Hike to an Inn in North Georgia

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If you are a casual reader of this blog, you will know that I enjoy hiking near and far from my home.  One of the “near” hikes on my list to check out was the hike to the Hike Inn in north Georgia.  The Hike Inn can only be accessed by hiking to it hence the name (actually, it’s full name is Len Foote Hike Inn).  There is a service road leading to it but, as the name implies, it is for service, not for guests.  Guests need to do the 5 hour hike in and out.

The trail begins atop Amicalola Falls (about 1.5 hrs/70-mile drive from Atlanta) – a destination to check out onto itself with other trails and a phenomenally tall set of staircases if you want to walk from the bottom of the falls to the top.  On this day, we drove to the top of the falls where we would leave our vehicles.

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The top of Amicalola Falls – awesome place!

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The start of the Hike Inn trail

The Hike Inn is in high demand so you need to book it in advance.  It is well worth it.  The hike is not super strenuous and you are rewarded by a magnificent place to stay.

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Amazing detail of nature

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Along the trail

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Our arrival at the Hike Inn!

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The view from the Hike Inn – magnificent

The accommodations are basic (bunk beds) and you can get private rooms.  The bathrooms and showers are shared but they are actually quite clean and nice (especially when compared with how basic the rooms are).  The toilets actually do not flush but, instead, deposit the waste (nice wording, huh?) somewhere below where it is taken advantage of through processes that they staff will happily explain if you decide to take them up on the tour of the facility (it is actually worth doing).

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Hallway by the rooms

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Bath house building

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There are rules for the toilet

Actually, everything about the place is about taking care of the environment.  The inn offers dining service with support of volunteers who get to stay for free for their service.  The Hike Inn politely stresses the importance of not wasting food (only serve yourself what you need) and actually tracks clean plates’ count at the end of a meal.  The food is delicious and the dining area is an open space where you can meet other hikers.  Really neat.

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Dining area

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Menu of the day

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Chart showing how well diners have done

After dinner (or before), you can sit and relax in any number of places around the inn.  One of my favorites is the upper porch looking east-ish – I love me a good rocking chair with a view!  You can also go for short walks around.  Right in that upper porch area is a game room where people can congregate and play games or read a book.

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The living/game room

The best part of it all is sunrise.  If you wake up early enough (and I recommend it!), go down to the sitting area below and face east.  Bring a blanket.  And then enjoy a majestic sunrise if the weather cooperates.  It is the perfect way to end the stay before starting back on the trail down.  Next time I go, I think I may stay two nights to really enjoy the place and its surroundings!  I leave you with a series of photos from the amazing sunrise I witnessed!

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Chattahoochee River Hikes: Vickery Creek Trail in Roswell

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Right by old town Roswell, a few miles outside of Atlanta‘s “perimeter” (an interstate highway that rings the city), is the Vickery Creek Trail.  There are about 7 miles worth of trails in this pocket of nature in the middle of Roswell.  A portion of the trails are near the creek (also named Big Creek) which hits the Chattahoochee River right by the entrance to the parking lot I used to hit the trailhead.  This area is also part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a collection of parks along the river which crosses Atlanta from the NE to the SW (sort of!).Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoVickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo

The trail offers moderate hiking, with some fairly flat portions and a few climbs that I would guess are not too strenuous to the average person.  The trails are well marked (the blue square spray painted on trees) and well signed so one can make one’s way around pretty easily.  Because of the time of the year, what seemed to me to be mountain azaleas were in bloom (pinkish flowers). Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoVickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoVickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoVickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoflowers, Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo
What is cool about this trail is seeing the two waterfalls created by a small and a large dam.  The area around the larger waterfall is not large and one has to watch one’s step but it is a pretty spot.Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo, waterfall Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo, waterfall Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo, waterfall Vickery Creek, Roswell, Georgia, Chattahoochee, river, park, Atlanta, hiking, outdoors, nature, trail, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo, waterfall

There are also a covered bridge and a large span bridge further down which facilitate cross the creek to other trailheads and parking areas.   Whether you are here in Atlanta to go up to the mountains or just visiting the city, this trail is one of many easy to visit and yet offering a unique hiking experience!

How Can You See Atlanta’s Carpet of Green? Pine Mountain!

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Atlanta is known for its crazy traffic and challenging airport.  But it is also known for the carpet of green that covers the city far and wide.  A week ago (or so), I was looking for a new hike not too far from the city and new to me.  Thankfully, we are not lacking for good hikes within 30 mins of the city (and if you expand that to 1.5 hrs, the possibilities are endless it seems!).

I opted to go north on I-75 to climb Pine Mountain in Cartersville.  The 4.6 round-trip hike was of moderate difficulty and not heavily trafficked.  When I arrived around 9:45 AM, the small parking lot of Main St. (not even a quarter mile from I-75) was pretty full.Atlanta, hiking, Georgia, mountains, nature, outdoors

The trail has a West Loop and an East Loop connected by a pass where the summit is found.  We hiked the southern end of both loops and the returned via the northern loops.  It was beautiful terrain and, with trees still not fully covered with leaves, one could see much further around which is one of the things I enjoy about hiking in colder weather.

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Trail Map

What I enjoyed about this hike, beyond its accessibility for this city dweller was that it offered a great view of the carpet of green that is the greater Atlanta metro area.  In the distance I could see the faint skyline of downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and Sandy Springs with Lake Allatoona in the foreground.  I have to say, this was a neat hike easily fitting in a half day.  I leave you with pictures from the hike and the view though the skyline is too small for it to show well on the photos so may not even see in these photos.  Beware:  a lot that looks like just green forests actually hides neighborhood after neighborhood in greater Atlanta!

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The double hump mountain is Kennesaw Mountain, a famous Civil War battlefield

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Of course, the highway (I-75) is not too far away!

