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.

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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Pickett’s Mill Trail – #22 from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Creek at Pickett's Mill Trail

Creek at Pickett’s Mill Trail

First hike of 2013!  Between the weather and the holidays it’s been a while since I’ve been hiking.  My Christmas and New Year were spent with great friends and filled with plenty of food and drink, it’s definitely time to get back at it now.  This wasn’t a long hike, it was only supposed to be 3.1 miles going in but with some trail section closed I ended up with 2.37 miles total.

Pickett’s Mill Trail at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site
$4.00/person for adult admission
Trailhead Coordinates: 33.973908, -84.759223
Distance Hiked: 2.37 miles
Hiking Time: 1:11:20
Click to download GPX file

There’s a good bet that  unless you live in the area, or are a Civil War buff, you’ve never heard of The Battle of Pickett’s Mill.  One reason being that Sherman got his butt kicked so thoroughly at Pickett’s Mill that he decided to leave mention of it out of his notes and memoirs, and as we all know it’s the victors that write the history books.  It’s understandable he’d want to forget it, the Union lost 1,600 troops compared to the Confederacy losing just 500.   I use “just 500 lives lost” only as a reference to the fact the Union lost over 3 times that many.  The battle took place on May 27, 1864 and covered a rather hilly and heavily forested area.  In some cases the soldiers were entrenched less than 100 yards from each other.

Soldier Keeping an Eye on the Battlefield

Soldier Keeping an Eye on the Battlefield

Hiking Pickett’s Mill Trail I can imagine what it must have been like to do battle there.  Most of the terrain is hilly with a couple rather steep sections where the soldiers faced each other on opposite sides of a ravine.  There’s a small creek that runs throughout the area and it is heavily wooded.  Almost 150 years later it made for a very nice hike, it’s humbling to think that over 2,000 men lost their lives on and around these hiking trails.  The trails are very well marked with like-new blaze markers up as well as numerical points of interest which you can refer to on your map.  There’s also a nice visitor center with a small museum and gift shop and restrooms, water and a soda machine are available just outside the center, there are no other facilities at the park.

Overall this is a nice, leisurely hike with a great history lesson.  Definitely worth checking out.

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How to Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year 2013

The New Year is right around the corner (wow, is it really 2013?) and it’s time for New Year’s Resolutions!

Right at the top of many people’s list is Lose Weight or Get In Shape.  Gyms will be packed out the first week of the new year, and the second… most of January… but then the numbers will start to fall.  According to the folks at Franklin Covey, who conduct a survey on New Year’s Resolutions, only 25% of people making resolutions to themselves kept them and over 35% of those resolutions didn’t survive to the end of January.  Two of the biggest reasons people have for not keeping with their commitments were that they had too many other things going on already and they just simply weren’t committed to their resolution in the first place.

But you don’t have to fall into the ranks with those that couldn’t keep it going.  There are a few tips to make keeping your resolutions easier.

  1. Be Specific.  A resolution like Get In Shape is so broad that it’s hard to keep it.  So many things can fall under getting in shape that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Instead, try setting a goal like, “I will walk for 30 minutes a day 3 days per week”.  30 minutes X 3 days is a measurable goal.  When you can see progress being made towards your goal it’s a lot easier to keep at it.
  2. Make a plan.  Write it down or type it up but this goes hand in hand with being specific about your goal.  Give yourself steps to take to get to your goal and make sure to check each step off as you completed.  Hey, even adults feel better seeing a gold star on their homework.
  3. Be committed to your goal.  If you kinda, sorta want to quit smoking but you really enjoy cigarettes and you’re only doing it because your SO keeps nagging you then you probably shouldn’t make quitting smoking one of your resolutions.  However, if you’ve been smoking for 15 years and you know it’s killing you and you’ve had enough and are ready to kick the habit then rock on, you can do it.  But remember #1 and be specific in how you’re going to do it, it will make keeping at it much easier.
  4. Tell a friend and ask them for support.  Many people underestimate how powerful this can be.  Having a friend or group of friends that can help support you makes a world of difference.  With today’s technology there are even sites where you can have 100’s of friends there to help support you for various things.  Find a forum, an app, a support group or whatever works for you where you don’t go it alone.
  5. Don’t expect yourself to work miracles.  If you’ve got a list with 20 resolutions you’re bound to have some that get broken.  Even worse, the stress of such an overwhelming task could cause you to give up on goals you would have otherwise kept.  Make a short list of goals that are important to you and that are attainable, then kick ass on following through on them.

This list is by no means all-inclusive, and a bit of Google searching is likely to give you several great suggestions as well.  I’ve applied these principles to my weight loss goals and can say they definitely work.  I struggled for many years without a clear plan or goal but once I put some definition to things it helped tremendously.

If losing weight is your resolution there are a lot of great tools available online to help you along the way.  I use MyFitnessPal.com, Fitocracy.com and Runkeeper.com to track my calories and exercise.  Not only do they help keep me on track but there’s a strong community on each site that helps to keep you motivated and give you tips and the discussion forums give some great info as well.

I hope everyone had an awesome 2012 and that your 2013 exceeds all your expectations!

Pine Mountain Trail – East Loop and Summit

Pine Mountain Summit View

Pine Mountain Summit View

PINE MOUNTAIN RECREATION AREA – CARTERSVILLE, GA
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.177045 N, -84.737294 W
Distance Hiked: 3.04 miles (East Loop and Summit Overlook)
Time to Hike: 1:50:21
No GPX file for this one due to technical difficulties.

It’s been a few weeks since I got a hike in and I was ready to go this weekend.  Weather, work, holidays… ’tis the season, I guess.  I made sure to get some time this weekend and was excited to check out a trail close to my house, even though it’s not in my 60 Hikes book, although I’m told that it will be in the next edition.  This is the toughest hike I’ve personally done (remember, I’m a newb trying to lose weight) not counting Brasstown Bald.  Although Brasstown Bald was a more strenuous climb it was only 1/2 mile each way and on a paved trail.

The Pine Mountain Recreation Area is situated on Lake Allatoona and not far from Red Top Mountain.  It’s divided into a few trails as well as the summit overlook.  I hiked the East Loop and Summit, the West Loop connects to the East Loop for those that would like a longer hike.  For the East Loop and Summit my roundtrip was 3.04 miles, if you add in the West Loop the total hike is around 4.50 miles.  There are several picnic areas and lake access close to the area, however for some reason most of them were closed this weekend.

Interesting Tree on the East Loop Trail

Interesting Tree on the East Loop Trail

It’s important to note that a Georgia mountain is a bit less… mountainous than some of those beasts out West.  The trail started at an elevation of just over 900 feet and at the summit it’s about 1,500.  A good climb for me and the largest elevation gain of the trail I’ve hiked around  here.  It got my heart rate going pretty good and I burnt enough calories to have a few beers with friends after the hike and not even worry about it.  The terrain also offers a bit of a challenge with rocks and roots along the winding trail.  The view from the top was awesome and gave an almost 360 degree view of the area including Lake Allatoona and North Georgia.  To make it even more picturesque there were a few hawks (I’m gonna call them hawks, could have been buzzards – I was pretty tired once I got up there) circling around over the lake.

I’ll definitely hike this trail again, next time I’ll have to check out the West Loop as well.  Pine Mountain Recreation Area is less well known than Kennesaw Mountain just a bit south, if you’re looking for a hike it’s a less crowded area and much more geared to the hiking than the history.

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