This past Christmas, my mom gifted me a two night stay at the Hike Inn. Last week, I finally had the opportunity to use my gift, and I want to tell you all about my stay at the Len Foote Hike Inn, a back country lodge located in the Amicalola Falls State Park. The Inn is just a short hike away from the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. However, I mostly want to talk about how driven this place is towards sustainability and nature conservation. It really was an environmentalist’s dream vacation 🙂
Eco Conscious Architecture
You have to hike just under 5 miles to get to the Hike Inn. It’s hidden away in the woods of the Amicalola Falls State Park, and it really blends right into the trees. I took the facility tour (twice! – I know nerd alert!), and it was really interesting to learn about how the Inn was constructed so deliberately to coexist with the surrounding nature.
The whole building’s structure is on stilts to minimize its environmental impact and allow the natural flow of water on the mountain. I also learned that rather than sizing building materials to fit the design of the Inn, the Inn was designed around the sizes of building materials to minimize wasted material from cutting to fit materials. The ceilings and windows are high to allow optimal natural light. Also, the windows are positioned to assist natural air flow through the building and because of this, air conditioning is not needed.
Energy at the Hike Inn
There are solar water heating panels on the roof of the bath house and also at their laundry facility to help save energy. The Inn also has photo voltaic solar panels on the game room building. They are striving for these panels to generate 75% of the electricity consumption of the building in the near future!
My favorite part of the facility tour was checking out their composting systems. They vermicompost all their raw veggie and fruit scraps, egg shells, coffee grinds, and shredded office paper waste. It was really cool to see the red wrigglers at work. They eat about half of their body weight in garbage per day. The worm castings (basically worm poop…) are harvested twice per year and then used as fertilizer for the garden.
Guess what else they do at the Hike Inn?? They compost human waste with a composting toilet system! This was absolutely fascinating to me. The toilets look pretty much like conventional toilets, but there’s no water flushing system. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that composting toilets do not stink, believe it or not. All of the waste from the toilets gets sent down to this big container in the basement, and it takes nearly 5 years for the container to be completely filled. When it’s time to empty the system, the waste is spread out to bake in the sun and sterilized to become “humanure” which can then be used as fertilizer for plants.
There’s a third composting system at the Hike Inn as well, the Earth Cube. This system is used to break down everything else like meat, cheese, oil, etc.
Zero Food Waste
My zero waste friends will be excited to hear that the Hike Inn strives for zero food waste in their cafeteria. All meals at the Inn are served family style with reusable plates, cups, cloth napkins, and silverware (no disposables). Guests are encouraged to eat as much as they’d like, but to eat everything they put on their plate. The clean plate club is no joke at the Hike Inn! Each night they scrape the cafeteria food scraps into a bowl and weigh it. Their goal is no more than 1 ounce of food waste per 10 people.
Also, when you go to the cafeteria for the first time, you are given a mug and cup that will be used solely by you during your stay at the Hike Inn. You put a name label on your cup and rather than washing cups over and over every meal, this cup and mug is yours for the stay!
Landscape & Garden
The Hike Inn is surrounded by all native plants. A lot of the plants have labels so it’s nice to walk the property and learn their names. They also have a special bat garden where they’ve planted night blooming flowers, provided a water source, and installed a bat house. Bats are important to the ecosystem so they’ve provided an inviting backyard for these animals. There’s also a small employee garden that was filled with gorgeous kale during my visit.
I had an altogether wonderful experience at the Len Foote Hike Inn last week. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions for me or if you just want to rave about the Hike Inn too! 🙂 And if you’re based in Georgia, do yourself a solid and book a night’s stay at the Inn!