Amicalola Falls State Park @ Dawsonville, Georgia

On the morning of Saturday, December 14th 2013, I had embarked on 8 hour plus drive to Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Georgia. What had made this destination so alluring after a prolonged business trip? An unrepentant desire had filled my head with a need for physical adventure serving as counterpoint to the mundane nature of work in IT. Why now? For some of the road trips earlier in the year, sometimes the amount of “time off” hadn’t allowed the proper conclusion for random excursions. This go around, I had requested a whole week off. Earlier in the year, I had visited Vogel State Park, Georgia and some of the surrounding hiking trails. It was one of the best times outdoors ever because of precarious descent of up-tempo mountain side hiking despite, tempting fate with one wrong slip at dusk. Yet, beyond the scope of that hike was the untapped desire for convergence onto the Appalachian Trail by way of Blood Mountain. This idea had sat dormant after the last road trip into Georgia. As with any good master plan, the seed for a return was planted long ago in my friend’s mind. All that was required, a response to the question,”Wanna do anything this weekend?” Of course, I had formed the answer to the question well in advance. Free will was a beautiful thing. Now, the specific details for this hiking trip, I hadn’t mastered at all but, enter my buddy’s advance preparation. Even without that consideration, I had probably signed up in my current mental state for anything outdoors sans nuclear war.

After a supply stop in a Cumming’s Georgia Walmart, we had pushed for the final portion of our drive. Arriving in the state park off-hours, we had registered with park’s log book for hiking the A.T. Around 8 PM Eastern, we had headed out to the park trail going toward Amicalola Falls. With light from my friend’s head lamp, we had forged toward the sound of falling water. At the base of ascent, we had seen a sign cautioning strenuous activity of 175 steps. I had figured,”Not too bad.” Though, in my haste to get moving, I had left the top portion of hiking bag chest strap undone. This oversight had doubled the amount of effort on the ascent. At the beginning, I had enjoyed the exertion on my body; however, at the end of the night, it had caused some cramping in my right calf. In contrast, it had still beat sitting in car or airplane for hours on end. After clearing the 175 steps, we had both worked up good amount of perspiration. Completing the 175 steps and a walk across a wooden bridge, we had seen another sign for strenuous activity a few moments later. That sign had outlined a step count of 425. I had thought, ”You got to be kidding?” With some angst, we had eventually cleared those steps as well. About 2 miles later into the hike, we had started the approach trail toward our final destination of the A.T. With the cold wet dark night, we had let common sense prevail agreeing to double back to beginning of the park until daylight. Staying on premises, we had camped out in the first shelter to make way for the next day.

The good news the following morning, the views of the falls were astounding on ascent. The great news for you, there was road side access at the base and top of the falls for those with less of an inclination to cover the 600 combined steps. Amongst the four waterfalls in Georgia and Florida I had seen, Amicalola Falls, claims a special place in my memory with backdrop of the surrounding mountain range. That view had kicked off the 2nd of 5 days in Georgia. If you had decided to travel the Southeast, strongly recommend taking a trip out to Amicalola Falls State Park @ Dawsonville, Georgia.

Amicalola Falls State Park
Address: 240 Amicalola Falls State Park Road, Dawsonville, GA 30534
Phone: (706) 344-1500

Read more:
Appalachian Trail (National Park Service)
Amicalola Falls State Park (Georgia State Parks)

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Rainbow Springs State Park -Dunnellon, Florida

“Butterflies, a bubble bee and love bugs…oh my, George Takei!”

Traveling through the hills of Dunnellon, I had been wondering what to expect upon my visit to Rainbow Springs State Park. My first turn onto the premises, time and rain had dampened a foray into a two hour tubing adventure at $10 per person. With instructions from a park ranger with piercing green eyes and three left turns, I had arrived at the main recreation area. For reference, there had been three different entrances for this park. Each had been for one of the following; camping, tubing, and general recreation. Right before going through park gate, I had been distracted by two physical features of the area, one a small waterfall on the left and the other, a sloping hill on the right. Passing through the gate with the handy Florida State park pass, I had thought this might be worthy of the time and gas. Coming around the gift shop, I had seen the river at 3 o’clock and slopping picnic grounds at 7 o-clock. What had drawn my attention to the left though, a sign regarding waterfalls. Waterfalls and Florida had seemed an oxymoron; however, this had been the motivation for the drive. Seeing snapshots for Top 10 Springs throughout Central Florida from the Orlando Sentinel, I had been curious what I might be missing. Visiting 8 out of the top 10 springs, what had made this one #4? Walking towards my intended target, the hilly topography had been refreshing sight. Within a matter of minutes, I had come to see three different waterfalls. While not extravagant or huge, it had been a welcome visual treat.

After soaking up these views, another sign for Butterfly Gardens had drawn me into an area with variety of plants and flowers. Yes, there had been a few butterflies, tons of love bugs, and a solemn bubble bee. After that, remnants of an old zoo had drawn me around a loop. After working up a sweat, it had seemed natural progression to coalesce to the river and springs. In those waters had been a few underwater cropping of rocks to stand on. During that dip, a train had rumbled by on the nearby tracks. That had generated an unexpected bit of excitement. The rumbling sound had resonated through the concrete pier into the spring waters.

Rainbow Springs had been quite a journey into “Undiscovered Country.” Despite the overcast day, this park had been one of the best experiences in Florida. If you had been seeking contrasting experiences within one park, take a ride out to Dunnellon.

Read more:
Top 10 Springs in Central Florida (Orlando Sentinel)
Rainbow Springs State Park (Florida State Parks)
Rainbow Springs State Park (Wikipedia)
George Takei (Wikipedia)

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