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Lake Allatoona

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In-and-Out: Brunswick in Coastal Georgia

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While many of my travels allow me to spend time in a city or country for a long enough time, sometimes that is not the case.  And that is usually when I go on business trips.  It has been quite common for me to travel for long periods of time with work but, especially in the case of domestic travel, trips can be quite short.  That means either the ability to explore is limited to off work hours or to just one evening.  In the spirit of still sharing what I see, it makes sense to do an “in-and-out” series where I can share the small windows I get to see a place with you.  My hope is that it may show glimpses of places, however limited in scope.  So here goes the inaugural post – and please let me know if you like the idea.

Coastal Georgia – Historical… at least for Georgia

The state of Georgia does have a coastline, on the east along the Atlantic Ocean.  That coast is dotted with many islands like Jekyll, Cumberland, St. Simons, etc.  South of the middle of that coastline is the town and port of Brunswick.  Now, I know it may not be much to be excited about given Boston, Philly, Paris, London or Athens but in this part of the Southeast, Brunswick goes “far” back as 1738, depending on how you count.  Supposedly, around that time, the British set up something in the peninsula where Brunswick sits to almost face the Spanish who were in nearby Florida (credit Oglethorpe) AND who had laid claim to lands in this area too (the boundary between modern-day Florida and Georgia not existing back then). In the end, it is funny to think about that this all would have ended up being Florida has the Brits not initially colonized the area…  Brunswick as a town did not get founded until the 1850s but still, its history goes back to colonial times and that fascinates me.  It was designed, though, in the late 18th century in a layout similar to Savannah with many squares (14 of them, large and small) almost mathematically laid out in a grid of streets.

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Map of downtown and its squares and parks

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One of the smallest squares

Downtown , square, Hanover, Brunswick, Georgia

One of the larger squares: Hanover Square

I wonder if Savannah won some battle against Brunswick to become the premier coastal Georgia city.  Brunswick certainly is gifted in terms of its setting.  Perhaps Savannah had some edge with the river and better fit for a port?  But Brunswick was a very important port in the shipping of lumber abroad.  England, Cuba and Brazil were among the destinations for lumber that made it out of the continental U.S. through this port.  It is also incredible to learn that the largest blimp base during WW II was located in Brunswick since there was threat of German U-boats along the southeastern U.S. coast.

Approaching Brunswick – Golden Isles Airport

I had a choice to drive for 5 hours or take a short flight.  Because of the short duration of the visit, a 10-hr round-trip did not make sense.  Now, if the plane had been a larger plane, the flight may have been 30 minutes but it took about 50.  That’s OK.  On my flight in, I got some good views of the land around, with rivers or creeks and perhaps marshes.  I never got to see the ocean as the approach did not require to go past Brunswick towards St. Simons and a turn back.

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Lots of tree farms near Brunswick

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I did not have much time in the area and, because of closing hours, I could not visit places like Fort Frederica.  But I decided to, at least, make the short drive from my hotel near the tiny airport to the downtown area.  The town proper is quite small but it was very charming.   And the time of day for visiting, right before sunset was just perfect for the best light.downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, Coca-Coladowntown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, Ritz downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, sunset downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, rainbow, flag

Old homes in downtown Brunswick

I loved seeing old homes not immaculately restored but kept up.  Clearly, Brunswick is not a ‘happening’ place that pulls visitors in left and right but that, perhaps, has kept it more authentic or reflective of how places ‘used to be’ since it is not corrupted by out-of-control development nor by anti-septic ordinances that force artificial curbs, sidewalks, etc.

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The skies were a little dark because it had just rained.  You may appreciate in a couple of photos the rainbow coming out.  But the best was left for my drive out of Brunswick:  a beautiful sunset as a backdrop.

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2015 – A Year in Review

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2015 is almost over and it is time for the year in review which, I think, is an exercise not just in writing but in re-living the many blessings the year bestowed on me.  Here it goes and share with me some of the travels in your 2015!

In the city of brotherly love – Philadelphia, USA

My first trip of the year was to Philadelphia where family and friends live.  It is a place I love to visit though I do not get to do so often.  I welcome the opportunity whenever it comes though as I greatly enjoy spending time with my aunt and uncle who make me feel so at home whenever I go.  Though I got to see many, I did not get to see all my relatives nor all my friends which was a bummer – but good reason to go back!  As usual, my uncle likes to show me around places historical to both country and family.  I had not visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell since the early 90s and I enjoyed my visit there.  We also went to Valley Forge which had a special look since it was winter-time (and was also very cold!).

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Liberty Bell with Independence Hall behind it

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Independence Hall across the mall

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Valley Forge in winter – reminder of the cost of our freedom

Now, those places are not where the family history comes from 🙂 instead this building served as their home right after they moved up there from Miami.

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House where my parents and relatives lived

My first hike of the year – Blood Mountain, Georgia, USA

My first hike of the year was a training hike as I was going on a trek to Patagonia with Trekking for Kids.  My friend Phil who also enjoys hiking and I decided to do a hike near Blood Mountain that ended up -accidentally- in a climb of Blood Mountain.  While it was unplanned, it was a fortunate ‘accident’ as it all ended well and we enjoyed great vistas and trails.

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Entering Freeman Trail from the Appalachian Trail

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Along Jarrard Gap, the start of our hike

An amazing metropolis – Buenos Aires, Argentina

The orphanage work related to my trek to Patagonia was going to take place on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina.  So I knew I was going to be spending time in this great city – and more importantly, eating the best beef in the world paired with great wine!  I enjoyed walking about town and having nice meals with my fellow trekkers (some which I knew already and some which I met there).

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The parrillada at Campo Bravo

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Don’t forget dessert: this beauty courtesy of Cabaña Las Lilas

But the best part was meeting the children and staff of the two homes we worked with on our projects which included repairing a very leaky roof and damaged walls and furniture.  Much as I loved spending time in BB.AA., this work was the highlight of my time there!

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Painting new furniture with the kids was an adventure onto itself!

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These kids were hard workers and also great with the soccer ball!

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At Temaiken, Buenos Aires’ zoo

Back in time – Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

When planning my Buenos Aires travel, I decided to add an extra day to cross the river by ferry and spend half a day exploring a town that was a good throwback to the colonial period of the region:  Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.  I sold three other trekkers on doing this short trip with me and we had a great time walking the streets of this easy-going town.  I highly recommend making the crossing if you ever have time in Buenos Aires!

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One of the MANY vintage vehicles in town – an Austin

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Basilica del Sagrado Sacramento

My favorite spot on Earth – Chile’s Patagonia

As I wrote earlier this year, I loved Patagonia when I first visited the Perito Moreno glacier and Chile‘s amazing Patagonia in 2010.  I’d always hoped I could return some day and that did happen… in 2015, much sooner than I’d ever thought possible.  I returned to hike around Fitz Roy in Argentina, re-visit the Perito Moreno glacier, and then trek through the Torres del Paine National Park – which I had not done in 2010.  And it was a rewarding effort for sure with great vistas and a glacier hike to boot.  Memorable is not a good enough word for the experience.  And, secretly, I hope I get to return a second time for my third visit!!  (click on the hyperlinks above to see more photos from each of the visits)

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Grey glacier, where we hiked

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On the trail to Fitz Roy

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The Torres del Paine massif

The great northwest – Portland, Oregon

Thanks to work, I spent five days in Portland, Oregon.  I had never been to Oregon so it was cool that I got to go there.  I arrived at mid-day on a Sunday and decided to take a walking tour of Portland as it would be the most effective way to see the highlights of the town while enjoying the great weather.

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Portland street

Mercifully, daylight went on late so I got to take advantage of it to take a drive along the Columbia River to see the waterfalls that dot the riverside.   I also got to enjoy dinners in establishments along either side of the river which was a phenomenal day to end the workday.

Family, friends and food fest (4 F’s) – Spain, olé!

Friends of mine were going to hike the Camino de Santiago, a hike I did in 2014.  I thought it would be cool to combine my wish to meet relatives I had not met who live in the outskirts of Santiago with my friends’ arrival in Santiago de Compostela.  My grandmother has two surviving cousins she never met in person who live in Bastavales.  I had met one of them last year when I finished the Camino walk but I had not met the other.  So I met María and her son, grandkids and great-grandkids for the first time and enjoyed their warmth and sharing special memories and photos of the family.  I also visited time with Flora, the cousin I had met last year.  It was really cool.

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With Maria, my grandmother’s cousin

I then welcomed my friends and their fellow trekkers as they arrived in Santiago at the end of their Camino.  It was wonderful seeing them glow in joy as they wrapped their long walk.  After they got their Compostela and going to Pilgrim’s Mass, it was time to celebrate with some cañas (beer) and tapas in one of the many beautiful old streets of this phenomenal city.  We also took a day trip to Finisterre on the Atlantic coast, a nice place.

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Beer and tapas in Santiago de Compostela

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The left side of the Cathedral

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With friends Phil and Tommy at Finisterre

The visit with my friends continued in Madrid and, after they left, I got to spend time with madrileños friend of mine, enjoying good drinks, food, and atmosphere around town.  It was fun spending more time in Madrid (check out “6 Cool Things to Do in Madrid“!).  I love Spain but I loved more the opportunity to be there with friends!

Reuniting with dear friends – California

In late May, dear friends left Atlanta to head to California due to a job opportunity.  It was hard to see them go as I spent many a Friday night over ten years hanging out with them pre-kids and after-kids.  So, it was great when work offered me the opportunity to go to San Francisco so I could spend the weekend after the conference with them in their home outside of San Jose.  They took me to two great Mexican restaurants, one of them right by where they live.  I enjoyed a drive down Pebble Beach on the famous 17-mile drive (which I still have to write about!).  And we visited the charming coastal town of Carmel – and its impressive mission.

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Glorious skies at the Carmel Mission

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Waters along the 17-Mile drive

Up-north (WAY up north) – Duluth, Minnesota

Work took me for a brief business trip up north, to a small town 45 mins north of Duluth, Minnesota.  Driving along the coast of Lake Superior was very nice and peaceful.  We only had one night in Duluth but enjoyed a nice breakfast at a mom-and-pop type of place and dinner at a pub.  Of course, being the traveler that I am, never having gone to Wisconsin, and realizing I was just a bridge-crossing, I just had to do it… We had mostly an open morning so, along with a colleague, I drove across the water to a coffee shop I found online in the town of Superior, Wisconsin!  A coffee later, we crossed the bridge again and back in Minnesota!

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Wisconsin, here we come!

Returning to one my favorites – Chicago, Illinois

I first went to Chicago in a bitterly cold January in 1991 with company for training.  And I kept returning over the years mainly in winter.  This year I got to go in August for pleasure, after spending a few days in Minnesota for work.  I got to enjoy walking everywhere, getting to the lake, which I had never done.  I also explored new parts of town thanks to friends (including little gems in terms of eateries).   Overall, what I enjoyed most about this trip was a first for me in Chicago:  going to a museum!  The Art Institute of Chicago was right up my alley as very much an amateur in terms of art.  It made it all approachable and enjoyable without overwhelming.  I highly recommend it.  I look forward to returning to Chicago and having more time to see all the friends who live there (this was practically a day-and-a-half visit) – and explore a new museum or two!Chicago, Illinois, skyscraper, cityscape, photo, glass. buildings, architecture

An epic trek to close the year – on the route to Everest Base Camp, Nepal

I was not planning any other hike on 2015 after having done Patagonia earlier in the year.  However, I found out that several folks I knew from prior treks were going to do the trek to Everest Base Camp and I started wondering if I could go…  I was generally fit even if not well-trained, it was a generally good time to go from a work standpoint, and though I did not have vacation time to be able to go to base camp, the trek offered a shorter itinerary.  So, I went for it.  I had a great time and was thrilled to having seen the Himalayas, Mt. Everest, and the hamlets and people of the highlands of Nepal.  I am still writing about the trek so I will just point you to a couple of the writings:  flying into scary Lukla airport to begin the hike, day one of the hike (you can keep going from there to later days), and one of the neat sites I saw in Kathmandu.  The best part of the trek was the work done before the trek in the village of Kumari.  Check out the work we did with Trekking for Kids here.

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The prayer wheels

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Kids from Kumari

Epilogue to a year that ends…

2015 was an epic year.  From great hiking experiences, time with family and friends, new destinations, and good food and drinks, it had it all.  I got to step in South America, North America, Asia, and Europe all in one year!  However, as the year came to a close, we lost my stepdad, Rubén.  It was a bittersweet time as he had been suffering from Alzheimer‘s and his last week was one full of suffering.  So his passing offered him rest that we were thankful for, sad as it was to not have him around us any more.  Rubén, as my Mom, loved to travel.  They traveled across Europe and other places many times.  I got to travel with them and my sister and her family in several cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, and the Baltic Sea, as well as explore places like Copenhagen, Panama, and Paris (where they visited me in 1999 when I was living there).  Though we will sorely miss him in this final journey he has undertaken, I know I will see again at the final destination.  Until then, I will continuing journeying here.  Rest in peace, Rubén!

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In Panama in 2009

An Unexpected Climb of Blood Mountain

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I enjoy hiking and love exploring new routes.  Living in Atlanta, I have access to great hiking an hour and a half away at the start of the Appalachian Mountains, host of the famous Appalachian Trail (AT) that runs from north Georgia, all the way to Maine.  There is nice hiking closer to Atlanta but for longer and more strenuous hikes (and overall better vistas), I like going up to the north Georgia mountains.  I was looking for a long hike to do on a daytrip and was seeking a loop, instead of an in-and-out hike.  A good friend who also enjoys hiking offered to come along (I don’t hike solo) and we set out to do Jarrard Gap Trail connecting it to the Slaughter Creek Trail by traversing a 1.85 mile stretch of the AT for a total hike of around 5.75 miles.

While I have hiked in interesting places (like the Transylvanian Alps in Romania and Mt. Kilimanjaro), I am not an expert hiker who knows all the tricks of the trade, who is used to half-missing signage, who is secure in his inner compass, etc.  So I rely on maps and stuff I find on the Internet to create a route.  (My friend Val in Real Life would probably laugh her rear off at my lack of innate outdoor skills!)  On this occasion, my friend and I got a little complacent thinking we had clear in our head the route we were taking.  I will first share with you the hike we DID as it was definitely diverse in terrain and views, and enjoyable, if long.  I will then tell you what we THOUGHT we were going to do that day and highlight the difference between the two.  And then, I will share some lessons I learned!

The innocent start to the hike

After driving about 1.5 hrs, we arrived at Winfield Scott Lake, a rather small lake at the start of our hike.  To get there, we passed the entrance where visitors are supposed to take an envelope and place $5 in it and drop it in a locked box.  One is supposed to tear off part of the envelope and hang it on the rear view mirror of the vehicle (the number on that stub and the envelop in the locked box would match, telling the part ranger that this car has paid).  There were no envelopes to be found so we improvised and dropped the fee with a label that indicated my license plate in case someone checked.  We doubted anyone would be checking on this Sunday but we preferred being good citizens.  I took a picture of what I dropped in in case I needed it later to fight a citation!dollars

The hiked route: from Winfield Scott Lake via Jarrard Gap to the top of Blood Mountain and back

We entered the trail and, after crossing a narrow and single-side handrail bridge, we were dumped on a paved road where we saw a house with Halloween decorations still on the mailbox (this would prove useful later!).  There was a simple sign indicating the way and we walked maybe 0.25 miles on the road until the real entrance to the real Jarrard Gap Trail.

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Jarrard Gap, photos

On the Jarrard Gap Trail

The terrain was a nice upward slope but not too intense.  Nice views of the downhill on this winter day.  Once we exited this trail at the Jarrard Gap, we walked a little to the next set of signs which helped point the way in this 4-way intersection.  Except it was not all too clear as it did not have any of the names in our map.

Someone told us which way was the AT and we walked little on it until we saw the white mark that is used to mark the AT so on we went.  So we entered the AT in the direction of Blood Mountain.  There were slight (rolling, I would call them) downhills and flat bits of terrain.  We passed a camp area on the left after having taken a quick break, and soon on the right we saw the trailhead to the Freeman Trail which sort of parallels the AT (it re-meets the AT on the opposite end).  At that point, we were 2.6 miles from our beginning point and so we went off on Freeman Trail.

Freeman Trail is about 1.8 miles of very different terrain than what we had been on on the Jarrard Gap Trail and the AT.  At parts narrow, often very rocky (small and big), it was actually a fun trail to hit as long as one is not expecting a cozy walk.  We were not.  We even passed an icy spot on our way to the other end of the trail.

We understood we would exit Freeman Trail and take the AT in the direction back towards the entrance to Freeman Trail.  But, before setting on the AT, we stopped to eat our lunch at this popular intersection.  At this intersection, besides the AT and the Freeman Trail, there is a trail that leads to a parking lot 0.7 miles away.  That parking becomes probably the point with the shortest route up to Blood Mountain.

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Blood Mountain, Samsung Galaxy, photos, climb

At the spot where Freeman Trail hit the AT

By taking the AT in the direction of the entrance we took into the Freeman Trail, we were proceeding to ascend Blood Mountain which, at near 4,400 ft, is the fourth tallest mountain in the state of Georgia and one of the most popular mountaintops in the state with breathtaking views all the way to North Carolina and Tennessee.

