This fall, as the weather cools and the nights grow longer, travel into the woods for some peace, quiet, and communion with nature. The Appalachian foothills in North Georgia host the perfect getaway for friends, families and couples looking to reconnect with each other and with Mother Nature herself. The route getting to the middle of nowhere isn’t always easy, but there’s a reverence in being disconnected for a few days, with only the sounds of the forest as company.
My family likes to suffer a bit to find our primitive paradise, hiking miles into the woods with packs loaded up with tents and gear, food and water. On our last trip, we chose a creekside site we’d camped before that had an established fire ring and enough flat area to pitch two tents. The spot was about a mile in from the trailhead, and it did require two trips in (and out) to bring all the equipment we needed for our family of four, so it was quite a bit of work. But the solace it provided, set on a bank of the creek across from the main hiking trail, was well worth it, providing just enough privacy for us to be by ourselves while still waving to passers-by.
We spent our first night lounging in camp chairs, cooking over the fire and poking around our site. The kids played in the creek while we got the fire going and got dinner ready. The next day, we set out on a hike to the waterfall at the top of the trail only to be caught in a deluge of rain, but we made the best of it, hightailing it back to camp to shed our dripping clothes and wrap up in our sleeping bags for a cozy rest. There is so much downtime that it’s a good idea to bring a book and a portable speaker for music. Nothing beats listening to your favorite playlist by the campfire, roasting marshmallows for S’mores, and sipping hot chocolate in the dusk.
Each time we camp, we get better at it, honing our fire starting skills and reevaluating our needs for gear. Most recently, we’ve added filtered water bottles to our necessities list because, let’s face it, water is heavy! And when you’re provided with a natural water source as an alternative to lugging in gallons, you should use it. Whether by boiling it, using purification tablets, or a filtration system, use what nature provides in the safest way possible (it is imperative that you don’t drink straight from the source as pathogens in the water can cause major illness).
Here’s a rudimentary list of things you’ll need for primitive camping (I could add so many more items, but there are excellent camping guide books with more detailed lists):
- Tent big enough for yourselves and supplies
- Tarp for under the tent to prevent seeping groundwater
- Sleeping Bag
- Rain Gear and a Change of Clothes
- Rope and Carabiners for hanging items
- Pocket Knife
- Firestarters or Waterproof Matches
- Folding Saw for cutting firewood
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Food and Water (or purification system if near a source)
- Portable Camping Stove, Cookware and Mess Kit
- Bear-Proof Box or Bag for food, depending on your camping location
- First Aid Kit for minor injuries and bites, including toilet paper, sunscreen and bug repellent
- Permit for either the site or the parking fee at the trailhead
Extras for a little luxury:
Hammock, camping pillow, portable toilet, folding table, battery-operated string lights, battery-operated fan
Most importantly, leave no trace! Pack out everything that you pack in, leave everything as you found it, and make sure your campfire is dead out before leaving your site.
There are many locations within the Georgia State Park system that allow primitive trail camping. A good place to start is explore.gastateparks.org/primitive-camping.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
If you’re camping with kids (or not), make a game of it! Be on the lookout for familiar shapes and art in nature, find the biggest tree you can, look for evidence of the forest service, and record the plants and animals you come across.