Hiking The Amicalola River Trail

From the canoe ramp near the gravel parking lot on Georgia 53, follow the loop trail towards the river. This is where Class IV whitewater rapids can be found. Famously known as the “Edge of the World”, this was formed by the Brevard Fault Line. Climbing into the Dawson Wildlife Management Area, the mountains and the brook provide a serene picture of wildlife and its habitat. Yet, whether some may consider the Amicalola River as a creek, it doesn’t really matter if a nature hike and adventure are what you’re looking for. Although owned by the City of Atlanta, the management of the areas resources are split among three state departments. The current agreement set is that the Georgia Forestry Commission manages the forest resources while wildlife protection and maintenance is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

However, people are prohibited from visiting a certain portion of the area of approximately four acres, wherein a 10 mega-watt nuclear facility is situated and operated by Lockheed. These prohibited areas have high radiation levels and are strictly monitored by scientists for radioactive readings. So do not stray and be observant with the trail signs and route directions. Start at the parking lot road and take the path furthest from the road towards the boat ramp. From this point, canoers and kayakers begin their wild ride with the class IV white water rapids which can take half a mile towards the river end.

For hikers and trekkers, take the south side to a gravel parking area to begin the Amicalola River Trail. An alternate route to the wooden stairs near the parking lot takes you to the bridge called Georgia 53. Turn left at the end of the bridge and you’ll find a 30-foot rock wall. Pass the old covered bridge gateway, further half a mile the trail leads you to the rapids. Check for blue rectangular blazes or an arrow above a brown sign on your way to the climb. A few feet further, take a 90 degree turn where a double blaze can be seen. Be attentive not to miss this since there is a fairly visible trail nearby which is usually taken by trekkers by mistake.

Continue to follow the blazes towards a “T” and then turn right towards another climb to the highest ridge of this trail. Several species of flora can be seen along the way as you traverse and you may come across some small streams. About 1.7 miles, the trail climbs to a flat ridge which leads you to its highpoint area where picnic tables and a dedication post for Jason Funk, a boy scout who died in 1991, is located. Proceed to the path turning left at the Forest Service Road and look for another double-blazed sign. Then follow the footpath which leads to a wooden bridge which ends your trail at Highway 53.

Naukluft Hiking Trail Namibia – 8 Days Through Wondrous Desolation

Imagine a place so remote that you do not see another human being for days. Imagine a trail through desolate valleys, over mountains and across large flat plains of sand, rocks and tufts of dry grass. The Naukluft Hiking Trail in Namibia takes you through such a place.

It all starts at an old house perched on top of a small hill in what is known as the Namib-Naukluft Park in South Western Namibia. Hikers Haven is the base camp of this incredible trail. Here one can enjoy one last beer, grilled steak and warm shower. There after follow 8 days of carrying a heavy backpack through some of the most beautiful and desolate areas Namibia has to offer.

Normally one needs to get up at about 5 in the morning to be able to hit the trail by 7. Day one is no exception, and covers a distance of 14km. There is a lovely lookout point at “Panorama” as one starts rising up into the mountains a few kilometers into the hike. Spend some time here and enjoy the view of the plain below.

From here the trail steadily rises higher up into the Naukluft Mountains. A good spot for lunch is “Fontein Kloof”. There are some large trees for shade and the spring usually flows.

As with most of the overnight shelters on this trail, the shelter at “Putte” for tonight is merely a square stone structure with a wall about 1.2m high, over which a tin roof is supported by some steal pipes. The floor is gravel. Approximately 150m from the shelter is a borehole with a big flywheel that needs to be turned for water.

Day two is 15km in length and takes one into the famous Ubusis Kloof or ravine. The descent into the ravine is accomplished with the aid of a number of chains, some of which are up to 30m in length and act as aids down the cliff faces. As one descends further down, a geological time capsule is exposed in the layers of rock to ones sides. The scenery is quite breathtaking.

Ubusis hut is the only “normal” accommodation on this trail. This hut used to be a small vacation home many years ago when the area still consisted of farms. Water is supplied by means of a wind pump and borehole.

