Thursday, September 25, 2014

Boom, Boom, Bam, Rat a tat tat, KA-BOOM!


Blairsville, Georgia  (high 76, low 52)


Recently, we learned that there is an Army Ranger Mountain training camp in nearby Dahlonega, Georgia.  We were surprised to find out that civilians could actually go onto the post and into the training areas.

You are warned not to touch any of their training equipment.

It’s been a long time since either of us has been on a military base.  Since we were both Air Force “brats” we both kind of like being back on a military base.

We drove down to Dahlonega, via the Blood Mountain/highway 129 route.

We easily found the Army Ranger camp, and despite being told that we could go onto the post, it felt kind of strange driving up to the gate.


The camp was named after Frank D. Merrill, (Merrill's Marauders)

We stopped at the base gate.  It was nothing like most bases and just had a flimsy arm that could be raised or lowered.  The guard said we could go onto the post and look around, but to stay away from the area where the barracks were located.  That was fine, because I  remember guys in the barracks on  Guam standing on the balcony in their underwear.

From the moment we drove up to the gate, we heard loud booms.  Evidently they were doing some demolition work out in the field somewhere.  KA-BOOM!   KA-BOOM!

We  had permission to walk over to the “flight line.”  It was basically just a small field with a helicopter parked on it.

heliocopter on airfield

Nearby was a very moving fallen Ranger Memorial.

Robert Howard was the most decorated soldier in the Viet Nam War and nominated for the Medal of Honor three times.  He had an amazing career.

Click here to read more about Col. Howard.


Reading the stories about these guys, brought tears to my eyes.  One was 22 and was killed in Iraq on his 4th tour of duty.  Such a shame.





We drove around the very small army post for a few minutes.  This base/post was completely different from any other base we’ve been on.  It was messy, in need of grounds maintenance, and even had overflowing trash containers.  

I guess these guys are too busy trying to get through this portion of the Army Ranger training.

There wasn’t really much to see on this post. The usual PX, commissary  and barracks.

Ranger training starts in nearby Fort Benning, Ga.  The mountain portion of the training is here, then they do some water/swamp training in Florida at Eglin AFB in the panhandle. 

ranger camp

There are some trails and waterfalls in the woods around the post.  This is the area where they do their mountain training and have their “battles.”   You could certainly see that there were a lot of “boots on the ground” in this area.  

Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

I could picture guys hunkering down hiding from the “enemy”

picture  from the web

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The trail starts out very rocky, with large enough rocks that twisting an ankle is a very real possibility.

rocky -  Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp


There were a lot of obstacles, which proved to be a challenge for Al.  Notice the rip in his pants?   He got caught on a little branch nub and tore his shorts.


No good Ranger in training would have had this problem.   :)

We walked a for a little while down the steep rocky trail and then came across a big clearing where some of the skills training was done.  

I sure wish we could have been there to witness some of the training.

ranger training field at Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

All during this hike, we continually heard booms, rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat….ka-boom. It sounded like there was a big firefight.  There was a lot of training  going on somewhere very near.   We were told they use blanks. 

We weren’t sure what this building was used for.  Climbing, we think.


Learning to tie proper knots is pretty important, evidently.

Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

We tried to guess what all of this was used for. They have Ranger competitions and open house days.  I guess that’s what the bleachers are for.

Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

We didn’t find the repelling wall that we had been looking for, so we went back to the trail to head to the waterfalls.

There were signs everywhere that this was a field training area.

Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

We were pretty high up at this point, with the stream far below.

This was another training exercise.  It’s a little hard to see, but that was a bridge over the ravine.


bridge high over gorge of river at Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp


bridge high over gorge of river at Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

Al asked me if I wanted to walk over the bridge to the other side.   Of course NOT!

First, the Army was nice enough to allow you to be here and they asked to NOT touch any of their training equipment.

Secondly, although it doesn’t really show in the picture, you could not just step onto the bridge from the side of the ridge.   You would have to jump over to the bridge and then probably climb up.  NO thanks.

We kept hoping we’d see some of these guys, but unfortunately we didn’t.

(picture from the web)


Al found this turkey feather for our boy Baxter.  He was thrilled when we gave it to him, but unfortunately its lost now. I’m going to have to go on a feather hunt in the motor home today.

Al found a turkey feather for our kitty Baxter

We discussed bears and decided with all the noise from the gun battles, no self respecting bear would be in these woods. 

Boom Boom, rat a tat tat…..   Those were the sounds we heard all day.   It’s not your normal hike in the woods, but it was actually very cool.  The sounds of freedom, I guess.

We were a little surprised to find this.  We figured that bear was probably running for his life. Ka-BOOM!

bear scat

We ended up going back to the clearing again, after realizing we had missed the main waterfall.  We misread the map, I guess.

When we went back to the clearing and searched a little more, we finally discovered the repelling wall.

repelling wall at  Frank D. Merrill Army Ranger Camp

It’s hard to tell how high this is from the picture. 

Notice Al in the next picture?


The rock wall had a lot of hooks into the rocks.



Al walked up to the top of the wall.  It was a steep climb with ropes to assist.


repelling Ranger style

photo from the web


We finally found the waterfall.

waterfall at Camp Frank D. Merrill

You had to walk onto the bridge to get a good view.



We had a fun day exploring Army Ranger camp and felt a little more patriotic than usual, especially when we were leaving at 5pm.  We were just in time to hear the music from the daily flag lowering ceremony.  I remember so many times when that would happen when we lived on base on Guam.  Everyone would stop what they were doing, put their hands over their heart and wait for the music to stop.   It was always moving and yesterday was no exception.


We had a fun day at Ranger Camp, and with all the gunshots, and explosions, certainly not your normal hike in the woods, but very, very cool. 




  1. Sounds Like Freedom to Me. Many Americans are unaware of the sacrifices made by others for the freedoms we enjoy. Thanks for educating them.

  2. I bet the base being a little run down is due to the sequester cuts to the military. Saving money by not cutting grass means enough for bullets and training.

    Amazing they let you tour the training area. Good picture of what the Rangers go through. :c)

    1. We were a bit surprised we were allowed there, but we understand the land is actually owned by the Forrest Service.

      They certainly had plenty of money for bullets. It was constant.....but very cool.

  3. Very interesting Karen. Those guys who do 4 tours of duty and then lose their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan just break my heart. I have a hard time actually knowing what freedom they are dying for. But then I'm pretty cynical about the middle east.

    1. I read about one guy who had 22 tours of duty, but I later found out that Ranger tours are only 105 days. But still......

  4. If you like the sounds of bombs and gunfire should could move near us. The Eglin/Hurburt ranges are close enough that we have nightly sound of bombs and heavy weapons fire for several hours. AS we like to say, it is just the sound of freedom:)

  5. There is many information in military bases in ga by state. Like Fort Gillem is part of the wide category of small and satellite bases. It is run by the US Army and located in Forest Park. Its “mother” base is Fort McPherson.


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