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Len Foote Hike Inn for your next family adventure

Hike Inn
Miranda and Jack Lowrie take a break on the trail on a natural bench.
   
  Melissa Lowrie
  Melissa Lowrie

By Melissa Lowrie
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Photos by Melissa Lowrie
Okay, let me admit something. This edition of Canoe Kids was just as much about the adults as the kids. Maybe even more for the adults. Len Foote Hike Inn is a destination for all . . . kids, parents and grandparents. So lace up your hiking boots and grab a backpack - this is an Inn you’ll want to check out.

For those who have never heard of Hike Inn, it’s a backcountry lodge on the property of Amicalola Falls State Park. It is accessed only by foot, via a five-mile hiking trail. One of a kind in this area, there are only a handful of backcountry lodges on the east coast.

The Hike Inn, named after early conservationist, botanist and photographer, Leonard Foote, was constructed in 1996 and opened for guests in November 1998. Foote died in 1989, but his love for the area and passion for nature live on there every day.

Hike Inn
Over, under, around or through? A fallen tree on the path temporarily halts our progress.

Built on stilts as one might see in a coastal community, the Inn’s architect, Garland Reynolds, raised the building to protect the slope of the mountain, thus removing the need to grade the land. Trees still had to be cut, but those trees provided firewood for the Hike Inn during its first four years of existence.

Originally a three season destination, the Hike Inn was soon taking reservations year-round due to high demand. Every season is beautiful there, in its own distinct way. All the common area buildings - the Dining Hall, the Sunrise Room and the front office - have high ceilings with windows all around. The fresh mountain air and natural light flow in abundance; windows are kept open from May to October.

Hike Inn
We made it! The front porch of Hike Inn was a welcome sight.

Environmentalism is so trendy today. Seemingly, everyone is “going green.” Well before the general public embraced the trend, the Hike Inn took the idea very seriously.  Donated solar panels provide a portion of the hot water supply to the bathhouse. Worm composting, currently with five pounds of Red Wigglers, takes care of all the office paper waste as well as part of the kitchen waste. There is also a “bring it in, take it out” policy, so if you bring a granola bar, you’ll be taking the wrapper back home.

The bathhouse has no-flush toilets that I won’t elaborate on except to say they were the very clean and non-smelly variety (think about the polar opposite of a port-o-potty).

Before getting to visit the no-flush toilets, though, your party must head up the trail.  It seemed to me that it was 60 to 70 percent uphill on the way to the Hike Inn (not steep, but a steady incline). My kids were troopers on the five-mile hike with zero complaining. Ha!! Just kidding. There was a bit of complaining, but it was darn hot that day.

Hike Inn
Taking in the view with a lemonade is a fine reward after a five-mile hike.

If you are hiking with kids, make sure to plan breaks. My husband and I packed plenty of water . . . and m&m’s as incentives. Take care to notice the flora and fauna as you hike, as well as keeping your eyes peeled for snakes and bears (we were warned that both had been recently spotted, but encountered nothing larger than a chipmunk).

For this mother-of-two, there isn’t a much better motivator than someone taking cooking and cleaning duties. I happily made the hike knowing there would be ice-cold water and lemonade waiting as well as a team in the kitchen preparing dinner.

We made it to Hike Inn in about 2 1/2 hours, arriving around 3 in the afternoon. I was told by the reservationist - the only Inn staff that does not live on the property - that you must check in at the Visitors Center and start the hike no later than 2 p.m., or you’ll be unable to make the trip.

At check-in at Hike Inn, each member of my family was given a bag with a towel, washcloth and linens. We dropped those in our room and headed for the beverage station, then promptly out on the deck to take in the mountain views.

Hike Inn
Board games in the Sunrise Room (look, Mom, no plugs or batteries needed)!

At 5 p.m. there was a facility tour that I found quite interesting; my kids, however, bailed for the board games in the Sunrise Room. Dinner is served promptly at 6 p.m., and, in case you forget, there’s a clanging dinner bell to remind you.

Our evening meal was roasted turkey, fresh green beans and corn, rolls and salad, all served family-style. Carrot cake and coffee topped off the delicious dinner (your breakfast and dinner are included in the price of your stay). My son said the dinner was the best part.

At 7 p.m., there was Appalachia Jeopardy in the Dining Hall for anyone interested, or guests could work a puzzle or play Scrabble. There was also a little bookshelf full of books to borrow during your stay.

The Inn is a no-gadget facility, meaning no phones, TV’s, radios, etc. It’s a good rule so you can actually enjoy the peace and quiet! You might pack a current edition of Smoke Signals for entertainment.

Also on the grounds, you’ll be delighted to discover, is a spot called Starbase. There is a stone structure that is actually a celestial calendar. On the spring and fall equinox, evidently, this is the place to be. Even if you don’t make it on one of those two days, there are plenty of comfortable chairs where you can read or visit or simply contemplate the view.

Hike Inn
The Len Foote Hike Inn as seen from the path leading from Starbase.

After a good night’s sleep in my bunk, I found the coffee on at 6 a.m., followed by breakfast at 8. We were served grits, eggs, sausage, biscuits with gravy and juice - a perfect carb-loaded energy boost for the impending hike back to the car.

For one night, two rooms and two meals for two adults and two children, I paid $256.46 total. It was a fun adventure that was a little out-of-the-ordinary, and the whole family enjoyed the trip. We all recommend Len Foote Hike Inn for your next family getaway (and make sure to see the worms)!

 

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