Sunday, December 6, 2015

Red Top Mountain State Park

The morning light was gorgeous through the beeches
I love to spend time outdoors so this year’s suggestion to “opt outside” on the day after Thanksgiving was one that I was willing to take.

I decided to use the day as an opportunity to get another Georgia State Park visit in the bank and picked Red Top Mountain State Park in Bartow County as my destination. I convinced my daughter to go with me, and we set out early that Friday morning.

I picked Red Top Mountain for several reasons. First, it is relatively close to me so it makes for a good day trip. Second, according to the park map on the website, it has a selection of good trails with scenic views of Lake Allatoona.

Third, the park has been recovering from deer overpopulation, and I wanted to see how the understory vegetation was doing.

The park is a great example of the good work that State Park employees do. Detailed trail maps are available to use, there is great signage on the trails, and trails are clearly marked with colored blazes on the trees. From the Visitor’s Center, we took the Homestead Trail (marked in yellow on the map and with yellow blazes on the trees). This is a 5.5 mile loop trail and you have the option to start the loop in either direction so we met people coming and going as we hiked.

Beech and sourwood trees

Fall colored foliage and views of the lake were a beautiful part of this path, but we couldn’t let them distract us from the many switchbacks needed to wind around the coves.

Elevation changes kept our heart rates up while providing many great views. Our interest in photography had us stopping to capture interesting angles and good looking plants. She teaches me photography and I babble on about plants.

Does the forest enhance the lake view or vice versa?

The deciduous forest had shed most of its leaves and at times we walked through areas with high diversity. The path was littered with the colorful reminders of red oaks, white oaks, southern red oaks, beeches, sourwood and some of the prettiest red maples that I’ve seen in a while. In other areas, we were in a pine forest and the path was all pine needles.

At least five different oak leaves in this view
As for the recovery of the vegetation from the deer control efforts, I found pretty good amounts of understory plants. There were beautiful sweeps of Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), river cane (Arundinaria), and hearts a bustin' (Euonymus americanus). The latter is always a deer treat at my house so clearly the control efforts are working to some degree.

Christmas ferns

The yellow fall color of hearts a bustin'

If you enjoy beautiful hikes on well-marked trails, be sure to visit one of our many beautiful Georgia State Parks. It's a great way to opt outside any day of the year.

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