Tales of the Hunts: Shhh, don’t tell anyone

Published 4:03 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A quiet, serene fall landscape haunts me nine months out of the year. When the days get shorter, we are on high alert for the first tree that changes colors because it seems to come and go so quickly. As the leaves turn and send their nutrients to the roots it calls us all to go deep, examine what sustains us, and enjoy the special times that only last for a short time.

Deep inside of me is a love for wild and beautiful places without the noise and traffic. When I find a quiet and beautiful spot, there is an internal debate on whether or not to tell someone. Against my better judgment, I am going to tell you about my new favorite fall hike, but don’t tell anyone.

A few weeks ago we loaded up the kids and the dogs and headed up to the Blue Wall Preserve above Lake Lanier. To my surprise we were the second car in the parking lot. Driving up the winding road I had pictured a traffic scene like you will see at Caesar’s Head at peak fall colors. While Caesar’s Head is one of my favorite areas, it has more in common with Woodruff Road on an early November weekend.

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Getting out of the truck we leashed up the dogs and headed down the trail. Gorgeous yellows and oranges blanketed the trees paralleling the trail as my kids took off down the hill. No one told them to run down the trail, but the sight of a pristine fall scene urged them to be immersed as quickly as possible.

Of course, kids are great at hiking down the hill, but when the trail goes uphill they are looking for a ride. So, the 3-year-old hopped on my back as we headed into the great unknown. Hiking a new place for the first time is, obviously, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Every corner brings a surprise that you have never seen and anticipation builds while hiking up a rise.

At the top of the hill was a stunning pond surrounded by hills of fall colors. The morning fog hung low and waterfowl disappeared into the mist when we arrived. The main residents of this pond appear to be beavers and signs of their relentless work is everywhere. It’s fun to watch a child’s wheels start turning when you point to a mound of sticks in the water and tell them that is where beavers live. How do they get in? Where is their front door? Do they have a kitchen in there?

Every part of this hike was wonderful and a great surprise to my family. With no steep hills, it was perfect for a family. We were regretting not bringing a picnic lunch and having a private meal next to one of the two ponds or the waterfall. While I love the fall colors, I hate to be jockeying for position to see them in a crowd. The Blue Wall Preserve became a family favorite and will be our go-to spot for fall colors for years to come. But don’t tell anyone.

Philip Hunt is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys spending time afield with his wife, two kids, and two dogs any chance he gets. He can be reached at twodogoutdoors@gmail.com. Look for this column on the first Thursday of the month.