Just as flowers buds are beginning to open in the springtime sun, so too am I slowly creeping back into fitness. I must have a grizzly bear ancestor, because during winter, I hibernate. I credit my roommate for getting me back into the swing of things, and also for introducing me to Stone Mountain, a place that I've heard a lot about but hadn't been to before.
The thing is, the best part of hiking to me is being in the woods, walking among trees, feeling the warm sun on my skin as it dapples through the leaves above. I enjoy the connection with nature as much as I like the exercise.
And I thought that I wouldn't get that while walking on a big stone rock, but I was pleasantly surprised.
T woke me up with a text at the crack of dawn (OK, it was about 9) on a Sunday saying we were leaving at 9:30. Though I would much rather have stayed cozy in bed, I remembered the fun and rewarding Saturday mornings I spent planting trees with Trees Atlanta, so I acquiesced and hoisted myself out of bed. Glad I did.
Not only was the hike worth it (quite vertical, but excellent exercise), it was great to spend quality time with my friend. After a short drive east of downtown Atlanta, we arrived at the mountain and began our ascent.
Stone Mountain is host to over 10 miles of maintained hiking trails that span a variety of habitats including granite outcrops, mixed hardwood forests, and lake edge. The top of the mountain reaches 1,686 feet.
In the map below, we walked the yellow line.
The mountain sits amidst a 3,200 acre park, which is filled with attractions and things to do. But on this day, we only wanted to hike, and we were joined by people of all ages, from the senior-est of seniors to those toddling around in diapers.
You've definitely got to watch where you step walking here. We saw a guy spectacularly wipe-out right in front of us and it was no laughing matter. Thankfully he was okay and didn't hit his head.
Onward and upward!
It's just so vertical! I prefer happy little jaunts through forests filled with woodland creatures.
T, the fitness drill sergeant, would hear nothing of my complaining muscles.
I won't torture you with her "motivating" speeches that got me up the mountain.
But I must admit, the view at the top was breathtaking. Stretching out across metro Atlanta as far as the eye could see.
We found a rock and rested, drinking in the views and the warm sunshine on our faces. Unencumbered by any buildings, a stiff wind whistled through the almost-spring air as we gazed at the city of Atlanta and neighboring vistas.
It was so pretty, she actually got me to go back again, and this time there were even clearer blue skies.
The hike only took approximately an hour, and I recommend going early in the morning or later in the day, as the midday sun can be intense, especially since you're walking on a reflective rock. If you're not keen to walk up the mountain, the cable car is a perfect alternative to drink in these views without the hike.
Once at the top, just let the feeling of accomplishment wash over you. If you aren't awed about the 700 feet you just scaled, then take in the miles of trees and nature that lay before you.
At the top, there's an observation deck, as well as a bathroom and a snackbar if you need a little fuel to get you back down.
So if you haven't been yet, I recommend you give Stone Mountain a go.
To be honest, I had avoided it for so long because my mother suggested I avoid it, since supremacist groups were active on the mountain when she was at school in Atlanta a few decades ago, and indeed the second Ku Klux Klan was founded on the mountain in 1915 (which took place before the mountain was purchased by the State of Georgia).
In fact, there is supposed to be a pro-white rally of some kind on the mountain in a few weeks, right here in April of 2016. It is really sad that hate is allowed to run rampant in areas so beautiful. But then again, we can't ignore the history of the area; after all, I spied more than a few confederate flags on my visit, and of course there's the Confederate Memorial.
So I guess you could say my visit was conflicted? But mostly great. :-)