Barclay Lake Revisited

Check out the original photo diary from my last visit right here!

Barclay Lake is a fantastic day hike located in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. If you’re looking for a relatively short and family-friendly hike, this trail is a great option!

Pro tip: don’t forget your Northwest Forest Pass! For more information, visit fs.usda.gov.

The trailhead for Barclay Lake is located near the town of Baring at the end of a fairly rugged forest service road. This trail is super popular so make sure you arrive early to claim your spot at the trailhead parking lot. This 4.4 mile out-and-back trail departs directly from the trailhead, leading you gradually downhill through a thick forest. Eventually, you’ll begin to follow Barclay Creek, meandering your way through dense foliage.

Pro tip: If you visit on a clear day make sure to keep an eye out for some views of Mt. Baring along the way.

You’ll gain about 200 feet of elevation as you head to the lake, and after about a mile you’ll cross a bridge over Barclay Creek which is a great photo op! It won’t be long before you reach Barclay Lake itself, a picturesque Pacific Northwest lake framed by evergreens and jagged peaks.

Pro tip: be prepared for the lake’s water level to vary significantly depending on the time of year you visit. When I first visited in July 2020, the lake was fairly high, but this time around in August, it was significantly lower.

There are a number of campsites and opportunities to take a lakeside snack break as you meander around Barclay Lake. No matter where you stop for a rest or set up camp, you’ll be treated to some gorgeous views in a peaceful and serene setting.

Barclay Lake is one of my favorite hikes in Washington, and I’m sure it’ll become one of yours too! Let me know in the comments if you’ve visited Barclay Lake before and what your thoughts were.

Directions: from the town of Monroe, head east on US-2 toward Baring. After roughly 25 miles you will see The Baring Store on your right; at this junction, turn left onto 635th Place NE. You will cross over railroad tracks and soon the road will become unpaved. Follow this road for about 4 miles until you reach the Barclay Lake Trailhead. More detailed information available at WTA.org.

Lake Isabelle

After a few days of haze, the smoke has finally begun to clear and reveal the beautiful views Colorado has to offer. In celebration, I decided to venture over to Indian Peaks Wilderness for the first time and hike to Lake Isabelle.

Pro tip: the Brainard Lake Recreation Area that this hike is located in requires a timed entry reservation which you can acquire here.

Indian Peaks Wilderness is located along the Continental Divide and offers some of the most beautiful hiking in Colorado. Located about an hour west of Boulder, Indian Peaks Wilderness offers some fantastic day hikes and backpacking areas.

Indian Peaks is located about 2.5 hours from where I live in Colorado Springs, so I left town around 5:45am and made it to the parking lot just after 8am. The ranger at the entrance instructed me to park at the Brainard Lake Trailhead, though I later learned I could have continued on and parked at the Long Lake Trailhead. I didn’t mind parking at Brainard Lake because the walk from Brainard Lake to the Long Lake Trailhead was a good warmup, but it did add 2 miles roundtrip.

Long Lake was another beautiful sight as well, and I was hoping to see some moose or even a bear as the park ranger said there had been recent sightings, but I suppose they were all taking the day off because I didn’t see any wildlife.

The proper hike to Lake Isabelle, which begins at the Long Lake Trailhead, is fairly moderate, meandering along the edges of Long Lake before veering right and uphill to reach Lake Isabelle. The last half mile or so of the hike is fairly steep, though the views that soon emerge make it well worthwhile. Lake Isabelle itself was absolutely stunning, and you have plenty of options for exploring the shore of the lake and the surrounding meadows. The lake is framed by stunning peaks and the area was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the state.

The lake wasn’t too crowded by the time I arrived, but after stopping to rest and take some pictures, the hike back was fairly busy. All Trails reports the hike to be about 5.5 miles roundtrip with about 550 feet of elevation gain. I would say this hike is appropriate for new and experienced hikers, and there were lots of families when I went! Because of how popular this area can be, I would recommend visiting during the week or earlier in the morning on the weekend.

Pro tip: dogs are welcome but must stay on leash – there were lots of dogs when I went, and I even brought my own, Willie, but if you’re doing the same, please abide by the leash rules! There were several times unleashed dogs approached Willie and I, and though Willie is friendly, not every dog is. Plus, there’s always the chance you’ll see some wildlife, and even well-behaved dogs have been known to take off after other animals.

Overall, this was a gorgeous hike and I hope to return again soon. Let me know if you’ve hiked to Lake Isabelle yourself, and drop your recommendations for hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness!

Five Ways to Spend Your Summer in Georgia

Hello friends! Can you believe it’s already mid-July? Summer will be over before you know it and while fall is my favorite season, I don’t want to let the summer slip away too fast! Without further ado, here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy the Georgia summer and escape some of the heat and humidity.

Tubing in Helen

If you didn’t grow up tubing through a small Bavarian-themed town in the middle of the mountains, did you really have a childhood? Sure, it may be kitschy and touristy, but tubing in Helen is one of my favorite memories from summers in Georgia. There’s nothing quite like floating on the river, getting nice and sunburnt, and then enjoying some overpriced German food in town. Better yet, grab some boiled peanuts for the drive home. Now, you’re a true Georgian.

