With the last calendar year filled with trips, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself at home for a long weekend. Since January, I’ve been to New York City, New Orleans (Mardi Gras), Pittsburgh (work), San Diego (family trip), Washington D.C., New England (Boston, Maine & Vermont), Las Vegas, and have another trip to NYC and Chicago planned for September.
Labor day weekend is sort of the unofficial start of fall, even though the leaves aren’t changing, and the temperatures usually indicate otherwise. This week though, there was a crispness in the air that felt like fall was around the corner, so the North Georgia mountains were calling my name. I usually hit the state parks (more on them later), but today I headed for Blood Mountain, the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia at 4,458 feet. Since I hiked part of the AT in Maine and Vermont, I thought it only appropriate to start at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail, Georgia.
I met a nice couple at the top who offered to take my photo. Kevin and Rachel said they moved to Georgia recently, and decided to get out of Atlanta to explore the rest of the state. I recommended that they go to the state parks, and of course, get the annual parking pass. I also suggested the wineries, but not to combine wineries and the outlet mall together. That’s what led to my purchasing Tory Burch sandals.
Entrance into Georgia state parks is $5, or you can get an annual pass for $60. Since last October, I’ve been at least 25 times, so it’s more than paid for itself.
Georgia’s state parks are our unsung treasures. Yes, the tourist attractions in Atlanta and Savannah are worthy, but nature provides a priceless experience and a connection to nature that most of those other places can’t, and at a much more affordable price. There are 39 state parks, 13 historic sites, 8 partner sites and 2 outdoor recreation areas or historic areas.
I’ve only been to Tallulah Gorge, Cloudland Canyon, Vogel, and Amicalola in north Georgia, but I’ve also been to Fort Yargo, Sweetwater Creek, Providence Canyon, FDR (both near where I grew up), and Hard Labor Creek. Fed’s Little White House, a state historic site, was often a destination growing up as well. I have a ways to go. The coastal parks are high on my list, as well as the others in North Georgia.
A word of advice for anyone visiting these sites: please leave with what you bring, e.g., waste. I saw some today at Blood Mountain, but the state parks are where I see the most trash. Some areas are very hard to access to clean up, and those water bottles and plastic wrappers are not part of the nature we want to enjoy.
Another piece of advice: stay on the trail! Like signs we see on many college campuses, “Shortcuts make ruts!” Not only are the trails created for our safety, but also to preserve the natural habitats. When someone goes off the trail and creates a new one, it disturbs wildlife that may live or forage there, and also creates opportunity for erosion and potential landslides and rockslides. And these off-trails aren’t created by just one hiker. One person starts it, and as the rest follow, the alternate path is created. Let’s take the road more traveled here, since the caretakers of these properties work so hard to create and maintain them.
Okay, off my soapbox. These times I go for hikes, whether solo, or with friends and family, are my time to recharge. I do take my phone to get photos, but the data is turned off, and I don’t even take my earbuds with me. I like to hear the sounds of nature. It soothes me.
Ever since I vowed to change my lifestyle, including giving up sports, my weekends and vacations have been devoted to exploring the outdoors and historic places, and to giving myself the chance to recharge and reenergize.
Oh, and if you’re in north Georgia hopping state parks, don’t forget about those wineries. I went to Montaluce last fall with friends, and Kaya and Three Sisters this summer with family. Frogtown and Wolf Mountain also come highly recommended. I’ve been to Chateau Elan, of course, but it’s farther away from the Dahlonega area ones mentioned previously.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of North Georgia with me. Now, go forth and explore for yourself!
Author note: All photos are my property. I was not paid for any mentions of Georgia State Parks, Blood Mountain or the wineries mentioned.