Rocky Face Mountain

Graves, Gold, and little Green Men Map
George Disney's Grave
From Rocky Face

Occasionally, we all like to challenge ourselves, a couple of years ago my brother came up to Atlanta and we set out to climb several difficult mountains in North Georgia. The hike for the last day was bumped primarily due to exhaustion and I never made it back. Billed as the most strenuous short hike in NW Georgia, I simply could never get my casual hiking friends to make the trip before last weekend. The trail is called the Disney Trail and it takes you to the summit of Rocky Face Mountain, and its situated under two hours Northwest of Atlanta off I-85 just outside Dalton, Georgia .

Rocky Face Summit view
Now before I tell you about the difficulties of the trail, I want to tell you what’s so great about it. First, this climb achieves two of the three goals I have in hiking in spades. I look for exercise and this one truly gets your heart racing. I look for solitude, to get away from it all to reset my mind, and this was the first hike I’ve done where I saw no human being save my group the whole 2 ½ hours we were on it (and we set out up the trail about 1:30 pm on a Sunday). But it has more than that.

Disney Trailhead
It has some very nice views from the top, which most mountains give as you can see in the pictures. We carried up our lunch and dined triumphantly at a point known as the Buzzard’s Roost. It has this one truly unique feature: a Civil war gravesite. The gravesite is of an English-born, Kentuckian who fought in the Civil War as part of a communications team by the name of George Disney . That’s why they call it the Disney trail. This was uncovered in 1912 by a group of Boy Scouts, who replaced the head stone then and who maintain the trail still to this day. Rocky Face was also the site of the Battle of Rocky Face , an early challenge to General Sherman on his campaign to Atlanta. I am always amazed to think that soldiers carried packs and artillery up mountains that I get winded on just carrying up lunch.

Disney Historical Marker (in front of Police Station)
The trailhead is clearly marked and easy to find if you know the secret. You have to turn into the First Church of the Nazarene on Hwy 41, just a few minutes off the Interstate. At the back, by the Tifton Life Center there is ample parking and to very clear signs marking the trail’s start (I imagine parking may be an issue during Church events, please be courteous). The trail starts up with a straight ascent and the incline pretty much doesn't stop for 1.2 miles. The elevation gain is better than 800 feet, which places it about 133% of the challenge that Stone Mountain presents. There are very few switchbacks, and the ones that are placed are so short to the point of being virtually meaningless. Some kind folk placed a well needed bench at about the half way point. I make no bones about it, this one is difficult, one you shouldn’t be ashamed of taking a well needed and well deserved break during your trek. And unlike Stone Mountain , you won’t have to watch a 70 year old man walk by you, making you feel inferior. The summit is about 1580 feet above sea level, not the tallest of mountains, but beautiful nonetheless.

Looking back at the Steep Trail
At the top, there is a good viewing place, known as Buzzards Roost, and directly behind that is the grave and marker for the remains of Confederate George Disney. If you walk on about ¼ more, there’s a better viewing place among the rocks on the ridge. My understanding is that the trail can be followed for a few miles (rumors say all the way to the NW GA trade center) but we didn’t go all that way. The one additional bad thing to report is that a member of my group was stung 4 times by a yellow jacket, marking our first significant injury on any of our trips. It reminds us of two things: first the importance of a good first aid kit, and second that the wilderness belongs to the nature that inhabits it.

View from Buzzard's Roost
From Rocky Face
In my research for this post, I noticed two interesting stories about Rocky Face that go beyond History. There is a rumor that there’s Gold in them hills , specifically Cherokee gold. Considering Georgia’s historical place in gold mining this could be believed but the stories talk about bars six feet long. It might be the Waterhouse Treasure , but who knows and we certainly didn’t find it. The second it that the region is watched by 3 foot tall elves, leprechauns, spirits or trolls (Read this stuff, it’s a hoot). Again I can confidently say, we met no one.

the Rocks of Rocky Face
So if you are looking to challenge yourself, see a civil war grave, search for gold, or fight off leprechauns, the Disney trail up Rocky Face mountain has something for you.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Approximate Distance: 2.4 miles
Trail Surface: compact soil, rocks
Features: Vista Views, Gravesite, Historical Significance, Athletic Challenge
Overall Rating: A
Scenic Quality: B+
Athleticism: A+
Solitude: A+
Value: A
Parking: Free in the Tifton Family Life Center Parking Lot
Hours of Operation: Virtually Anytime
Facilities: None
Maps: None, trail well marked
County: Whitfield

Madison, Georgia

Up and went: Madison Map
From Madison GA

Occasionally, my most frequent traveling companion and I just pick a place and go, hoping for the best. The adventure is fun in itself and often it turns out well. My companion has a thing for old houses of the grand variety so we picked Madison, Georgia a little while ago as our destination. Sitting about an hour East of Atlanta, its a nice place for a day trip.

Now this is the city which has been called “the prettiest small town in America” and the “town Sherman refused to burn,” so we knew we weren’t taking the hugest risk with our time. We stopped at the Madison Visitor Center, and were able to pick up a free Walking Tour guide of Madison (Video here ). As I like to get exercise in my pastimes, we walked the 1.4 mile path looking at some very nice houses and old buildings. The path is an unequal figure 8, walking mainly down Main Street and Academy Street.

