Sunday Hikes: Emery Creek Falls (Part 3)

And now back to the third installment of the search for the lost Emery Creek Falls in North Georgia…

After discovering that our upstream trek was all in vain, my Dad and I quickly planned our next excursion to Emery Creek. Having actually found the trailhead last time we drove straight to it in the ol’ Jeep and parked right back in our gravel lot. We took a picture of the trail map on our phones because we aren’t safe hikers that always have topographical hiking maps. We continued down the trail to where our creek on the right met up with the real Emery Creek and after wandering to the left a little bit from where we had been misled by a cairn we found the real green blazed trail we needed (I think it was green anyway, all the blazes from all the trails tend to blend together in my head). We crossed the creek twice back to back and continued up along the creek, crossing it occasionally. This trail was much easier to follow compared to our non-trail from before. The trail was also relatively flat with only a few little ups and downs. After crossing the creek again we walked into and open area with some rock fire pits and open areas for tents then as the trail narrowed back down and strayed from the creek a little we passed one of the famed landmarks of Emery Creek Trail… the rusty shell of a pickup truck! We knew the truck was there before we came across it but we didn’t know why so we looked at it for a second and then kept hiking while discussing how and why the truck was there in the woods. The trail continued to meander through rhododendrons, large oaks, ferns, and even a little bamboo and then we crossed the creek again where it opened up into what looked like an unused forest service or ATV road. We passed a small snake that didn’t seem poisonous or threatening in anyway and the road quickly met a small stream that flowed into Emery Creek and turned back into a smaller trail. At this point our trail went up a little bit and flattened out about 20-30 feet above our creek with a steep hill to our right going into the water. The trail and the water eventually leveled out again and the foliage around us became thicker. We ran into a downed tree blocking our path and hopped right over it and continued to where the trail once again crossed the creek. At this point we could hear the sound of water rushing down from a height so we hurried our pace. Soon after we came to a split in the trail with the upper falls continuing straight and our water fall to the left. We went left past a couple more camping spots and all of the sudden our waterfall was right in front of us!

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We decided that this was definitely more impressive than what we thought was Emery Creek Falls and after taking some pictures we continued up the trail that goes to the middle of the upper and lower falls where two people had set up their tents and had camped the night before. We looked around a bit and then went back to the upper falls trail. This is where the trail got a little steeper but not too bad still. We kept going up and passed where the top of the falls were and continued on the trail to find an overlook that our map showed. The trail veered to the right and we crossed the creek once again. Right after we crossed the creek we spotted a small camping stove and a tent with a small family outside making breakfast. We said good morning and asked how they were, the dad of the family said he would give us some coffee but he had none left and asked where we were going. We told him we were looking for the overlook up the trail and he warned us like an old crazy wizard to “Be careful, no ones been up there in a long time”. After departing from our creepy friends the trail crossed over another dirt road that once again looked unused. After this the forest floor seemed to slowly creep closer and closer to our feet. The trail also began going uphill and the blazes became few and far between. At some point up our trail we came to a fork in the trail that wasn’t shown on our map. The left fork had many fallen trees and thick thorn bushes so we went right. The trail just kept going up, passing the creek a couple times until we came to what seemed like the spring that Emery Creek was born from. Still having found no overlook we pressed on. The forest changed as we gained altitude and turned from deciduous to solely conifers with their needles littering the floor. The trail came to an open area that then turned into some semi-steep switchbacks. Not too long after the switchbacks started we stopped, sat down, had a snack, and discussed turning back since it had been over and hour since we left the falls and we were about 3 miles past where we had intended to go on top of that the only water we had left was from my LifeStraw that I had refilled once already. So right there on our unknown mountain we turned back towards the Jeep. Once we had almost returned to the dirt road and back to the upper falls we heard a very loud snap and expecting a deer we looked towards the noise and saw a very large black bear running up a steep hill, away from us. This made our extra hiking all worth it just to see such a large and scary animal but to not be threatened by it. As we came back to where our wizard friend had been we found that their camp was completely cleared out almost as if they had disappeared into the void!! (Or just packed up and went home). We went to the top of the upper falls and looked down at the cascading water drop ten to twenty feet at a time. Wanting to get a good look at it from below I decided to climb down the falls a little bit and Dad followed. Now I don’t usually like to go off trail at all but I suppose I missed our previous creek hopping adventures so we ended up climbing down the entire group of waterfalls right back to the lower falls where the two camping people were packing up camp. We passed them and told them about our bear encounter and the hit the trail back home. We crossed the creek, passed the dirt road with the snake, passed our rusty truck and what felt like no time at all we were back at the Jeep! Feeling quite hungry we snagged some taco bell on the way home and were careful driving through White County this time. We felt quite satisfied with ourselves that day. We had found our waterfall, seen a bear, accidentally hiked a mountain (we ended up hiking almost 12 miles instead of our planned 6), and had a great time!

That wraps up my stories about the search for Emery Creek Falls, thanks for reading and if you are ever in North Georgia and looking for a hike, I recommend Emery Creek Trail just make sure you go more prepared than me!

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