The Cherokee called this area the "land of a thousand waterfalls, and the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia do abound with waterfalls. I was happy to see two of the most popular ones near Helen. You can read about my experience walking the short trail to Anna Ruby Falls in a previous post here. After visiting that beautiful waterfall, we went in search of the larger Dukes Creek Falls, which was a longer moderate hike for us suburbanites used to the flat landscape of north Florida. So we took our time along the 2 mile trail there and back, enjoying the stillness of the emerald woods and the occasional sound of the mighty waterfall that urged us further down to the falling water.
Near the beginning of the short paved trail head, one can see the falls, but to get up close required following the unpaved mile long trail down to the base of the falls in the vibrant green valley below. It was a pleasant walk, cool under the sky-reaching trees that dripped with leftover raindrops from an earlier rain shower. Overhead the sun shone from a blue canopy dotted with clouds playing a game of peek a boo and decided to play, too.
A variety of ferns grew from a carpet of last year's fallen leaves, along with tiny intricate mosses and fungi that blanketed trees laid to rest. Boulders and rocks still slick from the earlier rain were locked in tight embrace with gigantic tree roots that keep the textured trunks of the forest trees upright as they reach towards the sun's golden beams.
The trail into Dukes Creek valley descends 400 feet from the upper parking lot at the trail head. With a series of three switchbacks, the descent is gradual and the path is fairly wide. In parts of the trail, rain had washed through, exposing tree roots and rocks, so we had to watch our step. As we neared the trail's end, the path narrowed and grew steeper, but soon Duke's Creek Falls came into view. The trail ended with stairs leading down to sturdy wooden viewing platforms. Benches built into the platforms were a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the sight and sound of the majestic rushing waters flowing down the side of the mountain into the outcropping of rocks below.
Davis Creek, on the left, drops 150 - 300 feet to join Dukes Creek, on the right below the platforms. I couldn't get a picture of both falls at once due to the heavy tree growth and angles of the viewing platforms. The top of the falls was hidden by trees. One of the three platforms was damaged from a fallen tree and has been closed for some time, but views of the falls could still be enjoyed. It was fascinating to see and hear the rush of the water tumbling over ridged rocks that filled the basin below.
Sunlight sparkled on the water and I had fun taking abstract images of a penny nestled near a rock under the rushing water. I wondered who had thrown it there, how long it had lain there, and whether a wish had been made. Can you see the lonely copper colored dot in the image?
After enjoying the wonderful sight of Dukes Creek Falls, it was time to trek the uphill mile hike back to the parking lot. Retracing our steps, we slowly made our way back up the trail, enjoying the beauty of the forest a second time. The sharp eyes of my mom spotted several Jack in the Pulpit wildflowers. She has some that grow in the wooded backyard of her home. These shade loving perennials grow in rich, moist deciduous woodlands and floodplains of eastern North America. The unusual shape of this hooded flower bears a resemblance to a preacher standing at the pulpit, thus the name Jack in the pulpit. These little Jacks proclaim Good News to those with ears to hear their message. Their stripes of purple and green are reminiscent of the greater stripes on One who brings healing to those who believe the message from the pulpit.
We enjoyed our leisurely walk in the woods to Dukes Creek Falls and back that peaceful Sunday afternoon. Perhaps we'll walk that trail again someday or walk another in the land of a thousand waterfalls, the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia. There is an abundance of beauty to be found when searching for waterfalls.
Thanks for tagging along.
Beauty is all around us, and sometimes you have to go a little farther from home to see more of it. Last month, my husband and I, along with my mom and brother, spent a little time in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Helen, Georgia. And the beauty of creation was everywhere.
Besides being a soap maker, I am a wanna be photographer. So my goal was to take pictures of waterfalls and the beautiful scenery of the North Georgia mountains. I even brought a tripod, which I'd not used before, with the intention to start learning how to use it properly. It would be needed for shooting waterfalls because the shutter speed of my camera would need to be slowed down beyond what I can usually shoot hand held. Using the tripod was a little awkward for me, but with practice, it should become easier. I probably needed that tripod for the above photo, but I think it turned out pretty good for being hand held. And I can see why those mountains are called Blue Ridge.
The first waterfall we saw was beside the dirt road that led to the cabin where we stayed. We hadn't noticed it on our drive up the mountain due to the bumpy road and not knowing exactly where we were going. But we saw it the next day as we headed down to town. This little waterfall may not even have a name, so I'll call it First Falls. It's a pretty sight, and we stayed quite a while admiring the falling water.
Falling water. The sound can be soothing or raging depending on the flow. Compared to Niagara Falls, First Falls falls in the soothing range. But after a heavy rainstorm, I bet First Falls can rage with the best of them.
The Chattahoochee River flows through the quaint town of Helen and powers the Nora Mills Granary, a gristmill that has been in operation since 1876, changing owners numerous times. Since the early 1980s, the current miller and his family are the third generation to run the mill. The mill dam creates a man made waterfall which is also quite lovely to see. If you're ever in the area, stop by and sample their Pioneer's Porridge and enjoy the peaceful setting.
After seeing these two spots of falling water, I was ready to see two of the favorite waterfalls near Helen - Anna Ruby Falls and Dukes Creek Falls. Both are located in the Chattahoochee National Forest and are the shortest, easiest trails of several in the area.
The paved trail to Anna Ruby falls is just under a mile to the falls and back. The walk was cool and damp after the morning's rain showers, and the forest was peaceful as vibrant green moss covered logs and graceful ferns soaked up the freshness of spring. Small damp loving creatures of the woods stirred from their homes, unmindful of the people walking the trail. And Smith Creek tumbled alongside the trail showing off it's own mini waterfalls as water from the falls flowed onward through the peaceful forest towards the Chattahoochee River.
The trail is uphill to Anna Ruby Falls, but it levels out from time to time and provides an abundance of photo taking opportunities. I was delighted to see red trilliums blooming on the slope alongside the trail, their three deep red-purple petals a striking contrast to their whorl of three leaves. One of the common names of the red trillium is "stinking Benjamin" because these beautiful flowers smell like rotting meat and attract flies as pollinators! It's roots were used by Native Americans to promote childbirth.
Continuing along the trail, the sound of the falls grew louder and anticipation grew. And then, there it was. Anna Ruby Falls in all her splendor. The first sight of the falls left me awestruck. The beauty of the waterfall, her music in the stillness of the forest, joined with praise in my heart to our Creator, the One who clothes fallen trees with moss and colors the trillium blood red, reminding me of another tree clothed with the One whose blood brings life and new birth.
Anna Ruby Falls is a double waterfall. On the left, the larger of the two is Curtis Creek, which falls 153 feet from the summit of Tray Mountain. Several viewing platforms afforded excellent vistas of the majestic falls and provided a level spot for my tripod.
On the right, York Creek falls 50 feet over the rock face of Tray Mountain before joining Curtis Creek to form Smith Creek at the base of Anna Ruby Falls. Fed by underground springs, rain and snow, the majestic free falling water of the two creeks flows down and around boulders and fallen trees to Unicoi Lake, then onward to the Chattahoochee River, eventually joining the Apalachicola River in Florida, before continuing on to the Gulf of Mexico, a journey of 550 miles.
The walk back was downhill and the ever changing perspectives of Smith Creek provided numerous occasions to take pictures. It was hard to leave such beauty, but evening was quickly drawing near and the park would soon close.
There was still another waterfall to find - Dukes Creeks Falls - but that would have to wait for another day, just like part 2 of this blog post. I hope you'll join me in search of waterfalls!