Cumberland Island National Seashore Trails Project

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore | Photo courtesy of Andre Turner, Georgia Conservancy

Cumberland Island is one of Georgia’s most iconic precious places and its protection as a National Seashore in 1972 is a shining achievement of the Georgia Conservancy, which was then a five-year old conservation organization. As historic and current advocates for Cumberland Island, we are excited to share that REI, is supporting the stewardship of Cumberland Island National Seashore by allowing YOU the chance to vote on the funding of a Georgia Conservancy-led backcountry trail restoration project.

Here’s the catch, each Every Trail Connects dollar is allocated though a public voting contest! REI will give away $500,000 total, $5 per vote, up to $75,000 per trail. One vote per person per day per device, no purchase necessary, no email required.

By voting every day for Cumberland Island on all of your connected devices, you are telling REI and the world that our state’s only National Seashore is worthy of a world-class trail system.

Vote today and every day at www.rei.com/trails!

Every Trail Connects is a funding campaign hosted by REI in support of 10 iconic trail systems across the county. We’re honored that the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project was the only southeast trail project selected by our friends at REI.

The Georgia Conservancy and REI chose the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project due to its critical ecological importance as both designated wilderness and a biosphere to a plethora of species which are also in dire need of attention. Many visitors have found it difficult to navigate the backcountry trails and report getting lost, thus necessitating a large scale restoration projects to improve access for the general public.

Through the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project 100% of Cumberland Island National Seashore’s trail system will be open, clear and easily navigable by October 2016. This will be done by improving trail access and creating maps, signage and kiosks for Georgia’s pristine barrier island.

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island | Photo courtesy of Phuc Dao, Georgia Conservancy

Over the last 8 years, the Georgia Conservancy has worked with the NPS to host multiple service weekends, and more recently, the Cumberland Island Alternative Spring Break program.

In 2014, Georgia Conservancy led more than 250 volunteers on the island for its Alternative Spring Break Program. The Georgia Conservancy also hosts service trips to Cumberland Island of approximately 75 people during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Participants clear debris from forest trails, pick up trash that washed onto the island’s beaches and help maintain the historic structures that are managed by the National Park Service.

The Georgia Conservancy has long been at the forefront of the effort to protect Cumberland Island and these projects are just a continuation of our historic support of the island. In the early 1970s, we lobbied in support of the creation of Cumberland Island National Seashore – the largest National Seashore in the United States, and in the early 1980s advocated for a majority of the island to be designated as Federal Wilderness.

Today marks a huge day in that long and storied history of Georgia’s only National Seashore. And today, you can help write the next chapter in its history. By becoming an active internet advocate for Cumberland’s stewardship, you can ensure that generations of adventure seekers (you included) can experience the harrowing and hallowed trails that crisscross this island.

How can you support Cumberland Island?

Vote!
Bookmark the link to our Every Trail Connects HQ: www.gaconservancy.org/etc and on August 14 vote to support a restored backcountry trail system on

Cumberland Island! We’re counting on our supporters to vote as soon as the campaign begins. Vote daily. Vote on every device.

Share!
Please share “Every Trail Connects” with your friends, family and coworkers through social media, email or more! Our Every Trail Connects HQ has great photos, sample text and stories about people’s experiences on Cumberland Island.

We’re aiming to take advantage of all platforms available to encourage everyone to #VoteCumberland.

Connect!
We are launching a storytelling project called “Cumberland Connects” and inviting the public to share a personal story with us about Cumberland Island. We know that “every trail connects” so how has Cumberland connected with to you? Please share with us your most vivid and inspiring Cumberland stories. To complement your story, we’re also asking if you’d share your favorite picture of Cumberland and also a picture of yourself on Cumberland. If we all vote and advocate for Cumberland Island, we can ensure restoration projects that will make one of Georgia’s most beautiful trail systems accessible to all!

Brian Foster

Brian Foster is the Communications Director for the Georgia Conservancy, a citizen of Atlanta and a proud native of Rome, Georgia. (Bio photo courtesy of Sarah Dodge.)

Top Five Waterfalls Near Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Chase waterfalls with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce’s recommendations for easy access to some of nature’s finest accomplishments.

1. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

2. Long Creek Falls – The most popular of the waterfalls in Fannin County is Long Creek Falls, which can be seen by hiking down a short side trail from the combined Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. These falls total about 50 feet in two distinct drops. A leisurely 30 minute hike to the falls is uphill on the way in, downhill on the way out.

Benton MacKaye Trail

Discover the beauty of Blue Ridge’s Long Creek Falls. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

3. Sea Creek Falls – Located in the Cooper Creek Scenic Area, Sea Creek Falls are an easy walk of less than .1 mile. The first, or upper falls are a series of steep cascades ending in a brief drop. The second falls are also a series of steep cascades. When the water flow is heavy either in late winter or spring, or after a summer rain, these are a remarkable sight.

4. Amicalola Falls – About 21 miles from Ellijay on Hwy 52 is a spectacular 729-foot falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Also, a strenuous 8.5-mile approach trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the start of the famous Appalachian Trail.

