Last year, some friends of mine with whom I was working at the Clemson Libraries went with me to hike to the top of Blood Mountain, which lies along the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia. It's one of my favorite places, and I was glad to share it with folks who had never been there. Unfortunately, due to rain and low clouds, there wasn't much of a view when we reached the top. This is a pretty strenuous hike, although it is only just over 4 miles up and back, and it was disappointing to have worked so hard for so little to see.
Completely unaware of the serendipitous nature of the hike I was about to take, I headed off on Oct. 31 to see what I could find up at Big Ridge State Park. I had been getting more annoyed with the crowded nature of the Smokies in the fall, and going in the opposite direction to find a quiet experience in the woods seemed appropriate.
During my brief vacation, I tried to go on another hike, but I ended up just driving around the Smokies, because of the rain. It stopped long enough for me to take a little walk to a creek, but mostly, I just wandered around in the car. But I figured, since I got some pictures, I'd go ahead and share them.
Because of the low cloud cover, the Smokies were really living up to their name. And the autumn color was continuing to spread across the mountains, adding a little bit of red or gold to the green and gray.
During my transition from working at Clemson University to working at the University of Tennessee, I took a few trips to the Smokies to try to get connected to new opportunities for wandering. To start with, I went with a hike that I had done before, the Andrews Bald hike. This hike is part of the Forney Ridge Trail, near Clingman's Dome. It's a shortish hike, about 3 to 3.5 miles round trip.
I've been on the Sulphur Springs Trail in both the summer and winter, so why not fall? It is my favorite season of the year, after all. So, on a Saturday in October, I headed up to Paris Mountain for another hike. I decided to do the entire trail, not just up to the fire tower and back; this trail is a 3.5-mile loop, and by Paris Mountain standards, it's one of the most strenuous ones.
In late fall of 2013, I opted to try the Winding Stairs Trail, a 3.5-mile one-way trail in upstate SC. The trailhead I started from is just north of Walhalla, near the Cherry Hill Recreation Area. There is a small parking area there, and it appeared that I was the first to embark on the trail from that end when I got started. I was in search of two falls, Miuka Falls, and the lesser-known Secret Falls. I found at least one of these two.
So, here it was the middle of autumn, and I very much wanted to get up into the mountains to see the colors of the leaves, which were certainly at their height. I was concerned that if I didn't get up there sometime soon, I'd miss my chance. To that end, I looked around at different trail descriptions, trying to decide on an apt location for leaf-watching. I found a likely candidate in the Hospital Rock trail, a 2.2-mile round trip trail in Jones Gap State Park.
One weekend towards the end of fall, I was rushing to get my hiking fix, and almost didn't make it before the sun went down. I returned to a favorite hike in Caesar's Head State Park, the Frank Coggins Trail. This trail is part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, situated near the end of the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, Highway 11, north of Greenville. The trail is a moderate, hour-long trail, and it is a beginning to many of the other trails in the area.
The Bear Hair Gap Trail is part of the network of trails in Vogel State Park, nestled in the North Georgia mountains, part of the Blood Mountain region. This is a trail of moderate difficulty, winding up and around the hills. This trip along the trail was in late fall, and most of the leaves had left the trees, but you could still see splashes of color across the hills, especially when seen from the overlook spur trail that provides a gorgeous view of the park, centered by Lake Trahlyta.