February Reflections & Explorers Log

One small step – February Ref...

Hi y’all! I’m treating myself and my friends to monthly reflections, this year. These are meant to help me keep track and make sense of things. ...

Things to do outdoors in Georgia March 2015

Georgia Outdoor Activities and Fun,...

Spring is in the air and I want to make sure you get outside and explore Georgia. With the warmer weather moving in, Georgia outdoor recreation is b...

Atlanta's Most Amazing Hike Monadnock Madness

Atlanta Georgia Trails – Mona...

Taking steps, one after another. It's what hikers do. It's what I've done, millions of times, over the course of my 30 years exploring the first two...

Atlanta Georgia Trails Panola Mountain Guided Hike

Atlanta Georgia Trails – Guid...

Today's hike is a very special guided hike at one of  Atlanta's best hidden treasures, Panola Mountain. I recently hiked the trail, to the top...

Travel & Adventure

Brasstown Bald Sunset

Day Trip Foolproofing Tips or When plans fall through..

Mother Nature gave Georgia a sneak peak at Spring, yesterday. I already had in mind what my weekend would look like - petroglyphs and archaeological sites. My son has long had a fascination with the history of ancient peoples and prehistory...

[Video ] Hike Sweetwater Creek with me

[Video] Hike Georgia’s Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sometimes, I feel discouraged. It's a surprise, even to me. I'm a solid person with a strong foundation and a drive to learn things, experience things and share them with others. That doesn't matter. Somehow, I've managed to remain human ...

One small step – February Reflections and Explorers Log

February Reflections & Explorers Log

Hi y’all! I’m treating myself and my friends to monthly reflections, this year. These are meant to help me keep track and make sense of things. I am one of those creative types that flourish in clutter and chaos. I’m also the first to admit that my way is no way to keep any sort of order.

Our February Reflection is courtesy of the Little Ocmulgee River and Neil Armstrong.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong

February Reflection courtesy of Little Ocmulgee River. #gastateparks

A video posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


I took my advice from January’s reflection and slowed down. Mother Nature helped me out by making it really cold and giving us a good dusting of snow. We didn’t visit nearly as many places, in February, as we did in January. The places we did visit left a lasting impression on me.. the same as I left my footprints on them. This February, I was reminded that we don’t have to be the first man to walk on the moon for our footprints to leave a lasting impression on our lives, on others and on our planet.

February Explorers Log

  Feb 4: Lullwater Preserve – I was shocked to find the ruins, at Lullwater, completely covered in graffiti. Are these the footprints of artists or vandals? Are they one in the same?

Still looking for that perfect family portrait back drop. #Graffiti #Atlanta A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 7: Track Rock Gap Archaeological Site – Native Americans left their footprints, at Track Rock, by carving petroglyphs into these boulders. Vandals left their footprints by taking pieces of the petroglyphs home with them, preventing us from seeing the full story.

Exploring on a sunny day in February #outdoorfamilies

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 7: Vogel State Park – A decade later, I retrace the footsteps of my husband and I as we walked together to see Vogel Falls on our first anniversary.

The waterfall at Vogel State Park in the N. Georgia mountains. #gastateparks #waterfall #happy

A video posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 7: Helton Creek Falls – A short walk leads to these beautiful falls.

Just a short walk to view Helton Creek Falls! #georgia #waterfalls #happy

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 7: Brasstown Bald – We watched the sunset from the highest elevation in Georgia.

Goodnight, Georgia from Brasstown Bald! #exploregeorgia #sunset #nofilter

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 8: Ocmulgee National Monument - Lots of footprints found here.. from the rise of a Native American trading center, to the civil war, railroads and archaeological excavations.

The view from the Great Temple Mound at Ocmulgee National Monument #exploregeorgia #happy

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 9: Little Ocmulgee State Park – Our February Camp, and the site of February’s reflection.

Such a beautiful and peaceful hike this morning among cypress, live Oak & Pine! #gastateparks #happy

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 11: Baked a Birthday Cake for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s 90th anniversary! How many footprints are left on the Appalachian Trail each year?

