Tuesday, June 2, 2009



Title get your attention?

Mountain country is usually a challenge to traveling Levelers, but on a trip to Dawson County, GA, about 50 minutes north of Atlanta, I recently found ways to get up close without arduous climbs or stairways that go on forever.

Amicalola Falls State Park is the site of the tallest cascading falls east of the Mississippi River and the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, but Levelers can find maximum beauty with limited effort.

Letting the car do the climbing for you may not be the greenest approach, but if it's that or missing out, I say go for it.

Start at the bottom by following the signs to the reflecting pool where you get a view of the falls from top to almost bottom. It's a great place to let the kids drop a line.

Tip: It's totally flat here and if the pond has been stocked recently (ask a ranger), expect to catch some trout.

Next, hit the middle via the West Ridge trail. It's a spectacular view at the end of a quarter-mile-long trail. The trail includes a slight elevation change and a few stair steps, but its surface of recycled tires provides a soft, springy feeling underfoot. It leads to a bridge that extends over the falls.

... or endless stairs?
Tip: From here you can see the falls gushing from the top and cascading down and around the mountain. To get the best picture of someone with the falls as a backdrop, walk down to the fourth or fifth step on the switchback of 425 steps (aren't we feeling smug about now?) and aim back up to where your subject is posed at the corner of the walkway. Snap a photo of those steps going down while you're at it. No need to tell anyone you didn't climb them unless they ask specifically!

Continue on up the West Ridge route to the overlook atop the falls for a spectacular look at how the spring-fed creek burbles quietly along until it starts its precipitous fall with a roar.

Tip: A few stone steps and a path with a slight elevation change takes you to another bridge over the falls.

Keep driving up and you'll reach the four-story, 56-room non-smoking lodge where the rooms are comfortable, the food is good and the view across the valley and foothills from a rocking chair on the back deck is down-right therapeutic. Best of all, you didn't have to practically cripple yourself getting there.

Tip: The park also has a few campsites and 14 one- to three-bedroom fully equipped cabins. The upper cabins have fireplaces, the lower ones are by that burbling stream. The two-bedroom No. 4 would be my pick: not only is it the best designed, it's ADA compliant, all on one level with a deck and fire pit out back and a gentle slope down to the creek.

Who says we Levelers can't enjoy mountain country?


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