Night Hike at Olde Rope Mill Park – Woodstock, GA

Night hiking at Olde Rope Mill Park

Night hiking at Olde Rope Mill Park

I’m no expert but since I’m posting about night hiking I feel like I should mention that before you try a night hike you should take some extra precautions.  Make sure you know the trail you’re hiking the first time out, definitely go with a friend, make sure your headlamps/flashlights have extra batteries, make sure others know where you’re going… plus all the other preparations you’ll take for any other hike.  For more info on night hiking check out this article on About.com – How to Go on a Night Hike.

Olde Rope Mill Park
Trailhead coordinates: 34.131759, -84.523106
GPX File – Trail Maps

A busy schedule this weekend wasn’t going to keep me from getting a hike in.  I’ve wanted to try a night hike for a while and after some searching found out a park very close to me allows visitors until 11:00 PM.  Asked my buddy if he was game and we locked the plans down.  Olde Rope Mill Park is right in my backyard and I’ve hiked it many times before so it was a great choice for my first night hike.  They have a nice set of trails which are built mainly for mountain biking but do allow hiking.  The trail network here is part of the Greenprints Alliance plan for the city of Woodstock.  The plan lays out over 60 miles of interconnected trails with attached greenspace throughout the city, I have to say that Woodstock is doing a great job of making this a great place to live and play – the mayor and city council must have rocked at SimCity back in the day.

Boo running free at Olde Rope Mill Park

Boo running free at Olde Rope Mill Park

We hit the trail around 7:00 and the last visitors to the park were just leaving.  We got our gear on and headed out.  My dog (Boo) made out like a champ as I let her go off-leash since the trail was deserted, I attached a small LED light to her collar in case she wandered off but to be honest she behaves much better off leash than she does on one… damn rebellious critter.   We intended to hike the Explorer loops 1 & 2 but ended up looping back on 1 due to my less than stellar night navigation skills.  After hiking part of the Explorer trail we headed up the trail access road and found out it connects to a subdivision, we headed back and crossed over the river to the mill ruins, at this point we heard a Sasquatch in the woods, or maybe it was a ghost… maybe the ghost of a Sasquatch.  Boo didn’t seem concerned with the situation so we decided to carry on.  Upon approaching the ruins we realized the terrain was a bit unsafe for a night hike, especially since I was not very familiar with that part of the trail.  We also noticed on the way out that the signs say the area is closed at night, guess I see where my pup gets that rebellious nature.  We crossed back over the river and headed down the paved path that runs parallel to the Little River which is about a one mile loop.  Once all was said and done we’d hiked about 2 3/4 miles.

There’s a lot to do at Olde Rope Mill Park if you’re in the area.  They have the walking path, hiking/biking trails, fishing, picnic tables and the ruins of the old rope mill.  The Little River is very low right now but I’ve seen several people fishing it in the past.  I have friends that are into mountain biking and have ridden here many times, apparently it’s a pretty well-respected trail set in the mountain biking community.  With this trail being as close as it is this most certainly won’t be the last time I hike it.

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Homestead Trail at Red Top Mountain State Park – #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Fall Colors and Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

Fall Colors and Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

HOMESTEAD TRAIL AT RED TOP MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Trailhead Coordinates:  34.147330, -84.706549
Click to download GPX file (My first time adding this so let me know if it doesn’t work!)

We had another gorgeous weekend here in Georgia and I definitely had to get a hike in.  I caught up with my buddy and we headed up to Red Top Mountain State Park to hike the yellow blazed Homestead Trail, this is #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta.  For a longer hike you can also add the Sweet Gum Trail as they share a leg, the book actually shows the Sweet Gum Trail as part of this hike but it is a separate trail.  The park is on the banks of Lake Allatoona and it’s about 42 miles from the center of Atlanta (Junction of 75/85/20) via I-75.   If you are looking for a weekend getaway there is a lodge, cottages, tennis courts, mini golf, camping, boating and more available at the park.

After grabbing some BBQ for lunch we headed North and arrived at the trail around 2:30 PM.  According to the book the trail is easy however both of us felt that “moderate” is probably more appropriate.  Although the trail winds around the mountain it’s laid out so none of the uphill climbs are too aggressive but still offer a little boost to hear rate.  Looking at the elevation chart in the book it’s hard to get a good idea of the actual slopes as the scale goes from 0 – 3600 but is rather small, even a rise of a couple hundred feet looks very small.  I’ve attached my GPS map in the slideshow that will give a better idea of the elevation change.

