Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Straight as a String -- Almost

Back on December 31 of last year, I wrote of a route over to the west of home with lots of sweeping curves.  It made for an interesting few hours out -- not too easy and not too difficult: a good winter route. 

A couple of Saturdays ago, I picked out a route further to the west, in Georgia, my aim being to see Tallulah Gorge State Park.  Well, I mapped out a route that looked to get me there and back over some roads I have not ridden before.

Follow along on the map:

View Larger Map

I start out in temperatures of sixty-seven degrees, and dress lightly, but safely, as it is supposed to get much hotter today. The route to the west is on US-123, a get-there-quickly road with little of scenic interest and not much challenge except for the traffic in the towns along the way.  At Westminster South Carolina I cut off to the northwest on US-76.
Just a few miles outside of town, I run across Chau Ram County Park, at Pushpin "B" on the map.  I turn in to see what is here. Right off the parking lot is a forty-foot waterfall on Ramsey Creek.

This creek runs into the Chauga River, a favorite for rafters and kayakers. 

There are hiking trails, camping, the aforementioned water activities, swimming, picnicking, and other things to do here.  In case you are wondering, the name is a contraction of the Chauga and Ramsey river and creek here.  I walk around a little, but my riding boots are not made for walking very much.

I saddle up and get on my way toward Clayton Georgia. 

At the Georgia state line. I cross the Chattooga River, another place rafters and kayakers are addicted to, Pushpin "C."  A nice safe [NOT!] place on the river just downstream from here is Bull Sluice Rapids, class IV, I believe. 

There are a few sweeping curves along this stretch of highway, but so far, not many.  In Clayton, I turn south on US-441/US-23.  (Also here is Warwoman Road with a few miles of twisties that runs back east to GA-28 (a continuation of SC-28).   The twisty parts are nearest 28.) 

The ride south is also without much interest, but I finally get to Jane Hurt Yarn Road, named after a woman who fought to preserve this area.  There is a visitor center for the park, so I get oriented and start out on a short walk.  I am already melting in the high-eighty-degree heat, but I want to see what is here.

While prowling the parking lot for a shady place, I spot another bike.  It is a Honda Hawk, NT650, a naked sportbike sold in the U.S. between 1988 and 1991.  It is not in bad shape, but shows some road rash here and there. I left one of my cards on his seat.  There were several Harleys in the lot too, but they wouldn't pose for the camera. 

At the gorge, there are a few overlooks that are easy to get to.  The gorge is magnificently deep -- about 750 feet -- and long -- five waterfalls long, in fact. 

This view is of L'Eau d'Or Falls.  [For we unsophisticates, that is French for "water of gold."] 

Oceana Falls is way down there.
Do you notice the people playing in the water?  I didn't either until a toddler pointed them out to a group of us unobservant adults gawking over the fence. 
Now do you see them?  Just to the right of center.  If you are adventurous enough to want to get down there, you have to get one of only one hundred passes handed out free daily, and descend the 1099 steps to get there.  I could have gotten down, but I am afraid a helicopter rescue would have been necessary to hoist me out again on this hot day. 

There is a walkway on the other side of the gorge, accessible near the bridge that crosses at Tallulah Falls Dam, a quarter mile south of Jane Hurt Yarn Road.  

The town of Tallulah Falls still exists over there, but is only a remnant of its once thriving tourist days.  The first hotel here was not much more than a cabin, but opened in 1840.  There was a railroad that ran between Cornelia, Georgia and Franklin, North Carolina that stopped here, beginning in 1882.  (I rode through Cornelia back in March of 2010.)  At its peak, at least seventeen hotels and boarding houses invited guests to stay a spell here at the gorge.  

On July 24, 1886, a Professor Leon crossed the gorge on a high wire, a feat that was repeated by Karl Wallenda on July 18, 1970.   The towers used to support the latter feat are still there.  Mr. Wallenda crossed the 1000 foot long wire, doing two head stands on the way.  Braver than most, I'd say. 

In December 1921, a fire started in the town and burned for several days, destroying stores, hotels, and many homes. Most were not rebuilt. 

I am sweating heavily after my walk to the overlooks, so I make my way back to the visitor center and get a cold slurp of water.  Further down US-441, I cross the dam, and turn off on the Tallulah Gorge Scenic Loop.  This is a tourist trap area, at Pushpin "E," but at least a couple of other bikers are here today.  

I peek over the edge for a few minutes, and travel on to the power plant served by the dam, near Pushpin "F."  (Enlarge the map and move it around to see these pushpins better.)  The dam was constructed between 1911and 1914, providing power to Atlanta, at a cost of half what it was previously.  That caused a boom in the city that lasted for many years.  Our modern-day politicians ought to take a lesson from that, by clearing away unnecessary regulations!

The dam is at Pushpin "A" on this map.  The power plant is just northeast of Pushpin "B." 

View Larger Map

You can't get to the power plant, but there is an overlook and picnic area above it.  An incline railway passenger car is on display here. 
This 36 to 90% grade railway shuttled workers and supplies down 609 vertical feet to the power plant during its construction.  It remains in use today, though not from the location shown here.

Water flows through an underground passage from above the dam to near Pushpin "B" on the map above.  The power plant is at the bottom of the pipes leading down into the gorge near there. 

A garden railroad builder (who apparently rides a red scooter, judging by some of his photographs), has modeled the Tallulah Railroad.  His blog shows the incline railway in operation, and numerous photos of the prototype

After the power plant, I go back a little ways to the Gilbert Gate entrance to a school, the Tallulah Falls School, of all names, at Pushpin "E" on the first map  I follow the road across US-441, where a new entrance exits.  The school was founded in 1909 by the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs.  Today, the school provides a college prepartory education to 300 students in grades 6 through 12.  The campus, at Pushpin "G," is quite nice, and large.  I'll bet the tuition is high.  Yep, the total cost per student is $44,000/year because there are so few students in the school.  The tuition for day students is $8,750/year, the remainder provided by private donations. 

After a look at the school campus, I get back on US-441 and head south to GA-17A.  This road, built of concrete, starts my bike bucking like a rocking horse, but smooths out soon enough.  I follow it to Toccoa, stop at the old railroad depot to cool off, then head east on US-123 again.

What few sweeping curves there are cannot be enjoyed fully due to traffic.  It is almost as though today's ride has been totally on roads straight as a string.  Well, almost that straight, anyway.  This has been disappointing, though some of the places I visited were certainly interesting and scenic. Maybe it is a good cruiser route.  What do you think? 

The temperature has climbed to ninety-three degrees today after 170 miles.

Read more about the Tallulah Gorge waterfalls at the SCwaterfalls website.  


No comments: