Henry David Thoreau once said, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” What better way to take this quote to heart, than to begin the New Year with a walk in the wilderness. A hike in the cold weather, a night under the full moon, and sleeping to the sounds of a roaring waterfall at Panther Creek in North Georgia. The outdoors invigorates me. It’s what clears my head, sharpens my senses and gives me a piece of purpose. It is where I find my solitude, my peace and a belonging to something greater than myself. I knew it was only right, especially with January 1st 2018 being a full Wolf Moon, to spend the beginning of the new year outside.
In North Georgia, just outside of Clarksville, lies Panther Creek Falls. This 3.4 (7 miles roundtrip) hike takes you through the lush Chattahoochee National Forest through winding dirt trails, past massive rock outcrops, over short wooden bridges and deeper into the mossy woods. The sound of the creek flowing through the forest, breaking and crashing over the rocky brooks can be heard alongside the entire trail as if the river sounds were meant to accompany you with meditative music. The crackling of the leaves, left from fall, with every step you make remind you that life is a continuous cycle of old and new beginnings.
After an hour and half of hiking in 20° F temps, crossing down large, rocky boulders, to the sandy shoreline, we arrived to the roaring waterfalls of Panther Creek. With the perfect spot to pitch tent, the trees so tall as though their limbs are reaching for the high sky, and the perfect view to see and hear the roaring water flowing powerfully over icicle frozen boulders. Trees all around reaching high into the sky as if they are stretching their roots as deep and far as nature will allow.
But what made this New Years Hike/Camping trip even more special was that the new year kicked off with a full moon. The Natives called this first full moon of the year the Wolf Moon after the howling wolves that gather to sing at it’s powerful light in the sky. This was the perfect time to meditate under the moonlight, manifest things into existence for the upcoming year and shed tears of gratitude for the air I breathe, the privilege to see natures rawest beauty and the amazing life I have been given. Breaking through the trees as if the headlights of a powerful mack truck were beaming through, the moons glow illuminated the entire forest, giving light to the waterfall even at the darkest hour of the night.
After a frigid, yet refreshing dip in the ice-cold water flowing from the icicle tipped rocks, a warm fire, moon meditation, and having to pull my canine partner in the sleeping bag with me just to keep the both of us warm, this hike would already be memorable. With temperatures dropping down to 10 degrees F, we made it to through the night with the sun gleaming through a peak in the tent. We gave our graces and gratitude to the moon and now it is time to rise like the sun and shine bright in the new year to come. We are remarkably connected to something deeper and it can be felt in the great outdoors.