Monday, August 23, 2010

Unicoi State Park, Georgia

The young couple who pulled into the adjacent slot to us in Unicoi State Park near Helen, Georgia, told us Unicoi was one of their very favorite parks. My wife and I saw the park a little differently, but then everyone has not only different expectations from their camping experience, but different yardsticks to measure the facilities. As far as hiking trails go, Unicoi offers a wide variety. However, we found some of the basics of RVing lacking.

Our initial dissatisfaction with the park came when we found there is no parking at the toilet facility, except for one disabled, sticker-only slot. Campers simply park in the roadway to use the laundry or shower rather than walk the hilly paths to the facility. There are no signs to mark the access trails to the toilet, but they are ground-lighted at night. You just have to know where they are ahead of time. There was a washer in the laundry with an out-of-order sign that looked like it had been there for awhile.

Rain, Rain, go away!  Campsite at Unicoi State Park
We tried to find a launching point for our kayaks, and even though there is a beautiful, sandy beach for swimmers, there isn't a way to easily put in your own kayak. There is a staircase but it isn't easy to wrangle a kayak or canoe from the parking area to the water or back. You can rent paddle boats or canoes at the beach, but using your own self-propelled craft is apparently discouraged.

We had been surprised by traffic zipping by on the highway that one must walk on if you take the 2.4 mile Lakeside Trail around the small, but very pretty lake. We had started walking with our two dogs at the visitors center and walked the well-worn trail counter-clockwise all the way to the dam, where we discovered we had to share a highway with oncoming traffic. While the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, few drivers gave us any reason to not believe we were sitting ducks as they flew across the dam. Additionally, there is no sign at the other side of the dam to show where the trail resumes! After a false walk down to a dock, we started across the parking area trying to stay on the forest side of the guardrail. That soon washed out and we once again crossed into the small area between the guardrail and a painted white line that supposedly keeps you safe from cars barreling down the curved hill.
Anna Ruby Falls, near Unicoi State Park
The highlight for us is the nearby Anna Ruby Falls which is run by the non-profit Cradle of Forestry under lease from U.S. Forest Service. The pretty falls are formed by the unique confluence of Curtis Creek and York Creek which then form Smith Creek. As Federal property, Anna Ruby Falls have nothing to do with Unicoi State Park which is run by the State of Georgia. Golden Passports, or other senior passes for National Parks waive the $2.00 per person entry fee.


Next: Headed home- another stop at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park in Florida at:

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