Day three takes one back out of Ubusis Kloof the way one went down the day before. At the top, once one reaches Bergpos, the trail turns due north across Kudu Plains. This day is only 12km long and is considered the easiest of all the days.

At the end of the Kudu Plains lies the Adlerhorst overnight shelter, which can be reached by the early afternoon. This leaves plenty of time to admire the scenery and relax a bit. Water is again supplied via a borehole with a handle on top of the pipe.

When we got there, the opening of the borehole pipe was covered in hundreds of bees desperately waiting for someone to turn the handle and pump some water out for them. Nobody got stung even once. It seems as if they realized that the humans coming to this place were their only hope of getting some water.

The fourth day tends to be a bit tricky, and is quite long at 17km. The tricky part comes when one has to descend a waterfall in a dried out river bed with the help of a long chain. The angle of the rocks makes this a difficult descent.

Further on there is another steep descent down the side of a mountain of loose slate. In the past this has been the cause of injuries to hikers slipping on the slate.

The Tsams-Ost overnight shelter contains a large water tank on a perch that is supplied with water from a borehole and wind pump. It is possible to have a cold shower standing underneath the tank.

The next day, day five, starts off with a stiff climb up the mountain behind the Tsams-Ost overnight shelter, and covers another 17km.

Some hours later one reaches Melkbos Plain. This plain involves many kilometers of marching along sandy tracks and through dried out river beds. It is here that one is most likely to see herds of antelope such as Eland or Kudu grazing on the sparse grass and vegetation.

The Die Valle overnight shelter is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and the sun tends to set rather early behind these mountains. Water is left here in a small water tanker which may not contain much water especially at the end of the hiking season, so washing is very limited on this day.

Day six tends to be the longest and most difficult of the whole trail. Even though it is only 16km long, one spends most of the day going up.

Immediately after leaving the Die Valle overnight shelter, there is a 200m vertical climb to the top of a waterfall. There after one follows a gorge and stream that feeds this waterfall for most of the day, climbing ever upwards.

It is along this gorge that one comes across some interesting geological formations called Tufa. Tufa is a sedimentary rock containing a lot of carbonates that are deposited by means of water. It often forms at waterfalls or streams. Here in this gorge, the Tufa looks like a gigantic solidified waterfall. Higher up one comes across a huge fig tree whose roots run all along a small cliff face.

Once on top of the gorge, there is a small flat plateau to cross before starting the long descent along an old jeep track to the Tufa overnight shelter. Be careful at the bottom of the track as the shelter is almost hidden amongst some bushes to the left. Water is again supplied in the form of a borehole next to a dried out stream bed about 150m from the shelter.

Day seven covers 14km and takes one to the highest, and usually the coldest point of the hike at Kapokvlakte.

From the Tufa overnight shelter, the trail crosses some very large boulders as it heads in the direction of the mountains again. At the base of the mountains that eventually lead up to Kapokvlakte, there are some chains to help one up some of the more difficult cliff faces.

Once at the top, the trail follows a steadily rising dried out stream bed until it reaches the top at World’s View. The name is very appropriate, as one can see for many kilometers into the distance. It’s a good place to stop for awhile and admire the view across the plains below, and to the mountains on the other side. From here the terrain is fairly flat and the going easy.

The Kapokvlakte overnight shelter is usually reached by early afternoon. The shelter is hidden behind a clump of bushes which are virtually the only larger vegetation in the area. The rest of the plateau is covered in short grass and the occasional small bush. Kapokvlakte can get very cold at night, and the use of a down feather sleeping bag is a must here.

The last day has finally arrived. By now everyone is dreaming of fat steaks and beer, but there is still a 16km slog ahead. A few kilometers across the top of the plateau, and the trail makes its long descent along a winding gorge down to Hikers Haven.

As the day gets warmer one can hear more and more insects and other small creatures in this lonely gorge. Be careful of picking up rocks. Very often there are scorpions hiding underneath them.

