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Changing seasons

Cool weather, leaf color mean it’s time for camping

POSTED: November 4, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Leaf season is in full swing. For many local residents, that means it’s time to make plans to head to the mountains.

  

A drive or a day hike are great options to see some color. But why not stop, breathe in the cool fall air, listen to the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet and get a whiff of that campfire smell.

  

Taking a camping trip in the height of leaf season can be a great way to enjoy fall color, too.

  

“Obviously, you’re going to feel more of a connection to the woods and see better leaf color if you’re out in the forest,” said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.

  

“Camping gives you the chance to have a campfire, make s’mores, snuggle up when it’s chilly outside but you have a nice cozy campfire.”

  

The peak for fall color in North Georgia is usually the end of October and beginning of November, but Hatcher said with this year’s strange weather patterns, it has been more difficult to predict.

  

“The key is sunny days — sunny warmer days and cold nights — so who knows with all this rain. There’s no telling,” she said.

  

According to information provided from the U.S. Forest Service, leaf color may be more vibrant because of recent rains.

  

But there’s one thing about the weather that’s for sure: Campers should be prepared for changes. Those warm days may fool novices, but nights will be cold. And rain is always a possibility.

  

Hatcher advised bringing layered clothing, including a waterproof jacket. She also noted that a foam mattress — something you can roll up and strap to your pack — will keep you warmer than an air mattress.

  

“The air below you will be just as cold as the air above you, whereas if you have one of the foam mattresses ... the heat from the ground and your body will trap in between and you’ll stay warmer.”

  

Ben Whittle of Cumming, a kayak instructor at The Outside World in Dawsonville, also emphasized having proper equipment.

  

“You definitely need a good tent. You need it to be waterproof,” he said. “(And) a sleeping bag that’s rated to the proper temperature degree.”

  

He also noted that a headlamp and an extra flashlight are good to have on hand.

  

But those cold nights are also what make camping in fall special.

  

“Camping in the fall is nice just because the weather is cooler, the leaves are pretty,” said Don Lovell, president of Chattahoochee Management Inc., which manages many campgrounds in North Georgia. “Hiking is more fun because the weather is cooler, and the weather itself makes it better, I believe.”

  

Lovell said he enjoys RV camping with his wife, and he recommended a few Chattahoochee Management campgrounds for fall color.

  

“Some of the best campsites for fall color would probably be Upper Chattahoochee campground, Tallulah River, of course. ... Most of ours (are) in the mountains, so most any of them would be good. Andrew’s Cove would be another one that would have a lot of color in it.”

  

Whittle, who often camps with friends while kayaking and tent camps at drive-in sites, recommended campgrounds in the Duke’s Creek, Dick’s Creek and Chattooga watershed areas.

  

And state parks offer many amenities for those worried about roughing it in the woods.

  

“All of our campgrounds have nice bathrooms with hot showers and electricity,” Hatcher said. “So you’re really not roughing it that much.”

  

Some sites also offer walk-in campgrounds if you’d like to feel a bit isolated from civilization, but with a restroom still in walking distance.

  

Hatcher recommended Unicoi and Black Rock Mountain for leaf color. She also noted reservations can be made online, even for backcountry sites in the state parks.

  

“Definitely check reservations ahead of time,” she said.

  

The state parks also offer cottages and lodges, but reservations can be made 11 months in advance so many spots may already be full.

  

No matter your plans, fall is a great time to get outdoors.

  

“It’s always pretty to me,” Lovell said.

 

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