Category Archives: Hiking

Opting Outside – Black Friday Hike to DeSoto Falls

It’s That Time of the Year

The media and my inbox light up like a Christmas Tree with a constant stream of promotions and sales ads.  It’s a time of celebration with family as well as the lure of amazing deals.  I’m very lucky in the fact that I can safely ignore most of the Mayhem and spend my time outside with the family.

I read an interesting post from Penny at that reminds me to balance any criticism I may have otherwise had regarding those that participate in Black Friday.  I do realize that I am operating from a position of privilege in being able to ignore it.

With that said, we took the opportunity to hike to DeSoto Falls in North Georgia.

The Location
Courtesy: Google Maps

As I mentioned in my post Friday Thoughts – Pre-Holiday 2016 Edition, portions of N. Georgia, W. North Carolina, and E. Tennessee have had issues with wildfires.  We wanted to get up into the mountains but needed to pick an area that would be relatively free from the side effects of those fires.

We chose the DeSoto Falls area for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s just a little over an hour from the house.  I didn’t want the children to spend more time riding in the car than hiking.  Second, it’s a short enough hike that the children can handle it but long enough (around 2 miles round trip) that the adults will get something out of it.  Finally, it’s close to Dahlonega where we can stop in for dinner when we’re through and enjoy a little mountain town action (even if it was a little over-touristy that evening).

The Hike

It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon for getting outside and hiking.  The weather was warm enough that we really didn’t need jackets.  We started out on the quarter mile hike to the lower waterfall first.

Hiking to Lower DeSoto Falls

On the way up, I was trying to use one of those gestures to start the camera on my phone and ended up throwing it on the ground.  That’s the first time I’ve ever cracked the screen on a device and luckily it’s only a single crack along the bottom.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see at the lower falls due to the conditions.  It was barely a trickle.

Lower DeSoto Falls
Lower DeSoto Falls – Just a Trickle

The hike to the upper took a little longer since it’s a three quarter mile trail.  The youngest started complaining about his legs being tired with less than a tenth of a mile left before we got there.  He made it OK and enjoyed being silly for some family photos.  Interestingly enough, after having a snack we didn’t hear any complaints on the way back to the car.

The Effects of Drought

The Southeast US has been very short on rainfall the past couple of months.  In our area, we hadn’t had rain in 66 days until yesterday (Thank You Nature!).  The effects of the drought were immediately obvious when we arrived at the lower falls.

When we got home, I compared photos from our last trip in May, 2014.  You can see the difference.

Lower DeSoto Falls – May, 2014

Here is a shot of the upper falls from 2014

Upper DeSoto Falls – May, 2014
A Little Bit of Peace

Despite the low water levels, we were able to get out and enjoy the day.  The area wasn’t too crowded and I was able to capture a little bit of waterfall video.  The sound of falling water is always meditative for me.  Good for the soul.




Friday Thoughts – Thanksgiving 2016

And We Were Thankful

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US.  Today, I’m not going to spend a lot of time writing but I wanted to take a minute to talk about some of the things for which I am thankful.  Today, we’re going to continue the tradition of not participating in Black Friday and #OptOutside.

wp-1480083509556.jpgFor Family

My brother was able to fly in from Kansas again this year to spend the extended weekend and celebrate.  After dinner yesterday, my wife took the children over to a neighbor’s house for an evening playdate and wine time.

Uncle P and I were able to resurrect and old Thanksgiving tradition and hit an evening movie.  Dr. Strange was everything I had expected.  Marvel Studios nailed it again.

I am Thankful.

 For Yhprum’s Law

Sometimes things work out better than expected.  As I mentioned previously, we have some repairs that need to be done to the house.  It’s going to be expensive (~$10k).  We decided that the best way to fund this operation was through an equity line since I will be able to pay it off in Feb.

As part of the application for the loan, an appraisal was done on the house.  Based on the increase in value, I realized that my LTV had now dropped below 80%.  I immediately called the credit union and requested a cancellation of PMI!  Seven months early!  Balance has been restored.

I am Thankful.

