Our group made it to the Hike Inn but not in record time. That’s okay. The day was beautiful and the hike was pretty much perfect. The Len Foote Hike Inn trail rambles through hardwoods that open up to stunning views of the north Georgia’s landscape and mountains.

The Appalachian Trail (AT) Approach Trail shares its initial stretch with the Hike Inn Trail before departing left at .3 mile. The blue-blazed trail descends through a gnarled rhododendron and laurel-filled forest, green moss flanking the trail’s sides, before crossing a stream and road at .5 mile. The trail climbs in elevation, cresting the summit of a small peak at 1.1 miles.

Sharon celebrates and then even has enough energy to dance her happy dance.

Three hours earlier we began our hike here. It seems I always end up taking a photo of this sign, and when I do I also think: Yahoo, here we go! This is where hikers heading north to Maine to begin their AT journey.

After hiking this trail twice, I understand why people hike the AT. You are forced to leave the cares of life behind and focus on the trail and those who are with you. The Inn is a cell phone free environment meaning you put it away and don’t pick it up. That’s a very good thing!

By the time we crested the first hill my “Yahoo!” had turned into more of a reality check.

This was my view for most of the trip. Jim and Sharon in the lead as tiny specks in the middle of this photo.

The day was beautiful and while we thought we had climbed a good bit, we had much further to go. We would eventually end up at 3,400 feet above sea level. I think at this point, I began to quote C. S. Lewis from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: “All shall be done, but it maybe harder than you think.” (smile)

Halfway to the Hike Inn and it was time for a break!

Then back to the climb.

Near the end of the trail to the Inn, we began to hike through an even denser forest with streams. Thus the reason and the  placement of planks along our way.

Here’s were we felt the burn. We knew that we had another .5 miles to go. Not that far but far enough.

Pat enjoys the sun at a small bridge that crosses one of the streams.

More balancing and not falling into the surrounding muddy areas.

Somewhere along the way, Sharon decided to wait for us and found a great little limb that was a perfect perch.

Me and Anne.

Me and Beth. Obviously some of us with cameras decided to stop along the way and take photos . . . of ourselves! LOL! While we posed for the camera and played around with “fill-in” flashes, the more determined half of our group hiked on!

Finally, I caught up with Jim and thought, Better take his photo now before he disappears again into the forest ahead.

Even a pile of rocks served to fuel our conversation.

Later that evening, we had a wonderful dinner. I just can’t say enough about this place. It’s comfortable, super clean, fun, and some of the most beautiful surroundings in the state.

We began to celebrate Pat’s birthday that night with a candle in her piece of cake. The Hike Inn staff is the best and quick to have a good time with things like this.

The Inn is simple but beautiful. The website says: “Everyone who makes the five-mile trek through the mountains to the Hike Inn in the Chattahoochee National Forest does so for a different reason. Some come to get away from their everyday lives. Some come to spend quality time with their family. Others come for the Appalachian Trail. But no matter the reason, the result is the same: Everyone leaves with a sense of belonging.” That pretty much sums it up.

When you arrive, you claim a cup or glass and put your name on it and it is yours for the entire time you are at the Inn. This is a LEED facility and conservation is key to the Inn’s sustainable environment. You’ll have to take the tour to learn about the toilets! Yikes and more Yikes!

I love Hemlocks and Georgia has lost a lot of them over the last few years due to disease. It was really encouraging to see these young trees along the trail.

They have a collection of old pack packs from a time long ago when the trail was first carved out.

When the sun comes up, this is one of the most special places in Georgia. It’s always breath taking.

The crazy thing is: we were here two and a half years ago for the fall equinox. This time we were here again within a day of the spring equinox. Even so, we still found the sunlight traveling through the Hike Inn’s Star Base, a massive granite block formation, that channels the rising sun through a cylindrical hole to the back of a small cave behind the formation.

The Star Base was designed by Atlanta’s Fernbank Science Center. The Star Base marks the extremes of the summer and winter solstices, as well as the four main points of the compass. It’s also a great place to relax and enjoy the sunrise views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Here’s Amicalola Falls — where the approach trail to the AT begins and also the trail to the Hike Inn.