We’ve been at Black Rock a few days now and had a chance to settle in. We’ve met some folks, explored a little, and the place is quickly feeling like home.
Junior and Devon have really made themselves at home. They have spent hours frolicking on the grass, running through (or away from, in Devon’s case) the sprinkler, digging in the gravel, and laying in the sun.
Being on the side of a the mountain with no surrounding peaks, there tends to be a more steady, cooling breeze here – this has been a welcome addition on these hot spring days. The lack of tree cover is both a blessing and a curse. While we are safe from falling limbs in the spring storms, we have no shade cover for the camper which means we will be using the a/c a lot in the coming months.
The people here all seem very friendly and the place has a generally more relaxed vibe. The park is generally quieter than Vogel which eases some anxiety related to the current coronavirus pandemic. I expressed concerns about cleaning bathrooms with the rangers and they were understanding and have been very accommodating.
The sense of urgency that Vogel is shrouded in because of its popularity seems a distant notion here. When we went to run some errands on our second day here, we discovered the gate to the complex was closed and we had been locked in. I called the ranger to come and let us out and he said he’d be down soon but that “nobody was in a hurry here”. I found this to be comforting. Everyone seems laid back and easy going which certainly eases my anxiety about juggling life as a host with being a mother to a very busy little boy.
Black Rock Mountain State Park is the highest (elevation) park in Georgia and sits at 3,640 ft straddling the Eastern Continental Divide. With no higher peaks surrounding it, there are impressive vistas and panoramic views throughout the park. The majority of the park sits atop the narrow ridge of Black Rock Mountain meaning the trails are challenging but the scenery is spectacular. On a clear day, a short hike up to the scenic overlook at Tennessee Rock provides views across four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and, of course, Georgia. Established in 1952, what the park lacks in history it makes up for in stunning scenery.
The park encompasses over 1700 acres across Black Rock Mountain and the 4 surrounding peaks and includes the 17 acre Black Rock Lake. The lack of higher peaks surrounding it means that the majority of the park is exposed to the weather. This coupled with the sheer rock faces and giant boulders gives the landscape a particular rugged beauty.
Because of its location on the top of a narrow ridge, the park facilities are rather spread out. The campground, significantly smaller than Vogel, features 44 campsites for tents, trailers, and RVs split into 2 loops (each with its own bathhouse). There are a further 12 “walk-in” sites on a separate loop for tent campers only. Virtually every campsite at the park boasts views across Northeast Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, with some having up to 240 degree views.
Black Rock is a little less family-friendly than Vogel, however. The steep drop offs on either side of the campground, the lack of any play park, and the level of experience required for most of the trails means that it can be difficult to keep kids entertained in the park. While fishing and paddling (canoes, kayaks, and trolling motors) are allowed in the lake, swimming is prohibited.
For the truly outdoorsy family, couples, or friends looking for a somewhat wilderness adventure packed with beauty and just a 10 minute drive to local eateries and boutiques – Black Rock State Park is an excellent choice.
We’ve been fortunate in our first few days here. Although the current pandemic has caused some cancellations to some of Chris’ jobs giving way to some financial woe for us, the silver lining is that Junior and I get to have him home with us for a few days. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better in life. Throw in some warm, sunny days and that’s a recipe for some Seeley family adventures.
On our first sunny day at the park Chris was itching to go fishing for the first time in a while. So he loaded his fishing poles in the truck, I got the backpack carrier, and we all headed down to the lake.
While Chris wet a line, Junior and I took ourselves on a little hike to explore the area. We took the short lake trail to begin with. This trail hugs the banks of the vibrant blue-green water for approximately 0.85 miles. Junior had a great time giggling at the ducks and mimicking their quacking. He got a real kick out of it when they began diving and their little feathered butts were sticking up in the air.
Next we decided to explore a little bit of the James E. Edmonds trail. This is the park’s backcountry trail and, though it is only an approximately 7.2 mile loop, it features challenging terrain and some pretty steep inclines. One section of the trail includes a particularly gruesome 1000 ft elevation gain in one short mile.
Signs of spring were everywhere. The Christmas Ferns, some of the coolest little sprouts in spring, are abundant on the forest floor. This time of year they resemble little green, furry worms curled up and protruding from the ground as they slowly stretch and come to life like everything else in the spring.
For obvious reasons, we didn’t attempt the entire trail, but did manage to do about a couple of miles of exploration. The cool mountain air made it a great day for a hike through the woods. The rugged landscape was littered with mossy rocks and dry leaves with specks of the blue, purple, yellow and white wildflowers beginning to push their way through the forest floor. Underground streams created some small – and some very large – tunnels and caves throughout the mountainside, filled with moss and dripping with natural spring water. In other places the water poured over the gigantic boulders and veins of biotite gneiss, the dark colored rock that runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains and gives the park its name.
We followed the trail, crossing the many trickling streams, until we heard the distant sound of rushing water enticing us further. We rounded a ridge to find a 10 ft waterfall cascading down the face of the smooth, black rock and spilling into a small, sandy pool at its base; the perfect secluded swimming hole for Junior on a hot spring or summer day.
The rays of sunlight piercing through the canopy glimmered on the water. The lush greens of the wild magnolias gently draping over the stream, the many forest ferns and the moss that seemed to slowly claim every inch of nearby rock made this spot feel like something created in a dream. We sat for a minute and rested, listening to the chirp of the forest birds and the water running over the rock.
Before long it was time to head back to find Chris and get some dinner for the kid. I snapped my pictures and we set off back down the mountain toward the lake, satisfied with a few good shots and the promise to return with more time.
There are more trails to explore here, and the taste I’ve had of them so far makes me restless for a chance to get back out. With all the madness going on in the world right now it seems almost to be divine providence that we have found such a perfect place to take life a little slower. Our escape from the hustle and bustle of Vogel has landed us in a place of beauty and peace and we couldn’t be happier for it.