Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Springer Mountain and the BMT, part 2.

The first weekend of December, my sister and I went to Northern Georgia to do some hiking. While I was living in Chattanooga I had purchased a book with 50 trails in the North Georgia mountains, and I wanted to knock a couple of these trails out. We used some free nights I had earned from a hotel loyalty program I was part of, and set our minds to hike one trail on Sunday and one on Monday.

We got into Helen, GA fairly late on Saturday, and ended up getting up much later than I had hoped on Sunday. It wasn't until after noon that we got started out for the day. After a trip to local IGA for some supplies, we decided to walk the Tennessee Rock trail up at Black Mountain State Park (the highest state park in Georgia). Of course it was unseasonably warm, so we thought it would be a great day for a hike up in the mountains.

After a nice drive through mountains and lunch in Clayton, GA, we made the turn off of US 441 towards the state park. Lo and behold the highest state park in Georgia is also a park that closes in the winter. So it is 70 degrees out (OK, probably around 55-60 up in the mountains), the sky is crystal clear, and the freaking State Park is closed. They were so rigid they didn't even have one last weekend before closing. Apparently December 1 MEANS December 1 to Georgia State Parks.

Because of our late start, the early sunset, and the fact that Tennessee Rock was the farthest away of the three options, we had effectively ruined our shot at hiking much of anything on Sunday. Instead we drove even farther, through Franklin and up to Wayah Bald. Wayah Bald is a high point on the AT in North Carolina, and is one of the easiest points on the trail to get to that isn't on a road crossing (or train station). All it takes is driving up a winding road from Franklin, then drive up another winding gravel road, and park at the nice new paved lot. From there it is a short walk along the paved AT to the Wayah Bald tower, which provides a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge of TN, NC, and GA. From atop the tower, we could see Clingman's Dome, the highest point in TN and the AT. It's hard to believe that it is less than thirty miles in a straightline to there. By car it would take about two hours or more to get there, and by foot it would take many days of grueling ups and downs to reach it.

The short walk to and from Wayah Bald was the sum total of our hiking that day. However, we enjoyed a nice drive through the now leafless mountains, and some excellent views atop that peaceful bald. I don't consider it a waste, and considering how much of an ordeal the next day turned out to be, I'm kind of glad I didn't walk several miles on Sunday. But that's another story, one that my sister tells so well.

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