It’s almost the New Year, and you know what that means, New Year’s resolutions! A lot of people like to make resolutions which is great! It can really help a person do something they might not normally do. But you don’t have to get too ahead of yourself. Sometimes you have to start with something small. At Mountain Crossings, we are all about the outdoors. We would like to encourage you to make some resolutions to get outside and do some hiking!
Hiking is good for the body
Exercising more and getting healthier seems to be one of the most popular resolutions. It is a good one. Especially after the holidays when you eat like a pig. Instead of going to a gym, try getting outside for some exercise! I know that not everyone is close to the mountains, but you would be surprised at the amount of trails you can find even in the city. It can be much more enjoyable to be outside rather than working out in a row of people looking at a TV. You might find yourself outside exercising for longer because it is easier to lose track of time. You could even head to a local park and do some exercises in the grass such as push ups, and squats. Living in the mountains is a bonus, because you can get a great workout just walking up mountains. If you don’t live in the mountains, I encourage you to take your weekends to find a good hike. The mountains can be just a short drive from cities, and are a great way to spend a day off from work. But no matter where you are, city, country, mountains, you can always find some place to get outside and exercise!
Hiking is good for the brain
This might not be as obvious as the physical benefits of hiking, but if you’ve gone outside and enjoyed the outdoors for a day, you understand. Previous research has shown that just a 50-minute walk in nature can improve your mood, decrease your anxiety and even improve your memory. Our world is becoming more and more urban and urbanization is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Simply removing us from an urban environment to spend time outdoors where there are fewer mental stressors, less noise, and fewer distractions can be advantageous for our mental health. It is also important to disconnect from technology for a little bit during a hike. We have become so connected to our phones and other electronics. Freeing ourselves from these devices can open up your mind to the world around you and encourage creative thinking. This Earth is around us to enjoy and experience!
New Year’s hikes
We’ve got some hiking recommendations for you in North Georgia! The most popular one by us is Blood Mountain. It is a 4.5 miles hike, out and back, or 6.5 mile loop. There are stunning rock outcroppings at the top with great views. Woody gap is another great spot. If you go North on the AT from there you hit Preacher’s Rock, also known as Big Cedar Mountain, and get a nice view from there. It’s only a mile to the top so it is definitely a shorter hike. From there if you want to add some miles, you can go south on the AT and go to Ramrock Mountain which is another 2 miles from Woody gap. If you want something more challenging, the Coosa Backcountry trail is a 12 mile loop out of Vogel State Park and is fairly difficult, but awesome.
If you’re looking for maybe some easier trails with waterfalls, we’ve got a few more suggestions. Desoto Falls is right down the road from us. There is a lower, and upper falls that total about 2.5 miles. Raven Cliff Falls is another popular waterfall in the area. It is about 5 miles and the waterfall cascades through a 40-foot-tall, towering cliff. Long Creek Falls is the last one I will mention. This is a little trickier to get to by road. It is along forest service road 42 so you might need to check out directions ahead of time. Once you get to the Three Forks area, it is a one mile hike to the falls. If you are feeling ambitions you could also drive over to Big Stamp Gap and hike the mile up to the summit of Springer Mountain for a nice view, and the start of the Appalachian Trail!
These links are from http://www.atlantatrails.com/, which is a great site containing detailed information on trails in Georgia. The trail reviews include trail info, trail maps, elevation profiles, inspiring photography and driving directions. They aim to inspire Atlanta residents and visitors to get active outside and to find a great Georgia hiking, backpacking or running adventure.
Basic equipment for day hiking
The first item on the list, is a small daypack. We’ve got several in the store that are perfect for just a few items on your day hike. We have Osprey, Granite Gear, and Outdoor Reasearch day packs. A water bottle or a bladder with a hose is a must. You’ve got to stay hydrated out there! Even when it’s freezing outside, be sure to drink your water. Most people don’t because it’s too cold but you can still become dehydrated in the cold. Pack layers! Especially in this cold weather, having a jacket can really make a difference. If the weather has even the slightest chance of rain, a rain jacket or poncho is good to bring as well. Check out some of our clothing options here to help on your hike. Pack a map so you know where you are going. Cell reception is poor in the mountains so do not rely on a phone GPS for your location. Maps are fun too because you can find many different trails in an area you may want to explore. For example, Blood Mountain is the more popular hike right by us, but if you look at the map, you will see other connecting trails that are equally as beautiful. Lastly, pack food. Even if you are out for just a short hike, you may need that fuel to help you along.
Hope this has inspired you to make your New Year’s resolution and get you into hiking! You can start small and work your way up to some overnight hikes, or even a thru hike! Check back next week to learn about the steps to preparing a thru hike.