The hiking of the Laurel Ridge Trail

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I was very excited to have a chance to go hiking this past week.  As you might have heard in my podcast, I was planning to go to Amacolola Falls in near Dahlonega, GA and hike the approach trail to the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain.  After considerable thought, the plans were changed and I decided to go to Lake Sidney Lanier just a few miles from the house.  I had hiked some of that trail but had no idea how much more there was.  All together from what I read on a posting board, the trail is a little over 4 miles in length, forming a loop.  I started at the Lower Overlook on Buford Dam Road.  I parked the truck at the overlook and paid close attention to the closing times on the posted sign.  Gwinnett County is on time (for at least one thing they do) and close that park at precisely 5:00 pm.  I started around 12 noon or a little later.  I knew I would have plenty of time to get the entire trail completed, even before I knew how long it was.  The area isn’t that huge to have a trail too large.  I crossed over Buford Dam Road and started down the incline to the river.

This part of the trail gives you one of the best views of Buford Dam.  P3160065I believe it was last year when the dam celebrated it’s 50th anniversary.  Ground breaking on the monumental Lake Lanier started in 1950 and has created one of the best known recreation areas in the southeastern US.  Even though it has been dealt some heavy blows from the adjoining states of Alabama and Florida, it lives on and provides millions of people with fun and enjoyment and various species of fish and wildlife a peaceful home.  I continued on and crossed over the parking lot on the backside of the dam.  This lead me to what I like P3160073to call the beginning of the Chattahooche River.  Lake Lanier supplies water to this river each day with a loud horn that you had better pay attention to.  If not, you could join the tales of a few other people who have been taken for a ride by the speed and depth of the water escaping Buford Dam.  The river rises considerably during this time.  If just hearing stories isn’t enough, you can read the warning signs posted at the base of the dam along the trail.  The Corps of Engineers would not lie about this!

The majority of the trail is hard packed dirt.  Every now and then, you will walk across pavement or concrete.  These are only places where the parking lots, pavilions, or roads intersect with the trail.  It allows you a little break, in some sense that you can rest from climbing or sliding on rocks.  Other places in the trail have boardwalks and bridges taking you over marshy areas and creeks feeding into the lake.  Whichever way the trail is prepared, you will be taken away by the surrounding, breath-taking views.  If you happen to step into some mud or creek water, you won’t mind since your brain is attracted to the birds , P3160054wildlife, and views of the lake you will encounter along the way.  A piece of advice to anyone wanting to begin hiking is to find a good set of hiking poles.  These help you steady the load of the backpack when going up and down inclines.  You will thank me later.  There were many changes in inclines and I used my poles quite a bit before getting back home.

No matter the size, bridges have always fascinated me.  From my earliest memories of crossing the Alabama River in Yellow Bluff, I can remember what excitement runs through my body as the car makes its way over the constructed road.  As I have mentioned before in the latest podcast, when traveling to and from Biloxi, MS on I-10, you cross over a massive bridge which allows travelers to traverse the marshy lands of southeastern MS.  The same goes for those travelers who are heading north or south on I-65 when they cross over the two humped, Dolly Parton bridge that goes over Dog River and Mobile River.  On a much smaller scale, wooden bridges crossing small streams intrigue me just the same.  There are a few small ones that cross over streams along the trail.  Many of them forced me to stop midway and take pictures of surrounding areas.  It’s really hard to explain exactly what thoughts go through my mind while I am standing on one of these bridges.  Maybe it’s the sheer fact that something is holding me above water.  Maybe it’s the fact that it is allowing me to stand over what calms me the most of P3160056anything in the world.  It’s strange that something so calming can be so terrifying when I get into it since I never learned to swim.  Wow…if that isn’t a Catch 22, I don’t know what would be.

Along the path, I happened upon a place simply known as The Fishing Hole.  Fishing by permit only, of course, is the way that has to work.  Not just anyone can come along and throw in their line.  I had my license with me if I had brought along my pole.  Maybe I will do that the next time I decide to hike the trail.  Beside this pond was a little hut I thought was rather peaceful looking.  I could see myself living in something like that.  I have always wanted a log cabin/house to call my own.  A man that lives back home in Grove Hill, AL owns a beautiful log home.  When my father was running for Road Commissioner in around 1994, we went to his home to speak to him.  He is a guy my dad knew his whole life.  This house made my mouth water.  It’s size and placement by the woods made me want to jump out of the car and go running inside to my own special bedroom.  It would have been amazing.  I know P3160057you can buy plans and materials to build these homes, but I can’t imagine how expensive they must be.  Then again, the furniture and stuff we own would certainly not work to make it feel like a country home.

Before leaving the park, I took another stroll to the base of the dam and the river.  The Atlanta area, for some reason, has become the new home of some Canadian geese.  These things are everywhere there is some standing water.  It’s almost as if they gave up half way and decided to stay here.  Believe me, Canadians.  If you want your geese back, you surly can have them.  We have seen and smelled enough goose poop to last us many years.  The grass along the river and the bank across the river is completely poop covered.  You have to watch where you step.  It’s that bad!  Not allowing the poop to make this P3160070trip sound like it ended bad, I took some pictures of the geese and how calm they are.  These are not like the ones my aunt used to own.  Those things were complete evil bitches.  You couldn’t get close to their cages without them hissing at you.  They would have mauled you in the head if they could have gotten closer to people.  Anyway, they are pretty and what’s so bad about having some pretty birds surrounding you at the lake.  Poop! That’s what’s bad!

I had a really great time while hiking the Laurel Ridge Trail.  It was my first attempt at hiking with my backpack and all its contents.  The bag easily weighed around 30-40 lbs (13.6 – 18.1 kg).  From things I have read online during my research to get ready for a long hike, that’s not a bad weight for your pack.  From what I gather from people I have talked to in person and who have been to the terminus of the AT, you can usually find things left by trees that other hikers have taken out of their bags and left behind, in the attempt to lighten their heavy loads.  I don’t know how true that is, but I have been told that a boy scout troop has gone there and racked up on some awesome things to use.  That is the reason I am trying to keep my equipment at a low until I know from skilled hikers what I will need on my journey.  Things I do have to make sure I buy are comfortable socks, things to put on my feet is a blister were to form, and overall first aid particulars.  Other than that, I think I am set.

I would love to hear from anyone reading this about your first memorable hike and what it meant to you.  Where did you go and was it a long distance trip?

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