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FDR State Park, Pine Mountain Trail, Bumblebee Ridge Campsite - 4/7/07

We had originally intended to spend this weekend as a 2 day trip on Hazel Creek in Smoky Mountains Natl. Park. Old man winter, however, decided to make his last stand this weekend. The entire area had enjoyed springtime temperatures in the 70's for weeks, but this weekend the lows plummeted to the 20's here in Atlanta and in the teens up in the Smokies! We don't have any winter sleeping bags yet, and our current ones are only good down to 40 degrees or so (except for Josiah's, which is good down to 25). With such a chilly forecast, we decided to scrap the Hazel Creek plans and go somewhere further south where the temperatures would be a bit higher. We searched the GA State Parks website and finally decided on FDR State Park, on the western edge of Georgia near the town of Pine Mountain, GA.

FDR Park has a 23 mile long trail through it called the Pine Mountain Trail, which is equipped with 13 backcountry campsites spaced every 2 or 3 miles. It seemed a perfect way to break in the season, and it turned out to be ideal. Not too easy, but not too hard either. A nice way to get that first workout of the season. It took us about 90 minutes to get to the park itself. We parked at the eastern terminus of the trail, which is a large TV tower for WJSP. The hike to the Bumblebee Ridge campsite was almost exactly 1.6 miles. The terrain was fairly easy on all of us, with the exception of the trek through Slippery Rock Falls and then the final trek up to the top of the ridge where the campsite was located. During the hike, we made several creek crossing without incident and we got to see a few pretty waterfalls. We made the 1.6 mile journey in about 90 minutes, which wasn't too bad considering we had to stop to help Josiah pull up his sagging pants every 100 yards! We set up camp quickly and then gathered some wood to built a fire as the temperature was starting to drop! While we weren't expecting the low 20's that the Smokies were going to get, it was still supposed to get down into the high 20's which is plenty cold! After a yummy chili-mac dinner, we sat around the fire for a bit and then headed to bead around 10pm. The night was filled with the pleasant sounds of wind sweeping through the trees and a freight train in the distance that came through about every 4 hours. To help our 40F sleeping bags pack a little extra punch, we had bought sleeping bag liners at REI. The liners add about 9 degrees of warmth to your bag, which made a world of difference. Additionally, the tent itself provided some insulation from the outside air. Nevertheless, as night turned into early morning and the temperature continued to drop into the low 30's it started getting pretty cold inside the tent. The slight chill in the tent, however, was nothing compared to the extreme cold when we opened the tent door in the morning. The non-stop wind on top of the ridge chilled us to the bone. We built a morning fire to warm us up a bit and Dani made some tasty spaghetti for breakfast. We had entertained the idea of staying for a second night, but we'd had enough cold for one trip so we packed up our bags with haste and made our way back to the parking lot where our warm car awaited us. Despite the morning chill, this was really a great trip. There were no problems to speak of. Josiah has matured so much since last year and he was really great on this trip. We will definitely be back to the Pine Mountain Trail this year...when it's a little bit warmer!

On the equipment side of things, we only had one big change between this year's inventory and last year's. On our last camping trip of 2006, our 3-man Sierra Designs "Sirius 3" tent died. We decided to go for broke, so we spent our entire $500 REI dividend check (and a 20% off coupon) on a new tent. We chose the 4-man Black Diamond "Guiding Light" tent. It proved to be an excellent tent.

This trip was somewhat nostalgic for me (Eric), as I visited the town of Pine Mountain many times as a boy. The parents of my childhood best friend, Greg Moon, has a chalet in Pine Mountain and we spend many a weekend there fishing, playing and getting into trouble. It's always fun to reconnect with your childhood and even more fun to pass those experiences on to my own son.

Click on the small images below to view the larger versions

Driving through the town of Pine Mountain on the way to FDR state park.
The start of the Pine Mountain Trail.
A trail sign points the way to Bumblebee Ridge.

About 1 mile in, we took a break at Csonka Falls.
Big Rock Falls.
Dani carefully makes her way down to Slippery Rock Falls.
Slippery Rock Falls.
We made it!
The campsite.
We got a nice fire going to keep warm as the temperature dropped.
Our new Black Diamond "Guiding Light" tent makes its debut. Great tent, by the way.
Dani whips up Chili Mac for dinner.
Josiah wakes up and gets goofy.
Yep, when the folks at The North Face say the sleeping bag is only comfortable down to 40 degrees they're telling the truth. Thank goodness for sleeping bag liners.
Dani makes breakfast in the cold.
All packed up and ready to leave.
Dani and Josiah make their way down the ridge.
Dani pulls up Josiah's pants, for the 114th time.
Thirsty Dani.
Eric and Josiah make their way back down the ridge.
We ate lunch at a place called "Krispy Fried Chicken", a place I hadn't been in nearly 20 years. We then got some ice cream for desert at a place called "The Purple Cow"
Babied out!

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