Get Outside, Georgia!

This Thanksgiving, forego the nap and hike instead



Thanksgiving is here! If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to getting together with family and friends for good conversation and good fellowship – and good food.

Yep. If you’re like me, that means lots of good food.

Every year I face the challenge of what to do after the Thanksgiving meal. The call of the sofa is strong, and the prospect of a post-dinner nap becomes overwhelmingly seductive. You know how that goes, though. One minute you’re saying to yourself, “I think I’ll just stretch out here for ten minutes,” and then the next thing you know it’s three hours later and time to eat again.

This year, I’ve decided to try to break the cycle. My after-meal plan is to force myself to stay vertical and flee the siren song of the sofa.

This year, I’m going to go on a post-meal hike instead.

Where should I hike? I’ve been thinking about a neat Corps of Engineers trail just east of Buford Dam, the Laurel Ridge Loop Trail.

The Laurel Ridge Loop Trail offers almost four miles of good hiking and also connects with a spur leading into the eastern part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s Bowmans Island Unit. There are many access points for this trail; I’ll probably start at the CRNRA Bowmans Island trailhead in the first parking area on the west side of the river.

To make this hike, first walk up the road through the second parking area and cross a field to the footbridge which crosses over the Buford Dam spillway. Across the bridge, follow the trail to the right, eventually crossing a long fishing bridge and then climbing to an intersection with the Laurel Ridge Loop.

To hike the loop in a counterclockwise direction, turn right. The trail follows the river for about a quarter mile, then swings left and passes two spurs which mark undeveloped trails leading into CRNRA’s Bowmans Island Unit. Beyond the spurs, you’ll traverse several bridges and boardwalks before crossing a road. Beyond that road crossing another bridge awaits, followed by a power line clearing and (after re-entering the woods) the rusted remains of an old, old car.

After another road crossing, the trail turns right at a playground and follows a paved walkway around a parking area to another intersection where a spur leads to a lakeside platform.

The main trail goes left, crossing a long bridge and then traversing another parking area before re-entering the woods and (at a large field) following more paved walkway around another parking area. You’ll eventually re-enter woods, albeit briefly, and then climb some concrete steps before skirting yet another parking area on a paved walkway.

The trail continues beyond the lot, crossing a bridge and then traversing timber steps and a pair of boardwalks. Beyond them the trail soon widens somewhat, then trends right and passes through a stretch lined with large stones. Some massive boulders will be visible to the right just before you cross another road.

Beyond the road is an extensive wetlands area, which you cross mostly on boardwalks. At times it’s prime birding territory – and, when it’s warm, prime mosquito habitat too.

The path soon comes to a pond and cabin where it turns left. More wetlands (and possibly more mosquitoes) follow. You’ll soon cross a clearing and another road. Beyond that road, follow a sidewalk around the back of a restroom building and turn left at an intersection near the first picnic table.

The trail continues to another road crossing; beyond it, stone steps climb back into the woods. You’ll cross a tiny boardwalk and then pass behind a cluster of buildings before arriving at an intersection where you’ll go right to continue the loop.

Soon, you’ll come to an observation deck located on the left side of the trail. Beyond it, descend a set of extremely steep stone steps, followed by some equally steep wood steps, followed by a short boardwalk – and then a road crossing. From there, it’s just a short distance to the end of the Laurel Ridge Loop Trail.

Maybe I’ll see you on the trail this Thanksgiving. Be sure to say hello! I’ll be the one in the Indiana Jones hat – or, if resolve fails me, the one napping in the hammock between those two trees!

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