Cloudland Canyon: The Beginning Of Adventurous

By: Allison Campos Astorga + Save to a List

Cloudland Canyon was where it all began, where we took a leap of faith into adventuring and ended up falling in love with it.

Our adventure to Cloudland Canyon had been planned for two nights, this way no matter how late or early we ended up leaving, we would have plenty of hiking time. By this point in our camping/hiking journey we felt that we had enough knowledge and equipment to camp out at one of the “primitive” campsites at Cloudland Canyon. They were nothing crazy, just campsites scattered about on a two mile loop. So we thought it would be the perfect way to start our backpacking adventures.

We had yet to invest in serious backpacking equipment because we wanted to make sure we were going to like it before we spent the money. However, we had invested in an awesome light weight tent. It was much more compact and lighter than the bulky tent we had taken to Chattahoochee Bend State Park, but still had plenty of room for the two of us and all of our things.

The rest of our gear was less than professional, but we did our best to make it work for this trip. We had one large hiking backpack, and a duffel bag. We honestly should have know that we packed too much from the beginning, but alas we had another learning experience upon us.

The drive to the park was a beautiful one down country roads and up some mountains with beautiful views. Once we arrived at the park, we pulled right into the visitors center, check in for our campsite, bought some firewood, a state park shirt, and a woven blanket (because why not?).

We drove to the end of the park where the primitive campsites were, and started to unload. It quickly became apart that we were going to need to take a second trip to get the firewood and the two gallons of water that we had brought with us.

As we started down the trail, we came to a fork in the path. We went left because we didn’t really know how to read the terrain map. We soon learned that we were going to be hiking in going down hill, meaning all of our leaving hikes were going to be uphill. But I guess that is what you get when you don’t do your research before you hit the trail.

We picked a campsite by a little stream about half a mile down the trail. It was secluded enough for us but also close enough to the trail. The campsite had a picnic table, a fire ring, and an outhouse that I was way to scared to use.

We unloaded our gear and headed back for the second trip.

Note: If you ever buy firewood from a state park for while you camp, don’t try to carry it half a mile to your campsite. Your hand will hurt, you will be frustrated, you will be tired, and you might even get some splinters.

After our second trip (and the fact that we hadn’t gotten to the park until later afternoon), we decided to set up camp, make dinner, and plan out our hike for tomorrow.

After making and cleaning up our dinner we attempted to try and start a fire. We got all of our materials together and we gave it several good attempts, but we could never get the larger logs to stay lit. So we had a fire as long as someone was constantly tending to it.

After that got old, we decided to head into our tent to try and get a good night’s sleep before our big hike the next day. We had come more prepared this time with ear plugs and some sleeping pills.

The morning sun was our alarm clock and the morning chill was refreshing.

We woke up, geared up, made breakfast, packed away anything we didn’t need for the day, and hit the trail. We hiked the half mile to our car and then drove to the other side of the park where the trails down into the canyon were.

You could hear the waterfalls as you started your way down the side of the canyon to the massive staircase (something like 600 steps one way!). The way down was not bad at all and we got multiple stunning waterfall views.

The trail continued alongside the river for several miles as we awed at the views and tried to spot the various wildlife we could hear scurrying around us. We hiked for a couple of miles in the humid Georgia summer heat before we made our way out onto a large rock that stuck out into the middle of the river. We unpacked our lunch (tuna salad packets and crackers) and gave our legs a break.

After a good rest we decided to head back towards the waterfall so we could explore some other parts of the park. We stopped at the bottom of the third waterfall and decided to do a little cooling off by the water. While we didn’t get in and swim, we climbed over rocks and stood under the small waterfall and let the cool water splatter all over us.

It was a much needed refresher before we headed back up the 600 steps and around the top of the mountain to a corner that had been cleared as a lookout over the canyon. By this point I was hot, tired, and sore, but the view and the shade was more than worth it.

So what did we learn from this trip?

It is good to push your adventure limits. If you haven’t done something before, TRY IT! If you don’t like it or you aren’t good at it, no one will make you do it again, but if you never try something you will never know.

So take a chance on adventure, you never know what you will find.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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