Alcovy Mill Waterfall

The Finest Waterfall in Gwinnett County Map

Earlier this year I mentioned the waterfall not far from the newly opened Freeman‘s Mill Park . I think I called it “the finest waterfall in Gwinnett County". I didn’t show the photos at the time because it technically wasn’t part of the park and I thought it was special enough to have mention on its own. I don’t know what they are called or even if they have a name, but I will refer to it as the Alcovy Mill Waterfall (the pointer in the map above points to its approximate location).

I tried to locate some information about it, but without a name its hard to find. I know that its right by the Alcovy River, and near the mill, hence the moniker I have chosen. Now based on the fact that the water comes from a direction other than the way the river runs, makes me think its some other creek or stream (and any information will be appreciated).

To get there, park in the Freeman’s Mill Parking Lot, Walk towards the mill and then to the street and cross the bridge. Once across the bridge, look to the North and with sufficient rainfall it should be visible at about two hundred yards. Make your way down to this creek and follow it till you get to the falls. You can cross the stream relatively easily on a very strategically placed log. You can, from there see Freeman’s Mill from the waterwheel side, and make your way up the falls to get some additional pretty view of the upstream source.

Now, I call it a waterfall, but more specifically it is a pleasant cascade. It falls at this base a little over twice my height, which I would estimate at about 15 feet. Further up there are cascades of just a few feet in height. I wish I could tell you more about its source or history, but I simply just don’t know. I hope some readers might add some information in the future.

I give this its own stand alone entry on this website because I am so very happy to find something of this quality so nearby being only five miles from where I work and 12 miles from home. I called it Gwinnett’s finest waterfall, because the only other one I know worth mentioning is in the middle of Little Mulberry Park , and these both pale when compared to what can be found an hour or more away. But when it rains and the trip up North just can’t be done, its nice to know that you can take a short drive to something this pretty.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 20 minutes
Approximate Distance: .4 miles (round trip from parking lot)
Trail Surface: not much of a trail
Features: Waterfall, historic gristmill, riverside view
Overall Rating: B
Scenic Quality: B
Athleticism: C-
Solitude: B
Value: B+
Parking: Free
Hours of Operation: No stated hours, parking by Freeman’s Mill Park hours
Facilities: At the nearby park
Maps: None
County: Gwinnett

Currahee Mountain

“3 Miles up and 3 Miles down” Map

From Currahee Mountain

I pay way to much for cable television.  And I have way to many cable stations to choose from.  Occasionally, however, I get something out of it.  A little while ago I was flipping through the stations sometime after midnight and I settled on a rerun of Band of Brothers on HBO.  Now I had seen this before back in 2002, but I had just moved to Georgia, hadn’t really thought I was going stay, and was still five years from taking up hiking as a hobby.  But I watched just for a moment as the men of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne ran 3 miles up a mountain and realized that mountain was in Georgia.  A quick google search showed me that the mountain was less than two hours North of Atlanta up 985 outside of Toccoa.  The first good weekend of the years me and my compatriots were headed up Currahee Mountain .

Now the Airborne Rangers were running, but that’s not my cup of tea, so we decided to hike it.  A six mile jaunt up and down a 1735 foot mountain was enough for me to consider it a  fair challenge.  OK, the elevation gain is only about 800 feet which places it about 150 feet more difficult than Stone Mountain .  And with the extra distance traveled the steepness should have been mitigated.  And the idea of  David Schwimmer  calling me a “Nancyboy,” meant failure could not be an option (David Schwimmer played Lt. Herbert Sobel in the miniseries who oversaw the training at Camp Toccoa ).

Now, the trail is officially called the Col. Robert Sink Memorial Trail and there is a marker just off Currahee Mountain Road to this affect at the very start of the trail.  The path has been kept up even though the military men are long gone and is even driveable, as long as the gate is open, but that would diminish the fun wouldn’t it?  You turn up the gravel road and just off the gate about 1/3 of a mile up there is space to park for free.  To get the full effect I suggest you head down to the marker on the way down passing up your car (in effect, 2.7 miles up, 3 down, .3 up).  Besides, about a block up the road at the bottom, there is a monument worth seeing to the men who trained here and fought for us during World War II.

