In addition to eating black-eyed peas and ham, going for a hike in the ridges above Athens has become one of PJ’s and my New Year’s Day traditions. Our friends M and CJ have hosted the hike for three years now. I feel a little bad for them; the problem with starting a tradition is that people expect you to continue it every year no matter what. This year they got home from their holiday travels on Year’s Eve, which meant they had a lot to do before everyone started arriving at their house less than 12 hours later!

The hike seems to grow a little larger each year. This we we gathered at M & CJ’s house around 10:30. We then took a small trail up from their back yard to the Rockhouse Trail. We followed it around to the Athens trail and the took the Paw Paw trail back toward their house. Here’s a map of the trail system:

Athens Trails

You can find out more about the trails by looking at the Athens Parks and Recreation Trails page or Athens Cycle Path website. The latter page even has recent descriptions of the trail conditions. We basically hiked on the yellow and pink trails in the bottom left-hand corner of the map.

I’ll include a few of the pictures I took after the jump ….

You can kind of see Athens down below us through the trees in this picture, especially if you right click and then “view image” to see it in a slightly larger form:

That’s the top of a shopping center and a parking lot. Most of the trail was clear (if a little soggy) but there were places where trees had fallen, as in this picture:

I liked having to duck under the branches of a fallen tree like this during the hike — it made me feel like we were really in a forest and not just a few hundred feet from the major shopping district in Athens!

This next picture gives a little sense of how many people were on the hike this year.

I was at the back of the pack. This is a little less than a third of us; the rest were far ahead of this group. All together I think about 25 people were hiking. As this picture also suggests, many of the families brought their little children with them, which was great except for one fact — they were all exhausted and crying by the time we got back to M & CJ’s house for cookies, pumpkin bread, and hot beverages. It was also really cold during most of the hike, and parts of it were very steep. It was definitely a difficult walk for 3-year-olds (and the parents who ended up carrying them!). Here’s another picture that shows a few more of the people:

You might have to right click and “view image” to see the people in the far background. Over the course of the hike we got kind of spread out into three or four smaller groups.

This is my favorite picture from the hike:

this picture seems really peaceful and wintry. It also reminds me a little of some of the scenery near the end of one of my favorite movies, House of Flying Daggers — though that film is much more beautiful than any picture I could take!

I’ll end with a picture of myself in full winter gear:

Even though it was cold, windy, and sleeting for part of the hike, it was a lot of fun. It’s always beautiful and it’s a great way to start the new year. When my mom, sister, and brother-in-law come to visit later this year, we may take them on the same hike (well, perhaps we won’t start in M & CJ’s backyard).  PJ and I have never been on these trails except on New Year’s Day. It will be fun to see it in late spring or summer.