Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I try to find things to do in Athens that don’t include bar hopping or spending my dwindling supply of money. In my opinion, fall is the most beautiful time of year and the most wonderful time to be outside. There’s something about the way the leaves are changing, the weather is perfect and the temperature is just right to spend the entire afternoon roaming around the great outdoors. This week, I set out on a small adventure on my own: to travel around the Athens area in search of the most fun (and mostly free) outdoor excursions.
Sandy Creek Nature Reserve
Sandy Creek Nature Reserve is the perfect place for anyone—and I mean anyone-to just get outside and get your blood flowing. With its shady, wood-planked trails, its great for hiking, jogging, and even mountain biking. The best thing about Sandy Creek is that it offers a wide variety of trails for every type of adventurer. Throughout your hike, you will be sure to see immense amount of wildlife. Be on the lookout for warblers, orioles, deer, falcons and even the occasional turkeys that are common to this area. I was jogging Cook’s Trail, a 4.1 mile wooded pathway that stretches from Sandy Creek Nature Center to Sandy Creek Park, when I had to stop because I was so distracted by the simple beauty of the trail. Tall pines, weeping willows and birches line the sides of the path and keep the sun from inducing heat stroke upon runners and walkers alike. A creek trickles by on my left, densely wooded areas seem to stretch for miles on my right. I despise running, so keep that in mind when I say that I enjoyed jogging through this diverse trail.
Athens Local Farmer's Market
Fresh produce? Check. Healthy, paleo and vegan snacks? Check. Live music and good company? Check. Every Wednesday through November 4th, Creature Comforts Brewery hosts the Athens Local Farmer’s Market. Here I found the best paleo cranberry white chocolate chunk cookies in the entire world. Seriously, the obsession is real. The cookie literally¬—and I really mean literally—melts in your mouth. Each bite is jam packed with chocolaty cranberry deliciousness, making it an experience within itself. The aroma wafting up from these fresh baked goodies forces you to wander over and examine the inventory. If cookies aren’t your thing, the King of Pops popsicle stand is a short walk up the street. With flavors like watermelon basil, afternoon delight (cantaloupe, coconut milk and habanero peppers—YUM!), raspberry lime and chocolate sea salt, each pop is truly unique! Whether you’re a freshman in the dorms, or a senior in a little house of your own, I highly recommend making the trek here. Located on the corner of West Hancock and Pulaski Street, Creature Comforts Brewing Co. is housed in a beautiful historic warehouse. Don’t have any money to spare? That’s fine, there is free live music by local Athens bands. It’s a great way to wind down after a long and stressful week.
My personal favorite excursion is Redneck Beach; located a short walk from Athens Ridge, this quaint little waterhole is the perfect place to lounge around and soak up the last few rays of summer. First off, the area around Redneck Beach is an adventure within itself. Nestled in the overgrowth are abandoned, crumbling buildings that are just begging to be explored. I had the pleasure of roaming and climbing through what seems to be some type of old mill. Afterwards, I followed the small trail down to the actual Redneck Beach. A nice sandy shore meets with a river with its own little waterfall. The sand is actually quite soft, perfect for stretching out on a towel and getting your tan on. Tall trees with low hanging branches encompass the perimeter and provide not only shade but also a perfect place to hang up an Eno hammock. Trying to cool off? The water is nice and cool; it’s shallow enough in some places to just hang out and it is deep enough in other places to safely jump off the surrounding rocks and waterfalls. Although the waterfall isn’t particularly huge, it is still a sight to see. It is a nice alternative to the usual hustle and bustle of a college campus. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there is a rope swing which I saw quite a few people perform backflips off of (I was not one of them). Redneck Beach is the perfect lazy day spot. I have to admit, I got a great tan from just lounging around there all afternoon.
*This article has been updated. The Athens Local Farmer's Market is held on Wednesday's - not Thursday's as previously listed.