Almost one year ago I called my friend and Yoga Instructor, Ashley, and asked her if she wanted to go hiking with me. We hiked to the “Big Tree” in the Sipsey Wilderness in North Alabama not far from my house the very next day. Along the hike I told her about all the hikes I used to lead, the places I worked (Outward Bound, Appalachian Mountain Club, Girls Camps, a Community College) leading backpacking trips, guiding, etc. and how much helping others enjoy the outdoors had meant to me. Ashley told me I had to share this knowledge with others and encouraged me to start leading hikes and backpacking trips again. This is where it all began…
We started out with a day hike with yoga to the “Big Tree” in the Sipsey Wilderness. Ashley asked around her classes if anyone would like to go. The response was immediate and huge. Women loved the fact that we were incorporating Yoga with hiking and wanted more!
Next we planned an overnight beginning backpacking class for Cane Creek Nature Preserve in Tuscumbia, AL and a five day trip on the Bartram Trail in North Georgia.
This blog is about our latest Backpacking and Yoga adventure on the Bartram Trail October 23-27, 2015.
William Bartram was a botanist and explorer best known for walking approximately 2,400 miles over eight southern states between 1773 and 1776. He was looking for plants and probably “discovered” more new species in the biologically diverse Southeast than anyone else of his time (other than the Native Americans who already knew these plants firsthand). He also managed to document the Cherokee and wild landscape of the Southern Appalachians with a sense of respect and humanity that was unheard of for his time. Bartram may not be a household name today, but in the late 1700s, he enjoyed celebrity status, thanks in large part to his book, Travels, which documented his five-year exploration of the Southeast.
The Bartram Trail crosses over some of the most scenic mountains of North Carolina and Georgia, with many side trails leading to views of the Blue Ridge and the Smokies.
After meeting two weeks before for a gear check and a class, Nine women met in the parking lot of Shoals Yoga and drove to Chattanooga where we ate lunch and bought a few last second supplies. Then we were off to Rabun Bald in North Georgia. We arrived just as the sun was setting. The colors of the trees, in peak fall color with the sun shining on them, was breathtaking. We found a campsite near the trail head, took one car to the other trail head off Warwoman Road, and made camp and dinner.
After dishes were done using Leave No Trace principles, we used organic sage to smudge and talked about our adventure together. Then it was off to bed down in our tents in the woods. Owls hooted, crickets chirruped, and some slept.
We were up with the sun to a quick homemade granola breakfast, coffee from Lyons Coffee Roasters who generously donated a bag, Mothering Herbs herbal tea, and cleanup, camp breakdown and packing up. After some talented bungee craftsmanship
we headed up the Bartram Gap to Rabun Bald. We enjoyed a break with Yoga to stretch out our sore muscles. A last push up a steep section and we arrived at the top of Rabun Bald (4,696 feet) which is the second-highest peak in Georgia.
At the top we climbed what remaines of the first fire tower for this area. It was constructed in the 1930’s. The fire tower was operated by the United States Forest Service until the early 1970’s. After the fire tower was taken out of service, a Youth Conservation Corps(YCC) crew dismantled the tower’s uppermost component, a metal-framed enclosure with glass windows that sat atop a stone base. The YCC crew replaced the metal with a railed wooden observation platform. We enjoyed lunch at the top of the observation tower and watched clouds blow over the peaks.
After lunch, we packed up and headed down the Bartram Trail to Salt Rock Gap and found an amazing camp with a small stream just a short jaunt up a small off trail from us. The ladies set up camp, started a fire (one woman brought a striker and started our fire without matches!), and prepared a delicious dinner of Chicken-Noodle-Curry with fresh veggies.
Around the time we were relaxing around the fire, chatting, eating and enjoying dinner we saw headlamps heading our way down the Bartram Trail from the North. It was a group of first time backpackers who needed a campsite in the worst way (one of their party had sprained her ankle). They camped across the trail from us and we offered them left over dinner which was happily eaten. One of the ladies on our trip was a nurse practitioner and had worked at the same Community College Outdoor Leadership Program I had many years ago. We went to visit the lady with the sprained ankle and got to knew her. With her permission, I made a comfrey poultice for her ankle (I am an herbalist and comfrey is one of the items we had in our herbal first aid kit for the trip). Then it was back to our campfire to continue the belly rolling laughter. We finally went to bed and slept very well.
We all slept in and got up to begin to make Buckwheat pancakes, Lyons coffee, and organic herb tea from Mothering Herbs.
We ate, cleaned up, and went to check on the sweet lady next door. Her ankle hadn’t swollen much more so our Nurse Practitioner used Rock Tape to wrap her ankle so she could walk out. We ended up talking and bonding with a woman in her group and invited her to practice yoga with us. Ashley led us in one of the most powerful yoga sessions I have ever experienced (check out her offerings at ashleybakeryoga.com). The energy was palpable, and everyone was touched if not emotional before we were done. Ashley then led us in a guided journaling exercise.
Next was the day hike to the top of Rabun Bald for several ladies.
Several stayed in camp to knit, journal, talk, and create an awesome fire. It was a perfect rest day. Once everyone was together again we made dinner together (Pesto Pasta with Summer Sausage). Then it was fire time with laughter, talk, and so much more.
Our last day in the woods we woke early in the dark, cloud covered, forest to cook a quinoa breakfast pot, coffee, tea and pack up. Around the time we got most everything packed the rain began. It was a light sprinkle here and there with clouds floating around us.
It was perfect weather for backpacking out. We headed off past flattop, over hills, around contours to Wilson Gap and then on to Courthouse Gap where we finally, and gratefully, found our car parked. It was a hard, long, day and I was proud of all of us for hanging in there and keeping going. We transported ladies to their mud wraps/massages and picked up the other car and got everyone to Kingswood Resort and Spa for hot showers. Then we all headed to Universal Joint for dinner in Downtown Clayton, GA. It was a fun place with great service and food. We piled back into the cars and headed back for foot massages, Healing Balm on sore/bruised areas and sweet sleep in warm rooms under clean sheets.
Our last day of the Adventure had us enjoying Yoga class with Ashley, Massages, Steam Room, and Jacuzzui. Bliss! What an amazing way to end a Backpacking trip. After our pampering we packed up and headed to Grapes and Beans for lunch.
This is a local and small Farm to Fork place with yummy food and drinks in Downtown Clayton Georgia and totally a spur of the moment find. We found a small Vineyard (Stonewall Creek Vineyards) that wasn’t far away and decided to go for a tour and a wine tasting. They weren’t open on Tuesdays but were gracious enough to open their doors and give us a private tour and wine tasting before our drive back to North Alabama.
What an amazing five day adventure with these wonderful, strong, compassionate, women! The overall feeling was that we all wanted to stay in the woods longer. Connections were made, friendships rekindled and formed, and plans made to connect again, soon!
Contact Ashley@ashleybakeryoga.com or Summer@motheringherbs.link to learn how you can join us on our next hiking/backpacking and yoga adventure.