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

I really enjoyed this hike, seems like I say that every time I go out but I guess that’s a good thing as each trail has something to offer that I enjoy.  As mentioned, the trail was not overly difficult but it did offer a bit of a workout.  It’s a lollipop trail and the initial leg of the trail (the ‘stick’) is very easy terrain.  After crossing over Lodge Road you hit the more challenging terrain and wind along the lake.  There are some great views of the lake through the trees as well as a couple of areas where you can get along the banks.  We found one spot where a couple had set up hammocks along the lake and were reading as their dog kept watch, nice way to relax.  Although temps were fairly cool we did warm up a bit from earlier in the week and it made for perfect weather.  The trees are at the point where they are very colorful but half the leaves are on the ground and give that awesome crunch as you hike through.  My friend commented that some areas looked like shredded wrapping paper all over the floor on Christmas morning.

The hike took us about 2 1/2 hours to complete and we hiked a total of 5.74 miles.  We ended the day by heading back to my house for cigars and drinks.  With a fire crackling in the fire pit we hung out on the patio until I got too dru…. I mean until we were all tired and needed to get some rest.  All in all it was a great Saturday.

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Brasstown Bald – Highest point in the state of Georgia

Panoramic view from the top of Brasstown Bald

This past Saturday I took a trip a little outside my usual 60 miles of Atlanta range.  Some friends and I traveled up to Blairsville, GA to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state of Georgia at 4,783 feet.  From the top of the mountain you can see four states – Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina.  The English name for the mountain comes from a translation error of the Cherokee name, Itse’yĭ (New Green Place or Place of Fresh Green).  White settlers in the area mistakenly translated it as Ûňtsaiyĭ (brass).

Brasstown Bald is approximately a 2 hour drive from Atlanta, mostly due to the last 45 +/- miles of the trip being on winding mountain roads.  It’s several miles from any city/town so just be aware if you decide to travel up.  Due to stops for lunch at a nice Cuban restaurant, the cigar shop to grab a stogie for the trip up and the gas station for fuel and drinks we headed up a little later than intended.  We arrived close to 5:00 PM just as they were shutting down the small General Store and the museum on the peak of the mountain, no big deal for us but worth noting if these are areas you’d like to see.  Brasstown Bald is also a wonderful place for star gazing.  We were there once it got dark (unintentionally, it’s a long story… I’m still traumatized so I’d rather not talk about it.) and I have to say I’ve never seen a night that dark before.  The sky was crystal clear and moonless and the stars were the most brilliant I’ve ever seen.  Absolutely indescribable how amazing the night sky was, if you get a chance you should definitely check it out.  The trail to the summit is open 24 x 7 for those that would like a night hike to the summit.

View from the top of Brasstown Bald

View from the top of Brasstown Bald

There are a few ways you can get to the top of Brasstown Bald.  One popular route is via Jack’s Knob Trail, a 4.5 mile trail (each way) with the last 1/2 mile being the trip from the visitor’s center parking lot to the top.  Although I’d like to think I was ready for a 9 mile hike over steep hills I’m not one to lie to myself so I opted to do the short 1/2 mile on this trip.  Fortunately we had a couple others that agreed with me so majority won.  Even the half mile is a tough half mile, very steep hills.   The trail is paved all the way up and is flanked on both sides with trees and plants.  As I pushed my hardest to make it up the mountain I really wanted to trip the kids that were sprinting past me… but I didn’t, even though those little show-offs would have deserved it.  Once I managed to make it to the top I was greeted with an amazing view from the observation tower.  The sky was clear but there was a light fogginess over the mountains, a really amazing sight.  The towns and lakes we could see in the valleys looked more like they belonged on a model train set, very cool stuff.  I snapped a few pics and we wandered around a bit then headed back down.   I was very happy to be trotting 1/2 mile down the mountain rather than back up.

Some technical details for the trip.  There is a lot of winding roads to get to the mountain, we had one person in our group that gets carsick and this trip whipped her around pretty good.  You can ride a shuttle bus to the peak if you’d rather not take the hike.   The shuttle bus is $3.00/person for adults.  If you choose not to take the shuttle bus it’s still $3.00 per adult (anyone over 16) to enter the park, I believe older kids and teens were $2.00 with young children being free.  There is a newly constructed restroom facility at the welcome center and also a small General Store with t-shirts, hats, stickers, magnets, etc.  The day we went they also had a vendor there with a cart selling hot dogs, cold cider and hot chocolate.  There are machines if you’d prefer water or a soda.

Definitely a fun trip and one I’d do again.  We caught it about mid-way through the fall foliage change and there was still a lot of green.  It would be nice to see it when leaves are at there peak, perhaps I’ll take another trip next year.

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