There has been so much rain this winter that our mantra has become: When the sun is out, you hike! And the sun was out on Saturday. Hiking to the top of Rabun Bald (4,696) was on tap. This is just a moderate—nothing too hard or difficult—hike. Rabun Bald is the second-highest peak in Georgia. Only Brasstown Bald (4,784 feet) is higher. So, you know when you begin that you will get some views!
Because it was later in the day, we chose to hike out not far from Beegum Gap. (Click on the link for directions.) This 3 mile in and out trail begins at an unmarked parking area on a deadend road. So, you really do need the directions on the Atlanta Trails site.
I miss spring (its not far away) but I do love “winter woods.” Even though our temperatures have been mild there’s plenty of winter right now, especially at higher elevations.
For now, it’s icy! After seeing a little bit of this, I knew that I wanted to be back down before the sun started to set and the temperatures dropped and the refreeze began. We just barely made it because we stayed too long at the top! You’ll be tempted to do the same!
We passed through one rhododendron tunnel after another. I absolutely love these. They are so special and I’m glad these had not been trimmed back or away by well-meaning trail keepers!
The Rabun Bald Trail connects with the Bartram Trail system, which passes over the top as it winds through northeast Georgia for 37 miles (60 km). William Bartram was an American Naturalist. In 1775, he began to “explore” the Cherokee Indian lands, which ended up leading him through South Carolina and north Georgia. The trail he created is wonderful and full of native plants. In spring, it’s especially beautiful.
There’s an altitude gain, but the trail is so well-maintained that you barely notice it. And it’s nothing like the trails in North Carolina that always include some type of rock scramble. As you go up, this trail, in spots is sweeping and just a sweet padded path that’s fun to hike.
The sun was setting, and I’m so glad that I did not hike to Warwoman Dell (as if I could)!
Fun fact: according to Native American legend, Rabun Bald is inhabited by fire-breathing people! Yikes. Overnight campers often report hearing strange sounds. (I bet! Spooks!) Things like this make me very happy to be a day-hiker. Yes, I have camped overnight, and I stay awake most of the night listening to “things” walking through the woods. Besides, I believe every morning needs to begin with an inside shower and a cup of coffee in a mug! So, this means I’m not an AT Thru hiker!
If the native legend is true, this guy was in for a treat! He was planning to camp overnight with friends. There are areas at the summit where you can set up your tent, but the mountains are still cold, especially at night. I guess the “fire breathing people” could keep you warm! Speaking of fires . . . .
Rabun Bald was the site of the first fire tower in this area of Georgia. It was in operation until the early 1970s. After the tower was taken out of service, a Youth Conservation Corps crew was commissioned to dismantled the upper section, which was a metal-framed enclosure with glass windows. (Sad that it’s gone.) A wooden observation platform now sits on top of the old rock fire tower.
There’s a simple charm to these old fire towers. There are not that many left, and they are so easily vandalized. I’m so glad that I had the chance this past summer to climb the one along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Frying Pan Mountain!
The view was beautiful even if it was not of western North Carolina! And yes, there are 360 views on top of Rabun Bald, so it is well worth the climb!
And there was another surprise at the top! The “Toccoa Vet” was there with her three dogs, little girl, and husband. We laughed: Here we are on top of Rabun Bald and we run into one another! You just never know! Happy Hiking!