Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park: Lake Shore Trail, Walk-in-the-Pines Trail, and Yucca Trace Trail, Cordele, Georgia
It's a rare occurrence to find a relatively major trail system in inland southern Georgia. The Georgia coastline features a number of parks and hiking trails, but as you head inland, there's very few preserved areas that you can find west of the Okefenokee Swamp. Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park is one of these few places. In this extensive state park located on the eastern shore of Lake Blackshear, explore several miles of trails along a finger of Lake Blackshear and through a longleaf pine forest. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 30, 2016. My plan was to hike the Lake Shore Trail and the Yucca Trace Trail. It appears that the trail map on the Georgia State Parks website is outdated, and there is a new Walk-in-the-Pines Trail. Thus, I was able to use this new trail to connect the other two trails.
Gorges State Park is North Carolina's newest and westernmost state park, located in the area where Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina meet. The crown jewel of this still-developing park is the Rainbow Falls Trail, a normally easy hike that leads you to four spectacular waterfalls in the Horsepasture River gorge. On a day with 14-18 inches of fresh snow on the ground, however, the hike may not be so easy. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016. My plan was to hike the Rainbow Falls Trail in the park out and back, visiting Stairstep Falls, Rainbow Falls, Turtleback Falls, and Drift Falls. I also planned to visit Raymond Fisher Pond and perhaps try some of the other short trails in the park. However, my plans were altered due to a heavy snowstorm that hit the region on the day before. All of western North Carolina got upwards of a half-foot of snow, with some areas (such as Gorges State Park) receiving as much as 18 inches. This caused Gorges State Park to be closed, and when I did this hike, I hiked the entrance road which added several miles more to my hike. Additionally, I was the first person to hike the Rainbow Falls Trail after snow, and with there being no previous footprints, it was a very slow and difficult hike. Thus, I was only able to hike the Rainbow Falls Trail to Rainbow Falls, Turtleback Falls, and Drift Falls.
If there ever was a hike that you must absolutely not miss, no matter where you have hiked or are planning to hike, then this is it. As my personal favorite hike on the Cumberland Trail (at least to this date), this is one segment of the famous long-distance trail that has just about everything that you can find on the Cumberland Plateau, from tall bluff lines that stretch on for miles, to spectacular vistas of one of the area's most picturesque gorges, Chickamauga Gulch, to remote waterfalls set in some of the best settings I've yet to see in this area. This is truly one spectacular hike by all means. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 16th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Cumberland Trail from the trailhead on Montlake Road to Panther Branch Overlook. However, due to time-consuming photography of the countless points of interest on this hike, as well as to the extremely rugged and slow nature of the latter part of the hike, I was only able to reach Stevenson Branch Falls. That was okay with me, however, as I have hiked the excellent section of the Cumberland Trail north of Stevenson Branch Falls, and the section to the south, that I hiked on this day, proved to be even more spectacular.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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