At Amicalola Falls State Park in north Georgia, you can hike the approach trail to the Appalachian Trail, or you can veer off the approach trail and go 5 miles up to the Len Foote Hike Inn. Given my training for the Hadrian’s Wall walk this summer, we decided to spend a couple days of the children’s spring break going to the Hike Inn.
On the way to the state park where the trail begins, we stopped at Big D’s BBQ, as I always do when traveling up 400 for something, because the brownie sandwich is delicious.
We headed up the trail, and almost immediately, the boy (he’s 7) began whining about his feet hurting and not wanting to go. I kept walking with his 2 sisters (who are 9 and 5), as I really did not want to deal with such for 5 miles when I was already stressed about being away from work on a week day. After a few minutes, my bride was able to get him to calm down and “suck it up” for a while.
The hike up was, at times, wonderful, and at other times, emotionally challenging for the children, but we made it to the top in just over 3 hours, which is, apparently, about average:
There were some interesting stops to see the view (especially at the 3.9 miles point, where you can see Atlanta, Stone Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, etc. on a clear day), observe creeks or streams were were crossing, wonder about different vegetation along the trail, pick up flowers, or eat snacks.
When we reached the top, the children were quite surprised at how rustic the accommodations are but were excited about bunk beds. We went down to the sunrise room and played games for a while until the guided tour started at 5pm, and then dinner was at 6pm. After dinner, an inn employee who recently completed the AT gave a presentation about the trail and answered questions about what his experience as a thru-hiker was. I asked about wildlife encounters; he said he nearly got eaten by a bear when he was sleeping in a hammock hung in a blackberry patch. Note to self: never sleep in a blackberry patch.
We went to bed about 9pm. At 3am, both my son and I woke up and needed to use the restroom, so we walked down to the bath house. We spent about an hour afterward talking in between silent attempts at sleeping, but when we finally did get back to sleep, we slept so hard that we missed a thunderstorm (which was good) and the sunrise (which was bad). The girls were up for both, we later learned. We boys did make breakfast at 8am, however, which is always my favorite meal at the Hike Inn. Come to think of it, breakfast is my favorite meal anywhere.
After stripping our linens at 10am, we worked some puzzles and played more games until we decided to head back down about 10:30. The children commented on how they liked the simplistic nature of the inn and its “no mobile phones/devices” rule, meaning we engaged in interactive activities with tangible, analog entertainment. My 9-year-old even said at one point, “I’m glad Daddy can’t use his phone here, since he seems to spend a lot of time on it at home.” Ouch.
For the hike down, we chose a different path. Instead of heading down the way we came up, we took a trail from the Hike Inn that continued up the mountain toward the AT approach trail. After 1 mile, we could merge with the AT approach trail and could have gone another 3.4 miles to get to Springer Mountain, the official starting point for the AT, or head back down 4.5 miles to Amicalola Falls, where our car was parked. Since I had tickets to see Prince that night, we opted for the latter option.
The trail back down to the park is considerate “moderate.” It was definitely steeper than the path we’d taken to the inn the previous day, and it was less maintained (i.e., the path was not as wide, had no mile makers, and no benches or other designated resting areas). However, it was nice to see a different side of the mountain, and we met some hikers coming the opposite direction who were beginning an AT thru-hike, which was interesting.
There were a few moments of displeasure and whining from the boy, but we made it back to the parking lot in less time than we took to come up the previous day, despite the extra .5 mile. After walking to the top of the falls and getting in the car to head back to Atlanta, all 3 (especially the oldest) said they were glad we’d gone and that they’d like to go back to the Hike Inn sometime! So, I’d call that a successful trip.
I tried out the new walking sticks I got at REI and my new “darn tough” socks; both worked great, so I’ll take them in July as well. The Merrell shoes I bought a few months ago also felt good–this was their longest hike so far.
The only sad part of the day was right as we began driving back to Atlanta, my paralegal texted me to let me know Prince had the flu and cancelled the show for that night. It’s supposed to be rescheduled in the future; I just hope it’s at a time I’m not out of town.
So, should you take a kindergartner, first grader, and fourth grader on a 5-mile hike up a small mountain to stay in a room with no outlets or cell signal? Definitely. Just be patient during the hike up and down instead of expecting to get a cardio workout from the pace. I hope we go again sometime.