Lake Russell Lady Slipper Trail (ish) Hike

Lake Russell Recreational Area in Mt. Airy, Georgia is a hidden gem, especially in the off season. The trails are quiet and isolated. And even during the months when the park is fully open, the beach area and campgrounds might be crowded, but the trails typically remain little traveled.

One of our favorite trails is the Lake Loop that, you guessed it, circles around the lake. This past weekend, however, we went on one of the other trails – the Lady Slipper Trail.

The Lady Slipper Trail starts off with a steady uphill climb for about a mile. Once you hit the top of the ridge, you merge into an old forest road. The official trail turns left, heading northeast. Greg and I eyed each other, and turned right, heading down the road going southwest into an area of the park we haven’t explored. We did about 3/4 of a mile, reaching the end of the road and going a bit further (a smaller trail continued beyond the end of the road) along the ridge through a pine forest. We would have kept going deeper into the woods, except we came across a hunter and didn’t want to disturb him or his dogs. So, we turned around and headed back.

Wanting to at least go for 5 miles, we hiked beyond where the trail enters the road and continued northeast and veered off onto the Lady Slipper Trail once more, where it departs the road and heads down a hillside. Instead of doing the loop though, we went for distance and then turned around to head back to where we parked.

On our way back, we actually met up with the hunter that we saw at a distance in the woods and exchanged apologies and pleasantries. He had two small hunting dogs with him that were adorable and friendly. Scotch and Beans behaved themselves and everyone had a good sniff. We also met a couple groups of mountain bikers on the return journey – making this the busiest we have ever seen this trail before.

The Lady Slipper Trail is a multipurpose trail. You can hike, bike, or horseback ride on it, so I’m really surprised we haven’t seen a lot more folks on it before.

The day was beautiful and the dogs enjoyed getting to stretch their stubby little legs. It’s been great getting out and hiking more again. I can feel my heart recovering from my last mystery illness flair up, and with each hike, I can feel my body getting stronger and more resilient. Being outside again makes my soul happy.

I am grateful for the abundant outdoor beauty that exists so close to where I live.

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New Year’s Hike – Unicoi to Helen

Yesterday, Greg and I took full advantage of the holiday and the gloriously mild weather and went for a hike. When you have time off and it’s 63 degrees outside, you go outside and enjoy it!

So warm we didn’t need jackets

It’s amazing that after six years of hiking and exploring all that the mountains of Northeast Georgia has to offer, that we still find places that we’ve never hiked. Especially trails that are definitely ones that should have been on our radar. Yesterday’s hike was one of these. We go to Unicoi State Park in Helen at least once a month. We love taking the pups for a casual stroll around the little lake there, and we’ve explored a bit of the other trails this park has to offer, but we’ve never completed the Unicoi to Helen trail.

Until now.

Coming in at just under six miles in and out, this trail is one that we’ll be adding to the rotation for sure. I’d say it’s only moderately difficult – purely based on length. The climbs and descents are mild. It has been raining A LOT here recently, so the trail itself had several swishy, muddy parts, but nothing that a good pair of waterproofed boots couldn’t slog through easily.

Sign at the Unicoi Lodge Trailhead

The trail starts at Unicoi Lodge in the park and winds up at the city park in Helen, where you can add a little bit of length and site-seeing to the hike by going around the little paved loop in the park.

Because of the weather and time of year, the trail had many different types of fungus and lichen growing everywhere. The rivers and streams were flowing like crazy, several days after we received flood-level amounts of rain.

This was a great, new experience to start of 2019.