5. Helton Creek Falls – There are two falls on Helton Creek near Blairsville. A short trail descends to the first waterfall then climbs to the second larger waterfall. Beware – the rocks are slippery. From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 515 north to Blairsville. In Blairsville, take US 19/129 south about 11 miles. Turn left onto Helton Creek Road, the first road past the entrance to Vogel State Park. Go 2.2 miles; the road turns to gravel. There will be a small parking lot on the right in a curve, and the trail is marked.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Top Five Hikes in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

A hiker’s paradise, Blue Ridge offers several major trail systems, including access to the Appalachian Trail which extends for more than 2,000 miles to Maine through many of the states on the Eastern Seaboard. Pursue these paths for outdoor explorations on one of the many trails in a system of over 300 miles, including short trails suitable for beginning hikers.

Aska Trails

Hike Blue Ridge’s Aska Trail System. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

1. Three Forks to Long Creek Falls – The hike to Long Creek Falls is a great way to experience the Appalachian Trail. This adventure includes a scenic 5.3-mile drive into the forest following Noontootla Creek to the Three Forks area where you will begin your two-mile round-trip hike following Long Creek to a beautiful cascading waterfall with two drops totaling 50 feet. Take a picnic to enjoy at the falls.

2. Swinging Bridge Trail – Another awesome excursion requires rambling the Benton MacKaye Trail south from Hwy 60 for three miles to be rewarded with sweeping views of the pristine Toccoa River flowing beneath a structure known simply as the “Swinging Bridge.” The longest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi, the passage was built by the USDA Forest Service and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club in the mid-1970s.

3. Hike to the Appalachian Trail terminus – One of the greatest outdoor adventures in the world, the Appalachian Trail, begins in Fannin County at the top of Springer Mountain.

4. Aska Trails – This is a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, with hikes that intersect and loop ranging from one- to 5.5-miles.

5. Benton MacKaye Trail to Fall Branch Falls – A short distance away and part of the larger Benton MacKaye Trail, Fall Branch Falls is a double waterfall with mountain laurel and rhododendron growing along the trail and creek bank. The hike to the falls is about 30 minutes round-trip.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Fantastic Fort Mountain

Fort Mountain ViewA scenic drive through Georgia’s Historic High Country leads us to a little slice of heaven on Fort Mountain. This state park, hidden in the hills of Chatsworth, is quickly becoming one of my favorite getaways. In addition to the incredible views from overlooks, Fort Mountain State Park boasts one of the most challenging Muddy Spokes mountain biking trails and the 8-mile Gahuti Trail connecting secluded backcountry campsites.CandyCook_ftMtnGahudiTrail

The hiking trails of Fort Mountain range from easy to strenuous. For really amazing views, take a stroll down the easy, paved Cool Springs Trail or hike to an overlook deck on a combination of the West Overlook-Stone Tower Trails. More experienced hikers will appreciate backpacking on the more difficult Gahuti Trail. Gahuti is a beautiful, yet strenuous hike often used by hikers preparing for the Appalachian Trail.

Mountain bikers of all ages and experience levels enjoy taking on 27 miles of thrill riding at the park. Multi-use Lake Loop Trail offers an easy warm-up shared with hikers, while the Gold Mine and Cool Springs Loops cater to more advanced riders looking for a fun roller coaster ride through the forest. Finally, one of the last Muddy Spokes trails a mountain biker completes, the East/West Loop offers a wild and rocky ride for the experts. CandyCook_FtMountainSwim

A Fort Mountain escape isn’t complete without a refreshing dip in the cool mountain lake, a round of mini golf, and perfecting s’mores as the moonlight shines through those magnificent Georgia pines. Pack up the tent and run away to Fort Mountain this weekend!

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

AMP Up Your Summer Adventures

Banish summer boredom with thrilling adventures and new family experiences! Just 20 minutes east of Atlanta, AMP Adventures is celebrating the season with river exploration, free bike rentals, campfire folktales and “s’more!” You can see some highlights below and the full calendar of events here.

Arabia Mt APM

All of these activities are located in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). The 33+ mile paved trail is dedicated to hikers and cyclists and is quickly becoming known as Atlanta’s most scenic trail. Remember, while several events are free, many have a limited amount of space so participants should RSVP now to save their spot.

FREE Bike Rentals at Panola Mountain State Park (June 13th and June 14th) and Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve (June 20th) For three amazing days you can feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you peddle past gorgeous forests and flower-filled meadows along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). Already have a bike? This is the perfect time to get your bike-less friends to finally take a ride with you!Roasting Marshmallow

Folktales by Firelight (June 27th) Hiking, a campfire, storytelling and s’mores; what a great combination! We have two event start times for a full evening of family fun. We’ll hear folktales from professional storyteller, Jonah McDonald, adventure guide and author of Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out. This is a rain or shine event, so bring your galoshes if we get a shower!

Georgia River Network: Hidden Gem Paddle (August 22nd) Join the South River Watershed Alliance and Georgia River Network (GRN) for a personal tour of the bends and gentle waters of the South River. This event will attract river enthusiasts from across the state and you can join the tour! The day will include a picnic lunch and presentations along the route, ranging from natural history and water quality testing to river clean-up training! Other floats are planned for June 13 and July 25. Canoe and kayak rentals can be waived for novice paddlers!Georgia River Network

AMP Adventures is presented by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of Coca-Cola and Subaru.

 

Kimberly EstepWhen not putting her savvy communication skills to use at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, Kimberly Estep can most often be found wandering over hiking trails with her two dogs.  Most of all, Kimberly loves sharing her knowledge of the hidden gems of Georgia with anyone who will listen.