Another weekend in the Blue Ridge mountains of north Georgia swimming, hiking, running, and tubing!

On top is the perky me prior to Sara's and my three hour adventure on Flat Creek Trail in the Aska Adventure area of Blue Ridge; in the middle is our group of friends getting ready to tube down the Toccoa River (such professionals we are); and on the bottom is Zack, Grant dog, and me at Amicalola Falls during our detour on the way back to Atlanta

On top is the perky me prior to Sara's and my three hour adventure on Flat Creek Trail in the Aska Adventure area of Blue Ridge; in the middle is our group of friends getting ready to tube down the Toccoa River (such professionals we are); and on the bottom is Zack, Grant dog, and me at Amicalola Falls during our detour on the way back to Atlanta

In another installment of what some friends & family jokingly refer to as “the adventures of Jack & Zenny,” our busy summer continued the weekend-before-last with a trip to an amazing Blue Ridge cabin! We are lucky to have an incredible group of friends who make this (and every trip) so much fun – and are willing participants in my quest to be outdoors as much as possible. So, for those of you who are looking for an active getaway to the north Georgia mountains and the Western Blue Ridge, here is a breakdown of the weekend’s outdoor adventures…

#1: Open-water swimming in Lake Blue Ridge

On top is Zack wrapping Grant up in his doggie life-jacket and below that is Grant swimming in a cove of Lake Blue Ridge; at the bottom is our group at the cabin!

On top is Zack wrapping Grant up in his doggie life-jacket and below that is Grant swimming in a cove of Lake Blue Ridge; at the bottom is our group at the cabin!

Zack, Adam, and I rolled out to Blue Ridge after a half-day of work on Friday and, after a pit stop at the local Food Lion, headed to the cabin to drop off our stuff. Zack and I grabbed towels and Grant dog’s new doggie life-jacket and headed down to the lake. We were advised of a boat ramp close-by, which was just off of Aska Road. If you’re coming from Blue Ridge, get onto Aska Road going east from town and make a left on Dry Branch Road. A little way up the road, you’ll see the parking lot to the right. Only one other woman was around when we got there, so we walked straight down to the boat ramp and got into the water.

The cove itself was a tucked-away edge of the lake with a still, glassy surface – perfect for an open-water swim and throwing the ball for Grant dog. If you’re looking for a beach swimming area, this isn’t it, but if you’re looking for a workout or just to splash around for a bit, this is great. The Lake Blue Ridge swimming area is to the north at Morganton. Any google search will reveal a great deal of info.

#2: Trail running and hiking from the Rich Mountain Trail

My friend Sara is training for the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk at the end of October and I am training for the Stump Jump 50K at the beginning of October, so both of us wanted to hit the trails for a significant amount of time on Saturday morning (as we got up early, we were alone for this part of the trip). We drove down to the Aska recreation area, which is also just a few miles from Blue Ridge on Aska Road (just look for the brown national park sign pointing to the parking lot). The tiny gravel lot sits on the intersection of Aska Road and the Rich Mountain Trail, which feeds into the long-distance Benton-Mackaye Trail to the south. You can also hike the Rich Mountain Trail north to the shore of the lake.

Sara and I set out with the intention of spening a quality three hours on the trails, doing a few big loops. We found the perfect set-up after hiking in about .6 mile and reaching the Flat Creek Trail – a 4.5 mile loop. I decided to run the loop three times while Sara hiked it twice. We veered off onto the right fork first and, initially, the trail was packed gravel and made for a comfortable run. But after about a mile or so, it droped off down the ridge and became the root-and-rock riddled trail I was hoping for. After another mile or so, I had settled into a good pace and was quietly enjoying the filtered sunlight through the trees when the path opened up to a forrested hill of ferns and I heard a rustling about 30 feet to my left. The rustling rapidly morphed into crashing through the woods as I caught site of the rear-end of a medium-sized black bear. It’s not every day that I get the chance to intimidate a black bear into running for safety. Needless to say, my little feet picked up their pace for a little while after that. And I felt like a fool (but an alive fool) as I spent the rest of my run clapping, singing, and whistling my way through the woods to scare him / her off. No roly poly, curl-up-and-protect-your-head moves for me today.

The rest of the trail was fantastic. It dropped down to the forrest floor and crossed Flat Creek by a few hike-in campsites. Then started the ascent back up to the fork in the trail. Parts of the trail were pretty technical, and by the time I turned around at the top, I was looking forward to the descent. I ran back by Sara and shared the good news that the path was officially cleared of spider webs (thanks to my face), but the bad news was we were a guest in a black bear’s home. Which led to two of us clapping and singing our way down the paths. We finished up without another bear sighting and headed back to the cabin in time to eat the breakfast that everyone else had just finished cooking. Impeccable timing (thanks Gerard!).

#3: Tubing down the Toccoa River

The Toccoa River runs along Aska Road for a good distance and, as a result, so do the tubing companies. We picked a tubing outfit about 8 miles or so up Aska Road from Blue Ridge (Aska Road featured prominently in this trip) and, Saturday afternoon, packed up our tubes and water bottles and hit the water. I’m not sure what the name of the company was that we used, but they had big red tubes and were situated across the river via a wooden-trellised bridge. Another prominent company was the pink tube outfit a little further up the river. The tubing was only a few miles long and lasted a couple of hours (in pretty shallow water), so relaxation outweighed excitement. The Tocooa River rambles on to become the Ocoee River, which is known for its whitewater rafting if you’re looking for more adventure (an adventure we had last fall).

#4: Hiking Amicalola Falls

Zack and I headed back a little later on Sunday afternoon and diverted to visit Amicalola Falls on the way. It’s a bit touristy, but I’ve always wanted to see the falls, and I can why they’re a destination – not too bad! We hiked up the paved path to the right and then back down the hiking trail to the left of the falls. You can find plenty of information about Amicalola online, so I won’t really go into it here, but you might want to consider checking it out. And if you’re planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail, this is the check-in point and approach trail to Springer Mountain, which is the starting point of the AT.

That’s enough for one sitting! Please feel free to let me know of any north Georgia outdoor activities or hiking / camping spots that you love – I love hearing from people about their favorites!

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  1. […] enjoyed my training runs in Sweetwater Creek State Park, Kennesaw, along the Chattahoochee, in Blue Ridge, etc. and I simply love being outdoors, in the peace and quiet of the woods, and with (or without) […]



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