The climb to the summit was hard.  Rocky and steep with many switchbacks, with vegetation everywhere.  It definitely worked out my gluteus maximus and my hamstrings!  I had the same trouble I had had on Day 4 on Kilimanjaro after passing the Barranco Wall segment of that hike.  I carried a 16-lb backpack as part of my training but ended up emptying my extra bottle of water (one that I carry precisely as a way to drop backpack weight should I feel like I need to; it is not the water I expect to consumer during the hike). It indeed was a challenge – an unexpected one – but I am glad I did it as it was good training for my upcoming hike and a great workout.

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Blood Mountain, photos, climb

On the way to the summit!

At some point, we reached a clearing with large smooth rocks replacing the ground, like how Stone Mountain is when you are climbing it.  We stopped briefly and chatted with some folks who had gone up ahead of us; they had not heard of Slaughter Creek (which was a little unnerving but they had come from the “nearby” parking lot so they were likely not expecting to hit the creek on the other side of the mountain).  From this clearing, one could see Stone Mountain and Atlanta in the distance.  That was very impressive given how far north we were.

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Blood Mountain, photos, climb

The view from the clearing

The AT is well-marked with rectangular white boxes painted on trees and rocks so no issues knowing where we were so we continued on it as we knew the AT would connect to the Slaughter Creek Trail.  Not long afterwards, we reached the summit which has a neat rock outcropping from which to soak the entire view.  It is located right next to a nice shelter structure for those who stay overnight (further down, there is a “privy” or basic toilet facility).  After checking the view and confirming which of the two possible ways was the way down (other than the one we came up from), we began our descent which I welcomed as going up had been hard.  I read later that the side we went up was harder but I am glad we did it that way because going down that way would have killed my knees with all the rocks…

The descent was uneventful.  We passed a campsite area on the left and it was a little mis-leading as the white box marking the trail made us think we had to detour at the campsite because the other part of the trail did not have the white rectangular boxes.  But the crude wooden map on the campsite and a brief exploration of the other trail (where we saw a sign that said “Water” and pointed down that path) led us to determine that the unmarked way was the way to go.  Confidently we moved forward and downward and soon we ran into a trio that confirmed for us that was the way down indeed.  So it was nice to have that validation.  They told us that we would make a left at the steps at the bottom that were still iced over.   The descent was not too rocky at all so that made it better for our knees.

We reached the iced-over steps and felt really good that we were on the final stretch.  We walked maybe 0.4 miles before we hit the entrance that we had taken to enter the Freeman Trail and then returned to repeat backwards the way in – a final 2.6 miles to get to our parking lot.  Along the way, we had forgotten about the road we had been dumped into before hitting the real Jarrard Gap Trail.  Thankfully, the house that still had Halloween decorations on the mailbox saved the day as we remembered having passed it.

The intended route:  from Winfield Scott Lake to Jarrard Gap to Slaughter Creek

So after having read what we did.  Here is what we had intended to do…

We were supposed to get on Jarrard Gap Trail (check) and hike it until it ended at the Jarrard Gap (check) and then connect with the AT (check) and walk towards Freeman Trail (check) but continue 0.4 miles past the entrance to Freeman Trail without taking Freeman Trail (NOT CHECKED!).  After the 0.4 mile stretch, we would encounter the trailhead to Slaughter Creek Trail which would have taken us back to the road near Winfield Scott Lake.  End of a moderate day hike.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we were supposed to do.  5.75 miles that could have taken us 2.5-3 hrs, perhaps.

What went wrong on this north Georgia mountain hike?  No, no banjos or bears

The map from the website where I got the route instructions did not label the trails the proposed route would take us on.  Thank goodness there was a clear map at the parking lot by the lake that had trails with names on them.  We could not quite reconcile this map to the one in our printout so we took a photo of the map so we could have handy along the way (boy, was that a good idea!).

map, Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Blood Mountain, photos,Jarrard Gap

The parking lot map

However, the map sort of helped get us confused – we saw that there was clearly a way from Freeman Trail on to Slaughter Creek Trail (via the AT) so we thought we were good.  But, what we failed to grasp was the increased distance such a route meant:  instead of our intended 5.75 mile plan, we ended up doing about 10.5 miles (per our reconstruction of the facts once back in the comfort of our respective homes).  This is how…

Remember when I said earlier that we encountered the start of the Freeman Trail so off we went on it?  Well, as you read on the “intended route” bit above, we were not supposed to take Freeman Trail.  The route instructions we had printed were just highlighting that at mile 2.6 we would encounter the trailhead for Freeman Trail. The explanation of the route was peppered with beautiful photos that certainly kept us from focusing on reading the text carefully as, upon careful reading later, we realized it never indicated that we needed to get on the Freeman Trail!

0.4 miles after passing the Freeman Trail, we were supposed to find the start of Slaughter Creek Trail at which point we would be returning along the same-named creek.  After a while on Freeman Trail we wondered if we had missed a turn 0.4 miles after we had started on it to find Slaughter Creek Trail (the connection to that trail was not evident in the map from the parking lot).

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Freeman Trail, Olympus, photos

Along the Freeman Trail

We should have turned around…  However, the map we had taken a picture of did show that we would hit the AT again and would swing back to hit Slaughter Creek Trail at some point (which we didn’t realize was much later than expected…).

And so we kept going on the rougher trail that is Freeman Trail.  Partly perhaps because we were distracted by our conversation and maybe partly because the trail was unusual (narrow, rocky, with more interesting vegetation that leafed-out winter trees).  Maybe it was just such a nice day for a hike so why rush it?  Eventually,we ran into a man and his dog and we asked him how far to hit the AT and he told us “one mile or so.”  We were taken aback but pressed on as we knew this way we would get to where we wanted to go.  We finally hit the AT and decided it was time to sit down and eat our lunch.  We had worked hard and had, at least, the same effort to go still to finish!

As we continued the hike by getting back on the AT, I still didn’t realize we were headed all the way to the top.  I thought this trail would swing on the south side of the mountain and some other trail would take hikers all the way to the top since I didn’t think the AT would run through mountaintops.  But we agreed we didn’t want to backtrack across the Freeman Trail so we went forth.  I think this was a good decision as, at least, we experienced reaching the top of Blood Mountain.

