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!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Savannah and Skidaway Island State Park

How is it February already?  We wrapped up (literally) all our customers' Christmas lights....but one.  For the last couple weeks we (not literally WE, just Ernesto and the crew) have been taking down the lights that were installed at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. That is close to done now though and the kids had Winter Break. (ie: a 4 day weekend)

It's just a 4 day weekend, but definitely warrants a little trip right?!  We needed a plan though.  
It was one week before and although we had been thinking that we would go to Weeki Wachee again to stay with my parents (as we do every year), but there was NOTHING to book.  Its a small area and books up so fast! Boy those snowbirds snatch everything up quick! haha

I was searching Ga Parks website and saw that ONE cabin was available in an otherwise sold out campground.  Must've been a cancellation. I quickly threw it in my cart without even consulting Ernesto. LOL (so glad my husband goes with the flow!)  Skidaway Island State Park is just outside Savannah and since we have very good friends there, I thought we could double dip on this trip! 

We picked the kids up right after school with the van all packed up.  Paloma noticed something new and flashy red on the bike rack.  Although excited, she did express disappointment that her new bike was not turquoise.  😂 We picked it up at REI that morning, so choices were limited, but it is undoubtedly a sweet ride!  She was happy for sure!
 Soback to the early departure "plan."  We thought we would head out of town early.  We will get a head start before traffic, right? Wrong.  Remind me to never think that again.  We should have left at Marcelo told me to do. 😂. It took us TWO hours to get away from Atlanta and I was SOOOOOOOO annoyed.  After we were cruising,  and the kids were happy watching a movie, I listened to a book on headphones. We rolled into Savannah at 9p and our wonderful friends Ana and Carlos welcomed us in their house.  And had already ordered pizza.

Our cabin rental didn't start until the next day so we were able to shack up with them for a night! 
It was the first time we saw their new house, which is right on So walkable to everything.  I somehow didn't get a picture of their house, but the street is lined with these trees that scream Savannah.  Two are right in the front yard  😍 

In the morning we slowly came to life (after a 2am bedtime) and made it to the Funky Brunch Cafe in downtown for brunch.  This may surprise you but I'm not a huge fan of eating out with my kids, but this place convinced me to rethink that. 
It was was perfect for kids! Something to do!!  In the middle of the huge table is a griddle for you to cook your own pancakes! 
Batter comes in a squeeze bottle and you pick a few toppings to add.
Definitely a fun place and the food and service were great!
    Ourcabin check in time at Skidaway Park was 4p and we arrived at 5p, just as they were closing the door to the office. Whew!  They gave us the keys and everyone was super excited to get inside. 
The exterior was not cabin like.  The color seemed like it would be better suited for the beach. 
 However, it was AWESOME inside -woodsy and cabin like - and perfect for a family!  ZERO complaints! 
There was one bedroom, a bathroom, the kitchen and living area on the bottom floor.  Up a very narrow staircase was a loft with TWO queen beds!  The kids claimed that of course and Ernesto and I were like, you got it! We had Danny with us, so the four of them had plenty of space up top.  

Sunday morning Carlos and Ana came the park and we adventured around the trails on our bikes.  So PRETTY!
Palm trees, tall grasses, wooden trails......
...and no alligators! Thank you very much!  BUT!  Im looking at this picture below and thinking why oh why did we let them go in the water like that?  The park said they have not seen alligators, but does that mean they aren't there?!?
UGH, that is freaking me out now.  What were we thinking?!  I will say there were a lot of other people by the water, but still.... 

All the big trees are just calling you to come climb them .  How is this for a photo op?? 
We grilled burgers and hot dogs, made a fire and roasted smores.  Is there a more stereotypical camping menu? Ha! When its good, it's good.
The next morning Marcelo wanted to ride the trails with me.
We met up with Ernesto who had been on a ride himself.  Biking the trail is easy and once you hit the boardwalk you can follow it out to the observation tower.  This park borders the GA intercostal waterway, a salt marsh and boasts a Colonial Coast Birding Trail. (I saw so many birds!)
Marcelo has to explore nature.  Its in his bones.  He hopped off the boardwalk because he saw tons of crabs.

He will pick up almost anything too......
Also, oh my gosh, my boy is sooooo handsome,  right?!? Watch out ladies. 

I may or may not have been stalking all of the airstreams in the park.  I counted SIX silver bullets. I have never seen that many in one campground. Come on Netooooooooooo.  SO COOL!
On Monday, we checked out of the cabin at 11 and met Ana and Carlos at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center. What a wonderful spot this is.  
Over 100 acres of  forrest just outside of savannah. They have almost 100 animals from 39 different species. A few favourites were the grey wolves, great horned owl, red fox and bobcat.  Least favourite? snakes and alligators!
Meandering along the mile and a half trail was pleasant.  February is Savannah is great! The sun was out, but without the unbearable humidity.  The trail is mostly shady, but beware in the Summer.  If you like animals though, its worth a stop.
Downtown Savannah was the next stop.  Our plan was to kayak at Tybee but because it was President weekend there wasn't availability.  We walked along the river and stopped wherever the kids wanted. 
Carlos chose Savannah Tequila Co. for lunch.  Its on the river with a festive interior.  Food was muy bueno!
It wasn't the fastest service, so by the end, the kids were ready to get out of there.  It didn't help that they knew we were taking them to this HUGE candy shop afterwards.  We have been to River Street Sweets before, and the kids remember it.  They were like...wait for in a candy shop.
The JW Marriott is on the river too.  The lobby is crazy cool.  Huge displays of gems and geodes line the walls. 

Take the elevator up to the top and you will enter the Electric Moon Skytop Lounge. The inside is a swanky bar, but when you step outside you actually have to slide down a sliding board to get onto the rooftop deck.  The kids tried to sit in these spin seats, not that you ready could sit. 
It was a long day, but pasamos may bien!!
We decided to drove home that evening and the kids slept. So easy.
Thank you to our friends and the city of Savannah for a wonderful weekend!


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