Day 26: Berry College Wildlife Management Area

Road Miles: 237

Total: 3594.8

Trail Miles: 0

Total: 95.9

Sites: Berry College WMA

Travel Buddy: RaggedyCrow

The night in the motel wasn’t particularly restful. At least I wasn’t coughing so much, but I find that given the choice, I simply prefer sleeping in my bed in the van. I love how cozy and comfortable it is, and I can trust the comforter. However, the van lacks a washer and dryer, so we took advantage of the motel facilities to do laundry. RC tried out his new MSR Pocket Rocket that I’d given him in lieu of paying for my half of the room. The loud “whooooosh!!” of the lit stove on the sidewalk pierced the otherwise quiet of the morning. I was busy refilling several gallon jugs of water in the bathtub for the next leg of the trip. We must have looked crazy out there, pure hikertrash. 

We got a late start, milking the room for its amenities (free wifi! hot water! free wifi!) until check-out time, then finally hit the road. Then the day was mostly a blur, albeit an incredibly scenic one. Slow travel has been temporarily put on hold as we spent another long-bomb day of rushing toward our destination goal of Amicalola Falls, deadline: tomorrow. We crossed into Alabama, and cut north from Fayette toward Jasper, to avoid Birmingham. We are time-constrained, but I am still unwilling to go on the interstates. 

After a quick lunch break outside of Jasper, we continued northeast on Alabama SR-69, one of the scenic routes designated in the atlas. And it was, it was. Beautiful green, rolling hills, abundant bright bursts of spring wildflowers everywhere; it was idyllic. The rods and cones in my desert-based eyeballs were short-circuiting from the overwhelm. Unfortunately, as is the case with most back roads, there were no shoulders, and so no easy way to stop for photos. This was probably for the best, though. Had there been, we might still be there, picture-snapping fools. 

Shortly after driving over Weiss Lake (I love water crossings!), we finally hit Georgia. Yay! We were at least in the right state! It was getting close to sunset and we lost an hour with this state line crossing into the Eastern Standard Time zone. We hit up freecampsites.net and found nearby Berry College WMA, a little north of Rome, a little south of the Chattahoochee NF. I had no idea what a Wildlife Management Area was, and the listing said the site was only open during hunting season, but didn’t specify when that was. We were relieved to find the site open when we arrived, and we ended up being the only people in the designated camping area. As it turns out, a WMA is a state-administered public lands site primarily intended for hunting. However many of them offer additional activities like hiking, biking, equestrian trails, and in this case, camping.

RC practice-pitched his tent one last time under a beautiful setting sun. He was starting to look like a pro by now, having just on this trip pitched and slept in a wide range of conditions: high winds, rain, hail, next to alligators. It was great to watch his progress from absolute beginner to getting his tent pitched and gear squared away much more quickly and confidently. Soon, he’d be pitching like a thru-hiker: on auto-pilot, practically instantaneously. I felt so excited for him, about to set off on his AT thru. I was also looking forward to dropping him off, so I could stop moving and go hole up somewhere to rest and finally recuperate from my illness. 

We ended the day as usual: a couple of low-budget beers, a toast to having made it this far. Once the bugs came out (the bugs always come out), we dove into our respective havens for cover, and called it a night.