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Blood Mountain, photos, climb

Yours truly on the climb to the summit – note the white mark towards the bottom

The descent from Blood Mountain was uneventful except that we totally missed the entrance to the Slaughter Creek Trail!  When we reached the spot where we were supposed to turn off, we ran into a group of folks and we briefly chatted as we passed each other (after having seen a sign indicating the trail was coming up) and seemed to have missed the trailhead.  We had seen a little of the creek but missed the fact that we lost it at some point.  Or we assumed that for part of the trail, it would not be right by us. I am not really sure.  Anyway, we realized something was amiss when… we encountered the sign that marked the entrance to Freeman Trail that we had seen a few hours before!

At this point, I don’t think we were in the mood to backtrack and find Slaughter Creek Trail.  We understood we had missed the entrance and, given how much we had done already, we decided to back out the way we had come in via the Jarrard Gap.

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Jarrard Gap, Olympus, photos, climb

Back in the familiar territory of the Jarrard Gap

So, there you have it.  A series of mis-steps that, while annoying, did give us what looking back was a challenging and rewarding day of hiking.  However, there are lessons to be learned and that is also a good by-product of this experience!

Appalachian Trail, north Georgia mountains, hiking, trail, Blood Mountain,  photos, climb

Nice views on this hike – worth the effort

Key lessons learned for future hikes

  • Read the route carefully and if it does not explicitly say to take a trail, do not; do not be distracted by pretty pictures!
  • Corroborate the route on another website if possible.
  • Use a clear map that labels all the trails and shows a scale so you can properly estimate things.
  • Take a photo of whatever map you find once you arrive on-site and compare to your map to be sure you are clear.
  • Signage will not always be clear so the points above are important.
  • Cell service, though not always available, can be at some clearings.
  • Be prepared with enough food and water (we were, mercifully).
  • Bring a headlamp even if you think you are hiking in the daytime (had the hike been even longer than we thought, it would have started getting darker).
  • Always hike with someone.  Certainly, solitude can be an aim of hiking for some – but not for me!  If something goes wrong, I want another head thinking about things along with me!
  • Never stop hiking because you had one hike were you were not “with it.”  That is how one learns and it can still be very rewarding and worthwhile – plus it gives you a good story to laugh at and not take yourself too seriously!  And one does learn.

Regardless of all this, if was great to be able to do such a long hike to help my training for Patagonia and to prove to us that we were fit enough for such a hike combining length and climbing.

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Read about other hikes in Georgia:

Sope Creek

Sweetwater Creek

Island Ford

Tallulah Gorge

Panther Creek

Panther Creek: A Challenging and Rewarding Hike in North Georgia

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

I was looking for a hike that I could do within 4 hours that was not right on the outskirts of Atlanta.  A friend and I were looking for a more challenging hike than the usual so after selecting a few finalists, we settled on Panther Creek, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta.  We decided to hike 3.5 hrs in to the larger waterfalls and then back.  The entrance to the trail on Panther Creek is on Old Historic 441 in north Georgia, northwest of the town of Ellijay.

Soon after entering the trail, you go under the new 441. After that, you leave hearing highway noise and slowly, but surely, start hearing water running sounds…  The trail is more natural (read, not groomed) and that makes it quite a neat trail to hike.

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Towards the start of the Panther Creek trail – love the woods

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Lots of rock outcrops where one can imagine people ages ago taking shelter under them

You go down a narrow path and slowly go downhill. Eventually you are closer to creek level and closer to the creek itself.

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Beautiful colors at the time of the year I visited

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

More beauty

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Still waters

There are several low wooden bridges to cross and then one arrives to a first set of cascades with a space that is perfect for camping overnight.

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

One of the bridges crossing the creek

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Love these cascades

A couple of times the markers for the path were not visible and we proceeded trusting that the wild we saw in front of us was just an overgrown trail (and, mercifully, we were right!).

Continuing on from that spot, another 30-45 minutes or so depending on pace, one arrives at the upper waterfalls with a sort-of sandy beach to camp overnight or just recover from the hike in. Right before arriving at this waterfall, the terrain becomes a little more challenging and fun. One has to hug the big rocks holding on to the steel-cable handrails. These handrails are anchored on posts, some of which are sturdy and some of which have come loose and are floating, being kept alive by the two neighboring posts! One does need to proceed with care as falling from this rock outcrop would not be fun.

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The steel cable handrail itself is precarious!

Panther Creek was both rewarding and challenging. The raw feel of the trails was a welcome change from some of the other trails I hike in north Atlanta (which are quite nice but well groomed). I highly recommend doing this trail – I sure hope to do it again!

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

A nice break after 3.5 miles!

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Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:

Sope Creek

Sweetwater Creek

Island Ford

Tallulah Gorge

… and more to come!

A Hike in Tallulah Gorge State Park

L'Eau d'Or, Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

Tallulah Gorge State Park is located pretty much in the northeast corner of the state of Georgia.  The park centers around the Tallulah Gorge around the – guess what- Tallulah River (which starts in North Carolina and eventually makes its way to the Savannah River and the Atlantic Ocean).  The river has a series of waterfalls in that part of the river which are collectively called -wait for it- Tallulah Falls!  It is supposed to be the most scenic canyon on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. with a depth of about 1,000 ft.

Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

I visited the canyon around mid-October, in an unusually warm October so the leaves had not begun to change yet for real.  Driving to the park from Atlanta takes about 1.5 hrs, slightly less if you live or are staying at in the northern suburbs of the metro Atlanta.

The park has an Interpretive Center with information and exhibits for the young and the not-so-young about the history of the former resort town, local wildlife, and other topics.  The staff at the center is quite helpful and knowledgeable about the park and its vicinity.

Going for an easy hike

For the non-hiker or those whose interest in seeing some of the waterfalls but not climb steep staircases, the park has natural paths along the north and south rims of the gorge that are pretty easy to walk through.  These paths offer various vantage points, or overlooks, from which to soak in the view.  Walking along the north rim you can see the tower that held the tightrope Karl Wallenda used when he crossed the gorge in 1970!

Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

The view from the north rim near the Interpretive Center

Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

Checking out the gorge from one of the overlooks on the north rim

The north/south rim hike is about 3 miles long round-trip and, depending on the pace, should be doable in a couple of hours.  From the first overlook, closest to the start of the trail at the Interpretive Center, there is a great view of the L’Eau d’Or (Ladore) waterfalls where yours truly had his pic taken!

Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

Looking down at L’Eau d’Or waterfalls from the overlook

Going for a deeper hike

For those wanting to get closer to the waterfalls, the river and the bottom of the gorge… there are stairs!!  Over 1,000 steps!

Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4, stairs

Let the stairs begin!

From the first overlook where my picture was taken, you can proceed to the Devil’s Pulpit where you get a great face on view of L’Eau d’Or.

L'Eau d'Or, Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

L’Eau d’Or

From this point the large staircase takes the hiker to the suspension bridge that connects the south and north rims of the gorge.

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Crossing the bridge

Once on the south rim, one can access the bottom of the gorge.  On some days, it is allowed to go further at the bottom of the gorge but only the first 100 people get the pass that is required.  However, because of the water release schedule for the upriver dam, the bottom of the gorge is not always open – and it was not when I went.  I lamented that because I would have loved to jump into the pool!!

pool, bottom of the gorge, Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

Pool at the bottom of the gorge

Once you reach the bottom, you can take a look at Hurricane Falls and dream of sliding down those rocks!

Hurricane Falls, Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

Hurricane Falls from the bottom of the Gorge

Tallulah Gorge, waterfalls, falls, Georgia, nature, outdoor

Signs a-plenty – “rattlesnake” weed doesn’t sound good, does it??

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One of my fellow hikers and I resting atop the southern rim

hikers, Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, canyon, hiking, north rim, south rim, photo, outdoors, nature, Samsung Galaxy 4

The view you are rewarded with from the rim!

Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:

Sope Creek

Sweetwater Creek

Island Ford

… and more to come!

Sope Creek: A Hike, a Creek, and an Old Mill

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War, Paper Mill Road, rapids

I was looking for another spot in Atlanta to hike while also hitting some waterway AND hitting history after having enjoyed going to Sweetwater Creek and to Island Ford (on the Chattahoochee River).  Tall order, huh?  NOT in Atlanta!  Plenty of spots along creeks and rivers to find great hiking and reminders of the life in the South back when mills ruled the day.  Enter, stage left, Sope Creek.

I am training for hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain with Trekking for Kids, an organization that took me to Transylvania’s “Alps” in Romania and to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.   As part of my training, I want to do more than Kennessaw Mountain or Stone Mountain.  So after some research and talking to friends, I discovered the many trails that are right within 15 miles of the city, like Island Ford, for example.

But on another weekend, I wanted to try something new.  I was taking friends’ kids out on this hike so it also had to be friendly enough for me and three other kids 🙂  That’s when a co-worker recommended Sope Creek, a creek where a Civil War era mill use to operate and whose ruins you can not only see but also get up close and personal with!

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War, Paper Mill Road, rapids

The old mill ruins

The kids, aged 14, 10, and 8, were excited to come for the hike.  I decided to take the longer way to the creek so that the “hard work” took place before we saw the creek and the mill which I figured would be the highlight of the hike.

Sope Creek, Paper Mill, Atlanta, Georgia, hiking, kids, lake, colorful, photo, travel

Early on the hike, we ran into a small lake.

The park has both hiking-only trails and hiking/biking trails so we did have to keep our eyes and ears open to approaching bikes but the mountain bikers were pretty much nice and careful which we appreciated.  The trails are well-signed and the younger kids enjoyed trying to figure out which way to with the map and the signage while the older kid and I allowed ourselves to be guided.

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War

Tadpoles in our midst!

The trail approached the creek by going almost parallel to it but up high.  It was a nice view and trail which then went away from the creek for a little bit.  We ended up crossing a trickle of a creek right after spotting three deer.

Eventually, we made it to the old mill and the creek.

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War

Looking south

The kids explore the ruins of the mill and then proceeded to walk towards the large rocks at the edge of the creek.

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War, Paper Mill Road, rapids

Kids climbing around the old mill ruins

It was fun climbing and walking on the rocks.

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War, Paper Mill Road, rapids

Two of the three climbing around the rocks

We hung there for a little bit enjoying the scenery and the climbing.  It was also a great spot for pictures and for a snack.

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War, Paper Mill Road, rapids

I love this shot: She looks Photoshopped in!

All that done, we proceeded to exit the park by following the trail that is parallel to the road.  It deviated from the road a little bit because the trail was under repair but it was easy to make it back to the parking lot.

After the hike, we were hungry and the kids had asked for Cracker Barrel (they love it because I keep calling it Crate & Barrel, accidentally!).  It was the perfect ending for a great hike!  The kiddos are definitely hikers and explorers!

Sope Creek, Atlanta, hiking, tadpoles, nature, outdoors, Georgia, old mill, Civil War, Paper Mill Road, rapids

Yours truly

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Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:

Panther Creek

Sweetwater Creek

Island Ford

Tallulah Gorge

… and more to come!

Chattahoochee River Hikes: Island Ford

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

Atlanta is well known for traffic, a massive airport, CNN, Coca-Cola, conventions, and Gone with the Wind.  It seems almost cliche-ish when defined in these terms and I can certainly understand that these form or inform people’s image of the South’s “Gate City,” as it was known in the mid 19th century.  What local residents and frequent visitors know, though, is that the city is a vibrant and diverse collection of areas.  The international farmer’s market by I-285 is a great example of this diversity that visitors don’t often get to see.

Another fact that may be surprising is how this city, so built up and loaded with cars, is actually in the midst of the great outdoors.  I shared already about how close Sweetwater Creek State Park is to the city (only 15 miles).  Here I want to shared another great nature spot, right within and right outside the city’s ring road (I-285):  the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, part of the U.S. National Park Service.Chattahoochee River, National Recreation Area, National Park Service, hiking, Atlanta, Georgia, photo

The lay of the Chattahoochee River

The Chattahoochee River, or the “Hootch“, starts up in the North Georgia mountains where the Buford Dam was established to control its flow and accumulate water to provide for the city.  It then makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico via western Atlanta then Alabama, then Florida.  The river does not cross the modern city center as rivers tend to do in other cities.  The city’s location was driven by railroad lines connecting the Gulf, the Atlantic ports and the Midwest back in the first half of the 19th century.  So, we did not end up with a river going through the city center (a shame!).

However, it does go through urban areas right outside the city of Atlanta proper and we were lucky that it became a protected area in the 1970s so we could enjoy this bit of nature.  All along the river, as it courses through metro Atlanta, there are parks and trails, offering great walking, running, mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, etc.  Here I want to share with you about one of them and hope to continue sharing other spots in the future.

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

I bet it looks very different in the middle of summer!

Island Ford

A few miles outside of I-285, as you head up on GA-400, you reach the headquarters of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s headquarters.  As with many parks, friendly staff and rangers are a phenomenal source of information and advice, both of which we enjoyed getting.

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

Park rangers are a great source of information to those visiting the park

Again, as with other parks like scene, they park service charges a nominal fee for use of the park in the form of a parking permit that costs only $3.  Bring singles as you make payment by putting the three dollars in an envelope and drop it in a box!

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

Incredible stones everywhere in the area, including in the river!

The trails around Island Ford provide both flat areas as well as steep hills to challenge hikers.  The circuit of trails here could take around 1.5-2.5 hours (depending on how many of the trails you hit and your speed!) and they are suitable for beginners.  Apparently, it is also a good spot for trout fishing – who knew!

trout, fishing, Chattahoochee River, Island Ford, Atlanta, Olympus, photo, hiking

Trout fishing fun

The trails ford a couple of creeks that feed the river and offer great views of the river but also of rock formations that natives are said to have used for shelter as far back as 1,000 years ago!Chattahoochee River, rock shelters, hiking, National Park Service, Olympus, photo, nature, outdoors Chattahoochee River, rock shelters, hiking, National Park Service, Olympus, photo, nature, outdoors

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

The star of the show working his way over a log

The Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy supports parks along the river in many ways to ensure our enjoyment of these natural areas.  Visit their site and become a member or supporter!   

 

Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:

Sope Creek

Panther Creek

Sweetwater Creek

Tallulah Gorge

… and more to come!

A Great Hike Right Near Atlanta: Sweetwater Creek State Park

New Manchester Manufacturing Company, Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Geogia

Atlanta may not be what comes to mind when thinking for a place to go to enjoy the great outdoors. But our little known secret is how close we are to any number of incredible spots to be “with” nature and enjoy the great outdoors. I recently got to explore Sweetwater Creek State Park, a short 15 minute ride west of Atlanta, and was impressed at the place and shocked that I have been a resident of this city for close to three decades and I had never been.Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Georgia

The park sits along a reservoir (with all sorts of water activities possible, like fishing and paddle boats) and a creek flowing from it into the larger Chattahoochee River, as it makes its way down to Alabama, Florida, and eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, GeorgiaSweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, GeorgiaSweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Georgia

A lot of work is being done around the park and its visitor center looks to be quite new.  It has some exhibits, a gift shop, and very helpful folks to answer any questions.  We got a map and were told to be sure to do the red trail as it has the more scenic views of the creek and the old mill.  Yes, as any self-respecting creek in the South must, Sweetwater Creek was the former home of a mill for the New Manchester Manufacturing CompanyNew Manchester Manufacturing Company, Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Georgia

The ruins of the mill, burnt down during the Civil War are still standing which makes for some great photo opportunities.  The fact that its ruins are still there helps transport one to the times not long ago (maybe a century ago?) when mills and ferries were commonplace in this area.  So much so that many streets in Atlanta bear names like Howell Mill, Paces Ferry, Sewell Mill, Montgomery Ferry, etc.New Manchester Manufacturing Company, Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Georgia New Manchester Manufacturing Company, Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Georgia New Manchester Manufacturing Company, Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Georgia

After doing the shorter red trail, we connected to the longer white trail.  At some point the white trail departs the shores of the Sweetwater Creek and head inland and uphill.  The whole circuit was around 5 miles and it took us about an hour and forty minutes.  It was a glorious morning in late winter in Atlanta and my first visit to Sweetwater Creek State Park could not have been any better!  And some folks planned ahead exactly how they were going to enjoy the weather and the view!Sweetwater Creek State Park, mill, hiking, nature, outdoors, Atlanta, Georgia, hammocks

 

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Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:

Sope Creek

Panther Creek

Island Ford

Tallulah Gorge

… and more to come!

The Spared Town in Georgia: Madison

Madison, Georgia, Morgan County, South, architecture, antebellum, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Madison, Georgia is a town not terribly far from Atlanta.  Just about an hour east of the city, it offers a different view on the South than Atlanta or towns north may offer.  Madison, founded on 1807 (a couple of decades before Atlanta), was spared destruction as the Northern armies moved towards the Atlantic coast after taking Atlanta by the simple request from a woman appealing with all her charms to General Sherman.  True or half-true or not-true (the stronger theory is that Sherman had a friend with connections to the town), Madison survived the destruction that was usually meted out to Southern towns rather crassly:  100 Antebellum or “pre-war” houses survive today, quite a number for the South!  And we are thankful for that as we can admire beautiful architecture and maybe begin to feel what places around the South looked like.  Georgia has a lot of interesting places off the beaten path and Madison is definitely one of those towns!  Check out some of this charming southern town…

 

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