large mountains… or hills, depending on your definition.   On the eastern hill there are several rifle embankments and Federal trenches.  The western hill was the location of The Star Fort, composed of 6′ earthworks walls and 6′ trenches with only one opening to allow munitions to be brought in.  General Sherman rode his horse through the pass in 1844 and was so impressed with the defense it provided that he avoided it during his Atlanta Campaign.  I think it’s extremely cool to hike down a trail in the exact location William Tecumsheh Sherman once rode.

I’m also a firearms enthusiast and this battle was one of the earliest where the Henry rifle was used by Union soldiers, and it made a huge difference in the battle.  After an encounter with the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry a Confederate Officer is credited with the quote, “It’s a rifle you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long.”

The trail itself has a total length of just over 3 miles and winds in and back out along the banks of Lake Allatoona.  At the beginning of the trail is Memorial Field with monuments to both the Union and Confederate soldiers that fought here.  There are some moderate hills and the trail offers some great views of the lake through a heavily wooded area.  Walking through the center of the cut there is a staircase leading up to The Star Fort and further along the trail is a sign marking the Grave of the Unknown Hero.  The trail eventually dead ends and you loop back to the trailhead.

This was a very fun and educational hike on a very hot day.  My poor old dog almost couldn’t take it and would lie down anytime I tried to stop to read one of the signs.  Looks like she’s getting a bit tender in her old age.

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