Hiking Blood Mountain + Taking a Dip in Hemlock Falls

Blood Mountain is one of my favorite mountains of all time, and one I recommend to everyone who finds themselves in Georgia. The hike itself is pretty tough, but the views are a fantastic reward. Make sure to check out the trail log located in the shelter at the summit and read through notes left behind by all the hikers and backpackers who have passed through! After working up a sweat on your hike, drive the 10 minutes or so down the road to Hemlock Falls. The falls are stunning and the hike down is very short, but be warned, the water is freezing cold!

Kayaking/Swimming in Lake Blue Ridge

Lake Blue Ridge is a beautiful summer destination for swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, or boating. I personally prefer this lake to others that are closer to Atlanta because it seems cleaner and better maintained in general. Plus, there’s nothing like cooling off in a lake surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. After your adventures make sure to check out downtown Blue Ridge or downtown Ellijay for some delicious food and local brews.

Wading in Sweetwater Creek

If you’d like to explore somewhere closer to Atlanta, be sure to check out Sweetwater Creek. This state park offers lots of walking trails and hikes, and plenty of opportunities for swimming and wading. The area is beautiful and was actually used as a filming location in Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1! The ruins of the mill are an awesome sight as well, so make sure to take a moment and learn about the history behind them.

Grabbing Peaches from a Local Farmer’s Market

Sure, farmer’s markets aren’t exclusive to Georgia, but they were always a staple summer activity when I lived there! There are a lot of fantastic farmer’s markets throughout the state ranging from small to pretty large, but my favorite was always the Marietta Farmer’s Market. The market is big enough that you have plenty of options to choose from, but not so big that you’re overwhelmed with crowds. Marietta is a cute town to explore as well, with lots of bistros and cafes for a quick breakfast or lunch. It’s also close to Kennesaw Mountain, another of my favorite hiking spots in Georgia.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer wherever you may be, and that you get to try out some of my favorite activities for yourself!

Backpacking in Georgia

Hello all! Today I’m going to be sharing with you three of my favorite backpacking spots in Georgia. If you haven’t already seen the video, make sure to check it out here!
I think Georgia is a seriously underrated spot for backpackers and nature lovers of all kinds. The Southeast in general is beautiful and offers some amazing backpacking, kayaking, and rock-climbing areas. I count myself lucky that I got to grow up there, and I spent most of high school and college hiking and backpacking as often as I could. Without further ado, here are my three favorite backpacking trips in Georgia!

Appalachian Approach Trail

The AT Approach Trail begins at Amicalola Falls State Park and travels roughly 9 miles to the summit of Springer Mountain. Springer Mountain is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,000+ miles in length from Georgia to Maine. Though the Approach Trail isn’t included in the official mileage of the AT, many section and thru-hikers embark on this trail to begin their hike. This is actually the first backpacking trip I ever went on with my family (check out that blog post here) and boy, was it quite the adventure.
I’ve returned to this trail several times since and had much more enjoyable experiences than my first impression (I would recommend visiting in the spring for mild, pleasant weather). If you choose to go out and back you’ll be hiking around 18 miles altogether, with 4,000’+ of elevation gain. I would consider this trail challenging, but a good introduction to backpacking as the trail itself is well-marked and fairly moderate. For a classic hike that gives you the perfect opportunity to test out your gear and comfort on the trail, the Approach Trail is a great way to go!

Woody Gap to Neels Gap

Woody Gap to Neels Gap is a roughly 10 mile section of the AT that begins near Dahlonega and ends near Blairsville. I personally love this section of the trail because it takes you through some pretty iconic AT features, including Preachers Rock and Blood Mountain. You’ll gain about 2,500′ of elevation which is definitely a challenge, but still doable for someone a bit newer to backpacking as long as you set realistic expectations and pace yourself.
Although you could definitely just do this section as a day hike, I recommend camping at the summit of Blood Mountain to catch some gorgeous sunset/rise views. Plus, the final push up to the summit is pretty tiring, so you’ll have definitely earned a solid break. Blood Mountain is one of my personal favorite mountains of all time, and hiking to the summit via from Woody Gap is a great way to add some mileage and gain a new perspective of the trail!

Cumberland Island

This one may seem a bit random, but hear me out: Cumberland Island is unlike any other backpacking spot in Georgia, and possibly the entire Southeast. Located off the coast of Georgia, this island is only accessible via ferry and offers a surprising amount of backpacking trails. The island itself has a really interesting history, and each area offers a unique and fascinating environment. You can see the ruins of Dungeness, a mansion that burnt down in the mid-1900s, and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of some wildlife, which includes horses, pigs, and armadillos.
I believe we camped at the Stafford Beach Campground, located about three and a half miles from the ferry drop-off. While you don’t have to worry about too much elevation gain, the island does get quite hot, humid, and buggy, so you have to make sure you’re well-prepared. We returned back to the ferry via the beach, simply following the coastline until we reached the dock. It’s such a unique and cool experience to backpack on the coast, and Cumberland Island is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen.