In-and-Out: Vermont

Bristol, Vermont, travel, photo, explore, charm, sky, silver

As part of my “In-and-Out” series (where I write about very short visits to places due to business trips), I am going to share about my visit to my 40th state.  This week, I got an opportunity to visit one of my employer’s offices in Burlington, Vermont, a state I had never set foot on before.  I heard the town was charming and that it was a relaxed kind of place.  It was.  In my short visit, besides the work aspect (which went well!), I managed to do just a small bit of exploring thanks to our local colleagues.  What did this small of exploring include?

1.  Walking around Burlington along the lake and in the heart of the town.  We had dinner at Farmhouse where I ate a delicious burger topped only by the amazing onion rings.  A couple of Brooklyns (rye whiskey based cocktail) also helped.  Interesting sidewalk-side bike and doggie stations…

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Doggie parking!

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Bike parking meter!

2.  Drive through the charming town of Bristol (pop. 4,000-5,000) and stop for ice cream at Lulu’s.

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3.  Hike in the Green Mountain National Forest along the Long Trail to watch the sun set above the Adirondacks.

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4.  Go for a short sailboat cruise on Lake Champlain on a phenomenal late spring day with highs in the low 70s and beautiful blue skies.

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Our ride

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Captain ilivetotravel

Lake Champlain, sailboat, Vermont, blue sky, peaceful, beautiful, Burlington

Looking back towards the Community Sailing Center in Burlington

As a parenthetical, I got to enjoy Ben & Jerry‘s ice cream scooped by Jerry Greenfield himself!

Jerry Greenfield, Ben and Jerry, ice cream, Vermont, fun, yummy

There is Jerry!

I do not know whether work will take me up there again sometime but I sure plan to go back some day to enjoy nature be it skiing or hiking!

Hike to an Inn in North Georgia

Georgia, Atlanta, hike inn, hiking, outddors, nature, photo, sky

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.

Georgia, Atlanta, hike inn, hiking, outddors, nature, photo, lodge

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!

Atlanta, hiking, Georgia, mountains, nature, outdoors, creek, trees, forest

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.

hiking, map, Pine Mountain, Georgia, outdoors, nature, photo, Atlanta

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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Hiking in Nepal: To My Turning Point – Deboche (Day 4)

Ama Dablam, Nepal, Himalayas, mountain, peak, Everest Base Camp, majestic, Samsung Galaxy

After a restful and relaxing day in Namche Bazaar, it was time to hit the road for the last leg of my trek before turning back.  As I explained in an earlier post, I was shy a few days in my vacation bank so I would not be going all the way to Everest Base Camp this time.  Day 4 would take me past Tengboche with its beautiful monastery to tiny Deboche.  This day would represent the highest altitude I would reach in this trek, a hundred or so meters under 4,000 m (or some hundred or two feet under 13,000 ft.).

The day would start climbing up out of the half bowl that is Namche Bazaar past the museums and great viewing point I described on the Day 3 post.  And we could also see in the distance the two hanging bridges we had passed on our way to Namche Bazaar.

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Looking back at the spot from Day 3 from here we saw Everest

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The hanging bridges

Then we skirted the side of mountains on a beautiful and changing trail that offered us a new and closer view of Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse than the prior day’s.  We passed a stupa/chorten honoring the sherpas of Everest.

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Headed towards the stupa with the best backdrop!

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Detail of the stupa

Stupa, chorten, sherpa, Himalayas, Nepal, EBC, trail, Everest, Tibetan, design, colorful, Samsung Galaxy

Beautiful and colorful detail of the stupa

Later on we had the best view of my favorite mountain in the area:  Ama Dablam.  It looks like it is a person with two arms and flowing robes!  Pretty darn cool.

Ama Dablam, Nepal, Himalayas, mountain, peak, Everest Base Camp, majestic, Samsung Galaxy

Ama Dablam!

Of course, as we did every day, we stopped for tea at a tea house.  Mint tea or lemon tea – I could never decide which was my favorite.  Sometimes one, sometimes the other!

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Loved admiring typical Tibetan architecture during tea time!

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Lemon tea, anyone?

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Typical outdoor area of a tea house

The team guides and our lead discussed whether to make the push for Tengboche (which involved a serious climb) for lunch or to stop short of the climb to have lunch and rest.  They decided to eat before the climb.  I was torn.  On the one hand, the sooner we got to Tengboche, the sooner the hardest part of the day would be behind us and then lunch would feel more lackadaisical.   I also would not be doing the hardest part of the hike on a full stomach.  But, on the other hand, it would delay eating lunch by a good bit.  So, I didn’t mind which way they decided.  Now having seen Tengboche, I think the spot by the water where we stopped for lunch was perfect for rest and recovery prior to the climb.

Nepal, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, EBC, food, Khumbu, Samsung Galaxy

Part of our lunch – soup and rice!

Nepal, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, EBC, Khumbu, Samsung Galaxy

Toilet in a very scenic place at lunch (you can thank me later for not putting a photo of the inside…)

Overall, that day we would cover about 4 miles (6.5 km) and were expected to be on the trail for about 6.5 hrs.  The most exciting part of the day was when we came to the top of a slope to find ourselves in fairly flat ground looking at the Tibetan Tengboche Monastery through the foggy afternoon.  It was not only a beautiful sight but very surreal.

Tengboche, monastery, Himalayas, Nepal, Tibetan, color, Samsung Galaxy

Entrance to the monastery (more pix on the next post)

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Lots of color and detail

Tengboche, monastery, Himalayas, Nepal, Tibetan, color, Samsung Galaxy

We entered the main prayer room but no photos allows – and I respect that

Tengboche, monastery, Himalayas, Nepal, Tibetan, color, Samsung Galaxy

You better follow these rules – especially no kiss!

Right past it, we stopped at a tea/coffee house before embarking on the short last hour (or less) to our stopping point for the night in Deboche.  With the hardest part of the hike for the day over, it was very enjoyable to kick back and sip away!

Once we got to Deboche, the teahouse was one of the sparsest, most austere of the teahouses I stayed at in this trek.  Being that we were higher, it was colder and the place had one tiny stove in the center of the dining/living room (as do most teahouses).  I definitely stayed more warmly dressed, even through dinner, as I tried to keep by body heat in me.

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC

View towards the trail from our room

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC

The rooms were basic but who needs more? Except heat…

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC, dung, stove

Yeah… heating was very limited and crowds formed

The evening was nothing short of frigid.  There were two toilet rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. But the one upstairs was a Western toilet with a tank that would not fill.  I found it more effort to flush it so, in the middle of the night, I would walk down the very steep staircase to the non-Western toilet room, though by doing so I had to walk further in the cold of the night.  All indoors but, trust me, it was FRIGID; not sure there was much of a difference between inside and outside.  Thank goodness, I had the slight sleepwear and, more importantly, the right sleeping bag!!

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC, Olympus

Yeah, that’s our ice-covered window in the morning…  Yes, it was THAT cold.

From this point out, the destination changed – back to Lukla for the flight back to Kathmandu!

Touring Chile’s Glaciers by Boat

Serrano, Glacier, Chile, Puerto Natales,Patagonia, ice, boat tour, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

One of the highlights of visiting Patagonia is visiting the many glaciers in the area.  Some you can hike (like Grey) and some you can admire from a distance from the water (besides Grey, Serrano and Balmaceda) and are quite accessible from Puerto Natales by a boat tour).  I got to tour these beautiful glaciers by boat and it was very enjoyable.  But there was even more than the glaciers to enjoy!

On the way to the glaciers from Puerto Natales

The boat left from Puerto Natales and the route over was beautiful.  Even if that had been the purpose of the trip, that would have been worth it.  But, of course it wasn’t and that the glaciers would be even better.  Nevertheless, the way over offered many great sights!

Chile, Patagonia, glacier, Puerto Natales, outdoors, nature, tourism, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Country home indeed!

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Right after leaving Puerto Natales

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Seals have many good resting places

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I believe these are corcorans (not penguins), covering all the cliffs

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Beautiful rock formations

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More of the rock formations

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A view of the Torres del Paine from afar – awesome!

Grey Glacier

I hiked Grey in my trek in Patagonia earlier this year (see here for that story).  But in 2010 I saw it from a distance when I traveled around Patagonia when I sailed on a boat tour around the glaciers near Puerto Natales.  It was a neat place to visit as we got to walk to an area on the opposite side of Lake Grey from the glacier and face the glacier and watch the ice floes.Grey, glacier, Chile, Patagonia, tourism, travel, photo Grey, glacier, Chile, Patagonia, tourism, travel, photo Grey, glacier, Chile, Patagonia, tourism, travel, photo Grey, glacier, Chile, Patagonia, tourism, travel, photo Grey, glacier, Chile, Patagonia, tourism, travel, photo

Grey, glacier, Chile, Patagonia, tourism, travel, photo

Strolling around…

Before I go on to the other two glaciers… a couple of images that I like from this boat trip.

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Handrail on the path to visit the Serrano glacier

Boat, ride, ladder

Wooden ladder on the boat – colorful

Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers

We also visited the Serrano and Balmaceda glaciers.  These glaciers kiss the water like Grey glacier does but in what seemed a narrow and steeper “face” as it hits the water.  We were able to get off the boat in one of them (the Serrano glacier) and hike around the shoreline near the glacier.

Balmaceda, Glacier, Chile, Patagonia, ice, boat tour, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Balmaceda Glacier

Balmaceda, Glacier, Chile, Patagonia, ice, boat tour, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Balmaceda Glacier

Balmaceda, Glacier, Chile, Patagonia, ice, boat tour, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Balmaceda Glacier

Balmaceda, Glacier, Chile, Patagonia, ice, boat tour, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Balmaceda Glacier

Serrano, Glacier, Chile, Puerto Natales,Patagonia, ice, boat tour, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Serrano Glacier

Serrano, Glacier, Chile, Puerto Natales,Patagonia, ice, boat tour, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Serrano Glacier

And more beauty

Seeing the glaciers so close was nothing short of spectacular.  These “things” are magical and I expected they would be.  But I also saw some beautiful sights that had nothing to do with the glacier:  the unique flora in the immediacy of the glaciers and that was unexpected.Flora, Patagonia, Serrano glacier, Chile, photo, vegetation, Canon EOS Rebel Flora, Patagonia, Serrano glacier, Chile, photo, vegetation, Canon EOS Rebel, fernFlora, Patagonia, Serrano glacier, Chile, photo, vegetation, Canon EOS Rebel, greenFlora, Patagonia, Serrano glacier, Chile, photo, vegetation, Canon EOS Rebel, bush, treeFlora, Patagonia, Serrano glacier, Chile, photo, vegetation, Canon EOS Rebel, bush, tree

Flora, Patagonia, Serrano glacier, Chile, photo, vegetation, Canon EOS Rebel, orange

No idea what this is but it is beautiful

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Photo Essay: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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My friend Bruce T., an outdoorsman and all-around nice guy, is traveling around the Grand Teton National Park (in northwestern Wyoming) with his wife, Sonia, and had sent out a few pictures of the sights he has encountered.  I have never been to the park and loved the landscape, wildlife, and color in his pictures.  So, I asked him if he would let me share his photos in this blog so you all could see them.  So, without further ado, here are the sights of the Grand Teton National Park!   Which is your favorite photo??

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, flowers, mountain, travel, hiking, mule deer

A mule deer doe eating in the forest

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A bull elk with horns in velvet grazes in the late spring

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, flowers, mountain, travel, hiking

Flowers grace the foreground of the Grand Tetons

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, mountain, travel, hiking, bull moose

A young bull moose along the Snake River (near Moose Junction visitor center)

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, flowers, mountain, travel, hiking

Flowers blooming in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, flowers, mountain, travel, hiking

Hidden Falls – neat discovery

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Lupine blooms in the late spring with the Grand Tetons rising in the background

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, flowers, mountain, travel, hiking

Storm clouds loom above the Grand Tetons

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A passing storm darkens the skies

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, mountain, travel, hiking, rain

A passing storm drops rain and snow (high elevation)

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, mountain, travel, hiking, rain, storm

A passing storm in full force

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, outdoor, nature, flowers, mountain, travel, hiking

Scarlet gilia blooming with a great backdrop

 

Great Drive Series – Along the Columbia River in Oregon

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Oregon has been a place I have always been wanting to go.  When the opportunity to go on a business trip to Portland arose, I was thrilled.  Though I was not able to append a weekend on either end of the business trip to get to explore more, I did have a Sunday afternoon and the hours after office hours to check some of the area.

My favorite part was driving along the Columbia River Gorge.  I had not read up much about the area before going and it surprised to discover there was a gorge along parts of the Columbia River, near Portland.  I discovered it by looking outside my seat window as we were close to land in PDX.  I was very lucky to have picked a window seat (I am a serial aisler) and that it was on the right side of the plane which not only afforded me the opportunity to discover the gorge but also to see Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.  (Clearly, the airplane’s window was a little dirty and, seemingly, so was the air right above – notice the brownish line killing my clear view of the top of Mt. St. Helens).

Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Columbia River, Columbia River gorge, airplane view, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Mt. St. Helens on the left, Mt. Adams on the right; the Columbia River and the gorge in the middle

Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Columbia River, Columbia River gorge, airplane view, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, Portland, Oregon

Close up of the mountains (and the window smudge!)

Getting to the Columbia River Gorge from Portland was very easy.  Just take I-84 East.  To visit the most famous of the waterfalls, Multnomah, one doesn’t even really have to get off the interstate:  there is a parking area in the middle of the interstate (a rest area) and a tunnel under the lanes to get to the waterfall.

Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel

At the top of the photo, you can see the rest area

But it is nicer to get off earlier (at Troutdale or Corbett) and then do the scenic route, passing other waterfalls along the way.  The scenery is beautiful.Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel

The first main stop is phenomenal:  Vista House on the Crown Point Scenic Corridor.  You enjoy great vistas up- and down-river of the Columbia River from this high vantage point.  I wish I had been there for sunrise or sunset (or both) – bet the view would have been even better!Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photoColumbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo, vista

After Vista House continuing eastbound, a series of waterfalls come before getting to Multnomah Falls, the tallest falls in the state.  There are several trails available to get out and walk.  I reserved my limited time to go up the Multnomah Falls which rises over 600 ft.  Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

I did the round trip up and down in slightly less than an hour.  It is nice they numbered the switchbacks going up but it certainly made me anxious to get to the last one – I’d rather not know how many I have left!

Latourell Falls on the left and Multnomah Falls on the right

Latourell Falls on the left and Multnomah Falls on the right

Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

At the top of Multnomah!

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Yikes, close to the edge!

I do wish I had had time to go to the coast and visit the Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge.  I enjoyed reading the story of Lewis & Clark a few years ago and would have enjoyed seeing where their journey ended where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.  Next time!

Perito Moreno Glacier: A Most Fortunate Re-Visit

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

The day after our memorable hike around Fitz Roy, we got to visit the famous Perito Moreno glacier an hour plus from the town of El Calafate, Argentina.  I got to visit Perito Moreno back in December 2010 and never expected to ever come back, except this Trekking for Kids trek brought me there!Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

There were some key differences in this visit which made it certainly worthwhile to return.  Starting with the fact I was about four years older and that my cell phone camera was much more advanced too…

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

The side facing the bigger arm of the Lago Argentino

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, OlympusFurthermore and more significantly, this time, I got on a boat to see the glacier from another perspective:  from the south side of the Peninsula Magallanes.  It was neat to get to the glacier from one of its sides and from water level where the height of the glacier is much more impressive than from the visitor center viewing platforms.  As pure good luck, the skies cooperated with creating a nice backdrop for some of the pictures as you can see.

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

The dark skies and the mountains were the perfect backdrop

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

The shades of ice blue were stunning

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

The obligatory portrait of the artist…

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

The Perito Moreno glacier is known for its progression crossing the full length of the body of water at its feet to “kiss” the other side of the lake.  Eventually, the water creates a tunnel under the “front” of the glacier and, eventually, the bridge that forms over that tunnel collapses, a moment worth watching except that it takes years for that to happen and it is not really predictable as it can vary on how long (years) it takes.  In any case, when I visited in 2010, I saw the bridge/tunnel and, now, in 2015, I saw the post-bridge scenario.  Pretty cool.

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

2010 – The bridge

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

2015 – No bridge!

Visiting Perito Moreno requires the drive over to the visitor center.  Once you get there, there are facilities (coffee shop, clean bathrooms, and -of course- a gift shop).  But the main attraction is right in front of you.  I was impressed in 2010 and continued to be in 2015 with the great job done in building viewing platforms to appreciate the glacier in front of you from different angles and from different heights via a network of sidewalks, staircases (“pasarelas“) and viewing platforms.

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The start of the platforms

There is an elevator shaft (appropriately designed to mimic one of the “icicles” of the glacier) that can take those with limitations a little bit further than they may be able to go on their own; additionally, to get to that spot, there are ramps (as opposed to stairs).

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

The tower is the elevator shaft

Of course, there is great signage explaining the various routes to take along the staircase network and offering advice/warnings as well as naming all the mountains behind the glacier.Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

Indeed – keep your ears open for falling ice – pretty cool!

Perito Moreno, glacier, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, nature, wonder, travel, photo, Olympus

No worries, I did plenty of that!

No matter how far you get to go and explore, this glacier is truly a marvel of nature worth the drive to see firsthand.  Fortunately, I got to do that twice!

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OK, I had to play with the Samsung…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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The view from the north rim near the Interpretive Center

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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!

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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!!

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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!

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Hurricane Falls from the bottom of the Gorge

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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

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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!

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