Hiking at Amicalola Falls was my first hike since returning from the Peace Corps. It was an excellent start, a low to moderate intensity hike with lots of shade, well-marked paths, and a stunning view at the top.
The day began at the visitors’ center where we met a ranger and his friendly great horned owl. If you’ve never seen one of these bad boys in real life, they’re amazing. Seriously, their eyes are huge, their heads really do a 360 (okay, not really) and their talons could easy carry away my dog. There were an array of snakes on display as well as maps marking the Appalachian Trail and relics from the trail’s first hikers.
We arrived to the trailhead soon after. My boyfriend planned the hike right before my birthday (mid-August) so he gave me one of my gifts early, a Camelbak L.U.X.E. in blue and gray. It certainly came in handy. It is my first hydration backpack and I simply adore it. Whenever I got thirsty I just tugged the straw and—tah dah!—instant hydration without the annoyance of holding a water bottle while hiking or having to unsnap/dig the bottle out of a backpack. The only disadvantage was that the fluid in the tube gets warm overtime so the first sip is warm before the fresh, cool fluid rushes through the tube.
As for the hike, it starts with a gentle incline and gradually zig-zags through the forest. Points of interest along the way include a large tree that was hallowed out by lightening (I think) and a 1940s-style pickup truck that is lodged and rusting on the cliff. Both were fun photo ops.
I’m not in excellent shape so I was surprised that I didn’t get winded during the walk to the bottom of the falls. We chatted casually, joyfully even. Until we got to the stairs. I had to tilt my head back to see the top. I glared at my boyfriend.
“You said that this would be a relaxing hike,” I murmured. I don’t remember his response because I was too busy fuming. I hate stairs with a passion and there were 175 of them looming overhead. I looked at the bottom of the falls, which was lovely, and figured that the view from the top would be even better. He assured me that it was and thus began the ascent. (Note: it is possible to drive to the top of the falls if you’d like.)
No lie, I stopped three times. We played stair-style leap frog with another couple who was stopping at alternate intervals. I was surprised to find that my legs weren’t really tired, just the burn of some lactic acid, but my endurance sucked. I don’t think the elevation is high enough to effect our bodies but I know that I could hear my blood pumping in my ears and that’s when we stopped.
It was well worth it! I felt like a champion when we finally reached the top and I was rewarded with a view of a small but beautiful waterfall. Amicalola is derived from the Cherokee word for “tumbling waters.” Due to the drought the falls weren’t tumbling and full as they could’ve been but it was still a sight to see. Other hikers had tossed coins and roses at the top of the falls, some lodge in the rocks and puddles.
The view down the mountain wasn’t nearly as nice as the view overlooking the southern peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. I didn’t think we were that high but Amicalola Falls is the highest falls east of the Mississippi (at 729 feet) and we could see for miles and miles.
At the top of the falls there are places to picnic and other trails that veer off into the mountains. We went geocaching and actually found the cache after about 30 minutes (woo-hoo!). Another fun photo op.
We hiked back to the bottom and enjoyed a picnic at a table adjacent to a stream, close to a visitors’ center. Overall it was a great way to get back into the hiking scene.