Exhausted. That’s how you usually feel after returning from a vacation. At least that’s how I feel. My wife’s family does it big each year for a family reunion, and this year was in the mountains of North Georgia. We loaded the car up late last week and made the trip up, and I’m glad we did.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some pretty cool places across the country. I’ve been to the West Coast multiple times and been pretty much all over the central and southeastern United States. Most of these trips have been due to traveling with college athletics and don’t provide much time for sight-seeing. Nonetheless, I’ve been able to see some beautiful places. Out of all of the traveling that I’ve done in my life, one area has pretty much eluded me, the Appalachian Mountains. I’ve been to the Cascades, and I’ve seen the Rockies, but I’ve never really been in the Appalachians.
As we started to get into the hills, my excitement level began to rise. I felt like I was looking at a potential “shooter” buck or getting ready for a big game. It probably sounds corny, but I was excited to finally get a glimpse of the beginnings of the Appalachian range. As we curved our way into the hills the scenery grew better and better. I tried to soak in each view as we slowly made our way toward the lodge. We arrived just in time to catch a nice sunset from the lodge, which was situated atop a ridge around 2,500 feet in elevation and holds Amicalola Falls.
Amicalola Falls is the third highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. As soon as we got moving the next morning, we made a point to go view the falls before doing anything else. It measures 729 feet in length and is breathtakingly beautiful. Since the lodge was at the top of the mountain, we began our view of the falls from the top. The kids wanted to hike down and get a look from the bottom, and a part of me wanted to do the same. This is where the trip fatigue begins. To get down to the bottom of the falls from the top, you take a long set of stairs down. This doesn’t sound very daunting, and it’s not. The problem with starting at the top and going down means you have to come back up. I consider myself to be in fairly good shape for a man in his mid-30s. Those steps on the way back up absolutely kicked my butt. My legs burned like they haven’t burned in years. I really began to question my athleticism when an older man smoking a cigarette passed me on the way up. The kids handled it just fine, with Collins asking to go back down and do it again. We did not.
We returned to the lodge with my legs and my pride hurting. I immediately laid down and took a much needed nap. Upon awakening, the rest of my wife’s family had arrived. They had already heard of our morning adventure from the kids and about my fatigue. Most of them hadn’t been to the falls to pick at me about how wimpy I was being. They just accepted that it must be pretty tough. That’s when my wife’s aunt finally spoke up. She lives in the area and had been to the falls many times. She shattered my ego even more when she let everyone know that she hiked the falls for her 80th birthday. Yep, I was still exhausted, and now humiliated.
The next morning arrived and I was determined to prove that I could handle the hiking world. We decided to go down to the bottom of the hill and hike a trail up to the bottom of the falls. This time my in-laws decided to make the trip as well. We hiked around a mile to the bottom of the falls. Along the way, there was a pond that is stocked with trout for catch and release fishing. A part of me wanted to try my luck, but something about a stocked pond full of trout just seemed too tame for my liking. We passed it and kept on hiking to the base of the falls. Also, along the way I heard a familiar little voice. Our middle child was hiking with some of the family and passed us along the trail. I was feeling good about myself and our hike, until she passed by us skipping along the way. My ego was once again shattered. (Side note: she hiked all the way up to the falls and back up the stairs again with no complaint)
When the trip was finished and we headed back toward the house, I began to wonder about hiking opportunities in Mississippi. I usually get my hiking fix traversing the woods of Mississippi with a rifle on my back in pursuit of deer. But what about people that want to enjoy the outdoors without attempting to kill something? I found a website that provides information about different hiking trails throughout our state. The site, hikinginmississippi.com, gives a detailed list of trails in each region of the state, as well as different events that one might be interested in. I’m not sure if I will ever get around to visiting these trails, but after this weekend my interest has definitely been peaked. In the meantime, I will continue to lick my wounds and work on getting in better shape to keep my six year old from running circles around me.