Look at the Appalachian Trail cake we made for #atc90th with help from @365atlantafamily ! #happy @appalachiantrail

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 14: Funk Heritage Center – National Trail of Tears Historic Site – Thousands of Cherokee Indians were forced to walk the Trail of Tears.

Today, exploring a site along Georgia’s Chieftains Trail. #exploregeorgia #happy

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 21: Panola Mountain State Park – An impressive hike, of a preserved natural area, really opened my eyes to the impact of our footsteps.

Simply amazing hike with the naturalist at Panola Mountain State Park. #gastateparks #happy

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on


Feb 25: Snow Day! – Finally, Mother Nature gave us some snow. I love the crunch, of my footsteps, in the snow.

Have to enjoy it while it’s here. Snow doesn’t last long in the south. #exploregeorgia #snowday #happy

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on

Georgia Outdoor Activities and Fun, March 2015

Things to do outdoors in Georgia March 2015
Spring is in the air and I want to make sure you get outside and explore Georgia. With the warmer weather moving in, Georgia outdoor recreation is blooming! There is no shortage of fun activities in Georgia and the Georgia State Parks events are sure to get you off the couch. Use this guide to plan your adventures this March. [Below the video, you'll find text and links to events!]

Georgia Hiking

Kick off Georgia hiking season with Atlanta’s most amazing hike. It’s called Monadnock Madness and it’s a brilliant combination of three glorious trails that will leave you in awe. Monadnock Madness takes hikers to the tops of Stone Mountain, Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain for an unforgettable experience. Although you can choose to schedule the hikes throughout the month, I highly recommend joining the Triple Hike Challenge for the best experience. Click here to find out why I recommend Monadnock Madness as Atlanta’s most amazing hike, or just find out for yourself by registering for the event on the Monadnock Madness website.

Georgia Hiking Monadnock Madness

Georgia Outdoor Recreation & Georgia State Parks Events

March 5 – 8, 2015

Things to do outdoors in Georgia

Tallulah Gorge
Credit: Lesli Peterson

Date Night!
Take a hike by the light of the full moon at Tallulah Gorge State Park, Mar 5 & 6!

Date Night! There’s a full moon, March 6. Come hike to the ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park!

Date Night! Paddle a canoe under the stars at Georgia L Smith State Park, March 6.

Explore! Get off the trail and hike to hidden granite outcrops at Chattahoochee Bend State Park, March 7.

Kids! Let’s go fly a kite! Kite Rally at Florence Marina State Park, March 7

Muddy Spokes! Pedal 16 miles of Panola & Arabia, March 7. Park Rangers point out nature & historic sites.

Explore! Discover the history of Okefenokee touring Billy’s Island at Stephen C Foster State Park, March 7, 15, 21, 28

Experience! Join astronomers, March 7 & 21,  at the darkest skies in Georgia for a look at the the stars!

Education! Historic Hike focuses on Native American Heritage at Sweetwater Creek State Park on Sun, Mar 8


March 14 – 15

Things to do outdoors in Georgia Kayaking

Kayaking Sweetwater

Experience! Kayaking the salt marsh is an unforgettable experience. Come explore at Crooked River State Park Mar 14!

Experience! Lake paddle at Sweetwater Creek! Great place to practice canoe and kayak. Mar 14

Experience! Okefenokee is one of my favorite places! Take the Billy’s Island Tour to learn more about the swamp & people. Mar 15, 21, 28

Education! Amazing Photo Opp! Learn landscape, macro and wildlife photography at 3 metro atl mountains!! This is a Monadnock Madness Triple Hike Challenge! March 15

Explore! Get off the trail with a geologist for in-depth looks at Sweetwater Creek’s geology. Mar 15

Education! It’s time to learn about the snakes you may encounter while hiking Georgia, Sweetwater Creek State Park March 15!


