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Backpacker Magazine – March 2011

Local Hikes: Southeast

Ascend Rocky Top in Tennessee; spot herons and Pelicans in a Florida bayou.

by: Andrew J. Matranga & Sarah L. Stewart

Tallahassee's Stoney Bayou pools. (Eli Schelin)
Tallahassee's Stoney Bayou pools. (Eli Schelin)

FLORIDA
Tallahassee
Stoney Bayou Pools 
For a slice of the Panhandle’s wild side, head to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge for a 7.6-mile hike around East River Pool. Head out in early March and circle the forested salt swamps; great blue herons nest here, and ibis and white pelicans migrate through the marsh. On warmer winter days, spot alligators basking in the sun on fallen trees. Trip ID 268215
 
GEORGIA
Atlanta
Blood Mountain 
Views of back-to-back ridges and weathered Blue Ridge peaks stretch into the horizon on this 5.5-mile loop in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Follow rhododendron-lined creeks while treading in the footsteps of Cherokee and Creek Native Americans, warring tribes that sparred here 400 years ago. Your battle? Climb 1,500 feet to the summit, and relish your peaceful victory. Trip ID 311986
 
KENTUCKY
Lexington 
Smoky Valley Lake Loop 
This six-mile hike on the 3 Bridges and 4 C’s Trails in Carter Caves State Resort Park passes through Shangra La Arch before climbing 200 feet for views over the 45-acre lake. Lunch on the wooden bridge at mile 3.5, where cascades spill into Tygarts Creek. Trip ID 547038
 
NORTH CAROLINA
Asheville
Nantahala Headwaters Loop
Spend three days hiking 24 miles around the source of the Nantahala River, a U-shaped drainage created by the Nantahala and Blue Ridge Mountains. Start hiking on the Appalachian Trail and camp atop Mt. Albert for crystal-clear Milky Way impressions. On night two, pitch your tent on 5,498-foot Standing Indian, a treeless bald steeped in Cherokee lore—and killer sunset views. backpacker.com/nantahala Trip ID 969102
 
TENNESSEE
Chattanooga 
West Rim Trail
Get an altitude adjustment at Cloudland Canyon State Park on this 4.6-miler. Start on the canyon rim and drop into a notch laced with falls. Next, switchback 200 feet to full spreads of the 1,100-foot-deep gorge. Soak up sky-high views before circling back. Trip ID 429473
 
VIRGINIA
Shenandoah NP
Old Rag to Big Meadow Loop
Want to see the quieter side of 3,291-foot Old Rag? So did Daryl Solomon. The Philly resident pioneered this 32-mile peakbagging loop. Start on day one with the park’s iconic summit and finish day four with Robertson Mountain (3,296 feet). Make camp in lesser-traveled, waterfall-rich hollows and shelters. Trip ID 509970
 
SEE THIS NOW
Longest Cave System
Mammoth Cave NP

Payoff Its 390 miles of explored passages make Mammoth Cave longer than the world’s second- and third-longest caves combined. Starting 10 million years ago, and continuing today, two underground rivers (Styx and Echo) carved this labyrinth of horizontal tunnels, vertical shafts, and cavernous chambers within a 600-foot-thick layer of 350-million-year-old soluble limestone.
 
Time The park (100 miles southwest of Louisville) attracts a third as many visitors in March as July. Plus, the cave maintains a constant, 54°F temp no matter what the weather’s doing outside.
 
Place To protect the cave and prevent lost visitors, the park requires you to go with a ranger. Try the five-mile, six-hour Wild Cave tour ($48; weekends at 9:30 a.m.) to straddle canyons, stare into the blackness of the 200-foot-tall Cathedral Domes, and slither through nine-inch-high slots. nps.gov/maca



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READERS COMMENTS

lexlaw
May 19, 2011

Backpacker.com needs to work on what in electronic media is called continuity.

This page is headed "Ascend Rocky Top in Tennessee." But the Tennessee hike is nowhere near Rocky Top, and none of the other hikes is, either.

This is not an isolated incident. The site is replete with broken links and other links that connect to pages entirely unrelated to the subject to which they purport to relate.

You have a great magazine, and the content is tops. But sloppy techincal work makes many visits to the web site a frustrating waste.

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