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Outdoors

Hiking Cowrock Mountain in Winter

Cowrock Mountain is one of the most accessible, and best views on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. Unlike Blood Mountain, which has somewhat better views with a *much* harder hike, Cowrock Mountain is a short, fairly easy hike up from a little used trailhead along the Richard Russell Scenic Highway.

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Photos Outdoors

Desoto Falls

This photo is of DeSoto Falls in North Georgia. It’s a really incredible view and very accessible near US Highway 129.

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Photos Outdoors

Lake Conasauga Swim Beach

This photo is from the Lake Conasauga Swim Beach in the mountains of North Georgia. It is the highest elevation lake in Georgia, so the water is *cold*. Also, it’s not really a beach per se, as a swimming area. The area gets deep quickly at the dock. But it’s lovely on a summer day.

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Outdoors Experiences

Hiking Nubbin Creek / Pinhoti Trail in Cheaha Wilderness

In March, I went on my first solo backpacking trip. It was only a single overnight. The weather forecast was all over the place, so I settled on the Cheaha Wilderness in Alabama, ironically the day after a huge system of storms came through. I’ve hiked the Cheaha Wilderness before, so I was fairly familiar with the area.

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Photos Experiences Outdoors

South River at Constitution Springs

This photo is of the South River as it leaves the City of Atlanta on its way through Panola Mountain State Park and beyond to eventually join the Yellow River and become the Ocmulgee. It’s quiet with steep banks. There’s an access point on the Constitution Springs loop trail just past the boardwalk that connects to the Doll’s Head Trail.

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Outdoors Travel

On Visiting Mojave National Preserve

I visited Mojave National Preserve on a short day trip within my business trip to Las Vegas in 2020.

I rented a car, and drove straight out of Las Vegas down Interstate 15, which goes right through the Preserve.

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Outdoors

Dick’s Creek Gap to North Carolina / Georgia Border on The Appalachian Trail

Six years after we finished our last section (Unicoi to Dick’s Creek Gap), my brother, Dad, and I decided to come back to the Appalachian Trail and finish our last section in Georgia.

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Experiences Outdoors

Exploring Scull Shoals Historic Site

I recently visited the Scull Shoals Historic Site in the Oconee National Forest*. The site is very accessible just following a single Forest Service Rd off GA Hwy 15.

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Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Burgess Mountain Trail in Oconee National Forest

The Burgess Mountain Trail is a short hiking trail in the Oconee District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

Unlike other, more heavily used trails in the Georgia, there is next to no information on the trail online. The best & most recent post was from MathProfHiker back in 2014.

Here’s what I found in both the Winter of 2020 and Summer of 2018.

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Outdoors

Visiting Sweetwater Creek State Park’s Yurts

Sweetwater Creek State Park is one of the best state parks in Georgia. It’s “Atlanta’s State Park” and receives a lot of visitation every year. Based on all the records that I can find, it’s Georgia’s most visited state park.

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Outdoors

Hiking Rabun Bald

Rabun Bald is the 2nd highest point in Georgia behind Brasstown Bald. But unlike Brasstown Bald, it’s only accessible by foot, so it’s a much less crowded & less car-influenced vibe.

There are 3 ways to access Rabun Bald. You can approach from the south via the Bartram Trail or from the north via the Bartram Trail.

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Outdoors

Hiking Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge

In April 2019, I went to hike the Red Cockaded Woodpecker Trail at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge as part of my exploration of middle Georgia’s public lands (like the Kinnard Creek Trail, Burgess Mountain Trail, Murder Creek, Scull Shoals, and the Hitchiti Trail).

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Outdoors

Hiking Raven Cliffs Falls

Raven Cliffs Wilderness is one of the most heavily trafficked Wilderness areas in Georgia. And Raven Cliffs Falls Trail is one of the most heavily trafficked trails within the Wilderness.

But it’s popular for a reason. Actually, several reasons.

It’s a challenging but very achievable 5ish mile hike (roundtrip). There are views, forests, a wide running stream with waterfalls – and a destination 40ft waterfall with outcrops and views.

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Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Kinnard Creek Trail in Oconee National Forest

The Oconee National Forest has been part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest almost since its establishment.

But it’s much smaller, much different, much less well-known, and much more divided up than the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia.

While open to all uses (like all National Forests), the Oconee National Forest is absolutely more focused on hunting, horses, and timber harvesting than hiking, camping, biking, or any other activity.