Like most mountains, the last part of the trail you get to is the most strenuous with the steepest incline being reserved for the last half mile.  But the payoff at the top is worth the pounding of your heart and lungs.  First there’s a scenic lookout point just before you hit the summit.  Alongside this point are some rocks that are covered in graffiti.  Normally I speak out in principle against vandalism, but for the most part its pretty to look at (with the exception of the occasional vulgarity which keeps me from recommending it as a family outing.)  When you get to the tower go a bit further and there’s a even better lookout position with a view of the piedmont below.  As we sat, we watched several black vultures fly around and very near us.  Along the trail there’s even a old ranger’s house (at about 2 miles up) you can poke around and in.  The warnings say government property and that it is illegal to damage the house, but there’s not warning against trespassing so we went inside.

Hiking the trail was an excellent start of the season challenge.  It made me picture the young men of the U.S. Army in the 40’s running this thing daily.  It’s a difficult enough walk that it is absolutely no wonder that we won that war.  Running the mountain has becoming an annual tradition .  And the mountain is also popular with mountain climbers and mountain bikers.  So I am happy to announce my discovery of another great summit to climb not too far from Atlanta.  And I know you can make it up, after all, you got to be tougher than David Schwimmer, right?

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 2-2.5 hours
Approximate Distance: 6 miles
Trail Surface: Gravel and Red Clay
Features: Mountain Summit, Old Cabin, Majestic Views, Rocks, Physical Challenge, Historical Significance
Overall Rating: A
Scenic Quality:  A
Athleticism:  A
Solitude: A
Value: A
Parking:   Free
Hours of Operation:
Facilities:  None within 8 miles
Maps: Not necessary, just stay on the road you would drive on.
County: Stephens

The Georgia Guidestones

The Age of Reason on a Georgia Hill Map
dedication slab
From Georgia Guidestones

From the first day this website was conceived, I’ve held a short list of places I have truly wanted to visit. And I have been crossing them off little by little. Standing alone at this point at the top of the list, was one place in particular. One place so curious and different from everything else Georgia has to offer. I drove by once in 2008 and was shooed away without a single photo. With its 30th anniversary looming this March 22, I made another pilgrimage and this time with success. The place is truly the Stonehenge of the New Americas, sitting just over two hours from Atlanta between the cities of Nuberg and Elberton. The place described is known as the Georgia Guidestones .
Georgia Guidestones

What they are is the invention of some secretive group who’s mission is unknown to us. They are an astronomically correct pile of granite slabs placed on a small hill in Elbert County. There are four slabs that serve as legs, one center piece, and a capstone. The entirety of it rises 20 feet high and weighs over 120 tons. But that, in itself is not the strange part: there is a message inscribed thereon.
Message in Yiddish

The message has been called a New World Orders Ten Commandments. It has been called a message from the Antichrist. A popular theory attributes the authors as beings the secretive Rosicrucian sect. There have been calls to dismantle it. Yoko Ono quoted one of the rules on one of her albums. It contains 10 rules for living as a society as the authors saw fit. And I think its simply a message for post apocalyptic living. It the late 70’s, when the project was birthed, we sat in the middle of a Cold War with nuclear annihilation being a very real threat. We also were facing a potential food shortage, with mass starvations looming, only averted by significant advances in bioengineering of foodstuffs. In that context, the message seems reasonable as the monument itself suggests: “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason.” Given a post-catastrophic world, why not try to pass on some understanding of what we have learned so far?
The English Version

The rules carved in Georgian granite are these:
  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature
The message is repeated on each leg in eight major languages: English, Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, and Swahili. There are additional notes on the capstone in Babylonian Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Sanskrit, and Classical Greek.
Spanish Guidestones

