Wednesday, June 07, 2023

2nd Annual Babes Backpacking

After our last backpacking trip in May 2022, all five girls who went were very excited to do it again. We hiked the Pine Mountain Trail 90 minutes south of Atlanta.  24 miles in three days, carrying everything on our backs.  It had some hills, but was not mountainous.  I guess that was good for our first dive into overnight backpacking.  We talked about going North Georgia mountain for trip number two.  Unfortunately, only 2 of the OG hikers could make it this time (Me and Kate) and we picked up a new hiker, another one of Virginia's friends, Lauren.
Three girls this time and it was a totally different trip than the last one.  We did not carry huge backpacks with all supplies, tents, cooking supplies etc.  Kate organized everything for a WONDERFUL 3 day hiking weekend.  
The plan was to meet at Kate's house in Dunwoody at 1030 on Friday morning, pack up my van and head north to Amicalola Falls State Park

The forecast was calling for rain on Friday, but because our long day (13 miles) was Saturday and the weather was going to be beautiful, we decided to chance getting wet the first day.  It was a short day.

Plus, that first night, we weren't camping.  Nor did we have our huge backpacks, filled to the gills, like last time. We bunked up at the Len Foot Hike Inn on the Appalachian Approach Trail. 

On a side note: Yeeeeeeeears ago, like before kids, Ernesto and I hiked this trail and stumbled upon this Inn unexpectedly.  I remember saying "this is so cool, we have to come stay here sometime!"
Well, we never made it back there ...and now I had a reservation. I was excited.  
The trail starts at the top of Amicalola Falls.  We oohed and ahhed at the beautiful view and started on the trail at 130pm
It was not raining when we embarked on the trail, but nonetheless we were prepared mentally and physically.  Kate had creatively cut and taped a white trash bag around our packs -a pack poncho, if you will.  Genius!

We were lead through a really beautiful, winding trail lined with native Mountain Laurel.  I would love to hike here when all of these bushes are in bloom !  Can you imagine white flowers everywhere?
An hour into the hike, we felt a few drops.   At first, with just a light sprinkle coming down I didn't pull out my poncho.  Do I really need it?  Kate and Lauren had rain coats and I think I was worried that it would be loud, know, like a swooshing sound.  But as the rain persisted and came down a little harder (still not pouring though) I stopped to pull it out. I mean wet or a potential swooshing noise?  It was not the prettiest cover, but man it worked perfectly...and it didn't make any annoying sounds. haha  (Thank you Travelon!)
Did I look like a Smurf?  Maybe. But I was a dry Smurf!  
The 5 mile hike to the Inn only took us 2 hours.  Yes, it was a wet hike, but none of us were soaked.  The trail wasn't too muddy either.  Certain spots had these beams so that helped...and they were fun!
The gloominess actually made the inn even more welcoming as we approached!  
It was close to 4pm when we arrived at the inn, and dinner was being served at 6pm.  We checked in and received a bag with our bed linens and towels. The rooms are very basic/rustic here, but somehow they manage to be comfortable and cozy.  I think it is all the wood. 
I loved the room numbers! 
It is the little handmade touches that makes this place special. You write your name on masking tape and stick it on your mug for the duration of your stay.  Dinner has a "clean plate" rule, so don't dish out more than you can eat. . We enjoyed multiple cups of tea while exploring the grounds and different common areas of the inn. It was magnificent! 
The chairs were still wet from the rain, but it was starting to clear up and the view didn't disappoint.  

As stated on their website, Len Foote Hike Inn is "a sustainably designed ecotourism facility" in Chattahoochee National Forest in Dawsonville GA.  I didn't really know what that meant, but they tell you  all about it in the little informational meeting right before dinner.  The bath house is a long hallway of showers and composting toilets.  You might think that sounds gross (or stinky) but it wasn't at all.  In fact it was spotless and nearly odorless.  They explained that keeping the toilet lids down when not using them allows the fans to pull....yada yada yada.  I can't remember exactly, but they don't stink. 
There is a game room with, you guessed it, lots of games. 

The Inn is quaint because there are only 20 rooms (with two bunks each, so only 40 people at a time staying there.  That made for a really fun intimate family style dinner. 
We met people of all ages and walks of life. There were a couple people that were starting their journey of hiking the whole AT (that's 2000 miles!!) So impressive!
Kate taught us Durango Rummy (which is really just Rummicub with cards) in the game room but we didn't stay up too late.  We wanted to get up early to see the sunrise. 
With all that sleep, it was easy waking up at 6am.  The coffee was brewed and ready to go in the kitchen. We parked ourselves at a few rocking chairs on the deck.   Oohh the peace.   It's not too often I sit and enjoy a sunrise, but I should make a point to do it more often.  (I mean, I am definitely up before dawn on most days anyway)  Look at that glow!

