I’ve always wanted to go hiking but lacked the equipment and the people to do it with. (Of course, the second that I mentioned that I’m going camping half a million friends come out the woodworks who are also into camping but never mentioned it.) Anyway, I didn’t have to do much persuading to get my boyfriend to take me out over the Labor Day weekend.
All the sites close to Atlanta were taken so he looked farther north and found Lake Hartwell. It was constructed by the Army Corp of Engineers and there were quite a few campsites available. He assured me that my first time camping wouldn’t be too “hardcore” and he was right. I was actually quite spoiled.
Lake Hartwell rests a pleasant drive up I-85, close to the South Carolina border. Once you get off of the interstate there are a few miles of winding roads that lead to the lake but with a halfway decent GPS there shouldn’t be a problem finding it, especially since the Corps did a great job with posting signs.
The ranger, a mature woman with gray curls, a bright smile and a warm Southern accent, welcomed us and immediately told us that the sight we picked wasn’t “very nice.” With 56,000 acres of park there were more spaces to choose from. “There are quite a few sites that are open,” she said, scribbling the numbers of the available sites on the back of our pass. “Take a look at them and feel free to pick another.”
We did as she said and got a much better site well within walking distance to the bathrooms and showers. The sites are well maintained. Ours came with the standard picnic table and a grill. We set up the tent, an REI Hobitat 4, and inflated the mattress (yes, I know that’s cheating). Even with the mattress inflated, we had sufficient space in the 4 person tent to be comfortable. Since he promised me posh camping, my boyfriend took me to dinner in downtown Hartwell. There are choices but keep in mind that it is a small, small town.
We settled on Mi Jalisco, a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall that wasn’t as pleasant on the eyes as it was on the palate. The staff was extremely kind (it helps to speak Spanish, of course) and the food proved to be delicious. My boyfriend ordered a chorizo nachos appetizer that was loaded. It could’ve been an entrée for a moderate appetite. He was in heaven. I ordered a shrimp fajita quesadilla with spinach that tasted divine. My margarita was a bit more tart than I prefer but it got the job done. My companion ordered some creamy shrimp plate with beans and rice; he wasn’t feeling the creamy sauce but everything else was good. We give it a 7.5/10 which is decent with a Tapatio judging the restaurant.
We rushed back to the site to make it before 10:30pm. We basically slid under the gate. At the site, our neighbor came by to make sure his generator wasn’t going to bother us. We carried on a good conversation until the mosquitoes came to eat us all alive. We scurried to the bathrooms (which were very clean and well stocked) washed up, and headed back to the campsite.
I slept well on the comfy air mattress and woke up to a view of the lake. It’s a large lake with 962 miles of shoreline but it wasn’t at the height of its grandeur due to the drought (sigh). The deepest point is usually 200 feet but I could tell that wasn’t the case that weekend and the other visitors were having to work around the low water levels. With a bit more water I could imagine that Lake Hartwell would be a great destination for water sports and activities, an alternative to the more crowded Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona.
Have you visited Lake Hartwell? What are your thoughts?