As one gets lower down the trail, there are small pools with large trees on the sides which make for good resting spots. A few hundred meters from Hikers Haven, there is a camp site. Here one may come across the first other humans again after having spent so many days in the wilderness. By now you may also spot the roof of the old house at Hikers Haven. Just a few hundred meters more and one is back. What a time it had been!

Now one can finally get a hot shower again! For those that brought vacuum packed meat and managed to keep it cool in their cars over this period, there will be a feast tonight!

Adventure Travel In Peru – Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

After months of planning and over a year of dreaming about it, I finally got on a bus from Arequipa to go to Cusco to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. My friend Milana from Los Angeles, who I used to hike and mtn. bike with, and Karen, her longtime friend, were meeting me in Cusco. We were supposed to be there a couple of days early so they could acclimatize but Milana’s flight from Lima was cancelled so she arrived about noon the day before our tour started. I had already met Karen the day before and we had gotten to know each other a bit as we did some sightseeing and hiking together near Cusco.

When Milana arrived, we went to eat at a restaurant just off the plaza and she had ceviche to eat, it is raw fish marinated in lime juice. Either the ceviche or the lack of time to acclimatize to the 11,000 foot altitude in Cusco, or both, got her off to a bad start. She woke up sick the next morning for the start of our four day trek. We had signed up for a group tour, expecting up to 12 people, so we were delighted when the mini bus picked us up in that morning to find only two other people on the tour! An almost private tour for the group price. It didn’t seem like such a small group by the time we added a cook and eight porters to our guide, Carlos, making a total of 15 people. However most of the time we were trekking it was just the six of us, the porters were either packing up camp behind us or rushing on ahead to get ready for us. The service was great but personally the morning tea in our tents when they woke us, the dining tent for all three meals (although it felt really good at dinner time due to the cold) and the fancy menu, etc. was something I would have given up for a cheaper price. They definitely don’t subscribe to the ultra light hiking idea with a cast iron stove and 20 lb. LP gas tank!

One of the things that surprised me on the first day was to see people actually living along the trail, and riding bicycles back and forth. On the second morning there were women and children with burros going up the trail to set up stands to serve breakfast, sell candy, snacks, bottled water and even Gatorade! By the afternoon, that was all behind us as we headed up to Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,770 feet, the highest point on the trail. The scenery had changed from lush rain forest in the morning to sparse vegetation and rocks by the pass, along with being much cooler. When we stopped early in the afternoon at our campsite for the evening, I couldn’t just sit and wait for dinner, I went on ahead to the next pass, exploring side trails along the way. Solid clouds beyond the summit ruined my hopes for a spectacular sunset but it was an enjoyable time anyway.

On day three we got into the high jungle, thousands of more steps, and actually into some of the ancient ruins. Also a seemingly endless variety of orchids and other flowers. One thing we didn’t see was any wild animals, just a few birds. It also seemed like the farther we went, the more tourists there were. The first day we hardly saw anyone else, so I’m not sure where they all came from. By that evening we were back in civilization, with the option of a restaurant, hot shower and cold beer, which many were enjoying.

The final morning we were up early to be the first ones on the trail, hoping to get pictures of Machu Picchu before there were any people there. They actually opened the checkpoint a few minutes early and we were started off in the dark, on the last couple of hours of the trail, arriving at Machu Picchu just after sunrise. For me, one of the highlights of the trip was hiking up Huayna Picchu, the high peak behind the ruins in all the standard Machu Picchu pictures. There was a wonderful trail, steep and rugged, up to the peak, where the views were fabulous! I saw a less used trail going down the backside and followed that a ways but finally had to turn around to meet the others and catch the bus into Aquas Calientes. Only when I got back to the checkpoint at the start of the trail did I find out that it was a loop trail and I could have continued on around the mountain. There was no time to soak in the hot springs, as we got to Aquas Calientes a bit late and then found out that we had to leave early to walk to the train that would take us back to Cusco, because of the landslide that had covered the tracks on the edge of town. A final surprise was that evening when the train stopped a couple of hours before Cusco and the conductor said that was the end of the ride. We never did find out why but ended up having to take a taxi the rest of the way to Cusco, fortunately arriving with no problems.

