Oh, how I love sustainability and alternative energy. So it stands to reason I have to love the “Above the Grid” program we recently kicked off at the Len Foote Hike Inn. I’ve been hanging around the AT and the AT Approach Trail for years. And for nearly 20 years, I have been associated with the Len Foote Hike Inn — just one mile off the Approach Trail. We have pushed solar hot water heating for our bath house, solar photovoltaics for our Sunrise Room, rainwater catchment to water our native plants, composting toilets to conserve more than 200,000 gallons of water each year, worms to eat our waste paper and food scraps, a composting cube to dispose of other waste and a number of other practical technologies we use every day to save water and energy and to reduce pollution. That’s one reason we proudly wear Gold-level designation from the U.S. Green Building Council, among other honors.
“Above the Grid” takes us a big step farther down the sustainability path. Thanks to a grant from All Points North Foundation, a loan from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority and installation by the experts at Radiance Solar, we are now using state-of-the-art photovoltaics to supply more than two-thirds of our electricity needs. We are still looking at ways to use improving battery technology to boost the percentage of power. And we are doing all this in a practical and sustainable way. Guests who visit the Hike Inn learn that solar power is a practical and economical alternative to the conventional power grid. I’m not bad mouthing utility companies. Heck, I spent a career in the oil and gas business. I’m just saying that sustainability is coming. The Hike Inn is a great example of how it can happen.
Our new solar display — cleverly mounted on an actual photovoltaic panel — tells the story of our new solar project. Hike up to the Hike Inn to see it. Check http://www.hike-inn.com for details on how to make a reservation. Stay vertical and keep walkin’!
Day after day, we always count on the sun coming up. But guests at the Len Foote Hike Inn get a bonus by seeing the most beautiful sunrise in the state. In my novel, THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story, I describe how pleasant it is to arise, get a cup of coffee and enjoy the glory of the sunrise, a colorful combination of sky, cloud, sun and shadow interrupted only by gentle murmuring of guests who share the moments with you.
Those who follow this blog know I do a lot of hiking. In the summer much of it is in and out of the Hike Inn where I do the evening tour and give after-dinner program. If pressed to name my favorite place on earth — and I’ve been a lot of places — it would likely be the Hike Inn. I have had the privilege of being on the board for many years and currently serve as president. During these many years, I have worked with great staff, volunteers and board members to maintain the facility in top shape and add sustainable features such as solar hot water in the bath house, a state-of-the-art food composter and now an enormous solar array providing 70 percent of the Hike Inn’s electricity. Many thanks to All Points North Foundation for a grant making the solar array possible.
My life is much richer for having been associated with the Hike Inn, and I strongly urge you to go there if you have not made the trip. Our mission statement is: Protecting Georgia’s natural resources through education and recreation. Many visitors who take this hike deep back into the Chattahoochee National Forest realize how true this statement is after working up a sweat on the trail and later realizing how much they actually learned. Every time I see a family sitting together in the evening playing a board game and laughing together, I think about how great it is that we ask guests to turn off their smart phones and enjoy the reality of the natural world.
THRU begins and ends at the Hike Inn. Go to http://www.hike-inn.com and learn why the place is so much a part of what matters to me.