If conservation-conscious, quiet, serene locations in the cool mountains are your idea of a great getaway, then escape to the Len Foote Hike Inn! A strumming banjo serves as a wake-up call to watch the sunrise, and healthy hikes help ease the guilt from fabulous family style home cooked meals. Very friendly staff, incredible views, and an overall good feeling about your “footprint!”
Way up in the treetops 90 minutes north of Atlanta is the Amicalola Lodge, my Friday nite destination in order to get an early start Saturday morning for the 4.8 mike hike to the Hike Inn. I have booked one overnight at the Lodge, followed by two nights at The Hike Inn in order to do the nine mile hike to Springer Mountain in between.
The Lodge in the Amicalola Falls State Park offers not only cool temps and beautiful views of the Blue Ridge mountains of Georgia, but also the designated parking area for the Hike Inn, accessible only on foot. The word “Amicalolo” is Cherokee for “Tumbling Water,” also the name for the neaby 729 ft high falls, the highest in Georgia.
Trying to take a self-portrait — aerial view of my very cool new Osprey day pack, bought for 66% off at the REI “Scratch & Dent” sale! I love it! Believe it or not, I got a pair of long pants, a pair of shorts, two shirts, extra undies, a pair of PJ’s, flip-flops, toiletries, a paperback book, electronics (flashlight, camera and cell phone in the OFF position!) two liters of water, and trail mix all in this little pack!
Arriving at the Len Foote Hike Inn, you immediately sense that this is going to be a great hideaway! Very quiet, serene, and full of like-minded, conservation-conscious people. Rooms are very basic, with upper and lower bunk beds. There is no electricity, but the rooms are heated.
The architecture is well thought out here, as the little Inn cascades down the mountain. As you leave the bunkhouse, you walk through the bathhouse to wash your hands while on your way down to the dining hall to feast on fabulous family-style meals, then continue on down to the Sunrise deck for a good nap!
The wrap-around deck from the Sunrise Room offers lush green views. It’s the perfect place for socializing, game playing, or warming by the fire, with rocking chairs on the back deck which give the feeling of relaxing in a tree house!
Eric, the Hike Inn Manager gives us a tour and explanation of “Star Base,” which is a celestial calendar that tracks the changing positions of the earth in relation to the rising sun. Twice per year (March and Sept) on the morning of the equinox when the sun is aligned with the equator and length of day and night are equal, the sun lines up perfectly with the hole in the intersection of these two stone pillars and reflects on the black wall on the cave in the background. (Also a great place for star gazing, and watching the 4th July fireworks over Dahlonega!)
I got an early start on Sunday morning for the 9 mile round trip hike up to Springer Mountain, the “southern gateway” to the Appalachian Trail. Springer Mountain is the southern terminus for over 2,000 miles to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. “The Appalacian Trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye, forester and philosopher, dreamer, who in 1921 envisoned a footpath along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains.” (quote from plaque near the start of the trail.)
I always dreamed I would hike the trail in its entirity one day, but for now, I am excited to just be at the starting point. Staring down on this plaque on the rock marks the beginning of the 2,175 miles — The first two of approximately five million steps it takes to hike the length of the trail. Reminds me of my favorite quote from Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
There are shelters along the trail for overnighting. At the Springer Mountain campground, cables are suspended from trees so hikers can hang their food bags to protect from bears. A couple of the nearby shelters are closed temporarily due to bear activity.
A sad ending to a very terrific weekend, as I put on my boots for the 5 mile hike back down from the Inn, I realized the 9 miles to Springer Mountain the day before had done in my favorite hiking boots! These are the same boots that took me 33 miles down the New Zealand Milford Track, the almost 50 miles of trails up Mt. Kilimanjaro and back, and the back country trails of Mt. Assiniboine Lodge in the Canadian Rockies. They managed to hang on long enough to get me to the end of the Hike Inn trail, where not one but both soles became completely detached. The moral of the story? “Don’t leave home without duct tape!”