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ESCAPE | To a Georgia Hike-In Lodge

Len Foote Hike Inn, Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia

Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia

From $150 for two adults (including dinner and breakfast)

MORE hike-inn.com

John-Robert Wade/Courtesy of Hike Inn

GETTING THERE Trek 5 miles through the North Georgia mountains until the Len Foote Hike Inn appears through the trees like a welcome mirage. Though the lodge website describes the hike as "easy to moderate," our troop of two adults and four kids found the up-and-down terrain to be moderate to strenuous. Trekking poles seem to be the norm for those who know better—in particular, the bevy of through-hikers who launch out from the Appalachian Trail's southern terminus at Springer Mountain (4.5 miles away) each spring. We arrived in the late afternoon and were told to help ourselves to mugs of hot chocolate and tea in the dining hall.

BEST MOMENT A creative hiking diversion worked wonders on a whining 8-year-old who had been asking "How much longer?" from the start. Pairing her with our athletic 16-year-old and allowing them to hike ahead and leave us signs that they were still alive saved the trip by turning the long, hilly trek into an adventure. They charged forward, checked in at the lodge, and had hot chocolate in hand when we finally arrived.

WORST MOMENT Waking up to barreling rain and the prospect of a wet, cold slog back to our car. While layering up with rain gear, my husband and I talked with the kids about hypothermia and survival techniques. Our 10-year-old decided that of the two adults, my husband would survive the trip back. "Just saying," he said, grinning.

FAVORITE CHARACTER All four kids ditched us at meals to sit with star hiker Jim Orlando, a Hike Inn volunteer from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who spoke after dinner about his exploits on the 1,400-mile Florida National Scenic Trail.

Map by Peter and Maria Hoey

LOCAL LORE During the spring and fall equinoxes, the inn's granite Star Base formation, designed by Atlanta's Fernbank Science Center, aligns with the rising sun.

WHAT'S GREEN A chilly waft of air on the porcelain pot may surprise you, but it's the magic behind keeping the bathhouse fresh and fancy. The waterless composting toilets are odor-free, thanks to a ventilation system that pushes air down through the composting tank and out above the roofline.

WHAT'S NOT GREENGutter gardens and raised beds supply only a garnishment's worth of food for the inn, though staff are working to increase the number of on-site gardens and the use of locally grown food. It's in the heart of Georgia's apple country, and the 20 or so local varieties are a treat each fall.

PLANET SAVING OPPORTUNITIES Composting red wigglers gobble up kitchen scraps, but these eating machines can't digest meat, dairy, citrus, or oils. A zero-waste goal at every meal means you are expected to eat everything on your plate. No problem, given the delicious hearty dishes served family-style each day. —Jenni Frankenberg Veal


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