Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter Wonderland at the Hike Inn

The second part of my winter vacation with my parents was 2-night trip to the Hike Inn.  I was thrilled to share this special place with my folks.  We got an early start the first day by staying overnight at Amicalola Falls State Park.  On the 5-mile hike to the Inn, we had clear views and saw a little snow on the ground.

On our second day, we set out on a dayhike on the Approach Trail towards Springer Mountain.  A mix of sleet and snow made the forest look incredibly beautiful.
My parents hiking in the ice.
A frigid wind was blowing hard at Nimblewill Gap, so we decided to turn around before getting to Springer.  I think I was probably the coldest, with my hands and feet frozen stiff.  Thankfully Dad gave me his mittens, which I layered over my own, finally feeling a bit better.  By the time we returned to the Hike Inn, it was snowing steadily, and we enjoyed soup and hot chocolate in the toasty dining hall.
Returning from our hike to the warmth of the Hike Inn.
One of my favorite things about staying at the Hike Inn is watching the sunrise while sipping hot drinks, so it was exciting that we had clear view on our last morning.
Delicious meals, especially the peach spoon bread.
The sun was finally out for our hike back down to Amicalola Falls State Park, but signs of the winter weather were everywhere.
Needle ice.
Needle ice formations were all along the trail.   They occur when the air is below freezing, but the soil and water in the soil is warmer than freezing.  The water at the surface freezes and pulls up more water via capillary action.
Beautiful ending to a wonderful trip.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Winter break at FDR State Park

My parents and I spent three nights over the Christmas holiday at FDR State Park, hiking parts of the Pine Mountain Trail.  This was my first time visiting this area, and we were all really impressed by the Pine Mountain Trail system's network of well-marked, interconnected trails.

After settling into our nice cabin overlooking the lake, my parents and I set out to explore the area.  Whenever I hike with my parents, I am always reminded where I get my hiking tendencies from.  In this case, we set out for a "brief stroll" on a paved road around the lake... 
My Dad and I at FDR State Park
But then a forest path beckoned, and we hopped on the rather muddy Delano Trail.  Signs pointed back to the cabin areas, but instead we took a turn down another trail, in the opposite direction.  And instead of going back via the trails, we headed down a powerline cut, then, following Dad, we set off cross country. 
Dad finds the "short cut" through the woods.
What had started out as a little walk escalated to a bushwack.  Now I know where I get this from!  The grande finale of the hike was that when my dad finally got to the road, he found $30 on the ground.   He's always picking up loose change, but this was quite a find!
Dad finds $30 on the shoulder of the road.
The next day, we set up a shuttle and hiked 5 miles on the Pine Mountain Trail from the TV tower trailhead to the Rocky Point Parking lot.   Though this is the most popular hike in the park, it was empty except for us because of the holiday and the rain.  Well-graded trail took us through a range of forest types, to scenic waterfalls, and past bright lichen-covered boulders.
Mom and Dad charging up the hills.
Dad and me on the Pine Mountain Trail.
On our last day, we hiked the 4.3 mile Dowdell Loop from Dowdell Knob parking area, highest point in the park and a favorite picnic spot of FDR.  This trail had nice open views, and a small creek and falls. 

Views created by the 2011 tornado
After the hike, we had time to visit the Little White House Historic Site and Museum.  I really enjoyed learning how FDR came to the Warm Springs pools and area to be treated for polio. Apparently, FDR was really influenced by his time in Georgia during the Great Depression, and his experiences here meeting farmers and other polio patients helped to influence his New Deal (which includes the CCC).   Since I've been a kid, our family has always taken vacations and spent our holidays, like this one, at parks and trails built by the CCC.   It was especially interesting learning more about the origin of this incredible program.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bartram Trail-- Courthouse Gap to Rabun Bald

My last remaining 0.5 mile section of the Bartram Trail in Georgia from Wilson Gap to the road crossing of FS 155 that I'd been too exhausted to finish last time had been nagging at me.  My New Year's Resolution of 2012 was to complete the Bartram, and on the second-shortest day of the year, I decided to give it another try.  This time, I started at another trailhead that I'd just found out about to give myself a better shot.

It was so early it was still partially dark when I set out at the Courthouse Gap Road parking area.  The short access trail (about half a mile) offered pretty views of Pinnacle Knob's rugged rock face, sparkling under a sheet of ice.

Turning north (left) on the Bartram Trail at Courthouse Gap, I hiked past Windy Gap, and then to FS 155, and then to Wilson Gap, completing the section I'd missed.  The 5 miles from Wilson Gap to Rabun were really stunning so I just kept going.
Ice on rocks north of Wilson Gap.
I pushed myself to move fast, aware of the limited daylight.   At Rabun Bald, second highest peak in Georgia,  I didn't linger long due to the cold wind, but turned around and hiked the 11 miles back to my car.  I was pleased set a new personal record for "hiking inefficiency"-- I'd done 22 miles in one day  to "complete" a 0.5 mile section.  Plus, I'd finally finished the GA Bartram Trail.