In 2009 and 2011, Mac and Tyler took a week and hiked part of the Appalachian Trail (AT). They were able to make some lasting memories and still talk about those hikes.
So naturally, when I suggested to Mac that we should go hiking a couple of weekends ago, his first choice was somewhere along the AT. We’ll spend quality time together, I said. We’ll take Bentley and make a day of it, I said. The AT covers 2,190 miles and traverses through 14 states, so surely we can find a flat and easy hike, I said.
Little did I know he would take us to Blood Mountain; the second hardest section of the AT in North Georgia.
There are a couple of options for getting to the summit, but we started at the Byron Reese Trail off Hwy 19 (also known as Tail of the Dragon). Byron Reese Trail was fairly easy, but once we turned onto the AT, the trail soon became rocky. You gain several hundred feet of altitude in a very short distance.
According to Atlanta Trails, Summit Blood Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in North Georgia. We figured we would be slowed down due to the number of hikers but the only thing slowing us down was the fact we had to rest every 20 min! There were just enough people on the trail so that had there been an emergency, someone would have been there to help very quickly.
It is also a very dog-friendly hike. This was Bentley’s first hike and we were a little concerned over whether he could last for five hours on the trail. There was no need to be concerned.
He did great! In fact, he had more energy than we did and probably would have made it back down in half the time had he not been on a leash.
Some tips for anyone wanting to hike this trail.
- Take plenty of water. We had four bottles between the three of us and that was plenty for the day we went. However, next time we will definitely use hydration packs. The Camelbak brand are the most popular but there are several different brands. Worn like a backpack, they help distribute the weight better.
- Take a snack. We were pretty hungry by the time we crested the summit. There’s a nice rock ledge to sit and rest. Just make sure that whatever you carry in, you carry out. There are no garbage cans on the trail.
- Take a first aid kit. On the difficulty scale used by Atlanta Trail, it’s Moderate to Difficult but if you’re not used to hiking (like me) it is much closer to the difficult end. Because of that, we both were really sore and were very glad we had a first aid kit with ibuprofen in the car for the ride home. (It can also be useful if you sprain an ankle, which I also did on the way down.) *Due to the difficulty, I would not suggest this hike for children under the age of 10 or for anyone with serious knee problems.
- Take poles. If you have hiking poles, take them. With all the up and down, the poles will help take some of the stress off your knees. We forgot ours and were wishing we had them about 1/4 of the way down.
- Take a fresh shirt and shoes. These may seem like weird items to take, but by the time we made it back to the car we were soaked! Taking off the socks (make sure they are wool) and hiking boots, plus putting on a clean, dry, shirt made the ride home more enjoyable.
We were hot and sweaty and hungry and tired. And even though by mile three, I was really wishing Mac had suggested we walk around the mall instead of attempting this hike, it will forever be remembered as one of the best Saturdays we’ve ever spent together.
There was plenty of time to talk, to laugh or just be silent and enjoy each other’s company. There were plenty of moments we just stood in awe of God’s creation and the view from the summit was worth every drop of sweat! I can’t wait for our next adventure.
I would encourage everyone to get out and make some forever memories. If hiking’s not your thing, then find something else, but spend time together as a family and as a couple.
Additional information on the Appalachian Trail can be found on the trail’s conservancy site found here.