Iron Hill Loop – #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Peaceful Day on The Lake

Peaceful Day on The Lake

I finally got another hike in after much too long of an absence.  Hopefully I can get my schedule back on track to do this more regularly again!

This is the first hike I’ve done where I’m referencing the 3rd Edition of the 60 Hikes Atlanta book.  Previously #18 in the book was the Homestead Trail at Red Top Mountain State Park which I hiked back in November, 2012.  This trail is in the same park, just a different trail.

Iron Hill Loop at Red Top Mountain State Park
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.13975, -84.70058
Distance: 3.8 miles

Red Top Mountain State Park is so named for the deep red color that makes up the soil of the mountain.  The deep read indicates the presence of iron and this trail winds along two open-pit iron mines that were located here.  The park occasionally has iron pour events to commemorate the mining history.  The loop also winds along Lake Allatoona and you get some great long distance views, there’s also a variety of wildlife here and we saw various lizards, rabbits and squirrels as well as a pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers that got away before we could get a picture.

Dragonfly - Master of Camouflage

Dragonfly – Master of Camouflage

The trail itself is quite easygoing with only slight elevation changes.  It’s quite wide and well maintained.  Although it is a mixed use trail most people out the day we went were hiking, however there were a few bikers on the trail as well.  In total the hike was 3.78 miles and took 1 hour 43 minutes at a leisurely pace.  The weather was perfect and this is a hike I’ll definitely hit up again.  If you’re in the area this is worth checking out or any of the several others at the mountain.

If you’d rather take it a bit easier there is a swim beach at the park as well as several picnic areas with grills, boat rental and cabins.  It’s an easy 30 minute ride from Atlanta and a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle.

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New Edition of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta - 3rd Edition

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta – 3rd Edition

There is now an updated version of the 60 Hikes Atlanta book available.  You can get it on Amazon.com here.  If you have a Prime membership at Amazon you even get free 2-day shipping.

In the latest edition there are some new trails included and they have updated information as well as supplying GPS coordinates in LAT/LON as opposed to UTM coordinates.  I’ve already upgraded my copy and it continues to be a great resource, even better with the few updates.

You should definitely pick up a copy.

Life gets all up in the way!

Well, the last few months have kind of been a time-management train wreck for me!  I could go into the long boring story of why and what but the short of it is I got sideways for a while and I’m trying to get back on the tracks.

I’ve got back to working out.  Lifting weights, hiking, walking the dog and even shooting some hoops!  My diet has been very grab-and-go based lately and that’s never good.  I put back on a few of the pounds of lost, 8 of them to be exact, and now I’m trying to get the diet back in place as well.  Rather than trying to back track and catch up on the few hikes that I’ve done I’ll probably just do a quick catch-up post to track everything then try to get back at it 110%.

I know I don’t have a huge reader base here so this is as much to get myself in check as it is to let both of you know that I’m still at it over here.

Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Springtime!

Stone Mountain Loop – #43 from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta (I’m still here!)

Stone Mountain Reflected in Venable Lake

Stone Mountain Reflected in Venable Lake

I’m still here!!!

Just noticed it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted.  Well, it’s been quite a month.  I started a new job and was out of town for a week then when I got back to Atlanta it was full speed ahead.  I’ve been working long hours and this past Saturday was my first day off in 3 weeks.  My diet, workouts, hiking, lifting and sleep have suffered from the new schedule.  I think I’m getting the new routine down some and hope to get my plan moving in the right direction again.  I did get in a hike this weekend and have 1 other (plus this one) that I need to share.

I did this hike wayyy back on January 12th.  We haven’t had much of a winter this year and even for Atlanta we’ve been unseasonably warm.  January 12th was one of those days, 75 degrees and sunny.  It was glorious.  Stone Mountain park has a winter attraction they call Snow Mountain, where they cover a hill and playground with snow and let people sled and build forts and such.  It was rather weird seeing people in shorts and t-shirts playing in the snow.  There’s also a “village” area at Stone Mountain that has shops and restaurants, however they were all closed as I’m sure they had no idea the park would be packed in January.

Sunset at Venable Lake

Sunset at Venable Lake

We got to the park around 2:30 and headed out around the loop trail.  Stone Mountain has, of course, a trail up the mountain in addition to the loop trail.  We decided to hit the loop this time.  The book has it at 5.5 miles but with some side excursions we ended up at 6.83 miles in just under 4 hours.  It was a great hike with a nice variety of terrain and scenery.  At one point the loop trail crosses over a part of the mountain and you get a good workout in, there were other areas with some small hills as well.  You circle Venable Lake and then the path splits Lake Venable and Stone Mountain Lake winds around the east side of the mountain passing an old mill and a covered bridge before returning you to the base of the mountain.

Stone Mountain Memorial

Stone Mountain Memorial

If you’ve read a few of my other posts you know I like history with my hiking, Stone Mountain has plenty of both.   The mountain is probably best known for the carving on the north face of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  It is the largest bas relief sculpture in the world and was conceived by a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  Gutzon Borglum, who carved Mt. Rushmore, was originally commissioned to carve the piece and did begin work but had a falling out with the organizers and abandoned the project.  It was finally completed in 1972.  This is the VERY short version of the history of Stone Mountain, please do follow some of the links to read more when you have a chance.

