Hard Labor Creek State Park

2 Hours at Hard Labor map
From Hard Labor Creek

As I have said before, Georgia has a lot of really terrific state parks. Probably the least invitingly named one of these is the curiously named Hard Labor Creek State Park. Don’t let the name scare you, I’ve spent a few days within its confines and the most work I had to do was to tote a satchel. But the odd name may be one of the reasons it is so quiet, as it is bearly over an hour East of Atlanta out I-20.

The area was named before the State Park was built and either comes from one of two stories about it being difficult in that area. One legend says that Slaves worked extra hard on clearing the area as it was too rocky, the other says that Indians gave it that name due to the difficulty of crossing the creek in wet weather. Either way, the work for you has been done.

The area is probably best known for its Golf Course, but I don’t talk much about golfing. It does have two hiking trails that intersect to give you about 2.1 miles of marked hiking trail (Trail Guides) to walk through. The Trail head begins back behind the trading post off to the right of an open picnic area. The first trail is called the Beaver Pond Trail which is marked with red blazes and the second is the Lake Brantley Trail marked with Yellow blazes. Each runs about a mile but can be connected to form a 2 mile loop. You cross bridges and see boulders and move through ravines, the stuff that you’d expect. There’s enough up and down to get your heart running a little. It’s supposed to be especially good for the bird watchers and plant lovers, but that is not my strong suit, so I won’t be the judge.

I’ve marked the full trail at three miles, although the state maps end at 2.1, because no trip to the park would be complete without a thorough inspection of the lake. Upon completing the trail, cross the parking lot and you can move along the edge of the lake pretty easily, though there is no marked trail.
After a slightly wet foot crossing continue left to reach the goal of the street, here you get a nice view of the water running off the lake under Fairplay road. After crossing the street, there are some ruins of what looks like a stone toll booth and some nice moving water. You can continue up the creek about a third of a mile. If you continue around the lake, you will be adding some distance to your hike and will be moving through the campground areas.

Georgia state parks have a lot to offer, Hard Labor Creek is no exception to the rule. This park is simple, serene, and a nice way to spend a few hours. On this trip, because it is so close to Social Circle, we usually stop at the Blue Willow Inn for some food, being one of the finest Southern Eateries we know. As a matter of fact, we usually do the food first and let the pleasant time spent at Hard Labor help burn off the calories and aid digestion.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 1.5 – 2 Hours
Approximate Distance: 3 miles
Features: Ravines, Lake Views, Riverside Walk, Minor Ruins
Overall Rating: B+

Scenic Quality: B
Athleticism: B
Solitude: A
Value: B+
Parking: State Park Parking Fee ($5)
Hours of Operation: 7am-10pm
Facilities: In Parking Area
Maps: none, well blazed except around the lake
County: Morgan County

Atlanta Beltline

..Faster we speed this beltline…Map
From Atlanta Beltline Tour

I used to regret not getting into the city much, both personally and for the purposes of this blog. I’ll admit it—I like outside the perimeter in the burbs and I like it. To me the city is strange. Not because of any discomfort with the world an urban environment creates, I’ve actually never lived in a suburb until moving to Greater Atlanta. Rather it always seemed like the things people loved about this city were contrived, over-priced, and somehow fabricated. What makes a city great, at least in my opinion, is the quality of the neighborhoods, which grow organically, rather than some architect drafting some sort of Disneyworld for grown-ups with too much money to spend it too wisely. I’ll admit I didn’t even know there were neighborhoods in Atlanta until I took the Atlanta Beltline Tour, and met folks who passionately lived, worked, and cared for their little corners of the metropolis.

But I digress, the Atlanta Beltline is a long term project, crafted from the mind of a Georgia Tech graduate student Ryan Gravel before the turn of the Century. The idea is basically to connect stretches of unused or limited use railway to create a loop around the heart of the city. That loop would provide an alternative transportation option to the city dweller (or visitor like myself) to get around town. In addition, the new flowing of people should create an economic resurgence to areas throughout the city, some of which are in desperate need. To aid in reaching this goal, project will add 40% more parks and greenspaces, including a 33 mile walking and bicycling path, which is what initially caught my attention. You can find maps of the project here.

The tour itself is priced right at no cost, sponsored by the Atlanta Beltline Partnership, and meets at the Inman Park/Reynoldstown Marta Stationon Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30 am. The website says reservations are required, but that when we went there were several open seats and walkups are allowed on a space available basis. The bus tour takes you through the neighborhoods that will be impacted by the railway and makes for a bit of a trek through urban Atlanta blight, as some of the pictures will testify, and it also runs through some more prestigious Buckhead locations. There are two grand highlights of the trip: a stop at the Old Fourth Ward Park and a stop at the Bellwood Quarry. On the day we went (Dec 2010), unfortunately for us, the park was not yet open and tour bus departed without out the keys to the quarry, but don’t let that deter you. I look forward to seeing them both one day. I just finished watching “The Walking Dead” on AMC, and it gave me insight into what I missed. You can also see nice photos of the quarry here.

So if you are looking for a free thing to do and want to catch a glimpse of the future of Atlanta, sidle up to the reservation website and claim your seat. They book up kind of quickly with Saturdays filling up before Fridays, so I wanted to post this early this year.

Sell's Mill Park

Hoschton, we have a problem (not really) MAP
From Sells Mill Park

Sometimes I want a great walk in the countryside. Sometimes I want a quick stop by that leads to great pictures. I was able to find the latter at the recommendation of a reader, who understood my passion for moving water and old buildings. On this particular instance, my merry band of travellers stopped by Sell’s Mill Park in Hoschton, Georgia, about an hour and 15 minutes Northeast of the city.

Now, if you are looking for a heart pumping hike, this is probably the wrong place. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. The Jackson County Parks department has been doing a stand up job building the living spaces in the area. The old Sell’s Mill was a rather obvious addition to there collection. The mill is rather beautiful and difficult to photograph poorly. I will say that the restoration of the mill makes it look a bit more modern that I would have liked, but it was attractive nonetheless.

The Park itself still appears to be under construction, and at current times has a pavilion, a short walking trail along the creek, and the Mill and Dam area. We stopped by a couple of days after some fairly heavy precipitation, which made for some nifty waterworks. The water itself is brackish like the Oconee River. I wish I knew more about the Mill but can’t seem to locate any information except that it was built in 1914.

On the bright side, the renovated Mill, although not rustic looking is available for rental. So it will be guaranteed a longer life and is available to us, should we need that sort of thing. And the water flowing over the dam is reminiscent of the dam at Roswell Mill, just a little smaller, a little cleaner, and a lot more accessible. Sell’s Mill is a fitting addition to the Metro Atlanta Countryside.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 30-45 minutes
Approximate Distance: 1 mile
Features: Dam, River, Mill
Overall Rating:

Scenic Quality: A
Athleticism: C-
Solitude: B+
Value: B+
Parking: Free
Hours of Operation: Daylight Hours
Facilities: None
Maps: Not Necessary, just along the river and back
County: Jackson


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