DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — When we passed the footpath that led to the Len Foote Hike Inn during our hike to Springer Mountain from Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Georgia three years ago, my interest was piqued and I made a mental note to find out more after our hike.
Back home in Meridian, Mississippi, I began researching the Hike Inn on its website. Here, along with stunning pictures of the inn, I discovered that Backpacker Magazine had rated the trail to the inn as one of the “Best American Hikes” while the inn itself had been included on National Geographic Traveler’s “Stay List.”
Since our spring break hike this year was going to be my wife Gena’s introduction to the Appalachian Trail, I wanted it to include a night at the Hike Inn as well as a night at the Lodge at Amicalola Falls (another “must stay” locale in my opinion).
Staying at Amicalola would allow us to hike the “infamous” Amicalola Falls steps on the Approach Trail during our first day and then, on day two, hike to Len Foote, spend the night, and hike back out the following day.
We had both decided to hike using our full-size backpacks in order to make our trek on the five mile trail, which is rated at easy to moderate, a bit more of a challenging workout.
For most, a large daypack would be sufficient for an overnight stay at the inn. The two to four hour hike features several beautiful mountain stream crossings and in early March the native mountain laurel and rhododendron trees that create so much of the “green tunnel” along the AT were beautifully juxtaposed against the background of grey trees that had yet to to bud with the coming spring.
Arriving at the inn, we checked in and were briefed on the day’s activities by a Hike Inn staffer. We stowed our gear in our room before walking the facility and grounds to learn the lay of the land. Each room features two bunk beds and is furnished with linens, blankets, pillows, and towels, all the comforts of home, if home includes the items I just mentioned along with ample lighting, heat, and a small fan to circulate air during the summer.
Simplicity is the order of the day at Len Foote. Life here is “above the grid” as solar panels provide 69% of the Hike Inn’s annual electric energy needs. The inn also has a no cell phone policy (other than for pictures and videos) which not only adds to the backcountry feel, but also helps visitors “unplug” from the problems of the outside world below.
Each afternoon at five, guests are treated to an informative lecture about the inn that also includes a facilities tour. We gleaned a wealth of knowledge about the inn, the AT, and the sustainable living policies employed at Len Foote during our tour.
An overnight stay at the inn includes dinner and breakfast with both meals served family style in the spacious dining hall. To say that these two meals were two of the best I have ever eaten would not be an exaggeration. In fact, I left both meals asking the chef for his recipes. The fellowship that the family style dining made possible was also a highlight of our trip.
After enjoying a wonderful dinner and an amazing sunset, we settled back into the dining hall for an informative presentation on the Constellation Orion. The inn offers these daily education sessions as part of the overall experience. That night, we learned much about the constellation also know as “The Hunter” before retiring for bed in order to be up early to enjoy the sunrise.
Early the next morning, we grabbed our coffee and tea and made our way to the Sunrise Room and Sunrise Deck to await the coming dawn. Shortly before sunrise, a drum is sounded to alert guests to the beauty that awaits with the rising sun.
In all my days, I do not recall a more awe-inspiring sunrise. As I snapped pictures of the beauty that greeted us, I had no words to describe it. Fortunately, Gena did as she quoted Emily Dickinson, “I’ll tell you how the sun rose, A ribbon at a time,” adding, as she reminded me of just how fast the sun had disappeared the previous day, “But how he set, I know not.”
As we sat together enjoying the beauty before us, we discussed how awesome it would be to experience the Hike Inn as a family. I think I see a family Thanksgiving hike in our future!
The inn is open 365 days a year, although it is closed due to COVID-19, and reservations can be made at www.hike-inn.com. If you are looking for your next adventure, make plans to visit the Hike Inn.
Brad Dye is a correspondent for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Miss. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.