While we love the cool air and color change that comes as summer fades into fall, it also means Hurricane Season. As many of your know, Hurricane Irma made landfall late Sunday/early Monday in Florida as a category 3 hurricane. By the time the leftovers hit the Appalachian Mountains, it had dropped down to the level of a Tropical Storm. The mountains and its inhabitants are no strangers to harsh weather and even high winds, but Tropical Storm Irma was enough to put a damper on some things for hikers and wilderness enthusiasts.
Over the weekend we had many people pull off trail to hunker down in the hostel and take refuge. Getting off trail and staying in town or in a hostel is always the smartest plan of action when are large and potentially dangerous storm is forecasted. Late Monday night and into Tuesday morning, the brunt of the storm hit the North Georgia area and the Chatahoochee National Forest with high winds and heavy rains.
Since then, we have received many calls about the conditions of the roads and the trails in the area. The paved roads and main highways and byways in the area are very well maintained and were cleared immediately upon the storm passing. The trails and the forest service roads and other dirt roads are sadly another story. Because of their remote location, it is very difficult to clear these areas and though there are many people working very diligently, time and patience is requires.
We have heard from many hikers who have come and gone from just north or south of us and they all have one resounding report: There are LOTS of trees down! Felled trees are a constant sight in the backcountry and after a huge storm as this, it is always expected that there will be many of them. If you are not prepared to walk around, under, through or over a felled tree, it is best to avoid the trails. If you are hiking and come across a tree laying across the trail, always proceed with absolute caution and make sure you assess the situation before you climb into a rickety tree waiting to collapse. When setting up camp or taking a break, avoid hanging out under leaning trees. We recommending staying off trail if you are not absolutely certain an area has been cleared.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy also has a report and recommendation for hikers in our area. It and others can be found on their Trail Updates webpage.
We have heard reports that USFS 42, the road used to get to Springer Mountain, has been shut down until it can be cleared. Amicalola Falls State Park has been without phones for quite some time and we have not been able to contact they yet, still. On their Facebook page, they announced that they shut down all of the trails in the area until the damage can be assessed and fallen trees can be cleared. This includes the Approach Trail up to Springer Mountain. Amicalola has yet to update their page, but you can follow along as see when the trails open back up on their facebook page.
We were very lucky not to sustain any damage here at Mountain Crossings, but we know this was a powerful storm. We had many visitors from Florida and south Georgia who were escaping the storm. We wish them the best as they travel back home and hope that find things in good order.