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Taking a hike to connect with home
Capturing White Wall, the granite rock face of Mount Yonah, at sunset is spectacular. - photo by Eric Hanson

North Georgia offers some of the region’s best hiking destinations. As the temperatures and humidity drop with the fall weather, getting out and enjoying the geography is a must.

No time of the year is better for being active, getting outside and reconnecting with nature. And for a guy like me, I need to get hikin’, get out and work up a sweat in order to feel connected with where I live.

The more forays into the wilderness I get, the more at home I feel here in North Georgia.

On a recent Saturday, I got the afternoon off work. So rather than going home and turning on the tube, I laced up my hiking boots, filled my Nalgene water bottles and took my camera gear for a workout.

On the agenda: Mount Yonah, a five-mile, round-trip heart-thumper that takes you to one of the highest points in Georgia.

My goal was to photograph sunset from the top, which inevitably requires a dark hike back to the car.

Thinking that Saturday might be a busy day on the trails, I prepared for the worst. But I was pleasantly surprised to find only a few cars at the trail head. Other than a few "how-ya-doin’s" to hikers on their way down, I had the mountain almost entirely to myself.

The timing was just right for the hike up; the slanting sun illuminated the golden leaves overhead. The soft light at the end of a day is a photographer’s dream, and there were plenty opportunities to take advantage along the way.

I made mental notes as I ascended, knowing that when hiking after dark, a rabbit trail can prove very frustrating. A few climbers hoisted their crash pads as they searched for good bouldering problems.

A doe gracefully walked by a few feet from me, hardly noticing my presence. It had all the makings of a great hike: Tranquil, beautiful and a with a great payoff.

The top of Mount Yonah is crowned with granite, which means that significant gaps in the trees offer spectacular views of North Georgia.

With a fiery red still glowing on the horizon, I began my hike back down. My headlamp illuminated the trail. Because of the surrounding darkness, I felt as if I were hiking in a tunnel.

I was lost in thought with only the cacophony of night creatures and the thump of my boots on the dirt as my soundtrack. Times like these are of great joy to a hiker.

Getting there from Gainesville

Go north on U.S. 129/11 for 21 miles to Cleveland. Continue through town until highway 75 cuts in.

Turn right, heading north on Ga. 75 for two miles.

You will pass Yonah Burger on your left. Keep an eye out for the sign for a now defunct West Family Restaurant and turn right on Bell Road.

Take your first left on Chambers Road and continue until you see a gravel road on your left with a sign for Mount Yonah. This short road takes you to the trailhead.

Eric Hanson is a Gainesville resident and photographer. Look for his next column in Sunday Life and on