Breakfast was served promptly at 8am.  Bacon, eggs, grits and some kind of peach oatmeal/cobbler. 
Yes! Have some! 
The plan was to hike up to Springer Mountain then back down to our car at Amicalola.  No sweat.  And there really wasn't.  The day was perfect for hiking. Breezy, Sunny and not humid! Ahhhhhhh.  Man, I just really feel good being outside hiking!
Maybe it was because it was raining the day before but on this sunny day, we noticed a lot of curious things in the woods.  I had a wave of nostalgia looking at this plant covering the ground.  I told Kate that this plant reminded me of growing up  in Ohio.  In the woods behind our house there were many of these, just like the pic below....The name just magically popped in my head. "May Apple." (Is that what we called them mom?) Lauren used a Plant ID app and confirmed it.
Arriving at the Springer Mountain lookout took us about 2 hours.  Mission accomplished. 
Pictures taken. Check check!

It was breezy at the top.  We pulled out our lunches and relaxed for a bit.  My lunch consisted of dried fruit and buffalo tuna packets/rice crackers and it was soooo satisfying. 
 In total we hiked 13 miles on Saturday.  If Im honest, I could have easily done more.  It wasn't super strenuous. This is only girls hike #2 so we are gradually getting harder.  I think adding the bigger backpacks next trip will kick it all up a notch.  

We made it back to the car around 4p and had an hour drive to part 2 of our adventure.  Still in the Chattahoochee National Forrest, we set up camp in Desoto Falls Recreation Area, and hour drive from Amicalola.
It was a beautiful site.  Towering trees and being very spread out from other campers really made us feel deep in the woods.  With the shade cover and the raging stream right behind our tent, I made a mental note to book this site when its 90 degrees.  The kids would have so much fun in the water.
In my van we had everything we needed for a night of car camping. Set up was quick and easy.  It's amazing how smooth everything goes when it's only adults.  I forget what it is like to finish a task without being interrupted. LOL  Kate made chili and warmed it up on her propane stove.  Accompanied by my favourite kale salad (this one by Giada De Laurentis) and we had a nice little dinner. 

Afterwards I pulled out my watercolors and we made the day even more perfect by adding some creativity.
The girls were so happy that I had brought the supplies.  I had two outlines ready to go for each of us and we sat there for a good hour painting! So fun!
We ended the night sitting around a fire, lit by the dry wood and a starter log I had loaded from the house (#cheating).
We were tucked in our sleeping bags by 10p and it started raining shortly after that.   It rained ALL NIGHT.  How do I know?  Because I felt like I was awake to hear all of it. 😂  Did I even sleep?  Im not sure what happened.  I was cozy in my sleeping bag, on an air mattress and super tired.  Usually I love when it rains at night. Why oh why am I still awake? I thought.  At some point  I had to pee but I was holding it.  I was unwilling to go out in the rain.  Also, the possibility of bears may have been a factor. Yikes! Finally Kate got up to pee close to 6am so I went too.  I then fell asleep hard for 3 or so hours. 
By morning the rain had let up.  In fact it was a beautiful out! We had packed everything into the van before bed and so none of our stuff was wet! Also my tent kept us perfectly dry.  Thank you Coleman.

Breakfast consisted of egg burritos with salsa and coffee. We packed up just as easily/quickly as we set up. 
Inside the Desoto Falls Rec Area there are two short hikes to waterfalls.  We had planned to do those and then a longer 6 mile hike to Blood Mountain (outside of the park).  Unfortunately Lauren's knee was bothering her a bit and so we decided to cut the day short and skip that last hike.  Still the two waterfalls were beautiful and a great way to see some of the park. 

***  I learned something new on this trip and have got to share it.  If any of you are bird lovers like I am, please download MERLIN  from the App Store and be ready to be amazed.  You open the app outside and hit the "song ID" button.  It "listens" and identifies any and every bird chirp that it hears.  I was soooooo excited to learn this.  We would be hiking and Kate would pull our her phone and open Merlin.  Worm-eating Warbler, Pilated Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager?  WHAT? I was really excited by that one.  I didn't get a good look but saw him fly away.  Ever since I got home I have been opening this app several times a day to see what is in my backyard.  So exciting.  Some o the birds I spot and others I hear, but this app is incredible!  Ok ok, I just had to share.  Go get it!

1 comment:

  1. This looks like an amazing experience! I have been wanting to start hiking journeys and this sealed the deal! I can't wait to go on one myself. Thank you for sharing yours. - Kerry R.


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