March 20 – 21

Things to do outdoors in Georgia Mountain Bike

Georgia Mountain Biking

Date Night! Brilliant stargazing by Kayaking under a new moon at Hard Labor Creek State Park Mar 20, 21

Muddy Spokes! Attn Mountain Bikers: Come race the Dirty Spokes Off-road Duathlon at Ft Yargo Mar 21!

Education! Join Atlanta Audubon for a beginners look at our local birds at Hard Labor Creek State Park Mar 21

Experience! Climb trees with the experts and explore the canopy at Panola Mountain State Park, for beginners, Mar 21

Experience! Get outside for Atlanta’s Most Amazing Hike – Monadnock Madness Mar 21,

Experience!  Go see Okefenokee on a Billy’s Island Tour & learn about our favorite Georgia Swamp, March 21, 28.

Date Night! Stargazing at its best, with astronmers and high-powered telescopes at Stephen Foster State Park, Mar 21

Experience! Get up close Sweetwater’s famous ruins on one of the most popular hikes in ATL, March 21, 28.

Date night! Sweetwater Creek, and the impressive New Manchester Ruins, by candlelight, Mar 21!


March 25 – 31

Things to do outdoors in Georgia Okefenokee

Tour Okefenokee Swamp

Education! Georgia Homeschool Opp: Learn Natural Science in nature at Hard Labor Creek State Park Mar 25

Education! Walk Fort Yargo SP with Atlanta Audubon in search of woodpeckers and wading birds! Mar 27.

Education! Be prepared! Learn the gear you need to stay safe hiking and backpacking. Chattahoochee Bend, Mar 28

Experience! Monadnock Madness combines 3 trails to create Atlanta’s Most amazing hike! Experience it March 28

Education! Geology Day is the perfect day to explore Providence Canyon and learn about the land. Mar 28,

Experience! Beat the heat to Okefenokee by exploring Billy’s Island, March 28!

Experience! Another hike of Sweetwater’s History Trail? Don’t mind if I do! Mar 28

Experience! Give Kayaking a chance, March 28! I promise you won’t tip over. Sweetwater is perfect for this.

Date Night! Kayaing at twilight on the lake at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Mar 28

Experience! Salt marsh kayaking is amazing. Give it a go at Crooked River State Park, Mar 31

Atlanta Georgia Trails – Monadnock Madness

Atlanta's Most Amazing Hike Monadnock Madness
Taking steps, one after another. It’s what hikers do. It’s what I’ve done, millions of times, over the course of my 30 years exploring the first two-thirds of Atlanta’s most amazing hike. In fact, the first leg of the hike is so popular that it draws millions of visitors, and countless footsteps, each year. Hikers come, with their friends and family, to explore the great granite mountain of Georgia. Stone Mountain is a special mountain, different from what you’ll find just a few hours north. It’s called amonadnock.Monadnocks are a geologic oddity, formed under the earth by massive blobs of lava and revealed by millions of years of erosion. We have three in Metro Atlanta.REGISTER FOR A MONADNOCK MADNESS TRIPLE HIKE CHALLENGE, MARCH 2015!

Each of our three monadnocks are enriched with their own history, natural beauty and summit trails leading hikers to incredible views. Each one leaves a unique impression on us. Together, these three trails form the Triple Hike Challenge of Monadnock Madness and weave a story so compelling that it will impact every step you take.


Monadnock Madness is an annual event happening every March. Hikers earn commemorative souvenirs for completing the three summit trails. You can hike them all the same day or scatter them throughout the month. However you choose to do it, know that there is a method to the madness! Begin your journey, hiking to the top of Stone Mountain Park. Continue, the hike, along the treasured trail leading to the top of Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve. For the breathtaking grand finale, join the naturalist, hiking a protected trail to the top of Panola Mountain State Park.

This carefully crafted, and unforgettable, experience has changed the way I view my relationship with the sacred nature of planet Earth. I honestly can’t name any hike more important, or more beautiful, crowning Monadnock Madness as Atlanta’s most amazing hike.

This video playlist shows clips from all three of the Monadnock Madness trails!

