It was a calm, brisk, November day in Georgia when we loaded up the trucks on a Friday afternoon. Our destination: The eastern start of the Georgia Traverse.
With all of our gear packed we departed home and started our journey, a three and a half hour drive, to the start of the trail in South Carolina. This is part one of a multi-part series that will follow our adventure on this amazing trail system that touches 5 different states.
My good friend Tristan, his parents, and I had been discussing this trip for some weeks. Tristan started overlanding around 2 years ago and has done some pretty cool trips with his girlfriend. His parents are also involved with the overlanding lifestyle.
When I returned to Georgia, I discovered that Tristan had started overlanding and I expressed my newfound interest in it as well. Everyone discussed their interest in doing a trip together and being able to test various parts of their setups. For me, it was seeing how much my stock truck could handle. I know this blog is a little out of order, but at the time of this trip I had only installed the Leitner Designs ACS. No suspension work, no tires, and no roof top tent. Pretty much just a stock Colorado.
I'll touch on the campsites that we stayed at and the overall path we took. Below is a screenshot of the first section of the trail that we had planned. This is from the Georgia Overland website, I do not know who owns this website but they have done an amazing job at planning out routes and finding locations to camp.
Screenshot of the section of trail we explored.
I should note that in the above image, we did not do the trails to the left of the waterfall icon, near the purple line.
If you'd like to follow along more closely, you can access the Interactive Map.
Day 1 - Friday, November 10th 2017
Tristan and I departed a little before his parents. We reached the start of the trail in South Carolina at around 3p.m. Located on Burrells Ford Road in South Carolina, the trail start is technically FS646. This FS road is well maintained and we made quick work of it, I think that we overestimated the time it would take us to reach the first campsite.
Our start - Right before turning onto FS646 from Burrells Ford Road.
FS646 - You can see how well maintained it is for a FS road.
Traveling down the first section of trail was rather easy. None of it was technical by any means. In fact I'm pretty sure that I saw a few Ford Focus's out there. The first cool photo taking opportunity is the bridge to cross the Chattooga River, crossing back into Georgia.
Bridge crossing back into Georgia.
We continued to make progress and eventually reached the turn off to lead to the campsite that we had planned on staying at. As we made our way down this rutted out trail, covered in mud, we eventually reached the end and to no surprise an older couple had already setup camp. What made me chuckle about this encounter is that it was no normal campsite. The couple had a full on fridge, couch, and other amenities out there. So I started to think maybe this was more of their home than a campsite.
With our planned campsite taken, we had no other choice but to turn back. Upon reaching the main trail again we double backed and returned to a separate set of campsites that we had passed earlier. We turned down the trail in the direction we came from and most of the sites where already taken. Good luck set in though as we pulled into the far reaches of the campgrounds and found a spot big enough for all three vehicles. Campsite Location. Tristan and I began to organize things, he set up his 23Zero roof top tent, and I setup my ground tent on a nice flat area that wasn't to wet. Then we explored around and waited for his parents to show up.
A little dirty after the days ride.
Communication is a big deal in overlanding. Most of us have multiple ways to communicate. From GMRS radio, more powerful than off-the-shelf radios (you do need a license from the FCC), to HAM radio, to cell phones. We had arranged on using some hand held GMRS radios. The plan was that when Tristan's mom and dad rolled onto the trail, we would get them on the radio and let them know where we where. Well.... As you could guess, that didn't go as planned.
The sun was all but gone and Tristan's parents still hadn't arrived. We knew that they had to have hit the trail by then, so I set off in my truck to drive back to the start of the trail to see if I could catch them coming in. We also needed to find out how the terrain affected our radios. So when I left, I kept in contact with Tristan. Low and behold, the darn thing stopped receiving signal as soon as I left the campsite. So we where limited to around 500 meters in the woods.
Lucky for me, I was able to run into them not far from the camp turn off, maybe 10 minutes down the trail. I guess I'm glad I ran into them there, because it would have been a mess if they would have passed us.
We returned to camp, where we found another random truck pulled up, Tristan talking to two other guys who we didn't know, and a random dog. I say random, because the two guys claimed it wasn't theirs and it just wandered up to our camp. Turns out the two other guys are both ex military, so we strike up a conversation, take some shots and enjoy what we have left of the evening. Meanwhile Tristan's parents are setting up their awesome Turtleback Trailer. They get everything setup and start mixing some drinks. Tristan's dad is practically a bartender, the man loves different whiskey and bourbons and isn't afraid to share his expertise.
We finally got some dinner cooked and settled in for the night. Overall the first day was an amazing start to our journey. Day 2 would be even more exciting as we would be on the trail all day.
I think it was supposed to be chili?
Day 2 - Saturday, November 11th 2017
We awoke to another beautiful Georgia morning. Tristan's parents fixed up breakfast on their TemboTusk. I have to say, I had never seen a TemboTusk until then, let alone use one. It was the perfect utility to cook enough bacon and eggs for three people at the same time. The only thing you had to do was clean it afterwards.
After some food, personal hygiene, and packing up all the vehicles, we hit the trail. I think we left a little later than what we would have liked, but we weren't in a rush either. That's the awesome part of overlanding. Some days you have a tight time squeeze and others are just go with the flow.
We hit these nice little water crossings leaving camp.
I honestly can't remember where I took this photo.
One of the best parts of this days trails was a huge water crossing. This crossing was a full on river. The trail came out to it and in order to continue the trail, we had to drive around 100 meters up stream to the other entrance of the trail. The water wasn't deep, only about 3-6 inches most parts. There where not many "potholes" or larger rocks sticking out that I was worried about hitting. The feeling of driving straight up a river is exhilarating, I mean it's not every day that you get to drive into something like that, and not have people look at you like you're totally insane.
Here is a video of the river crossing
We decided to make camp at this campsite. While Google maps doesn't show much, there is a turn off that goes down a hill and ends up right next to the creek. It had the perfect amount of space for us, and I think we could have gotten another vehicle or two in the site. Being next to the water was peaceful and calming. I personally love the sound of running water.
A view from the top of the hill at the nights campsite
That night the temperatures where expected to be a bit colder than the night prior. I was "ok" in my ground tent the night prior but I also wanted to see what sleeping in a roof top tent was like. So due to the colder temperatures and just being a great guy, Tristan let me sleep in his tent. From that night on, I fell in love with RTT's and as you now know I purchased my CVT based off of this experience.
Day 3 - Sunday, November 12th 2017
Today would be our last day on the trail. Our plan was to make it down another few miles of trail before hitting the hardtop and making our way to Helen, GA. There we would grab a bite to eat for lunch and then head back home.
Taking up the back. Our last day of trails.
All the ducks in a row.
Tristan and I ended up sliding up front. Without a trailer we where a little faster....
This last section of trails was filled with little water crossings, or puddles, depending on how you look at it. It was a lot of fun rolling through them and making a little bit of a splash. I personally love the sound of tires pushing through water.
A little more green around this part of the trail.
I dont even know if I can call this a water crossing, as it's more so a puddle
But there where a lot of them along the last section of trail.
We came out of the trail here and hit the hardtop again. This was sadly the end of our time on the trail. We pushed into Helen where we stopped and had lunch at a local diner. After lunch we split up, with Tristan's parents hauling the trailer, Tristan and I sped ahead towards home.
Our first section of the Georgia Traverse was a very rewarding experience. We all gained a little more knowledge and skill from out time out on the trail. I, for example, learned that I wanted a rooftop tent, a better stove, new tires and new suspension. Planning has started on taking on what we deemed "Part 2" and will feature the most technical terrain of the Georgia Traverse.
Until next time, strap in and enjoy the ride.