Preacher's Rock and Big Cedar Mountain 5-21-18
I had the good fortune of being in Dahlonega for work recently. I really love Dahlonega and go there often but not usually for work. The weather was looking pretty crummy for the week, except on Monday. So while many people might "have a case of the Mondays" and go home to crash as soon as humanly possible, I was looking forward to being able to hike. This is where the whole "weeknight hiker" concept comes in.
I chose to do a short hike along the Appalachian Trail from Woody Gap to just past Big Cedar Mountain. I have done this hike before but it was in January so I wanted to see it in a different season. Woody Gap is also not very far from Dahlonega, so I didn't have to worry about driving too far out of the way or not having enough daylight. I would like to do the nearby Dockery Lake Trail but with it being around 7 miles I didn't think it would be a good choice for a weeknight. My hike ended up being around 3 miles, which is what I usually aim for when hiking in the evening. Woody Gap is an accessible area, as it's right on the highway and has a large parking area with bathrooms and bear-proof garbage containers. This hike is a good choice for beginners or anyone wanting to pack a lot of scenery into a small punch.
The Woody Gap area is very pretty and it sure did not disappoint during this visit. I saw plenty of wildflowers and the contrast of everything from the green hills to the blue sky was amazing. After crossing Preacher's Rock, I continued north and went up the side trail to Big Cedar Mountain. The views here were limited due to trees. I noticed on the map another side trail a little further north, so I continued until I reached that trail. It has a blue blaze but I don't think it actually has a name. The blue trail led to another rocky bald with amazing views. It was surrounded by lush green grass and flowering trees. I honestly think it was more beautiful than Preacher's Rock, even though that is the main attraction along this stretch of the AT. So the bottom line is, always take the side trail!
So now I'll address the elephant in the room aka the giant cairn on the trail. I will admit, I am a sucker for cairns. I find them very beautiful and this one was literally sculptural. HOWEVER, cairns do not exemplify the principles of "Leave No Trace". Moving rocks around or otherwise disturbing the environment is not part of LNT even if it seems innocent. My love/hate relationship with cairns is something I am working on. I do not build them myself but I can't stop admiring them. At least I am self-aware...