Sun, Apr 2 2017 - Unicoi Gap to Raven Cliff Falls (View Original Event Details)|
What a great day we had! We traveled through a variety of landscapes: Thick stands of hardwood trees, mostly still winter-bare but some just beginning to bud out. A few spring wildflowers added color to the trail: tiny violets, trout lilies with their yellow blooms and variegated leaves, white daisies with yellow faces, unidentified yellow flowers tumbling down a ravine to follow the waterfall. Sections of the trail went through tunnels of thick rhododendron and mountain laurel. Other sections felt like rocky creekbed. We even got in some bushwhacking and bouldering.
We knocked off Blue Mountain straightaway. Traversing a ridge along the Appalachian Trail, we marveled at the crystal clear views of Brasstown Bald and surrounding mountain ranges to our northwest. To the southeast, more mountain vistas. Looking down on either side of the trail, steep dropoffs reminded us how high we'd climbed. We took a break at Chattahoochee Gap and chatted with a guy and his dog. He reminded us we were right on top of the wellspring of the Chattahoochee River.
Onward and upward and downward through rolling elevation to the steep ascent out of Low Gap. We found our perfect lunch spot and lounged around the campsite atop Sheep Rock Top for a few minutes before moving on. Up and down Poor Mountain, Strawberry Top, and Wolfpen Stamp, and voilá! We'd completed the 14 miles to Hogpen Gap. Now for the fun part:
Aaron's turn to lead. We followed him through thick undergrowth, dry saplings, and thorny vines. A thick blanket of dry leaves disguised loose rocks and other hazards. I really enjoyed how the Team pulled together during this section, checking on one another, wordlessly guiding one another. The roar of the falls grew louder as we picked our way, step by step, over branches and under fallen trees, down the wild slope.
The falls to our right, we gathered at the top of the granite cliffs to, one by one, scramble our way down. It was a technically challenging descent, demanding our full attention. All safely at the bottom, we gathered with other weekend revelers enjoying the brilliant sunshine and sparkling waters.
The Team bid adieu to Raven Cliff Falls and hiked along Dodd Creek for a couple miles, passing families out for a Sunday stroll and little camps set up here and there to savor the last few hours of the weekend. Fist bumps at the Raven Cliff parking area, then half the Team relaxed on the lawn to wait for the other half to shuttle the drivers back to their cars. On the drive home, a little voice with a French accent peeped up from the back seat: "So now I have completed my first D6." Congratulations, Morgane on your real D6, and I believe we added a couple other new members to the AOC D6 club with our little adventure. A special shoutout to three AOC repeat customers of Aaron's Unicoi-Hogpen-Raven Cliffs event: Myra, Alex, and Jim all participated in this event back in February of 2013 - and liked it so much they came back for more.