Have you heard the saying — how does it go? — that there’s nothing new under the sun?
If you’ve poked around in the outdoors for very long, you might think that’s just another way of saying that there are no new places to go.
But is that true?
I don’t think so. There will always be new-to-me spots that I haven’t found – yet!
Take the other Sunday afternoon as a case in point. My friend Marty and I had carved out a few hours for a bit of exploration-oriented fishing. We were targeting the Pine Log Wildlife Management Area – specifically Stamp Creek, a stocked trout stream.
I’ve got to say that Stamp Creek is a remarkably beautiful flow. When we were there, the stream was crystal clear. I could see every pebble on the bottom even in several feet of water — and among the pebbles there was a lot of life. Minnows nosed among the stones, looking for something to snack on. Tiny snails crept along the top of submerged rocks.
And then there were the crawfish. Have you ever really looked at a crawfish in a creek? This water was absolutely clear, and I was amazed at how colorful those little crawfish were.
Spotting one, I tucked my fly rod under one arm and focused my attention on the crawfish as it inched slowly forward. For perhaps five minutes I just stood there watching as the crawfish crept along in front of me in 6 inches of crystal-clear water, going whatever it is that crawfish like to go.
After a little while I forgot that the small fly on the end of my line was still dangling in the water. In fact, I’d forgotten it completely until I felt a slight tug on the line.
My mind flashed back to fishing. Had I managed to catch a trout without even trying? No such luck. Instead, what had grabbed my fly was not a fish of the finny sort but yet another crawfish. Turning to look at it, I saw that it had somehow found my fly on the bottom of the stream and appeared to be trying to eat it. Eventually, it gave up, turning the fly loose and wandering off in search of more palatable fare.
But did we catch any trout?
We saw a few. But in water this clear, the fact is that they saw us long before we spotted them. No fish were caught, at least not by us. But that’s fishing!
After a while, we decided it was time to call it a day. We exited the creek and turned downstream, following the streamside path, and that’s when we saw it: a tapered stone structure about 30 yards away, barely visible through the thick summer vegetation.
It looked for all the world like some artifact of a lost civilization.
We picked our way through the undergrowth, approaching for a closer look.
The ancient ruin turned out to be a 19th-century iron furnace. There are several of those in the immediate area, the best known of which is Cooper Furnace near Allatoona Dam.
But this one was new – at least to me.
This particular furnace, known as the Lewis Furnace, is one of several built in 1847 by Dr. John W. Lewis, who lived in nearby Cartersville. It was part of a thriving iron ore processing industry from the mid-1800s through the years of the Civil War and beyond. In operation, the furnace was fired up and iron ore was dumped into the top. A water wheel powered a bellows system, which forced air into the furnace to smelt the ore and produce metallic iron.
To find this furnace yourself, start at the Pine Log Wildlife Management Area where Stamp Creek crosses under Stamp Creek Road. On one side the creek is the WMA’s check-in station, where you can usually pick up a paper map of the area.
After picking up a map, cross the bridge to the gravel road which leads away from the highway and into the management area. That road is gated. If the gate is open, you can drive in. If not, you’ll need to hike. Follow the road (which more or less parallels the creek) until it turns left and crosses Stamp Creek on a concrete creek crossing. There’s space on either side of the creek for a few cars to park.
Now walk upstream along the trail on river-right (that is, on the right side of the flow as you’re looking downstream). Look to the left for the stone outlines of the old furnace to appear.
It’s always fun to find new places like this one, especially when you find them by accident.
I’ve since learned that there are other old furnaces to be found in the area Pine Log WMA area. I like tracking down things like that, and you can bet that one of these days I’ll track down the others too.
New places? No. But new to me? Absolutely – and that’s half the fun!