From Madison GA

According to the brochure, oldest structure is either the Stagecoach House, the Rogers House and Rose Cottage, or Heritage Hall (dated c.1810, c.1810 & c.1811 respectively. The walk boasts two dozen buildings which predate the Civil War, and several more built before the turn of the 20th Century. The architecture varied from Queen Anne to Romanesque to Greek Revival, but also included a few pragmatic true Georgia structures like the Livery Stable (c.1895) or Calvary Baptist Church (c.1833). I enjoyed stretching my legs and taking photos, while my friend gawked at the buildings.

Now aside from the historic walking tour, the Madison County Downtown District boasts the typical stuff you would expect from a small Georgia town. It has the little boutiques and antiques stores. It has a few places to eat (We had stopped about 25 minutes away at the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle), so I can’t tell you anything about the food. There was some restaurant or bar converted from an old bank (the Ye Olde Colonial), that looked both interesting and closed. Madison does boast one thing of interest, which is incredibly unique, the Bruce Wiener Micro Car Museum , which is supposed to have the largest collection of microcars (cars with 700c motors or less, you‘d know one if you saw one) in the world. Unfortunately, for us, the day we went the place was close for a private function. Later that day, we were treated to some bluegrass music at one of the stores just off the square.

So that’s my little story about Madison, Georgia. Is it the prettiest small town in America? Well, I haven’t seen them all, but it is very nice. If you’re into Antebellum homes, it’s a can’t miss destination. I will probably go back to see the Microcar Museum later or possible to tour the insides of the homes around Christmastime.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 45-60 minutes
Approximate Distance: 1.5 miles
Trail Surface: Sidewalks
Features: Antebellem Buildings
Overall Rating:
Scenic Quality: A-
Athleticism: C-
Solitude: B-
Value: B
Parking: Free on the Square
Hours of Operation:
Maps: Available at Welcome Center

Pine Mountain

Dowdell’s Knob & the Wolfden Loop Map [Trailhead]
FDR at Dowdell‘s Knob
From Pine Mountain

One of our favorite pastimes is to head to the mountains. Most often that means driving our automobiles North from Atlanta, but there is a terrific mountain, a mountain so nice that it was the favorite spot of one of the greatest Presidents of the United States of America. This place, less than an hour and a half South of Atlanta is Pine Mountain, which stands majestically as the center point of Georgia’s Largest State Park, Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia .
view of the Valley

Pine Mountain rises 1395 feet high on the East Side of the park. For those who want the view without the work, this is a driving summit much like Fort Mountain . The best place for a panoramic valley view, was FDR’s picnic spot, known as Dowdell‘s Knob . As this is the highest point on the mountain, there is a spectacular view of the valley below. Also, at the spot, is the President’s Barbecue Pit and statue of the former President, sitting serenely on his removable car seat. It is notable for two reasons. First, it is probably the only representation of the great man that shows his leg braces. And secondly, the way its made allows one to sit next to the President in a way that makes conversation almost seem possible. This transports one to a place that helps a person truly get the sense of National History the beauty of Georgia helped shape.
Cascade Falls

The hiking here is very good also. The park contains the 23 mile Pine Mountain Trail . For day hikers, the place to go is at the far East side of the Park, near the Warm Springs side entrance. It begins at a small parking lot right next to the WJSP-TV tower. The loop itself utilizes a portion of the Pine Mountain Trail (counting backwards from Mile Marker 23 to 18) and doubles back on the Beaver Dam Trail for a total of 6.7 miles. If your looking for a shorter hike the walk from the lot to the Wolf’s Den and back would make a 4.4 mile round trip.
The WOLF's Den

On the way, there are several pretty, but not too large waterfalls. Csonka Falls might be about 4 feet, Big Rock Falls maybe 6, and Slippery Rock Falls somewhere between the two in height. Just at the Wolf’s Den you can see Cascade falls which stands about 10 feet and falls into a shallow pool. Just because they are small, I don’t want to suggest they are anything but pleasant. From there you can climb up to the Wolf’s Den, and further on there is a Beaver Dam and some nice vista views. The trail is rocky in parts with some patches of steep climbing, but mostly compact soil. Taken in totality, especially when you factor in the distance, I would place the hike at the high side of moderate (or maybe the low end of difficult) for the casual hiker.
Csonka Falls

FDR Park makes for nice day out, and considering the size could easily be spaced into a multiple day jaunt. It’s minutes away from Warm Springs and the little White House; literally across the street from Callaway Gardens, and just down the road from Pine Mountain, Georgia (We had some nice Ice Cream at Sage‘s Soda Fountain there, Blue Bell , I believe). The parking cost is the standard state park $5 day fee, which makes for an affordable day trip,
the Pine Mountain Trail

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 4 hours
Approximate Distance: 6.7mi
Trail Surface: Compact Soil, Rocks,
Features: Small Waterfalls, Riverside Walk, Wolf’s den, Scenic Views, historical significance, Beaver Dam.
Overall Rating:
Scenic Quality: A
Athleticism: A
Solitude: A
Value: A
Parking: $5 (Sept 2008)
Hours of Operation:
Facilities: at Visitor center and throughout, not on Trails
Maps: Available at Visitor center, not the best trail map, but the trails are well marked
County: Harris County


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