Stone Mountain Park is a great place for a day trip.  Whether you want to go hiking, do some fishing, make candles, see a glass blowing demonstration, or check out the laser light show there’s plenty to do.  Next time I go back I’ll have to climb to the top!

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Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

There’s a nice little restaurant just around the corner from me that makes a great Tom Ka Gai,  aka Coconut Soup.  I eat there at least once a week and I’ve said for a while I was going to try making this myself.  I live in Metro Atlanta and I could get the authentic ingredients, but being in the suburbs it would require a bit of a trip to gather them.  Luckily, I was flipping through some old cookbooks the other day and stumbled across this recipe (found in Light Slow Cooker recipes from Better Homes & Gardens), using all ingredients that I can get at my grocery store.  Since it was missing some of the authentic ingredients like kefir lime leaves, galangal and fish sauce I wasn’t sure what to expect from it.  I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised.  If you can readily get the more authentic ingredients it might be even better.

Sorry I don’t have any prep pics here, I wasn’t planning on posting it but it came out so good I wanted to share.  This recipe is slightly tweaked from the original, and I also needed to add a bit more salt for my taste.  The original recipe also suggested adding crushed peanuts when serving.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

THAI CHICKEN COCONUT SOUP
Makes 6 servings
Printer Friendly Recipe

Ingredients

1 Lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 medium carrots, biased cut into ¾ inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 ½ tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 15 oz. can straw mushrooms, drained
1 15 oz. can unsweetened light coconut milk
2 medium red, yellow and/or green sweet peppers, cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro

My tweaks… I needed to add some salt to mine.  I also sliced a jalapeño and tossed it in the last 5 minutes for a little extra heat.

Directions

  • In 3 ½ – 4 ½ quart slow cooker, combine chicken, broth, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, lemon peel and crushed red pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2 ½ – 3 hours, skim off fat.
  • Stir in mushrooms, coconut milk, sweet peppers and cilantro.  Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.

 BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

  • Calories: 186
  • Carbohydrates: 13 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Protein: 21 grams

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Easy Breakfast Sausage and Sausage-Sweet Potato Hash

One of my favorite meals, at any time of the day, is sausage and eggs.  However I don’t like all the preservatives and such that come in most store-bought sausage (and bacon) or the price of the healthier choices.  So… I decided to try my hand at making them myself.  The bacon is still a work in progress, I haven’t tried a recipe I really liked yet, but I’ve engineered a quick and easy recipe for breakfast sausage that I really enjoy, my base for this recipe is Alton Brown’s Country Sausage but I’ve tweaked it to make it easier and I’ve cut out the sugar.  For any non-US readers, country sausage, AKA breakfast sausage here in the States, is a loose sausage.  Usually pork or turkey, but it can be made with any ground meat.  Although some places do make it into cased links it’s also served as patties or cooked and crumbled for use with other ingredients, like the hash recipe below.  Oh yeah this recipe and the has recipe are both Paleo diet friendly!

Sausage Seasoning and Ground Turkey

Sausage Seasoning and Ground Turkey

Sausage Crumbles

Sausage Crumbles

EASY BREAKFAST SAUSAGE
Print Recipe

(Recipe below seasons 10 lbs of ground meat.)

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp smoked kosher salt (use plain Kosher salt if smoked not available but the smoked salt really adds to the flavor.)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp dried sage
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per 4 oz serving, made with lean ground turkey)

Calories: 170
Carbohydrates: 0 grams
Fat: 8 grams
Protein: 21 grams
Fiber: 0 grams

If you choose to use  ground pork with an 80/20 lean/fat ratio this would have 280 calories per serving with 21 grams total fat and 20 grams protein.

Directions

Put everything in a spice grinder or break out a mortar and pestle and grind together.  Once ground, use 1 1/2 Tbsp per Lb of ground meat, I’ve made this with pork and turkey and it works great with both.  Mix it into the meat and it’s ready, flavor is improved if you refrigerate for about an hour after mixing and this will keep in the fridge for a few days.  Spice mixture will keep for quite a while in a sealed container.

Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

SAUSAGE AND SWEET POTATO HASH

  • 4 oz breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 medium sweet potato, diced and boiled or steamed
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • OPTIONAL: Diced bell pepper, sliced jalapeño, sliced mushrooms

Directions

This one is super easy to prepare.  Add a bit of oil to a hot pan (medium heat) and sauté the onion for a few minutes, add the sausage and cook until browned.  Now add the sweet potatoes and any other ingredients you like and cook until done to your preference, you can cook just until heated however I like to let the sweet potatoes caramelize a bit first.  Plate and serve, this is excellent topped with a fried egg.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO

Calories: 222
Carbohydrates: 14 grams
Fat: 8 grams
Protein: 24 grams
Fiber: 2 grams

Topped with 2 large eggs:

Calories: 362
Carbohydrates: 14 grams
Fat: 18 grams
Protein: 36 grams
Fiber: 2 grams