In keeping with the spirit of the 52 hike challenge, we decided to go hiking this weekend despite the weather being cold/overcast/possibly rainy (or snowy- it is Georgia). I figured since we went on a hike on New Year's Day, we started off on the right foot to do 52 hikes (at least). We are not officially committing to the 52 hike challenge because let's face it, I don't keep commitments. I started the 4000+ challenge in 2015 and have only done a handful. I'll probably never complete the 4000+ and I know this. Furthermore, while it's great to be outside, I also work out A LOT. I do indoor exercise at least 5 times a week and sometimes my body needs a break. So whatever form of fitness or hiking fits for you, do that.
Anyways, back to the hike! This week's hike needed to meet several criteria due to time constraints, possible weather issues, and other factors. It needed to not be terribly far away, not a terribly long hike, "hard but not too hard" (James' request), and something in the mountains. So we chose to hike the small stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Woody Gap to Preacher's Rock. It's less than an hour from our house, it has easy parking/access from the highway, it's short, and in my opinion, it's not hard. Afterwards, James actually said he wanted something a little more strenuous. It also has the added bonus of being right outside Dahlonega, so you can grab lunch or dinner once you're done!
We got to the trail head around 10:15 am and it was a lovely 26 degrees outside. The weather forecast called for "partly sunny" skies but the mountain mist seemed to have set in. Fortunately it wasn't windy. I rarely hike if the temperature is below 35 degrees but it actually didn't feel that bad. I think I wore just the right amount of layers to feel comfortable. Hats and gloves make a huge different! We left the dogs at home for this one, because I knew Nova would freeze to death, but saw lots of other folks with dogs on the trail.
The area near the trail head is pretty nifty with some large rock formations that almost look like a small quarry. I think it would be a neat place to camp. We saw lots of icicles of various shapes and sizes in this area. After poking around here for a little, we moved onto the trail. The rock formations and boulders continue along the trail with some rocks serving as stair like features (really suffering from rock formation withdrawal after being in California). Parts of the trail can be ankle twisting, so watch your step.
Sooner rather than later, you come upon Preacher's Rock, which is a large, rounded rock face with a lovely view of the valley below. It seriously is large enough to accommodate a small congregation. After sitting on the rocks for a while James was like "is that it"? So we continued down the trail to Big Cedar Mountain, which is just a little ways further, and then headed back to the parking area. The total round trip mileage is about 3.4 miles but honestly, it doesn't seem that much. Most other websites rate this hike "moderate" or "more difficult" but I think it's on the easier side. When the weather is warmer, I'd like to do an overnight trip to Blood Mountain from Woody Gap, which is 9 miles each way.
Overall, I wouldn't say this was the most earth shattering hike ever but again, I am currently suffering withdrawals from 70 degree sunny weather and other worldly scenery. What's important is, we got out and enjoyed what is essentially our backyard. After the hike, we ate lunch at Gustavo's in Dahlonega because they make an awesome pizza without cheese on it and they never question why you are ordering a pizza like that. We've been eating there since they were literally a hole in the wall with no liquor license and one table to sit at. Happy to see their success!