And yet, the Oconee National Forest is –

  • very close to Atlanta
  • has much, much less use than any other district of the Forest (outside of deer season)
  • has a unique, an increasingly endangered ecosystem
  • the historic heart of Georgia  – all the way back to before European Settlement

So I decided to start day hiking the Oconee National Forest. But I found that there is *very* little good information on the Internet.

*I’ve since checked out other middle Georgia public lands like the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Burgess Mountain Trail, Murder Creek, Scull Shoals, and the Hitchiti Trail.

The best resources I found were The Forest Service’s Interactive Visitor Guide and their PDF maps in addition to a good cached but basic topo layer map from Google Maps.

Either way, I wanted the Internet to have more “on the ground” information, hence, this detailed post.

Here’s an overview of my hike on the Kinnard Creek Trail in the Oconee National Forest.

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Outdoors

Hiking Ellicott Rock Wilderness

In August 2018, I did a day hike along the Chattooga River in the Ellicott Rock Wilderness in North Georgia. I started at the Burrell’s Ford and hiked north along the Chattooga River Trail, hoping to find the actual Ellicott’s Rock (the boundary of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina).

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Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Hitchiti Trail

The Hitchiti Trail is a 3-ish mile trail near Jarrell Plantation that weaves along Falling Creek to the Ocmulgee River. Unlike a lot of trails in the Oconee National Forest*, the Hitchiti has a developed trailhead with a fairly clear path.

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Outdoors Experiences

Hiking Forney Creek at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In April, my brother-in-law, brother, my son, and myself all went on a 2 night backpacking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Outdoors

Hiking Wolfden Loop on the Pine Mountain Trail

The Pine Mountain Trail system is one of the most extensive trail systems in Middle Georgia. It’s one of those rare places in Georgia where you can travel south of Atlanta for a nice hike.

The Pine Mountain trail system winds through F.D. Roosevelt State Park, one of Georgia’s largest and best state parks, for more than 23 miles along its main spine. It’s maintained by the amazing Pine Mountain Trail Association.

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Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Cheaha Wilderness

One of the major pros of living in Atlanta is that I’m within a two hour drive of several designated Wilderness areas and National Forests. North Georgia is especially popular with hiking opportunities like the Appalachian Trail, Raven Cliffs, and more. Honestly that’s where most Atlantans go.

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Outdoors Experiences

On Camping at Panola Mountain State Park

Panola Mountain State Park is a Georgia State Park about 30 minutes east of Atlanta, GA.

Panola Mountain State Park focuses on programming, activities, and conservation. They have everything from archery to tree climbing to fishing to biking. Unlike Vogel and Fort Mountain, Panola Mountain does not have many overnight accommodations.

But – Panola Mountain does have 5 walk-in primitive campsites. They are a real hidden gem for Atlantans looking to get outdoors.

I had been looking for the right time and place to take my son on his first overnight camping trip. My brothers and I usually camp in the backcountry, especially along the Appalachian Trail.

And unlike my first overnight trip, I had zero desire to have a bear walk into my son’s first camping trip.

That brings me to Panola Mountain.

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Outdoors

6 Pros and Cons of Commuting and Getting Around by Bike in Atlanta

When I originally published this post in February 2013 – I had just moved to Atlanta, GA (metro area of 5.3 million) from Athens, GA (metro area of 0.19 million).

I had loved Athens’ bike-friendly culture (though not its very bike unfriendly hills). I used to bike nearly everywhere in Athens, and wanted to keep up the same biking habit in Atlanta.

I’ve had been a bit over 2 weeks, but had already started taking MARTA to work, and biking home – while also biking around the city for the sake of exploration and exercise.

So – for anyone who was curious about biking in Atlanta – a famously car-only, traffic clogged city  – I wrote up this pros / cons list.

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Outdoors

Tourist’s Guide To Running In Atlanta: The Best Routes To Run

Running is possibly the best way to see any city. It’s fast enough to cover a lot of ground, but also slow enough to really see and notice things. You are also combining sightseeing with exercise, so it’s an efficient use of time on a business trip.

Running through the Back Bay and North End was my favorite part of visiting Boston, and it’s been a travel habit ever since.

There is a problem of running in a city you’re visiting – you have no real idea of where to run. Usually hotels in large cities are in heavily-trafficked areas that aren’t very fun to run in.

