Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bryan Park (Blog Hike #412)

Trail: (unnamed)
Hike Location: Bryan Park
Geographic LocationCrawfordGA (33.88986, -83.15547)
Length: 0.75 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: January 2013
Overview: A loop hike around a small pond with a short woodland section.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailheadCrawfordGA is located on US 78 in Oglethorpe County 3 miles west of Lexington.  In “downtown” Crawford, turn north on North Street at the only traffic light in town.  Drive North St. 0.5 miles to Lakeshore Dr. and a sign for Bryan Park.  Turn right on Lakeshore Dr., which dead-ends in the park.  Park in the blacktop parking lot on the right just after entering the park.

The hike: Situated one county east of AthensOglethorpe County derives its name from General James Oglethorpe, the founder of the British colony of Georgia.  Moreover, the town of Crawford, the location of this hike, was named for William H. Crawford, a statesman who practiced law in nearby Lexington.  Crawford ran for President of the United States in 1824, but he lost to the famous Andrew Jackson.  Crawford is buried at his former home site about 0.5 miles west of the city.
            In addition to statesmanship, Oglethorpe County has a long history of agriculture, especially tobacco and cotton.  You will still see some agriculture in practice as you drive out US 78, but this land’s most productive days ended long ago with the onset of the Great Depression.  Like most rural counties, Oglethorpe County does not maintain a large system of parks.  In fact, the county only operates 3 parks, and of the three only Bryan Park has a significant trail system.  The short hike at Bryan Park does not make a top-tier hiking destination, but it provides a nice walk if you are out for a drive in the country.  Unless you come here on a summer weekend when the athletic fields are in use, you will likely have this trail to yourself.
            To start the hike, walk further up the paved road and pass a small building on your left.  This building has a large back deck overlooking the park’s pond.  Just past the building, angle left and leave the pavement to walk across the earthen dam that creates the pond.  A sign here says “Foot Traffic Only” in green letters.  On my visit on an early Saturday afternoon, a large group of white ducks and Canadian geese were searching the shallow pond waters for a meal.
Trail across dam

Ducks and geese at pond
            After crossing the warm sunny dam, you arrive at a secondary parking area on the north side of the pond.  The trailhead for the nature trail is on the right at this parking area; it is marked by a stone engraved with the words “Camp Kananesgi, for all the scouts of Oglethorpe County08-08-08.”  The seldom-used dirt trail immediately enters the woods, which is a young broadleaf forest.
            50 feet from the trailhead, the trail splits to form its short loop.  I chose to continue straight and hike the loop clockwise.  The trail crosses a small stream on a wooden footbridge and angles right.  A tree had fallen across this bridge on my visit, but the bridge was still structurally sound.
            Just after angling right, you pass a fire ring built into the ground.  Past the fire ring, the trail becomes harder to discern, but it roughly parallels the small creek to your right.  0.4 miles into the hike, the trail crosses the stream on another wooden bridge, this one larger than the first one and with hand rails.  A short walk along the other side of the creek closes the loop.  Turn left to return to the engraved stone that serves as a trailhead marker and the secondary parking area.
Large wooden footbridge
            To get back to your car, you could retrace your steps across the dam or, to extend your hike, hike out the dirt road that serves as a vehicle access for this parking area.  Another short trail lies nearer the pond downhill to your left, but it was in very poor condition on my visit.  The dirt road quickly ends at the park entrance road, and a left turn will return you to your car to complete the hike.
While you are in the area, Oglethorpe County operates another park just down the road that is worth a visit: Shaking Rock Park.  To reach it, continue east 3 more miles on US 78 to the town of Lexington and turn right on Shaking Rock Road, which deadends at the park.  Shaking Rock Park has only 1 trail measuring 0.2 miles in length, but the trail leads to an interesting group of boulders balanced precariously on top of each other.  The park’s name comes from the fact that the boulders used to wobble when you leaned on them, but recent erosion makes that no longer the case.  Have fun observing and climbing on the boulders to end your day in Oglethorpe County.
Rocks at nearby Shaking Rock Park

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