Traveling Responsibly Itinerary
Here are 8 great ways to protect the beautiful natural assets of Blue Ridge.
Overheard on a forest trail: "What we appreciate we love, and what we love we protect"
Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Georgia’s Blue Ridge every year to experience the pristine mountain environment, fresh air, brilliant nighttime skies, clean mountain waters, Appalachian lifestyle and wide-open spaces. But… we are loving it to death. The large number of visitors and folks who live here can take better care of our mountains by using some simple and respectful practices. Our natural abundance is just that… it is ours, literally ours. National Forests that comprise most of Georgia’s Blue Ridge, public parks, waterfalls, The Appalachian Trail, Aska Trails and the Toccoa River… they belong to all of us. And since it is ours, we need to take care of it, love it, and preserve it for everybody both now and for the future. See if you can plan a trip around these guidelines:
1. What Can I do? Understand and Plan
To begin with, reading and understanding the Leave No Trace Principles, then putting them into action for every outdoor adventure can help a lot when you make them a habit.
- PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE
- TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES (STICK TO TRAILS)
- DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY
- LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND
- MINIMIZE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS
- RESPECT WILDLIFE
- BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS
2. Be An Respectful Example
For every good behavior out in the wilderness that is experienced by someone else, you’ve carried the message of recreating responsibly to others. Pick up a piece of trash along the trail. Pack a litter bag in your day pack. Understand that cigarette butts and tossed plastic end up in the rivers and in the lake, and nobody likes ambling along a perfect forest trail or waterway to see bags of trash spoiling the beauty. Also, have respect for private property and never cross into someone else’s land without permission. If you see trash along the roads, volunteer for cleanup crews that get out and do something. Another thing to teach is not walking on waterfalls… though it looks like the perfect selfie spot, when you walk on a waterfall can be dangerous and slippery, can trample aquatic plants that never regenerate, and makes people think it’s ok to do when they see you doing it. Stay on the trails and rocks and viewing platforms that the Forest Service and volunteers have worked hard building as viewpoints.
3. Teach Your Children Well
Kids follow adults in actions, so if you're going out in the woods or rivers or into a mountain lake, talk to your kids about why it makes sense to Leave No Trace. And teach them the simple things they can do and talk with their friends about that can make a difference in sustaining a totally wild part of the planet here in Blue Ridge GA. After all, it’s today’s kids that inherit all the publicly owned lands we all have fun in. On a hike, play a ‘foot game’ with kids to see who can walk without ever trampling a live plant. Even around your rental cabin you can practice responsible outdoor action that will help us all. Damaged plants and trash left in improper places attracts wildlife like nuisance bears, so clean up for the next visitor, and practice ‘pack it in pack it out’.
4. Respect Wildlife and Other Visitors
Hiking quietly through a wilderness has its own rewards. You’ll see a lot more wildlife, plus you respect the other people out in the woods looking for a quiet, natural setting. And speaking of wildlife, if you are lucky enough to observe deer, eagles, foxes, bobcats, bears, butterflies, salamanders, snakes and fish, keep your distance. Never approach a wild animal to get a better photo. Just be glad that you saw something alive in the wilderness in its natural habitat and realize that that spot is their home, not ours.
5. Get Off the Beaten Path
Spread out some and you will be rewarded mightily! Choose a hike in a lesser-known area of Georgia’s Blue Ridge. Go to a place on the river or lake that fewer people travel to. For instance, a hike to Long Branch Falls is harder to get to, a bit of a longer hike, but it’s a more spectacular waterfall than the easy hike to Fall Branch Falls (which is overused by us because of its convenience). And for an even more breathtaking waterfall, pack up the party and drive to Amicalola Falls, a State Park with a better hiking trail and path infrastructure to handle bigger crowds. Drive up to Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia. Start hiking the Appalachian Trail or Benton MacKaye Trail sections farther from town and you’ll be rewarded with more wildlife, more pristine forests and have lesser impact than on close-in, overused trails. Launch a paddle board or kayak from Lake Blue Ridge Recreation Area or Lakewood Landing and do it on a weekday and you will be rewarded by lots less traffic on the Lake, plus a quieter, more serene water adventure. Here are some free maps to look at adventure spots farther out of town to plan around.
6. Recreate Responsibly
The Fannin Chamber of Commerce works hard to provide information all of us can use to be more responsible in the outdoors, and you can stop by any of the 3 Visitor Centers and pickup free ‘Keep Blue Ridge Beautiful’ backpacks with lots of information about being a great outdoors visitor. Here are some additional links to get you started:
* Take Care of Blue Ridge
* Leave No Trace
* US Forest Service
* How To Be A Great a Great Outdoors Visitor blog
* Hiking With Kids blog
7. Natural Assets to Protect
Taking photos and leaving no trace is a good overall way to sustain these gorgeous natural settings. Be aware that every wildflower picked might take dozens of years to regenerate, if it comes back at all. A wild tree or bush broken in the wilderness may never be able to grow again, and if hundreds of people go off a trail to save a few hundred steps, pretty soon the trail gets eroded so that nobody can use it at all. Stay on the trails! And be careful with fire, build smaller fires in the woods if you need one at all, and never chop live trees and brush to build a fire. Fresh, green wood doesn’t burn well and it defaces a natural area quicker than any other human activity.
8. Plan a Volunteer Activity While You Visit
A great family activity that teaches respect for the wilderness is a volunteer day with a local community organization. Here is a list of orgs that put together everything from river cleanups to trail maintenance days:
* Benton MacKaye Trail Association
* Rivers Alive
* Trout Unlimited
* Fannin Adopt a Road