Hike: Smithgall Woods Loop

After spending about 10 days with one illness or another, last Saturday, Greg and I were feeling peak cabin fever. On top of that, it was a gorgeous day. So we talked about going for a hike – you know, a short, easy going hike to ease ourselves back into things.

We did 7.5 miles. And not a flat 7.5 miles. It was hilly, with an elevation change of 700ft from lowest to highest.

We use A LOT of tissues.

A few weeks ago, we had explored a new part of The Smithgall Woods Center State Park – the Tower Road. At the time, we went for time and just kinda rambled about. But later, we discovered that if you continue on that road and then make the correct turns, you can make that hike into a loop. So that’s what we did.

Everything was going swimmingly. It was a nice, warm day after a whole bunch of rain. We were happy to get out and enjoy the day — until we were about 2 miles from the end. We were walking along the graveled Shackleford Road, when we came to the creek.

We were NOT turning around. So we zipped off the legs to our pants (AH HA, knew that would come in handy); took off our boots, tied the laces, and put them around our necks; removed our socks and stuffed them into high pockets; and forded our way across the creek. The water came up to my knees and was moving very fast. I have never been so grateful for my hiking stick, because it saved my ass a couple of times.

Blessed be the quick-dry pants

We made it across without incident and then stopped to rest a minute and dry off our feet. Soon, we re-donned our foot gear and continued our way back to the parking lot.

Luckily, we did not have the corgis with us. That would have made things much, much more difficult. We typically do not take them with us on new hikes.

Over all, it was a beautiful and adventurous hike. We saw some butterflies, some tadpoles, and a huge tree with some interesting, old initial carvings in it.

 

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70 in February

February is typically the coldest month we suffer here in North Georgia. It’s when we have the best chance of our yearly snowfall, and it’s when we have the biggest heating bills.

The polar vortex thing that was happening touched us only a little bit. While certain places up north were experiencing wind chills of -60, we were balmy down here in the teens and 20s.

But that took a dramatic turn this past weekend and even through today. It’s been an early spring, with temperatures in the mid-60s and even hitting the 70s yesterday.

Holy crap, it’s been amazing.

And it is most definitely fleeting.

And so while it’s decently warm and sunny (for the most part), I’ve been enjoying the time outside as much as possible. We went for a hike on Saturday (write-up to come), and on both Saturday and Sunday, I did my meditation outside. Yesterday, we even had the windows open at work, letting the fresh air and warmth in the building.

My meditation set-up on my porch

And though by next week, the temperatures will return to a more frigid normal,  and I will remember this refreshing sneak peak of spring, and know that warmer days are on the horizon.

I am grateful for these glorious 70 degree days in February.

Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain

Greg and I have completed two hikes so far in 2019, and both have been brand new to us. This past weekend, we made our way to a remote spoton the Appalachian trail – where the trail crosses Indian Grave Gap Road. Indian Grave Gap Road is a narrowish dirt road that winds through the national forest. If you decide to visit it, I recommend a truck or suv, especially after hard rains like we’ve experienced here in North Georgia lately.

Where the AT crosses the road, there is a small parking lot. We geared up and headed north towards Tray Mountain.

Tray Mountain is the 7th highest peak in Georgia. The trail up to the peak is moderately difficult, and a near constant incline. But it is an awe-inspiring trail with canopies of mountain laurel and rhododendron that give way to breathtaking views. Eventually leading to the very top of Tray Mountain at 2.55 miles (the shelter is as little further down the trail, but we didn’t go that far). This trail has become an instant favorite.

Hiking the A.T.

The mountains of Northeast Georgia provide an amazing array of hiking choices for those who are outdoorsy-inclined. Hiking is one of my favorite weekend activities, especially during the cooler weather. After almost a full week of feeling almost like a normal human being, I wanted to take a real hike this weekend and not just a jaunt through the woods at Unicoi State Park.

So early on Sunday morning, Greg and I packed up our gear and our snacks and headed up the mountain on the Richard Russell Scenic Parkway nearby. This highway gets closed quite often during the winter months because certain parts never see direct sunlight and ice sticks around like crazy. We drove up to the top of the mountain, to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road at Hog Pen Gap. From that particular trail head, we headed north for 2 miles and then returned.

GPS map of the hike

A nice, relatively flat 4-mile hike was exactly what I needed for both my body and my spirits. The morning was absolutely invigorating, albeit a bit chilly at first. The trail follows a ridge, and we were hiking in fog for a good portion of the morning, watching it slowly evaporate as the sun rose over the mountains and peeked through the trees.

I feel a unique sort of peace while hiking, and there’s an added bonus of accomplishment when you’re done.

Oddly enough, this is the first time we’ve done this portion of the A.T. I’d like to return eventually and go a littler further than 2 miles in.

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