adventures

The Great Outdoors: Cloudland Canyon Before The Baby

cloudland canyon pregnant hiker

As our daughter’s due date approaches and my body expands to her growing body, we are vigorously marking things off our gotta-do list. Most of what’s on our list includes things like reorganizing and cleaning out the workshop/shed, stocking up on blog posts, and generally preparing for a baby in the house. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting pre-baby to-do list. Between the mundane, we have squeezed in a few high points like the backpacking trip we just took to Cloudland Canyon.

top-of-cloudland-canyon-waterfalls-trail

After being rained out of the camping trip a couple weeks ago, we were strong-armed into going over Memorial Day weekend, or so we thought. The backcountry campsite we wanted to stay in filled up quicker than ever and we ended up switching our Cloudland Canyon venture to Monday. As most people were heading home from their holiday weekend, our adventure was just starting.

It took us 2 ½ hours to get to our destination from Atlanta. The first thing we did upon arriving was check in at the little welcome center they have setup for all campers. We prepaid for our camping location online ($16 fee) and paid an additional $5 parking fee when we checked-in. With our car/camp tags in hand, we were off to find the Cloudland Canyon backcountry camping grounds.

This was the part of the trip that I was most looking forward to. We love backpacking into the woods and setting up camp for a couple nights, but this time was filled with much more emotion. Being at the end of my second trimester this is going to be the last time I strap my pack on before our little bean arrives. It is the last time we would hit the deep wood trails as a family of two (fur babies not included).

backpacking-at-cloudland-canyon

All the various camp grounds at Cloudland are scattered throughout the park. Ours felt particularly tucked away. Once we found the site, we pinned our red tag where we planned to setup camp on the board located at the trail entrance. You could hike the 2 mile loop to see what spot you liked the most but I chose ours by vibe. Number 7 just felt right to me. It was farther back on the trail (which I liked so I could carry my pack for as long as possible), and it had some open spots around it (so we could feel even more secluded and in the woods).

backcountry-campsite

Within half a mile we found the post with a 7 on it. Unlike the other sites we passed, ours was set back on a long side trail completely hidden. I knew 7 had a good vibe. I got the feeling of being lost in the woods like I would have gotten from a serious backpacking/hiking trip, and we didn’t have to worry about anyone raiding our stuff while we were away. We actually never saw a soul in the camping area.

backcountry-campsite-at-cloundland-canyon

In no time Ryan had the tent (a great REI garage sale score) up and our bear bag up in a tree. With a snack in our bellies and Eleanor getting to experience all kinds of new things including sitting on tables, we were ready to find the first trail.

first-time-camper

It was getting too late to take on the long hike we had planned, so we switched things up a little and went for something a tiny bit closer and a lot shorter, Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail. In minutes we were on the trail, er rather, stairs to the falls. Ryan carried twinkle-toed Eleanor down most of the way… she struggles with the slotted steps we find on trails. Though the girl sprinted her way back up all on her own.

stairs-to-cherokee-falls

We walked half a mile down countless step before reaching a split. You could either go right to Hemlock Falls or left to Cherokee Falls- we chose Cherokee by chance. We hiked about two thirds of a mile before reaching the 60 ft waterfall that plunges into a clear blue pool of water.

Cherokee-fall

Imagine our disappointment when we saw the sign reading not to swim or wade in the water, womp womp. Instead we enjoyed the view for a while and refilled our water supply. Thanks to a water filter and a UV water purifier, we are able to get fresh water anywhere.

cherokee-falls

Once we got back up to the split, we started to descend down the flight of stairs leading to Hemlock Falls a mile out. After a couple flights we decided to head back, as I was one exhausted (and slightly swollen) pregnant lady and Ryan was going to have to carry Ellie dog again. Plus, it was getting dark and dinner was sounding good to all three of us.

dinner-in-the-woods

Ryan had insisted on picking up burritos on our way out of the city for an easy, hardy dinner, that could be heated in our Jetboil. He was right about it being a great dinner; it was more than I could eat and Ryan was filled to capacity. We topped the night off with a competitive card game and Ryan sweetly trying his hand at painting my toes. I think the bean could feel how thrilled I was to be back in nature because she was having a dance party of her own. That little lady moved all night and into the morning.

sweet-man

Our first day at Cloudland Canyon couldn’t have gone better. I’ll be back to fill you in on day two and our stop in Alabama before heading home. Let’s just say Ryan knows the way to my heart.

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