Atlanta Georgia Trails – Guided Hike of Panola Mountain

Atlanta Georgia Trails Panola Mountain Guided Hike
Today’s hike is a very special guided hike at one of  Atlanta’s best hidden treasures, Panola Mountain. I recently hiked the trail, to the top of Panola Mountain, with a naturalist, at this beautiful Georgia State Park. After having hiked both Stone Mountain & Arabia Mountain, I had a pretty good idea of what Panola would be like. But, unlike Arabia or Stone Mountain, Panola’s natural beauty has been preserved by limiting foot traffic to guided hikes of small groups. [Scroll down to the video to see some clips & hear about this excellent hike.]

Panola Mountain’s Pristine Protected Trail

Moss, lichen and other plants that are easily swept away from our other monadnocks by hundreds of footsteps, grow in abundance atop Panola. Shades of green and red plants growing as thick as blankets, in some places, cover large areas on top of Panola Mountain. I never imagined that such simple things could be so absolutely breathtaking. A naturalist leads the way, teaching us about the incredibly resilient, yet delicate life that grows on pristine Panola Mountain.

The three-mile hike to the top starts out as an easy walk through the woods, becoming more challenging as we hike up the hidden mountain. Once we reach the familiar rocky surface of Atlanta’s monadnocks, we’re reminded to carefully tip-toe around the delicate life that makes the rock it’s home. Touring the mountain top is an exquisite experience that really impacted me, as a person and a hiker. I highly recommend combining this hike with Stone Mountain and Arabia Mountain, which creates Atlanta’s most amazing hike – Monadnock Madness. Learn more about Monadnock Madness, an annual hiking event held each March.

This guided hike is by appointment, only. So, visit Panola Mountain State Park on the Georgia State Parks website to find out when you can join the naturalist for one of the best hikes in the state.

Panola Mountain Tree Climbing & Bike Trails

Panola Mountain State Park is part of Davidson-Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. In addition to this fantastic guided hike, the park is also known for introducing outdoor enthusiasts to tree climbing. Panola Mountain tree climbing programs start with a beginners introduction to climbing trees and offers the opportunity to camp out in the tree canopy! The park is also connected to the 30+ miles of paved trails for walkers, bikers, and strollers.



Atlanta Georgia Trails – Hike to the top of Arabia Mountain

Atlanta Georgia Trails Hike to the top of Arabia Mountain
If you’ve done the hike to the top of Stone Mountain, take your next step at nearby Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve. Arabia Mountain and Stone Mountain share much of the same look and feel – lots of boulders and outcrops, exposed tree roots and unique plant life on the mountain’s surface. Beyond those similarities, we discover that Arabia is actually much older than Stone Mountain. Maybe her old age explains why Arabia Mountain is a quieter, easier, more relaxed hike. [Scroll down to the video if you'd rather hear me talk about it!]

Arabia Mountain Trail Review – Mountain Top Cairns Trail

According to the Arabia Mountain Trail Map, there are almost 8 miles of hiking trails to explore at the National Heritage Area near Atlanta. That 8 miles doesn’t include the 30 miles of paved multi-use PATH Trails for walkers, bikers, and strollers.Today, I’m talking about the Mountain Top Cairns Trail. This is the half-mile path that leads to the top of Arabia Mountain.

Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve The one-mile, round trip, Mountain Top Cairns Trail makes a great option for beginners and those seeking a quick escape to nature. Arabia doesn’t rise nearly as high as it’s popular younger sister, and you won’t find as many rocky obstacles on the open trail. Arabia is also less crowded than Stone Mountain and the lower impact from foot travel allows more of the interesting plant life to grow. In fact, you’ll see signs warning hikers to avoid stepping on the diamorpha. This tough plant growing, on our monadnocks, is easily disturbed by humans.

The landscape opens up to wide, level areas, on the mountain’s rock surface. It’s perfect for exploring – which can add a little more distance to the hike. The view, from Arabia Mountain, may not be as far-reaching as what you see from Stone Mountain’s loftier height. But, it’s just as incredible. Hiking Arabia, on a summer afternoon, treated us to a show of distant showers and rainbows.