The Miles Behind Me

The Chattahoochee River. Photo by me, March 2023.


The walks, the hikes, the mountains and miles – how much wonderful scenery I have seen in my lifetime. They've added up to some unknown number of miles since I was a boy walking in the woods of Paulding County, Georgia taking on Elsberry Mountain. I've hiked all over the southeast, some of the Ohio Valley, a little in Texas and some of the Grand Canyon, but not enough to brag about and Ontario, Canada.

I believe I have recently completed hiking all of the publicly accessible land along the Chattahoochee River from Lake Lanier to Atlanta. It took twenty years and I could've done it much sooner, but it was never a goal to accomplish or plan. It just happened and it crossed my mind as I was out in the woods having a good time over the weekend. Some sections of the river, I have hiked multiple times in the last two decades. I have yet to do a headwaters hike, but I hope to get to it. I have not done much Chattahoochee hiking for the past seven years, I have been walking and hiking elsewhere. So maybe I completed Lanier to Atlanta a long time ago, but it does not much matter. It was time well spent no matter the season.

Me at Jones Bridge. 2003.

The first time I hiked along the river was July of 2003 when I lived in Alpharetta. I was sitting at my house on an off day from the office and I wanted to go for a walk. I had easy access to the river from my house and the next thing I knew I was grabbing a backpack, a water bottle and I was out the door into the thick humidity and heat. 


That first day on the trails was at the Jones Bridge Unit. I was thirty years old.


Me many miles and years later. Photo March 2023.

I've solo hiked and taken in the miles with multiple people over the years. Some were better hikers than others, but the conversations were usually good ones and that matters more.


No need for a trail. Me.

Along the miles, sometimes there were no trails or it was too far from the river, so we improvised.


Me in the river. Photo 2007.

Sometimes we hopped rocks like a game of Frogger through traffic.


Me. March 2023. The remaining days of my forties.


Thank you to former President Jimmy Carter, The Georgia Conservancy and others for preserving the Chattahoochee. Without them, the river would have been turned into backyards of mansions from one end to the other.

It's much further down than it appears. Photo by me, June 2012.

Life is flying by as I turn fifty this week. Was it not only yesterday that I was skipping barefoot down a red dirt road as a little boy? No, no matter what the mind wants to trick me into believing, it was not yesterday. I am grateful to still be out there in the woods even if it means having to slather on the sunscreen, wear a hat and spray for bugs. I hope many miles remain to be walked, if I am lucky - I know the title of my next novel.


Finally, I never listen to music when I walk, except once on a long haul hike on the Appalachian Trail when I was just making miles and humping it to camp before sunset. I listened to the Fleet Foxes first album from 2008 on repeat because it seemed to blend with the nature around me. I ached, but it was a great memory. Tell me that is not the perfect hiking soundtrack? My favorites being Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, Meadowlarks, Ragged Wood and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Oddly enough, I have always considered James Taylor's Fire & Rain to be a hiking song. Those lyrics:

My body's aching and my time is at hand and I won't make it any other way.
Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain. I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I'd see you again.

Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun.
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around.

I hope I see more of those sunny days that won't end. I hope I see some people again.