By Trent Tibbitts

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It was February the first,  a Saturday.  Wendy was at work.  Sarah and Wyatt were at a friend’s house. I needed something to do, an Adventure.  I called all my buddies but they were busy.  There was a little snow on the ground from the storm on Tuesday that trapped so many people who were on the road trying to get home.  The temps would be in the high 50’s so I knew that the snow would soon be gone.  I thought about caving,  but it was a two-hour drive to the nearest wild cave in Dade County Georgia.  I didn’t want to drive a total of four hours by myself.  I was looking at exploring Waterfall cave. It is a good cave for beginners like me. I will report back when I get a chance to visit it. After reading about some of these caves, I knew I am going to need to know how to repel. That got me thinking about how I could learn.

Years ago, when I worked at Post Properties,  one of the guys gave me a pack of repelling gear. I never have used it.  I really didn’t know what all I had in the pack. It has just been sitting in my basement all these years. I retrieved it along with my kayaking helmet and brought it up for inspection.  I found one rope that was 150 feet long. Two harnesses that are very basic compared to today’s one’s.  There were two emergency 8 rings,  one 8 ring and several carabiners. I could see how to wear the harness but I had no idea how to attach the rope or operate the rings.  That’s why the Internet was invented.  I watched several videos and learned various ways to attach the rope and use my equipment.

Now I needed a place to go.  I gave it a little thought and decided that the rock faces along the Mill Branch would probably work best for what I had in mind.  It is close to home and I am very familiar with the area.  Plus it is not that high.  By this time,  Wyatt is home and I asked if he wanted to go also but he decided to stay home.  I packed the rope, a harness,  one of the emergency 8 rings, the regular 8 ring and a few of the carabiners. I buckled my helmet to the top of the pack and grabbed a pair of gloves.  I then drove the short 3/4 of a mile to a place we call the Indian field because of Indian relics found when farming.  I parked the truck here and begin to climb the hill in front of me.  It may be a 150 feet elevation change from the  truck to top of the hill and another 50 foot from the truck back down to Raccoon Creek.  After getting to the top I walk out a ridge that cuts back towards the creek. Along the right side of the ridge is the creek and along the left side of the ridge is the Mill Branch.  They met at the point of the ridge.  The left side is where the rock faces are located.  I start to work my way down the side of the ridge to get to the top of the rocks. The ground is still frozen and is slippery.  I sled down once an my helmet swung around and hit me in the face.

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I come to the first rock face and decided that it would be a good place to start.  I picked a tree to tie to and pulled out my gear. After suiting up, I tie the rope to the tree. This may not seem that big of deal, but to me it is huge. This is my life line and I have to get it right.  I try a few different knots before I am satisfied.  The tree is about 10 feet from the edge of the rock face top. I wrapped the rope into the emergency 8 ring two times because I wanted to make sure I could handle the rope.  I tried it out on the hillside and found it was too much so I took out one of the loops.  I tried it again on the hillside and it felt better.  Time to go repelling.  I eased backwards to the edge and leaned over the edge.  Then it was the first step over. I was concerned about having control of the speed of the rope but it was not any issue.  If anything,  it was a little slow. On the first descent I took it slow and just eased down one step at a time.  Once on the bottom,  I was hooked on repelling.  The rock face is only about 18 to 20 feet high.  It does not take but a minute or two to get down.  I unhook from the rope and go around the side of the rock up the hill and do it again. This time I do a few bounce outs and get the fill of the rope. I make two or three more trips and decided to look for another spot.

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While at the bottom I see what looks to be a good spot.  I packed up a walk over to the rock that is at the base of the hillside.  It protrude out so that it has three sides. It is a little higher than the first but not by much.  The front face is an overhang. It is a little tough to get to the top. I unpacked the rope and tie off to a big tree. I didn’t ever fill good about the knot but I tested it over and over.  After hooking into the rope I backed over the edge.  There were a lot of vines and vegetation.  I was concerned about getting my foot stuck.  I was not liking the over hang and could not find a way to pass over it. I keep working my way around the left side and stayed away from the front edge.  That is when I seen a few ice Sickles on the next ledge. I packed up again. The hike over was a little tough.  From where I was to the top of the next area I had to climb through a small craves in the rock.  Not much but just enough to make it fun. I tied off to a small tree about 20 feet up hill from the edge.  Again I hooked into the rope and went over the edge.  Climbing back up to the top I decided that the next trip down would be my last for the day. I also wanted to try a way to retrieve my rope from the bottom so not to have to climb back up. This may be useful in a survival situation.  Not having to leave my rope behind.  What I did was to untie the rope from the tree a just run the rope behind the tree. I then took the end of the rope and made a loop and tied it back on its self.  Using the loop I hooked it in to my harness.  I then hooked the rope than ran on the other side of the tree into the 8 ring.  I had all other gear in the pack and the pack on my back. The tension of the rope going around the tree really made it hard to let rope out. A 2 inch Calabria tree is as big as you want to use. Any bigger and the rope would not slide.  I made it down very easy.  At the bottom, I untie and pulled the rope back around the tree and packed it up.

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The Mill Branch is a small creek about 8 feet wide. A place I have visited a lot. While there is a four-wheeler trail that runs along side the branch I would most often arrive on foot. To cross Raccoon Creek in the winter or when it was to high to cross on foot, I would us a cable that ran from one side to the other.  I don’t know who put it up but it was a one inch cable with a seat hanging from a pulley.  A separate rope was attached to the pulley running to each side of the creek.  This allowed you to retrieve the seat if it was on the other side of the creek from you. It also allowed you to pull yourself across. The seat was eventually lost in high water and not replaced. I then crossed over on the cable by hanging below  and crawling hand over hand and leg over leg. The cable is still there but is broken in to two pieces. Next to where I started my repelling,  is a small hole that goes back in the hillside about 12 feet. There is a rock out side of the small cave that makes a good bench.  Early on when exploring this area I discovered a small piece of rock on the stone face slid out of its place. I placed two quarters on it and slid it back in its place.  The year had to be 1983 or so, I would have been around 9. One of the two quarters is dated 1981. I would return here a lot.  It was one of my secret spots. I carved this Beach tree in 1991. 20140202_190954I explored a lot by myself in my youth so it is natural for me to go solo. That’s not to say I didn’t ever go out with other people.  Brandon was my best friend and he and I did a lot of explore together.  Shawn was also my best friend and she and I had a lot of adventures.  On the way back to the truck I walked up the creek and passed the Pokey Hole.  A swimming hole that was named after an Indian girl.  The hole has a rock that we used to jump off of. The hole has filled in over the years and is not very deep. I also passed another small branch where Shawn and I would play in the bamboo.  It runs next to her dad’s chicken house and his rock shaker. He ran a grave business and used the shaker to separate the different size rock and sand. If repairs were needed inside the machine,  Fed would employee me to crawl in side to make the repair because I was small enough to get in. I also passed an area of the creek where there was a rope swing. It was not as good as the one at the Jimmy hole but was closer. I will have to give a tour of the creek in a post someday.  From there it was a short walk up the hill to my truck.

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There is always an adventure to be had on the farm.  Lot of thing to do, if you just get out and do it. I will be looking to do more repelling soon.

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