Featured Ministry: Holy Hikes- Georgia Mountains

Featured Ministry: Holy Hikes- Georgia Mountains

Holy Hikes- Georgia Mountains was established in December of 2022, but just  began hiking in the spring of 2023 in the North-Eastern Mountains of Georgia  within the Diocese of Atlanta. While a majority of the hikers have been  parishioners of St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church in Toccoa, the sponsoring parish  of Holy Hikes, with each hike they are welcoming more and more from  surrounding parishes and those within the community at large. The hikes vary in  distance and difficulty, but are generally in the easy to moderate range, with  worship being celebrated throughout the hike, but also at the trailhead or  completion to include those who want to participate, but may find the hike too  difficult. Director Father Scott Harding shares what makes the Holy Hikes- Georgia Mountains ministry so special:

Hiking with Georgia Mountains

Holy Hikes- Georgia Mountains has only begun hiking this past year. This ministry was established as a way for the parishes in the Georgia Mountains Convocation in the Diocese of Atlanta to offer worship, fellowship and community opportunities through the marvelous experience of God’s creation. We offer hikes in a wide-range of settings and distances, in order to reach out to as many as possible. We have hiked on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, again to accommodate the various schedules. While there has been great variety in the type of hikes, each hike has included a diversity of hikers and has always included children, dogs, and seniors. Being in the mountains, our locations generally involve one of two features: a body of water like a creek, lake or waterfall that represents an easier (or at least flatter) hike; or climbing a mountain trail for an amazing and glorious view.

Favorite Hiking Location and Memory

My favorite hiking location is the Lake Russell Wildlife Area, which includes Mount Currahee, made famous from the HBO series “Band of Brothers.” If one were trying to create a series of hikes that could include every type of desire and ability, it would be here. There are easy paths to waterfalls, paved paths along a lake, moderate hikes that trace the perimeter of the lake, and the difficult, but rewarding hike of climbing the “3-mile up 3-mile down” route that the paratroopers of the 506th Infantry Regiment trained on during World War II.

My favorite Holy Hikes memory was a short 1-mile hike along the creek at our Diocesan retreat center, Camp Mikell. This was our first Holy Hike, and I could not have anticipated the excitement and cross-section of people who came to hike. We had over twenty hikers from age 10 to over 80, and enjoyed wonderful fellowship in God’s creation, as well as a joyous worship service at the stone altar set up along the creek.

In the Year to Come

My hope for our Holy Hikes ministry in the year to come is that we will offer a  greater variety of hikes: from urban strolls, to short waterfall hikes, to some  moderate wooded hikes, and maybe even a strenuous hike or two. Most  importantly, I want to create a balanced calendar for 2024 to disperse to the  parishes in our convocation and diocese. We have created a Facebook page that  will hopefully get the word out. We are also going to cross state boundaries and hike with Holy Hikes- Western North Carolina and enjoy their fellowship and  worship.