Reportedly, one of the “Top 25 hikes in America,” Sitton’s Gulch Trail in northwest Georgia follows its namesake creek three miles to a stunning waterfall.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. The trail is covered in fallen leaves predominantly brown and yellow with occasional pops of red. Despite the number of leaves on the ground, the trees are still full of leaves. The glistening yellow canopy of the Eastern Hardwood forest surrounds me. A refreshingly crisp breeze on this sunny 70-degree day periodically shakes the tree leaves free. They fall gently, wafting, floating, soaring, savoring their last dance with the wind. The soft noise they make in the otherwise quiet forest sounds like a gentle rain.
Sitton’s Gulch Creek carved this canyon in Cloudland State Park over the millennia. There’s a sheer rock wall off to my right while the river tumbles over rocks and boulders as it courses downhill on my left. Some leaves are stagnant atop deep pools, others are slowly, smoothly floating along, and some are shooting through the rapids. Just as in life, sometimes we’re running, sometimes we’re strolling, and sometimes we’re at rest.
Mushrooms call me to sit on the forest floor to fully appreciate their magnificence. And so many leaves underfoot have unique color patterns and veining warranting a closer look. It’s a slow meander. I like the sounds of a babbling brook and the trickle of a woodland creek. Any path that follows water or ends at a lake is infinitely more appealing to me than any without water. Water attracts wildlife, too, so it’s a win-win.
Is this the Falls?
The entire stream is one long waterfall. As I pass through thick stands of tall oakleaf hydrangeas, I’m not sure what will comprise the eponymous falls when I get there.
Along the way, I scramble down toward the water’s edge to sit and listen, watch the leaves or take pictures. I can hear Rob’s voice in my head teasing, “You know, if you’re going to stop and take pictures of every fall, we’ll never get there.”
I enjoy playing with slow shutter speeds anywhere there is flowing water. Often the camera sees eddies that the naked eye does not. I enjoy the resultant photographs, but they don’t resonate with me, and rarely see the light of day. Throw in some leaves, however, at that all changes. I’m enthralled.
At last – The Falls
Two widely cascading dramatic falls greet me through the forest. I climb down to explore. So many leaves and little side channels!
This was a gorgeous sensory delightful autumn hike. Six miles roundtrip, 700 feet of rolling elevation gain, and the falls at the end of the out-and-back trail were stunning.
I want to revisit in spring with all the promise of wildflower blooms and budding trees. We’ll see what future travels bring.
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