The trip was great, Machu Picchu was unbelievable and something that pictures can’t do justice to. Never the less, I did take about 400 photos, trying to capture the grander to relive later. I am looking forward to returning to the area to hike from Cusco to Choquequirao, sometimes called the sister city to Machu Picchu, and then on to Machu Picchu. This hike is much less common and allows for exploring on your own.

Hiking The Logan Turnpike Trail

One of the many access to the Appalachian Trail is the Logan Turnpike that provides this access at Testnatee Gap. Most of the hike on this pathway parallels Towns Creek after following a turnpike to the gap. The trail was named after Frank Logan in 1997 who was one of the most influential people in North Georgia. Logan discovered gold in White County in North Georgia where he later on paved the way for growth in many market places on this area after the war. The trail is about 2 miles and marked by blue blazes.

The road was built in 1821 and was travelled mostly by merchants transporting food and produce to Testnatee Gap’s southern area. It was also used to be known as the Union Turnpike and used to be part of a longer stretch of road from Athens Tennessee. However, most travelers passed the Federal Highway for safety and travel time reasons since the Blue Ridge Mountains made the journey longer on the turnpike.

Starting from a historical marker which is nearby the old toll keeper’s house on the road, the path continues to the trailhead. The trail sets off at a junction of the country road and Forest Service property line. The path is entirely within the Raven Cliffs Wilderness that leads out of Union Country to the south. Following an upgraded portion of an old abandoned roadbed for the first mile the path continues to parallel the Towns Creek. The trail is easy to manage until you reach an underdeveloped footpath that makes the hike strenuous. At this point, the trail approaches the Appalachian Trail which affords a spectacular view of a drainage basin cove.

The path hugs the Towns creek bank as it continues to end the steep traverse while approaching the forest with small streams. On the lower slopes, small springs of water appear at the Logan Turnpike. Clear water flows downstream where some wet crossings are expected. At this point, cross to the west side that makes the start of Town Creek. As you move forward this trail, you will come across moss-covered rocks and still on a stream bed. Extending to 2 miles due south from the trailhead, the trail ends at Testnatee Gap. And just a bit of trivia, Testnatee is a Cherokee word for turkey. The Tesnatee Gap is also the northern access point for Logan Turnpike while the southern access is our start point at Kellum Valley where the trailhead is located.

Solo Hiking Tips: How To Stay Safe On The Trail For A Day Hike

If you’re a new to hiking, it’s not advisable to go on a hike alone. It’s better to gain experience and familiarize yourself on a trail before tackling it by yourself. When you’re ready, safety should be your number one priority. Preparation is always key and it’s also crucial to learn what you need to do in case of emergencies like getting lost or being injured.

Here are some important solo hiking tips on how to stay safe on the trail during a day hike:

Be prepared

Before your trip, you should feel confident about taking on the trails and paths you’re about to face, as different trails have different levels of difficulty. This means you should be in shape physically and you’re equipped with the right clothing and gear to avoid possible injuries and mishaps.

It’s also ideal that you do research about the trail you’re about to take on, even if you’ve hiked it once or twice before. Know where to get help, if there are any wildlife in the area or if there are any bodies of water you have to cross. Also familiarize yourself to the trail markers. Knowing these things will help you get prepared better and safer on the trail.

Share your hike plan with someone

Make it a point to know what time the sunset will be that day so you can plan your hike accordingly (you should be back before dark) and know how long your hike would take. Let someone responsible know your plan – what trail you’re hiking and what time you’ll be back. This will serve very useful in case you get lost.

Pack light

The heavier your pack is, the slower you’ll be. Make it a point to bring only the essentials like sufficient food and water, a change of clothes, first aid kit and navigation tools.

Stay on the trail

Take the time to take in the beauty around you but always stay on trail. You might be tempted to check out that waterfall nearby but it’s crucial to follow your plan and stay on schedule to avoid problems. Also observe how busy the trail is. If you encounter hikers every 5 minutes or so, then you won’t have any problems with getting help in case of emergencies.

Always stay safe on the trail whether it’s a day hike or a longer trip. Follow these essential hiking tips!