For the Trail

Today, we’re going to get out and go hiking.  I’m still not sure where we’ll go.  We have to take a look at the trails we like and the Air Quality Index for the area.  Even if we just end up at the local city park, it will be worth it to be outdoors for a bit.

It looks like the weather will be beautiful today.

I am Thankful.

Get Outside!

I hope everyone has a rewarding day if you have the day off.  Get out and enjoy nature if you can.  What kind of places do you enjoy?



Friday Thoughts

A Quiet Rainy Morning

I’m in a somewhat reflective mood this morning, so I wanted to take a few minutes to jot down a few of the things going through my head.

After the kids were off to school, the dogs were fed, and the house quieted down I sat down at the computer to review the August financials.  Next Tuesday I will have a post up with the latest updates.

To be completely honest, I sorta got distracted from that when my phone popped up a notification from Google photos with suggestions to go back and look at last year.  I ended up in the gallery from our AT backpacking trip this summer (which wasn’t last year… again, distracted) and though about how I still want to get a post up about that trip.  I may have to break it down into a series.


The other thing I’m working on this morning is learning about Bullet Journals.  I saw a friend mention this in a FB post the other day and I decided to check it out.  I’m not always the most organized person (please don’t look at my desk) so if I can develop some new habits it can only be positive.

The West coast will be coming online soon and I will need to dive into my day job.  I realized that I haven’t meditated since sometime in June.  I need to get back to that.  Having some minutes of quiet reflective time during the day is extremely helpful considering the current frenetic pace of life.

With that in mind, I’ll leave you with about 20 seconds of peacefulness.  This is from one of the watering spots on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina.  I have fond memories of the cool clean water that comes out of the mountains.



Sunday Fun Day – Smithgall Woods


Last Hurrah of the Holidays

It seems like the holidays had come and gone in a blur.  Hard to believe I’ve been away from work for almost two weeks.  We had plenty to keep us busy with family visits, dinners with friends, and hosting a small New Year’s Eve with neighbors.

The one thing we were missing was a little outdoors time.  We’ve had a ton of rain around here for the past couple of weeks and have been pretty much indoors the whole time.  Luckily, the weather cooperated and cleared up for the last day of the break.

With the Christmas decorations packed away with scary efficiency, we set our sights on a hike and looked for a destination.

Where to?

When we look for a day trip destination, there are two resources that we like to use for our area.  I’ll paste links for those here:

50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains

This is a great resource for those looking to get away from the city and head up into the mountains.  The trail descriptions are great and the difficulty assessment is very handy for us since we have younger children.

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60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Atlanta

Another great resource that we use when we’re looking for something a little close.  There are a lot of local parks and great trails listed.  There is an entire series of these written detailing a lot of areas in the US.

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Outward Bound

We settled on entry number 32 in the 50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains book.  It’s listed as the “Martin’s Mine Meander at Smithgall Woods”, but there are several other loop trails off of the main trail.


The entrance listed in the guidebook (and in Google Maps) is no longer the main entrance to the park.  We had to double back and follow the state park signs on the highway to get there.  It looks like they closed to old entrance and converted the road into the main trail through the property.

Since we had the children with us and also had to get back home in time for dinner with another friend, we opted to only hike the main trail as far as the covered bridge.  The first hill from the visitor center was a little strenuous, but the rest of the hike was pleasant.

We arrived at the covered bridge with mostly no complaints and the children enjoyed playing down on the bank of the trout stream for a bit.  Our daughter looked for rocks and found a couple of pieces of micah.  The boy decided to dig a hole.


All in all, it was a really good day for a hike.  It was a little cool at first, but as we got moving it felt good.  It was nice to be out of the city and back into nature if only for a couple of hours.  The kids were champs and we completed 3.09 miles round trip.  Total hike time was 1 hour 47 minutes.

To top it all off, we got to come home to the pulled pork that I had smoked the day before (maybe a future post on that).  It was delicious!


I’ll leave you guys with about 30 seconds of river Zen.




I’ve used a couple of affiliate links in this post because these are products that I really enjoy and want to share.  The only time you’ll see me use affiliate links is when I have something to share that I’ve used and have first-hand experience.