My twenty year old cousin came from Minnesota to stay with us for a few days during her Spring Break from college this week. Figuring that our usual routine wouldn’t be very exciting for her, I decided to take her overnight to the Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls. It had always sounded neat, but since L and N are too young to hike the 5 miles it takes to get there (without LOTS of complaining!), we haven’t gone as a family. I thought this would be a great excuse to go, and let A skip school for two days to come with us. I love that he is always up for an adventure!
The Hike Inn is one of the only (the only?) backcountry lodge in a GA state park. It is reached via a pleasant 5 mile hike from Amicalola Falls State Park visitor center. It is also a short hike from the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, GA. Apparently this is the season for thru-hikers on the AT to start their journey, so we saw a couple of them while we were there – we could always tell who they were by their huge backpacks. They looked so fresh and optimistic. It was fun to imagine what they would be like a few months from now! Good luck to them all – what an adventure! In fact, some fellow guests at the Hike Inn were from Virginia and has just seen their son off on his AT adventure.
We left Thursday morning, and got to the Amicalola Falls Visitor center just after 12. We started our hike at exactly 12:30. It was a perfect, sunny day Spring day in Georgia. We had a great hike to the Inn. It was only about 300 feet in elevation change, but it felt like we went up and down those 300 feet at least a few times!
We did our 4.8 miles in about 2 1/2 hours. We arrived just in time to check into our bunk room (my cousin, Katie, got the upper bunk – A talked me into sharing my bunk with him, instead of making him sleep on the mat on the floor that they provided). The bunks didn’t have a bathroom, instead you had to walk to the Bath House for the bathroom and showers.
The Inn is sustainably designed and has a strong eco-friendly focus. You carry all garbage back out with you, and they even encouraged you to reuse your cups in the dining hall – I love it! They also strongly discouraged cell phones at the Inn – there were no electronic outlets in the bunk rooms, only in the Bath House.
After we dropped our bags in our bunk room, we took a tour of the facility – it is all connected via covered walkways -from the bunk rooms, through the bath house and dining room (where they had homemade pie waiting for guests to snack on!), until finally the Sunrise room sits overlooking the mountains, with a wrap around porch and chairs to sit and enjoy the view. Just as relaxing as it sounds! However, after enjoying the view for a few minutes, we headed into the Sunrise room to check out the games, and got embroiled in a very competitive Settlers of Catan game.
Everyone staying at the Inn eats together at 6pm (included in the room price), and there are long tables in the dining room where everyone sits down and eats family style – passing around big plates of food. With their eco-friendly focus, the Inn encourages you to only take what you can eat – going for the goal each meal of zero food waste! I did my part by eating A’s leftover green beans and potatoes, while he did his part of eating every last bite of his chocolate cake! Sadly, we did not meet our goal that night, as we (all 35 or so guests) ended up with a total of 4oz of food waste. Still, better than we usually do at home on an average night for the 5 of us!
The Inn also offered a few evening programs like a tour of the Inn and an evening of photography of the canyons out west. We dropped in on the programs, but mostly stayed busy in the Sunrise room playing games. After an exciting game of Jenga with the few other kids at the Inn, we headed off to an early bed. The Inn staff informed us that they would bang a gong at sunrise if there was going to be a nice one, so we could get up and take pictures. If it wasn’t a nice morning, they would not interrupt us until breakfast was served at 8am.
Overnight, we got a huge thunderstorm, with lightning and all! The walls of the rooms were very thin, so when the girl sleeping next door woke up scared, we heard her request her mom go to the dining hall to get her a cup of hot cocoa. That was around 4:30am. We didn’t hear any more from her, so I’m assuming it did the trick! I also woke up during the storm to go to the bathroom, but luckily the walkway was covered, so I didn’t get wet during the storm. Fortunately (or not) the storm caused lots of fog, so we got to sleep in past sunrise and the gong stayed silent.
We were up and at breakfast a few minutes before 8, and the cook asked Alex if he wanted to ring the dinner bell to call everyone to breakfast. He was happy to do it!
Breakfast was another great meal, with family-style helpings of eggs, sausages, biscuits and gravy and grits (great for Katie the Midwesterner to try! – of course, she only put the tiniest amount on her plate, because she knew she would have to eat every bite – no waste after all!)
Check out was between 9-10am. People who are staying multiple nights at the Inn will often take a day hike to the AT trail start at Springer Mountain – an 8.8mi roundtrip hike. The Inn offers bagged lunches for those hikers – some lucky hikers got their sandwiches featuring the prior night’s turkey, and some apparently famous monster cookies. That would be a great hiking meal!
Since we were heading back home, we spent a little time in the Sunrise room to finish the game we had started earlier, then packed up and checked out. After saying goodbye to the Hike Inn mascot, we headed back on the 4.8 mile trail home.
After the storm overnight, the weather started much colder and windier than our hike to the Inn the day before, but after a mile or so, we warmed up nicely, and the trail was much less muddy than we expected.
Once we got back to our car,we had enough spring left in our step to take Katie on the hike up to see Amicalola Falls. A was not totally eager to go, so I told him that he could decide when he wanted us to turn around, and we would immediately stop the hike. Once we got going, his drive took over and he wouldn’t let us stop!
The hike to the falls is STEEP! We made it huffing and puffing up the nearly-vertical section that leads to the 175 stairs that take us to the falls. I was proud of making it up that incline, until I arrived and found a white-haired lady that had to be at least in her mid-70s or 80’s sitting there. So, maybe it is not the nearly-impossible trek I had made it out to be….
Anyway, being considerably less than 80, we kept going up the 175 steps to the top. We enjoyed the view for about 30 seconds and got a picture. But by then, A was DONE! He strongly suggested we head back down, so off we went, easier but still a steep knee-jarring walk back down the hill.
All in all, it was a really fun day, and I’m already trying to figure out when we can get back there (and how we might bribe L & N to make the hike!)