And if you go too far off the beaten track, you might get into a neighborhood where you don’t want to be (crime-y & confusing) or at least a neighborhood that is not fun to run in (no sidewalks; cars flying everywhere).

I’ve been living and running all throughout Atlanta for more than 3 years. And have run in 3 marathons winding throughout Atlanta. If you are a tourist in Atlanta for fun or business, here are the best places to run in Atlanta.

Aside – most start/end in Downtown or Midtown. If you are in Buckhead or Perimeter Center, I’ll cover your options at the end.

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Outdoors

How I Cut 1:57 Off My Average 5k Time By Tweaking My Playlist

[Note: This post originally ran December 2012 back when iTunes was still a thing. You can skip down to the bottom to find the current best option for running based on BPM as of September 2015]

I’ve rarely run with music. In general, I always thought it was too much trouble – where to stash the iPod, cords getting tangled, getting tired of it and having to run with it for a while – but last week, I updated all my music to store the song’s Beats per Minute.

I ran to the playlist with the highest beats per minute…and shaved 1:57 off my average 5k time and nearly set a personal best…without even trying. Here’s how to set it up and use it on your runs…

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Outdoors

Cooper Gap to Woody Gap On The Appalachian Trail

In my quest to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, I had left out a short section due to bad weather on my Springer Mountain to Cooper Gap trip. This trip was a very short, out and back trip from Woody Gap to Cooper Gap. We hiked it on the last weekend in October 2014. The one way distance was ~7 miles, so it was about ~14 round trip.

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Outdoors

Observations & Training Tips from My Second Marathon

It’s been 2 1/2 years after running in my first marathon, but on October 4th, 2014 I ran in my 2nd marathon  at the Southern Tennessee Power Classic Marathon in Winchester, TN.

I finished 48 out of 86 with a time of 4:52:31, which was a huge improvement over my first marathon in my overall time. But more importantly to me, I wasn’t completely wiped out at Mile 19 and I actually ran without walking or breaking my pace through the final finish.

And those improvements were really just because it was my second marathon, and I that learned so much from my first. Here’s how those lessons carried over to my second.

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Outdoors

Unicoi Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap On The Appalachian Trail

Mid-March is thru-hiker’s season on the Appalachian Trail. The most common schedule for anyone planning on hiking all 2,000+ miles is to start in Georgia at Springer Mountain in March and finish in Maine at Mt. Katahdin in September. You get to beat the heat of the South while also beating winter (and the closing of Mt. Katahdin) up North. It was also one of the few times in which my, my brother’s, my Dad’s, and my brother in law’s schedules all aligned for 2 days to hike another section of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. So that’s what we did. 

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Outdoors

Observations & Training Tips from My First Trail Half Marathon

Last week, I ran in my first Trail Half Marathon – specifically the Mystery Mountain Half Marathon by GUTS at Fort Mountain State Park.

Previously, I had run in 2 competitive road half marathons, 1 marathon, several half-marathon distances on my own during training or recreation. I’m a middle of the pack runner and finished 34th out of 108 in the Mystery Mountain race.

Here’s how I did my trail half marathon training, and some observations on what exactly a trail race entails, what to expect, and how to prepare…

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Outdoors

Springer Mountain to Cooper Gap on the Appalachian Trail

So far on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, we’ve had both an idyllic experience, and a very miserable experience hiking overnight on the Trail. Nothing in the middle.

We’ve slept under a tarp during pouring rain with bears strutting around our camp like they own the place. We’ve also woken up on a crisp, clear November morning with clear views of a million shades of autumn leaves while cooking bacon on a smooth granite rock.

So – 3rd time overnight – and the plan is that we’re going to have a gloriously typical hike. Or at least the typical hike that happens when you’re old hat at the mountain hiking deal. The problem (or, the wonder) of the Appalachian Trail is that that never seems to actually happen.

What did end up happening was that we got to start at the actual Start of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia – and hike to Coopers Gap Rd…in a veritable downpour that only let up for a couple hours during the entire hike – which is a bit telling since this portion of trail sees the most people attempt to thru-hike each year…only to quit after just a few miles.

Here’s the run down of hiking on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain to Coopers Gap Rd (near the Gooch Mountain Shelter).

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Outdoors

State Botanical Gardens | Best Places To Run in Athens, GA

Tour guides at the University of Georgia love to talk about how the State of Georgia Botanical Gardens and the State of Georgia Museum of Art are both in Athens…not in Atlanta.

And even though the Botanical Gardens are mainly a great place for walking around and looking at nature – it’s also a good (though not great) place to run in Athens – especially to change things up and get off the roads. Here’s what it’s like…

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Outdoors

Tesnatee Gap To Unicoi Gap On The Appalachian Trail

The last time my brother, brother-in-law, and I hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail – it was an absolute fail. You can read all about that adventure hiking the 5 miles from Neels Gap to Tesnatee Gap in A Bear Walks Into Camp.

But that was back in August – and despite everything that went wrong that time – we’re still hooked on the AT, and want to keep section hiking it.

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Outdoors

North Oconee River Greenway Trail | Best Places To Run in Athens, GA

If you live in or around Athens, GA – you simply must explore the North Oconee Greenway – especially if you are a runner.

The Greenway is one of Athens’ best amenities, but it’s one of those things that you may have heard of…but never really tried out. So here’s what it’s like…

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Outdoors Products Reviews

One Year of Running In Vibram Fivefingers Bikilas

I started running distance when I was 10 years old, and continued throughout high school. I was never particularly fast, but it was enjoyable and something athletic I could do.

I had shin splints, hurt ankles, and all the rest of runner’s woes – to the point that I slowly tapered off in college.

In 2010 – I had some friends who encouraged me to get back into running and had me read Born To Run by Chris McDougall, followed by Four Hour Body (running chapter).

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Experiences Outdoors

A Bear Walks Into Camp

Or, Our Experience On The Appalachian Trail Overnight, And What We Learned

Ever since I read Bill Bryson’s book A Walk In The Woods, I’ve wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. So last year, my brother Jason and my brother-in-law Matt, hiked a short section from Woody Gap to Neel’s Gap along the Georgia Appalachian Trail

It was a short 9 miles or so, up to the stunning views from Blood Mountain…

View Near Blood Mountain
Foothill of Blood Mountain

We were hooked.

But none of us was (or is) in a life position to hike the whole thing. But we decided to keep section hiking in Georgia.

This year, we planned a 20 mi overnight hike from Neel’s Gap to Hogpen Gap and onwards to Unicoi Gap.

We didn’t quite get what we bargained for (including a bear).

Here’s what happened and what we learned…

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Experiences Outdoors

Hidden Urban Trails | Riverbend Rd. Athens, GA Edition

I love the idea that even in the most urban areas – there are still really random trails to explore and use.

I’ve lived in the Riverbend Rd area of Athens, GA for 4 years – and only last week did I stumble across this really cool and useful trail up and down Riverbend Rd.

It runs parallel to the Athens Bypass and Riverbend Rd (which is super-hilly). The trail itself is quite narrow and rooty – but in good enough shape to run on. It’s well-shaded and is way better than trying to run on Riverbend – which might be possibly one of the Top 10 Worst Places to run in Athens, GA.

Here’s a Google map and photos from along the way…

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Experiences Outdoors

Cook’s Greenway Trail | Best Places To Run in Athens, GA

Around Athens, I generally stick to the UGA Intramural Fields. However, if you drive about 10 to 15 minutes north of UGA to the Sandy Creek Nature Center, you’ll find Cook’s Greenway Trail, which is one of the best places to run in Athens, GA. Here’s what it’s like…

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Experiences Outdoors

First Marathon Observations

Back on March 18th I ran the Georgia Marathon. It was my first marathon – and only my second long-distance race over 5k. Here’s a list of what I learned from a first marathon…

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Outdoors

5 Reasons To Start Biking For Transportation

I’ve been commuting around Athens, GA via bike for 3 years now.

It all started with biking the .75 miles to work and back, and has slowly expanded to biking pretty much everywhere within a 6 mile radius.

Here’s several reasons why I’ve kept it up – despite the Georgia heat, the Athens hills, and general vulnerability of cycling.

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Outdoors

Woody Gap to Neels Gap on the Appalachian Trail

I lived in Georgia knowing about the Appalachian Trail for more than 12 years before I ever set foot on it. I’m not sure why, except inertia and other priorities. I also never really thought about it like a simple trail that you could hike on. For some reason, it sounded like a much bigger deal than it actually is. I think it’s all the focus on the practice of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail rather than the actual trail itself.

Either way, like many would-be hikers, I read Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods in July 2010, and promptly decided to invite my brother and brother-in-law on a short day hike from Woody Gap to Neels Gap in Georgia the first week of August 2010.