Camping at Dawson Forest – found a new route

I just had a great camping trip, going up to Dawson Forest again.  I left on Friday July 4th.  I didn’t get myself packed till about 10 p.m. Thursday night, but still got up at 4 a.m. so I could make an early start.  I left the house around 6 a.m. and took the train up to the North Springs Station where I started the bicycle ride.

I was originally concerned about making the ride in the hot weather, with proper hydration always on my mind.  But the weather cooled off quite nicely for the 4th.  I guess the big hurricane to the south of us has been drawing northern air down here.  So it was nice and cool as I began the ride.

I had a nice ride up.  I delayed a decision about exactly what route to follow until I got close to the forest.  I’ve been looking for an alternative entrance to the Highway 9/east side of the forest.  There’s nothing really bad about it but I like to stay off big highways when I can.  As I’ve studied Kelly Bridge Road, which hugs the forest along the southern edge, I’ve found a few places where it looked like a bicycle might get into the forest.

I goofed off a good bit on the way up and didn’t get to the Dawson Forest area until around 3 p.m.  So I decided to take the expeditious highway 9 route into the forest.  I took Dawson Forest road to the familiar dead end and then hooked up with the blue trail that leads down to Etowah River.  I headed back to the same camping spot I found a few weeks ago next to the abandoned rail road bridge.

IMG_1159While this spot is nice, I was concerned that it is still a little exposed.  Expecting the possibility of routy July 4th party action I’d just as soon avoid, I decided to venture a little further along the river into the woods.  Behind the railroad bridge is a (naturally) abandoned road.  It looks little like a road anymore, as it is being reclaimed by the earth.  But it made a nice path to follow  as I studied my opportunities.  Picking a good spot to camp is usually a trade-off between finding something secluded, and finding something I can get my bicycle and gear into and out of.

About 100 feet from the river bank I found an easy looking path and followed that for a couple hundred feet where I found two nicely spaced trees to hang my hammock.  You can’t tell it from this shot but this is a spot where I can see and hear the river from the hammock, which always makes for the best sleeping experience!

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This will become a favorite camping destination.

It turned out to be a very quiet evening.  I felt like the only person in the forest.  During the afternoon I would occasionally hear people talking and approaching, but that turned out to always be paddlers going down the river next to me.

Being July, I decided to leave the sleeping bag at home.  For bed cover, I just took my sleeping bag liner and a light blanket.  It was nice and warm out and I went to bed with the covers piled at my feet.  I got chilly after dark and put on the liner and spread the blanket over me.  Then in the wee hours I was a little chilled, but not enough to go find the additional layer of clothing I had packed.

I didn’t wake until after 6 a.m. in the morning, with the light of the sun breaking into the hammock.  I got up and had coffee and oatmeal at my campsite while I stretched and enjoyed the morning air.  I love living outdoors like this!

My mind is back on finding the ideal entrance to the park, and this morning I’m going to search from inside the forest instead of out.  There are a couple of “closed” roads that spin off of the main forest road that I want to check out.  As I was heading out of the forest I saw a little gravel road heading to the right.  No sign post or anything.  I decided to ride down it for just a bit, knowing this to be quite near the power lines on the border of the forest.

The gravel road crossed the power lines and then ended at this berm, where I see that another road begins on the other side.  Paydirt!  Looking on Google Maps, I can see this is Salem Church Road, which is easy to connect to Kelly Bridge Road by following a turn onto Bagwell Road.

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I must be breaking some law to enter/exit the forest this way but do I care?  Of course not.

As I explored a route home things only got better.  I found an absolutely beautiful route for 15 miles or so down to Cumming Ga.  The morning air was crisp and cool and tall trees make this ride dark and green and shady.  The ride is pretty hilly but they are short hills and often my momentum carries me thru most of the climb.  This will become a favorite route.  To follow this, continue on Bagwell Road to Kelly Bridge Road, West Ray Road, Elmo Road, John Burruss Road, and Bettis Tribble Gap Road.  The ride is nothing short of spended the whole way!

As I got close to Cumming I passed Sawnee Mountain Preserve.  I didn’t stop there but want to check that out in the future.

From Cumming I found a route down Old Atlanta Road, and Medlock Bridge Road (which is basically Peachtree Road out in the boonies).  This ride has frequent bicycle lanes and plenty of space, but is otherwise very sunny (i.e. no trees) and kind of uneventful. It’s a good place for heads-down pumping away and quickly getting down to Atlanta.  But being so open, I definitely wished I’d brought some sunscreen with me.

Crossing the Chattahoochee back into Atlanta I enjoyed this pretty view of the river and people having fun on their afternoon float.

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From here I went down thru Norcross and Tucker and then on to the Emory area. I stopped in at Willy’s to pick up take-out for me and Mom and then made it to the house around 5:30 p.m.

Nice time camping!

Lessons learned:

New entrance to the forest via Salem Church Road!

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