Some fringe thinkers like to point to the first two as being a call to slaughter millions and a cry for Nazi-esque Eugenics. But neither takes into account the context. Some of these fringe thinkers have defaced the monument with right wing and anti-New World Order slogans. And they were dumb enough to sign it and leave website information, but you shouldn’t expect to much from simple, gullible minds. I tried to keep the profanity and vandalism out of the photos as best as I could, but you can see it if you visit the gallery.
for perspective on size (the person is 5 foot 2 in)

Overall, I think the monument is well worth the 25 mile drive South on 77, if you are near Exit 177 (Elberton/Hartwell) on I-85, and have similar curiosities as me. It is now easy to get to with a small parking lot on Guidestones Drive. It is a place shrouded in mystery and secrecy. It is a beacon for the lunatic fringe, political and spiritual. But most profoundly it stands completely outside standard expectations of what populates the Georgia Landscape. You can read about the Guidestones history here .

State of the Baboon 2010

3rd Anniversary Message

“Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God Laugh.”
-Al Swearengen, character on the HBO series Deadwood.

Well, year three of the adventures of this foolish Baboon is upon us.  I place the quote above to remind me not to get to excited or overzealous.  A lot can happen to foil even the most prepared primate’s plans.  Last year, I ran into some circumstances that cut short my enjoyment of life and the posts you see on this website.  The predictable one: enhanced work responsibilities, the unpredictable one: I broke my right big toe.   So this year I tread more cautiously, although my injuries have healed and I’m ready to go.

First of all, I would like to thank all the visitors, commentors, & emailers.  I actually need your feedback to press on amidst moments of caving into to lethargy.  And I am not helping you discover the world around us, as much as you are helping me keep my mind and body moving throughout life’s journey.  I wish I could thank everyone individually here, as I have in the past, but truly they are too numerous.  I want to convey my most sincere thanks to anyone who gives my little hobby a place in their lives.

As to the future, the State of the Baboon is reasonably strong.  I still have the desire to continue this endeavor and will for the foreseeable future.  There are some important items to remember about me and the parameters of this site.  First, although the site is often classified as a blog, and indeed I use the services of blogger to post, but I don’t run like a typical blog.  I don’t write daily about whatever crosses my mind, each entry realistically takes about 10 hours of my life, if you include driving and visiting, with nearly three of those being spent at the computer: downloading, editing, and uploading photos; research of the topic in question; writing and proofreading the entry; and setting up the web content correctly.  The outcome is this: fewer entries, but higher quality in what is presented.  And I have no real intent of changing that. It works well in my lifestyle and creates a publication of which I can be proud.  Additionally, take note that I will be only doing this with any regularity between February 15th and October 15th of each year.  Within that window, you can expect to see 3-5 new entries each month.  I tell you this because I am not going away ever without notice, I just take a couple of months off when the weather gets too cold for me to get outside and to sit for any great length of time in the unheated Lilburn garage this site calls home.

There will be some milestones this year, sometime in March, the Urban Baboon will mark its 100,000th visitor.  I find that to be amazing.  The site turns three years old today on the same day the author turns 41, which I find to be just as mystifying.  Somewhere in the July/August area, we will have completed our 100th distinct post, just to name a few.  And I’ll take moment to raise a glass to toast, the visitors, posts, and birthdays yet to come.

As for predictions for the future, there are some things I know and some things I don’t.  First, I have a new and better camera going forward.  The old Fuji Finepix served me well and will always be remembered fondly, but we usher in a new Canon Era, with a Powershot hanging around my neck on my travels.  Second is social media, I have created a facebook page to help facilitate a dialogue between me and my readers.  Please feel free to check it out, it will be monitored a few times each week.  I would like in addition to good wishes, to get suggestions on places of interest, any will be welcomed, but especially things that might not be easy to find.  I also have a very desperate need of good places to go to eat when I am away from the city.  Places where they do food well, I can get a beer, and they don’t mind having customers who just spent 5 hours on the trail.  I also have a twitter account, but that’s more of an experiment that I don’t quite see the value of as of yet, it may continue though its just as likely that it may not.  Third, is the addition of the category, “A bit farther away.”  This category is intended to cover some of the interesting things that sit more than 3 hours from Atlanta.  Consider them more of overnighters than daytrips which is the primary scope of the blog.  Also, this category will include some entries that leave Georgia altogether at a maximum distance of about 6 hours.  I consider this to be of value to the Atlanta resident albeit a different sort of value.  So I will use this category to cover any trip outside of Georgia even if the distance is less than three hours.  I also plan on adding a second entry like this one at the end of the season, a year in review to go with the State of the Baboon.  This will give any continual reader the heads up that the Urban Baboon is about to go into hibernation.

The final addition will be a real attempt to monetize this blog.  Although I do this as a labor of love, I have been told that I have real possibilities of defraying the cost of the blog, which aren't much.  There’s already some advertising from Google and Amazon, but I intend to add on a CafĂ© Press site (or something similar possibly Zazzle) to sell photo related items like Coffee Cups, Calendars, Mousepads, and the ilk.  Now, I’ve been telling my best friend (and second most frequent traveling companion) that I would be doing this for couple of years now, so it is hit or miss to say whether it gets done.

Additional items I have hinted at in the past are on hold for the moment.  I will not be doing any commentary on the site and reserve the facebook page for that endeavor, if I so choose.  The food & leisure will probably appear sometime in the future, but will not be a focus of this site.  I am still in need of a good logo for the site, and have been in hopes of reader contributions for some time.

Again, I want to conclude with my sincere gratitude for your support and well wishes.  I wish you all a life worth living.  May all your trails be dry, your waterfalls raging, and your landscapes breathtaking..

Your Friend

Freeman's Mill Park

Gwinnett’s Newest Park Map
From Freeman's Mill Park
I live and work in Gwinnett County and have come to expect big things from the Gwinnett County Parks department: they have given us spectacular greenspaces in the past, including Little Mulberry Park , Tribble Mill Park, & McDaniel Farm Park. So I was excited to learn a year ago that the county had purchased (from SPLOST funds by the Georgia Greenspace Program) an old historic gristmill less than 5 miles from my place of business and planned a new park with the mill as the centerpiece. The purchase was for 12 acres and the mill, which is puny by Gwinnett standards, but their track record helped maintain my high hopes. That park is now open to the public and has been since the beginning of 2010 and its called Freeman‘s Mill Park .

Freeman’s Mill, which is also known as Alcovy Mill or Swann’s Mill, was the last working gristmill in the area, operating as recently as 1996. The mill sits a stone’s throw off Alcovy Road (address 1401 Alcovy Road), as a pleasant reminder of things past. It was built in the years just after the Civil War, by the Loveless brothers, owned later by W. Scott Freeman for whom the park and the mill is named (To explain the other names: it was purchased by Lewis Swann in 1946 and sits on the Alcovy river). There are stories of an earlier origin and the mill’s assistance in Civil War efforts, but that is unconfirmed and may just be folk stories. The last proprietor was a gentleman named Darrell Tuck, who did some refurbishing during his tenure.

As I have said, the park is small. There’s a half mile paved multiuse trail, which has some nice inclines for the roller skater, skateboarder, or young bicyclist, but might be short and dull for the runner or adult biker. They have a nice playground and, of course, water fountains and restroom facilities. But the draw of the park lies on the Southernmost point which is the mill. You can also walk behind the mill, along the mill’s race way, where you get some pretty moving water over the old dam. The future Plans are to build this path up also, which will be a nice addition (its currently dirt and leaves, but worth the effort even without a developed path.

For kids, I think the park delivers superbly. For hikers, not so much. For history buffs, the mill is a gem. I was hoping to see plans for expansion to the South because the park sits not a football field away from what I think is the finest waterfalls in Gwinnett County , but it doesn’t appear that way, at least in the near future. I hope they add more benches and tables to make it a nearby and serene picnicking spot (there‘s a pavilion on the agenda). Note: these photos were taken the first time out with my new camera, so forgive me if they aren’t perfect.


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