23 Sep Licklog Ridge and Fork Ridge Hike
September 22, 2013
This was a 11.9 mile day hike up Fork Ridge Trail to Big Frog Mountain and returning along Licklog Ridge to the east of Fork Ridge.
Started hiking at 7:30 AM and finished at 1:30 PM.
The trail starts climbing gradually to the wilderness area. After 2.5 miles I turned right at a signed junction with Rough Creek Trail. Rough Creek Trail drops to Rough Creek, then climbs back to junction with Fork Ridge Trail after 1.8 miles. Rough Creek Trail continues, but I took Fork Ridge.
At Rough Creek I made my way rock hopping down the creek to fill my water at a small spillway. I slipped on a slick rock just above the spillway. At the edge of a 2 foot drop off into a stream pool and about to land headfirst, I sprang into the middle of the pool with a graceful landing on both feet in a foot and a half of water. I just as quickly sprang out of the water and castigated myself for dunking both feet in an easily crossed stream while congratulating myself on such a clever recovery. Somehow, though completely submerged for a second, my hightop Gortex boots kept out most of the water.
On Rough Creek Trail in direction toward Fork Ridge – After trail crosses creek, turn right on old road, follow road for about 40 yards and look for left turn on trail going uphill. When I hiked, these turns were marked by pink surveyor’s tape tied to branches.
Climbing Fork Ridge I kept on the lookout for the Black Gum tree that the guidebook advertised as prevalent along this trail. I didn’t have any luck, but I did see a candidate or two. These trees were also called Black Tupelo and “Bee Gum” trees because locals would use their typically rotten cores as a place for bee hives.
Farther up Fork Ridge (1.8 mi) and later on upper Big Frog Trail (1.4 mi) the trail had some nice ridge walks. Looking east, I could see Licklog Ridge.
There was a post (no signs) at the Top of Big Frog Mountain. The trail leveled for a long way at and near the top of Big Frog making it hard to tell when the top was reached. At the post an intersecting trail beared to the left. This turned out to be LickLog Ridge trail, but being slightly overgrown at that point with numerous better traveled campsite trails all about, I hadn’t noticed. I wandered down several well worn campsite trails looking for the 3 way trail junction. I never saw the Wolf Ridge Trail junction. I assume it was well overgrown because I doubt it is much used. I had hiked Wolf Ridge Trail in the late 90’s. It is a steep ridge climb that is sometimes hard to find.
After wandering through all campsites and reaching dead ends at every point, I ran into a man in his late sixties carrying a .22 rifle mounted with a large scope. Though he noticed me, he didn’t talk at first and continued walking slowly looking through the trees. I asked him which trail he had come up as I continued looking lost. He said “Peavine Trail”. I had a puzzled look on my face as I attempted to reconcile this name with the trail names I knew. I had read of a place name in the area called Peavine, but not a trail. Trying to recall Peavine, I figured out that it must be one and the same as Big Frog Trail and in the same instant he said, “you could know it as Big Frog”. He asked if I was looking for the trail to Georgia. I told him that I was hiking back down Licklog and he pointed it out. Licklog does lead to Georgia (Cohutta Wilderness) by taking the turnoff to Hemphill trail.
Only 2 water sources. Rough Creek about halfway on Rough Creek Trail segment between Licklog Ridge Trail and Fork Ridge Trail. Elderberry Spring, about half mile down Frog Mountain on Licklog Ridge Trail.
Access was via Highway 515 north, turn left at McDonalds on Hwy 2. Travel past Copperhill, TN. Left on Grassy Creek Road before reaching Ducktown. Immediately after crossing a one lane bridge, turn right onto Forest Service Road 221 (gravel road). Licklog Trailhead is 5.5 miles down FS221. Pass Tumbling Creek campground. The road is in poor condition with exposed rocks and washed ditches in the middle of the road; however, I was able to drive it in my Acura RX passenger car.
Given the poor condition of FS221, I made the decision to return by continuing on FS221 for 3.3 mi to FS45 leading to the Toccoa River Water Tower at Highway 64 rather than returning 5.5 mi of FS221. This also allowed me to see the West Fork Trailhead and several road crossings of the Benton McKaye trail. The condition of this 3.3 mi section of FS221 was as bad or perhaps worse than the earlier eastern 5.5 mi section of FS221. The exposed rocks might not have been as bad, but washed out gullies in the road were worse.
Around a couple of miles from FS45 I noticed a beautiful car camping spot along FS221 next to a creek (probably Rough Creek).