Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stoneplace Trail at Tallulah Gorge

It was a day for hiking and moving, not smelling the flowers, not lingering at viewpoints, not soaking feet in rivers, not talking to anyone (except the ranger when I picked up my permit).  Just swing legs, pumping arms, and the joy of moving along the trail while working through my anxiety about classes starting again after three summer months.  There is nothing like a long hike for thinking and working through stuff.

Stoneplace Trail

The Stoneplace Trail at Tallulah Gorge State Park in Georgia was long and empty, so I could be alone and not feel bad about not stopping.  It was my first time on these trails, though I'd done the trails around and through gorge many times.  I'd never heard about the Stoneplace trail, and I found out why--  the well-marked trail follows an old dirt/ gravel road through scruffy, recently logged and/ or burned forest and is also open to mountain bikers.  Only towards the end did it pass by a few streams with pockets of mountain laurel.  There weren't views (though there might be winter views) and the forest wasn't very pretty (to be perfectly honest), and there were so many gnats flying in my eyes, I could hardly see anything anyway.   There were also a ton of spiderwebs across the trail that I kept running into.

One spiderweb I managed to avoid

On the plus side, the terrain was rocky, dirty, sandy but I could swing my legs freely the whole time (i.e. no big rocks or roots or anything "technical") and get a good rhythm.  After five miles of gradual downhill (only dropping about 800 feet), the trail intersected another access road for the boat ramp for Tugaloo Lake.  I'd been looking forward to going swimming in the lake since the day was so hot, but there was a no swimming sign, so I just turned around and headed back up the trail.

Tugaloo Lake

After three miles back on the Stoneplace Trail, I turned onto the High Bluff Trail, which was a narrow path through more recently burned forest, sunny with wildflowers.  This trail added about a mile to the return trip and was much more scenic compared to the Stoneplace Trail, and ended at the popular North Rim Trail, where I finally stopped to rest at a viewpoint of the falls. 

Because the Stoneplace Trail and High Bluff trails were gradual enough that I never felt my heart pound, I turned down the trail into the gorge so I could do the North Rim/ South Rim loop trail (about two miles) down all the stairs, across the bridge, then back up the stairs.  Finally, I got my heart pounding and my legs could really feel it after all the miles. 

When I got home, I did something I hadn't done for a long time-- I went to yoga class.  Lucky for me, the class just happened to focus today on hip-openers and leg stretches.  My legs felt so good to have gotten a good workout and then a good stretch to top it off!

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