Autumn Awareness for trail-blazers

It’s no secret that Rabun County boasts some of the most beautiful mountaintops and hikes with over 60 percent of the land deemed as national forest, especially now that trees are starting to show their fall colors. But USFS officials want to make sure you stay aware this autumn before you get your exploring on.

Crisp, clear days in the woodlands make this a popular time to hit the trails of Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. Locally, there are many popular trails to choose from such as the Bartram Trail, Appalachian Trail or many day hikers can visit one of the three state parks locally for an easier hike such as Tallulah Gorge State Park or Black Rock Mountain State Park.

But if you’re hiking, biking or riding the trails this season, please remember a few key things that will help keep you safe.

It’s currently hunting season in Georgia, and many trails cross through Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) where organized hunts take place. It’s wise to avoid these areas altogether during the designated hunts, or at least wait until after 10 a.m. to use the trails. And be sure to wear bright colors – blaze orange is preferred – and consider marking your companion animal, as well.

Also, now that daylight savings time has ended, the days are shorter, and darkness comes early in the forest and mountains.  Plan your trail experience so that it ends before dark.  Always carry a flashlight or headlamp.

Local FS officials also advise carrying extra warm clothing when hiking in the mountains as winter approaches. You may experience more extreme conditions at higher elevations, including snow and high winds.

Lastly, it’s always important to carry plenty of water, to hit the trails with a buddy, and to let others know of your trip plans.

Following this advice will help you have a fun and safe experience on the trail, so get out there and enjoy Autumn in the woods.