The Falls off FS 89A

Tranquility Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 11×15″, 4/18/20
Peaceful Falls, Watercolor on Yupo, 9×12″, 4/11/2020

A few weeks ago I was excited to read that the nearby unofficial trail leading to Tabor Falls had more waterfalls further down the creek. I tried to go visit but was met with a closed bridge and had to go paint elsewhere, but I kept thinking about the other falls and wondering when I could get to them. I am still trying to stay within Habersham county while we are sheltering in place so every possibility feels important to explore. One Saturday (4/11) I decided to drive by and just see if the bridge was open yet, and lo and behold, it was. The bridge did not seem to have actually been repaired, but the weight limit was lowered and there were cones on either side to keep any traffic away from the sides, which I am guessing are the most dangerous?

Sellers Road bridge over the train tracks

Honestly, the state of the bridge does not inspire much confidence, but I know my car cannot weigh 5 tons so I drove slowly on across right in the middle. I made it safely and in just another few minutes was at the gate at the beginning of FS 89A. I parked and easily made the walk I remembered to
Tabor Falls. Though it is not an official trail it seems like it has been getting continual use. It is easier to follow than it was when i first visited it last year. The descent to Tabor Falls involves a steep bank so I did not go down, but continued on to what is called Lower Tabor Falls. I only stopped long enough for a few pictures and then kept going.

Lower Tabor Falls

I had the GPS coordinates for both Peaceful and Tranquility Falls in my phone so once it seemed like the trail had completely petered out I started tracking using the GPS.  When a second tributary joined the one I was following I crossed over and then started up that one. It was then that I started what could truly called bushwhacking. I could see on the app where I wanted to be, but had no line to follow. I crossed the creek several times, went over logs, under logs, through rhododendron and then up an incredibly steep bank. At the top of it, out of breath, I checked the GPS again and it seemed I was very close to where I was supposed to be, but I saw no waterfall. I slowly worked my way through the undergrowth in the direction it appeared to be on the GPS until I heard the water. I was on the cliff to the side of the top of Tranquility Falls and there was pretty obviously no way down from where I was. Since the climb had been strenuous I was not anxious to immediately go back down and then have to do it again so I decided to head on and try to find Peaceful Falls.

Peaceful Falls

I think it took me another fifteen minutes heading up stream to get there. It was not far but I worked hard for every bit of progress made. I like to think of myself as fairly brave but I have a very healthy respect for slippery surfaces. I approach both wet rocks and wet leaves with quite a bit of caution and this trek has plenty of both, but it was absolutely worth it. I do not think any of the pictures I took really captured how lovely the site is. The water falls around 25 feet down layers of rock with lots of moss.

I had brought my watercolors and yupo paper so the painting went fairly quickly. At the end I used the white pigment straight from the tube without mixing it with water to add the water back in. I think it has a fairly unique feel to it, not as fluid as the other watercolors have been, but not quite like the acrylics either.

It seems like the sky is more blue every day and the new spring leaves glow almost neon green. When I finished the painting I lay down on a huge rock and just soaked in the sun and the view above and around me. I felt like I could stay there forever, but eventually I did have to make my way back.

By the time I got down the steep bank close to Tranquility Falls I was starting to get tired and concerned about the time. I did not try to find Peaceful Falls but just searched for the established trail so I could head home.

The next Saturday I set out again to find and paint Peaceful Falls. It was a cooler day and there had been more rain during the week. I found the creeks a little fuller and the leaves on the trail a little slipperier. I thought it would be fairly simple to trace the same route I had taken the week before once the path ended, but I ended up going past the fork and having to backtrack and search for the nice crossing place I had used before. Even once I crossed in the same place the path I took up the creek seemed different until I came to an amazing tree I remembered. It looks like something straight out of fairy tale and I may make a trip back just to draw this tree. I found its shapes and patterns absolutely fascinating.

Detail of the Fairy Tale Tree

This tree is now my mental marker… to get to Peaceful Falls turn right and go up the bank, to get to Tranquility Falls go around the the tree to the left and head straight up the creek. There are even more downed trees and branches crisscrossing the creek on the way to Tranquility than there are heading to Peaceful. Again I earned every step forward I made. It was the first time I have traveled straight up a creek rather than following a path on one side or the other, but the because of how steep the land on the edges is there does not seem to be another option. My over 20 year old hiking boots did a great job on rocks, leaf covered banks, and even through rather deep mud. The site of the falls is another gorgeous one. There are very dramatic rock formations around it that would make great paintings by themselves. I saw where I had been the weekend before on top of one of the rocks and I was very glad I had moved slowly and not just blindly pushed through the undergrowth.

The white spot in the upper right corner of this pic is where I was the first day I tried to find Tranquility Falls.

It took a few minutes to find a spot flat enough to set up my chair. The only spot that would work was really quite wet and I had to use a few small rocks to keep it sinking into the mud, but it worked. I spent about the normal two hours painting in acrylics on the larger sized paper I have decided I prefer. Again I was especially enraptured of the way the new green leaves glowed against the clear blue sky. I spent a lot of time trying to get those colors right for top 1/4 of the painting. I hope that the feel of spring comes through.

Studio for the day
Little guy I passed on the trail
Lovely little Woodland Geranium?

I had to skip a weekend because of the push to get as many SBA PPP loans underwritten as possible over the past couple of weeks, but today I was able to head back and paint the fourth waterfall off this trail. Lower Tabor Falls is the smallest of the four, but still a very pretty site.

Green light and shadow on a blank page

I crossed the creek and explored several places trying to find the right view. The places where it seemed like I could set up my chair had too many limbs between me and the waterfall. I ended up finding a nice spot on a bank and just sat on my drop cloth with my feet almost in the creek. I never forget how comfortable my little chair is, but sometimes I do forget how stiff a person can get sitting painting without it.

The cycle of seasons did not stop just because I was not able to get outside for a week. The leaves are much fuller now and the light was incredibly green. There was no sky visible from where I sat which makes for a much different feeling painting. I tried to capture the new density of foliage and the green light. I think if I had had another hour to devote to the trees I could have accomplished both better, but I had to be back to town by 3 to play taxi. Though I have now painted all four waterfalls on and off this trail I do not feel done with the area. I think I could very happily paint each of them again.

Lower Tabor Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 11×15, 5/2/2020
View down the creek from my perch

Field of ferns along the way

2 thoughts on “The Falls off FS 89A”

  1. You’ve captured the vibrancy of new leaf colours, and I like the woodland detail.
    Nice job!

  2. Jennifer, I it is so wonderful that you are doing paintings of all these falls and capturing their incredible beauty in a different way. Thank you! I am also just amazing at the wonderful design by the master architect, our Lord! God is so good!

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