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One Tank Wandering: Take a hike!

Traveling the trails at area state parks

Donna Weathers

Contributing columnist

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The day-use area at Chattahoochee Bend State Park features playground equipment, covered pavilions and full restrooms.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_web0515Hike02-1.jpgThe day-use area at Chattahoochee Bend State Park features playground equipment, covered pavilions and full restrooms. Donna Weathers | Special to the Daily News
Trail markings on the Pine Mountain Trail help hikers prepare for the trail ahead. The colored blazes help hikers stay on the correct trail and are located about every 75 feet and may also be found on rocks.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_web0515Hike03-1.jpgTrail markings on the Pine Mountain Trail help hikers prepare for the trail ahead. The colored blazes help hikers stay on the correct trail and are located about every 75 feet and may also be found on rocks. Donna Weathers | Special to the Daily News
Elephant Rock is one of the unusual rock formations you can find on the Pine Mountain Trail in F.D. Roosevelt State Park.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_web0515Hike04-1.jpgElephant Rock is one of the unusual rock formations you can find on the Pine Mountain Trail in F.D. Roosevelt State Park. Donna Weathers | Special to the Daily News
Evidence of the spring 2011 tornadoes can still be seen along the Pine Mountain Trail at F.D. Roosevelt State Park.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_web0515Hike05-1.jpgEvidence of the spring 2011 tornadoes can still be seen along the Pine Mountain Trail at F.D. Roosevelt State Park. Donna Weathers | Special to the Daily News
A grass- and moss-lined sandy trail winds along the banks of the Chattahoochee River at Chattahoochee Bend State Park.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_web0515Hike01-1.jpgA grass- and moss-lined sandy trail winds along the banks of the Chattahoochee River at Chattahoochee Bend State Park. Donna Weathers | Special to the Daily News

Every footfall brings a new sound — twigs snapping, lizards and squirrels scurrying, wrens squawking at approaching danger, the splash of a nearby waterfall growing more intense.

Honeysuckle and other sweet blossoms perfume the cool morning air that stings just a little as it fills your lungs. A mosaic of greens and browns and sunlight blanket the soft forest floor. Your mind is no longer wandering, instead you are intently focused on the path in front of you.

You are 10 again, running through the woods behind the barn, chasing or being chased by cousins, dodging stinging nettles, daring each other to eat the berries or pick up the stick that could be a snake, and dreading the moment the dinner bell beckons you inside.

You can’t be 10 again, but you can enjoy waterfalls, wildlife, rare plants and unique geology within an hour’s drive. Instead of being a default recreation as in your youth, it may now require you to disconnect from your normal routine and get off the main road.

With minimal preparation, almost anyone can be a hiker. Many local, state and federal parks have incorporated ADA accessible trails into their design as well, making it an activity that all can truly enjoy.

If you need a little push, read on to learn about local National Trails Day events and get a few hiking tips.

National Trails Day

National Trails Day is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of June and includes events all across the country. Not just for hiking, some events include biking, paddling, horseback riding, birding and much more.

Local, state and national land managers use the day to showcase natural resources and highlight special or threatened environments or species. Two local parks are getting in on the fun by hosting guided hikes and both also offer ongoing volunteer opportunities to help maintain the trails.

Chattahoochee Bend State Park

One of Georgia’s newest and largest State Parks, CBSP protects 2,900 acres and 5 miles of riverfront just a few minutes off of Interstate 85 in Coweta County. With more than 12 miles of intersecting and looping trails, it is easy to tailor a hike to your ability and interest.

The mildly rated Riverside Trail winds along the river, and while hiking in flip flops isn’t advisable, the sandy terrain presents very few challenges. It’s a great hike for the whole family. Having a trail map is helpful, but the trails are also blazed and signed at intersections.

The day-use area provides picnic tables with water and electric outlets, a playground and bathroom facilities. CBSP is hosting a guided 3-mile hike on one of its newest trails for National Trails Day.

Visit http://gastateparks.org/info/237763?c=10624324 or call 770-254-7271 for more information.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park

Located just a few miles east of Pine Mountain off U.S. Highway 27, F.D. Roosevelt State Park is worthy of a full day or even several days.

Anyone growing up within an hour’s drive probably has memories or even photos of the stone grill at Dowdell’s Knob, but few of us probably ventured into the park’s 9,000 acres!

The Pine Mountain Trail Association, a volunteer “friends of the park” organization, maintains over 40 miles of hiking trails of varying difficulty.

Hikers can see historic structures, granite formations, waterfalls and unique mountain ecosystems.

Although the trails are well blazed, you should definitely consider picking up a trail map or at least talk to the visitor center staff about trails suitable to your ability and distance.

PMTA is hosting a National Trails Day hike along the 4.3-mile Dowdell’s Knob Loop.

Visit the park’s website for more information http://gastateparks.org/info/237664?c=10624248 or call 706-663-4858.

Hiking tips

Suitable for almost any age and ability, hiking is one of the easiest “sports” to master, but preparation is the key to enjoying it.

Not only for your own safety, a little preparation can also ensure the natural resources we enjoy are available for generations. While it may seem foolish to carry a small daypack for a 2-mile hike on a well-traveled trail, it can save the day. Even a short hike can be spoiled by blisters, getting lost, foul weather or injury.

Let the kids get involved by carrying a small pack of their own. Most of the items are things you already own and can be easily collected and stowed in a lightweight pack. The American Hiking Society, founders of National Trails Day, offers these tips on being prepared:

• Appropriate footwear: Many trail maps will offer terrain descriptions and let you know if water crossings are likely.

• Map and compass/GPS: Don’t rely on your phone or apps, a printed trail map or handheld GPS device is recommended.

• Extra water: Always take and drink more water than you think you’ll need. Some guides suggest an extra liter for every 4-5 miles per person.

• Extra food: Calorie-rich, energy-replenishing trail mix, such as a combination of nuts and sweet and salty treats, is fun for the kids to personalize and carry.

• Extra clothing and rain gear: Dressing in layers is always recommended so you can adjust your comfort to the changing weather and exertion.

• Safety items: Fire, light, whistle, small first aid kit, knife or multi-purpose tool, sun protection, etc.

• Share your route: Leave your planned route, departure and estimated return time with a friend, the visitor center or at the trail head if there is a trail log.

For carrying everything, a backpack or waist-pack style bag that allows your hands to be free is best. A simple school backpack may work for shorter hikes, but for longer hikes with more gear you may want something that disperses the weight across your body rather than just dragging at your shoulders.

Check out a Park Pass

Georgia Public Library card holders can check out a Georgia State Park “ParkPass” good for the daily parking fees or admission for up to four people at sites operated by Georgia State Parks, Recreation & Historic Sites. While you are there, consider a bird or plant book, too.

Contact your local Georgia Public Library for more details.

THE LEAVE NO TRACE 7 PRINCIPLES

The nonprofit organization Leave No Trace offers simple guidelines for protecting our natural resources while enjoying them through recreational activities. Visit the website for tips on getting your children involved and to learn more about each principle:

• Plan ahead and prepare.

• Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

• Dispose of waste properly.

• Leave what you find.

• Minimize campfire impacts.

• Respect wildlife.

• Be considerate of other visitors.

See more at: https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

Donna Weathers is a LaGrange native and former chief petty officer in the Navy who enjoys traveling in her spare time.