“I wonder where that road goes?”
Some insatiable curiosity has always compelled me to take the path less traveled, searching for little known landmarks, attractions, or beautiful vistas that I am certain lie along its route. I simply cannot resist the allure of the unknown. So when I returned from my westbound trek on the Silver Comet Trail the other day and learned that the ruins of an old mill could be seen on the eastern portion of the trail, I knew I could not leave Smyrna, Georgia without investigating further.
The following day I walked east on the Silver Comet, looking for the side path I had been told would lead to the ruins. Perhaps a third of a mile from the Concord Road access I came upon an unmarked narrow asphalt path that descended steeply, snaking through the forest in a series of loop-de-loops that must have been mapped out by a drunken surveyor. At the bottom of the hill the old mill leaned precariously toward Nickajack creek despite steel I-beams bracing what remained of its two-foot thick brick walls.
When Concord Woolen Mills opened in 1847 it was one of the first industrial employers in the county. During the Civil War the mill made Confederate uniforms until it was burned by Sherman’s troops on July 4, 1864. After the war the mill was rebuilt and prospered until 1889, when fire again destroyed most of the facility. Although it was rebuilt a second time, the mill’s heyday had passed; by 1916 it had ceased operation and was abandoned.
Over time, the site began to revert to its natural state. The roof caved in and walls crumbled, allowing the overarching forest canopy to gain a foothold. Trees now soar from what was the interior of the mill and muscular vines wrap tentacles around the remaining walls, disintegrating the mill brick by brick.
From inside the ruins I spied a sandy walking path along the banks of the creek, running parallel with the Silver Comet Trail above. “I wonder where that goes?” I thought. Figuring that I could hook back up with the Silver Comet somewhere further down the path, I followed Nickajack Creek for a couple of miles, stopping at various points to watch its waters roil over littered boulders as the setting sun painted the forest canopy in rich hues of gold and green. An elevated boardwalk crossed over fragile wetlands on the final portion of the trail, before leading up a hill and emerging in Heritage Park.
Back on the Silver Comet Trail, I dodged high-speed bikers, joggers, and scores of walkers. Yet just a short distance away, the virtually deserted trails of Heritage Park had provided a brief escape into a world of peace and intense beauty that renewed my mind and spirit. The path less traveled has never let me down.