My favorite kind of holiday weekends are the ones that I didn’t even know I had. A sudden extra day of the weekend to spend just how I see fit, and this three day weekend in recognition of Juneteenth was just such a weekend. The weather here in Georgia has taken a turn for absolute brutal heat, so I opted to spend the weekend on the water; plus it gives me the opportunity to continue working with Lock on his paddleboard etiquette.
My mom and I loaded up the Jeep with both our paddleboards, all of the accompanying accessories, and Lock, and headed for Sweetwater Creek State Park, one of the Georgia State Parks that participate in the Park Paddlers program. Park Paddlers gives recognition for those who want to tackle paddling activities in 12 or more of our state parks, as many of Georgia’s State Parks are set around recreational water features.
The lake is nice and quiet, a definite change of pace from the (dangerous) hustle and bustle of my home lake, Lake Lanier. I get a sense of dread many times that I’m on Lake Lanier, because the mix of sun, sand, surf, booze and speed is often fatal on holiday weekends. The only thing we saw while paddling around Sweetwater Creek were fisherman, and hikers, all very obviously enjoying their weekend.
After an hour or so on the water, we switched gears and changed into our hiking clothes. We headed for a separate section of the park where we found the VIsitor Center to purchase some cold drinks and our souvenir pins, and also gave Lock some fresh water to drink. Then we set out on the Red blazed trail in search of one of the iconic sights of the park, the New Manchester Manufacturing Company mill.
The red trail is well marked, well travelled, and well shaded. We saw many other hikers out, and several dogs, so it was a good opportunity to practice some focused commands with Lock. The trail gradually winds down towards the creek, finally emerging next to a short stacked wall of stone, the remains of the millrace. The millrace is a channel of diverted water which powered the waterwheel for the mill, which was 16 feet wide and 12 feet in diameter.
The New Manchester mill began manufacturing on December 21st, 1849. During the Civil War, it provided uniforms for the confederate army – that is until Sherman burned it in 1864. It decayed quietly in the woods until 2015, when it became too dangerous for park visitors, and was closed. Since then, the park has began preservation effords to prolong the life of the structure, but the interior remains closed to visitors.
This park is a beautiful place to spend a quiet afternoon, and the trails offer a shaded respite from the summer heat, with the added bonus of paddling on the lake to cool off. I will definitely be visiting this park again in the future to take a step back in time and walk amongst nature.