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 Hiking   Three Forks 2
Our trail guide stops at a bend in the trail to determine our next move. The secret, unmarked
trail is passed down from generation to generation. PHOTOS BY KIM COOPER

Hiking Your Backyard

Hike your history: Three Forks Trail

By Kim Cooper

Every family has its own stories, folklore and, perhaps, tall tales. I married into a large family where the stories are as gregarious as the people speaking. The men are seasoned, artistic storytellers and can command a room at full attention for a lengthy period of time. I’ve been married for almost 12 years and, during that time, my husband and his extended family, as well as a few selective friends, have expressed a deep affection and respect for a secret hiking, camping and trout fishing spot, known only as The Rough.

The Rough received its name for its remote location on a steep terrain’s secret, unmarked trail. In simpler terms: it’s rough to find, it’s rough to hike and it’s rough to share. The location of The Rough was passed down generation to generation by a right-of-passage hike. It’s so well treasured by my husband he was very hesitant to let the directions be immortalized in print. I had to compromise; I’d only share the known, marked trail anyone can find with a little research: Three Forks Trail in beautiful Clayton, Ga.

 Hiking   Three Forks 5
Even with a severe drought, Three Forks waterfall was raging with a constant roar.

Three Forks Trail is listed as a four-mile, round-trip hike through the dense, beautiful Chattahoochee National Forest. The hike follows Overflow Creek and eventually leads to a waterfall. On www.alltrials.com, the hike is listed as an easy-to-moderate hiking challenge. The drive alone through Clayton and down curvy Warwoman Road is worth the trip.

Finally, I had the opportunity to hike the most guarded Cooper secret. Luckily, we chose a perfect fall day to drive from Jasper to Clayton; we passed through the must-see mountain towns: Ellijay, Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Hiawassee and Clayton. In Clayton, explorers will turn onto Warwoman Road for almost 13 miles and then turn left onto Overflow Creek Road (Forest Service Road 86). Be on the lookout of the Three Forks Trailhead on the right. The secret trail departs the Three Forks and the only indicator for a turn is a small footpath and a pink ribbon tied to a tree branch. Other hikers might mistake the “blaze” for litter.

Hiking   Three Forks 3  
The undisturbed Three Forks area is peaceful and serene and only
known to a handful of locals.
 

Although my husband tried to prepare me for the trip, I don’t think he conveyed the true meaning of “off the beaten path.” For the first quarter-mile, a faint footpath was visible, but the more we moved into the dense forest the more narrow the path became, an indication to me that sane people turned around and sought the comforts of a known, marked trail. We had to rely on my husband’s memory for almost a mile while we climbed boulders, crossed creeks and shimmied up and down the side of the mountain. It was, perhaps, a true marriage-bonding test. On our adventures, I’m usually the navigator, with all kind of compasses, maps and trail descriptions but I relinquished control on this hike. As we stopped a few times to catch our breath and regroup, I couldn’t help but be in complete awe of the natural, undisturbed beauty of the forest. With absolutely no presence of human interruption or disturbance of the environment, I remembered why I constantly seek nature for solitude and peace and why Michael’s family fought to preserve the location.

While the hike was strenuous and, at times, I lost faith in my husband’s mapping skills, when we finally broke free of the dense forest and onto the rocks where three large rivers converge, I fully understood my family’s admiration for this secret corner of perfection. Even with a severe drought, all three rivers—Overflow Creek, Holcomb Creek and Big Creek—were roaring with the magnitude of the water’s power evident all around. The scene was plucked from the movies: boulders at every turn, lush vegetation on the bank, soaring cliffs above and crystal-clear water perfect for a long day of trout fishing. I soaked it all in. For me, this quickly became my favorite spot in Georgia and I’m so thankful my husband shared one of his most beloved secrets with me. I’ve been hazed into a secretive fraternity of brotherhood and I hope to one day share this secret spot with the next generation.

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