Sunrise and the Other Side of Sawnee
When I was planning out my last few hikes and realized I was coming up on hike #52, I figured why not do something out of the ordinary? I enjoyed hiking the Indian Seats trail at sunset a few weeks ago, so I thought I would give it a shot at sunrise. It's also one of the places I went often during my round of 52 hikes, so it would be commemorative. I actually tried to get up early enough on a weekday to do it before work, but hit snooze way too many times to make that happen. So then I aimed again for Saturday 6/30/18 and had to make it happen, since that was the end of the 6 month period for my 52 hikes.
I started from the Bettis-Tribble Gap lot and it opens at 6 am year round. I arrived promptly at 6 am and hit the trail immediately. First light was at 5:59 am and actual sunrise was at 6:26 am. I used my headlamp, but could have gotten by without it. I saw no animals and there were no other people there at that point. If you want to give this a shot yourself, I'd recommend waiting until later in the year when the sun rises a little later unless you like running up mountains to catch the sunrise. Plus, if it's cooler weather, you could enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sun rise. It was 75 degrees and climbing when I did my hike.
I took the short route from Bettis-Tribble Gap (the trail that is .75 miles long) and made it to the Indian Seats by 6:15 am. The sun was already starting to rise and creating pretty colors at that point, so I would have missed out on a lot if I'd gotten to the summit just 5 minutes later. Indian Seats doesn't have fully unobstructed eastern exposure, but the view from the observation deck was pretty good. From the rocks, I couldn't see anything through the trees. It wasn't the most dramatic sunrise, but it was very pretty and peaceful.
A little while after I arrived, some other people came up the mountain but since we were the only ones there, we had plenty of space to ourselves. We were the only ones there for the next hour. They ended up in one of my pictures that actually turned out to be my favorite pic from the day. If you do a sunrise hike, I'd recommend staying in place for about 2 hours because the light changes dramatically and it's almost like watching a movie. Initially there was some fog in the fields below, which created an interesting mood, but then it burned off. After that, the light started glowing off the trees and rocks. I think the morning golden hour might be better than the evening!
I stayed until about 8 am, at which point literally dozens of people were coming up the trail. So another bonus of waking up early- you avoid the crowds. I also fended off an extremely friendly squirrel. It was cute at first but I literally felt like it was following me. I've seen people feeding the squirrels here before, so here is a reminder not to do that. And don't leave nut shells or other garbage, of course!
I highly recommend you try a sunrise or sunset hike if you haven't already. One of my favorite things about hiking is, the same trail looks different in each season and at different times of day. So you can never be bored hiking! Ideally a mountain with a 360 degree view would be perfect for a sunrise or sunset hike, but Indian Seats is conveniently located and easy for me to get to at 6 am! If you need other ideas about where to catch a sunrise or sunset hike, check out this article by Atlanta Trails!
As a bonus, I'll also mention "the other side" of Sawnee Preserve because I went there recently as well. This is located directly across the street on Bettis-Tribble Gap Road. Honestly, for a long time I thought it was just overflow parking. It's not and there are several different trails there. They don't have the stunning mountain views like Indian Seats, but they are very nice trails and great for working out. Alas, not dog friendly though. I did a loop option that came out to just under 3 miles and considering my hiking pace for this type of terrain is about 3 MPH, it made a great hour long workout. Perfect for after work or any time crunch. Most of the people I saw here were running and it does seem like it's good for trail running, as it's a fairly wide, nicely maintained trail. I saw lots of wildflowers, neat trees, and a pond that looked like it belonged in Florida. I will definitely come back here for more exercise driven hikes.