This one is for all the local history buffs out there! This hike takes you past the ruins of Rattlesnake lodge, built in 1904 as a summer retreat for Dr. Chase P. Ambler and his family. Dr. Ambler was an avid forest conservationist and is regarded by many as the father of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail starts at Bull Gap and follows the Mountains to Sea Trail east. This moderate hike starts with uphill switchbacks, but don’t worry, it levels out.
Early spring is a particularly lovely time to go, as there are a great number of daffodils on the grounds.  Spring through fall the trail can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, but when it is closed during the winter it can be accessed via Elk Mountain Scenic Highway.

Frugal crew member Maggie enjoying the solitude of Rattlesnake Lodge’s “yard”.

Length: 3.8 mi lollipop
Difficulty: moderate
Directions: From Asheville, head north on Merrimon Ave.  Turn right on Beaverdam Rd.  After 0.6 mi, turn left on Elk Mountain Scenic Hwy.  After 7 mi, continue straight on Ox Creek Rd.  At 0.2 mi you will see a small pull out on the right.  Park here or along the road (be sure your car is all the way off the road) and access the trail from the pull out.
Take it from someone who has contracted a water-born infection before. Water purification is something you never want to skimp on. After dealing with Giardia from ingesting improperly “purified” water, I always take water purification seriously.
There are several methods of purifying water. Here are four of the safest ways (when used properly).
1) Filters
There are several types of water filters including pump, gravity, and straws. My preferred method has been gravity filters because of the ease of setting up the filter. Most gravity filters require gathering water in a dromedary, attaching the filter tubing and let gravity take it from there. The unclean water flows through the tubing into the filter. Most gravity filters include several layers of filtration to catch micro-organisms that cause infections in human digestive systems.
A lot of filters will also contain a chemical such as activated carbon to reduce bitter tastes of tannins released from decaying leaves in a water source.
Filters are a favorite of many outdoors people because they have the least negative effect on the taste of water, and they can be lightweight and easily packable. They’re also budget friendly, because they are multi-use and replacing parts is easy and cost-effective. To lengthen the life of your filter,  gather water from clear water sources so that sand and debris does not clog the filter.
Filters do not protect against viruses, so they are not a typical preference of people traveling to regions with higher rates of virus contamination.
2) Chemical treatment
The two most common ways of treating water with chemicals are iodine and chlorine. Most people bring these purification types with them as backups if water filters break. They are lightweight options, though not reusable and can take up to several hours to be effective in treating water – longer if the water is cold. Chemical treatments for water leave a distinctive taste, which can be counteracted by neutralizing tablets or water flavoring. Iodine does not protect against
Cryptosporidium, but does purify most other protozoa.
3) Boiling
Boiling is effective when used properly. It’s not a common purification method anymore, except as a backup method or in specialty trip situations. A rolling boil must be reached for a minimum of one whole minute, or three minutes for higher elevation (when in doubt, go longer). This is time and fuel consuming. In addition to the time to reach a full boil, you then have to wait for the water to cool to a drinkable temperature.
This purification method can be used for murky water, and then strained through a clean bandannas or other fabrics to filter out debris and sand.  
4) UV Light
UV purification is a relatively new method and is not a common practice. It works by killing bacteria and viruses. UV light purification is usually in the form of a “pen” that is run on batteries. The light end goes directly into the water bottle or dromedary and either stirred or shaken. It is rarely used by itself, because it does not filter out any chemicals or debris in water. UV light purifiers are also expensive, and many people do not trust using anything that requires batteries in the back country. It is important to bring a backup purification method if this is your primary. 
When planning a trip into the back country, it is important to plan water sources along your hike. Take note of any trail guides that warn of unreliable water sources, as they can disappear in dry seasons. Whatever your preferred method of water purification is, always take a backup and follow instructions carefully.
I was lucky that when I contracted the parasite, I recognized the symptoms early and was able to seek treatment early on. Some water-born pathogens can cause life-long complications, dehydration, and even death if left untreated.
Fewer crowds and bare trees make winter hikes unbeatable for solitude and sweeping views. Be prepared to get the most out of winter adventures with these 6 tips.
Check the Weather
Before any hike you should check the weather, but this is even more important when winter hiking. You’ll want to check not only the temperature, but the predicted precipitation, wind and daylight hours so you can plan accordingly. Don’t forget that high elevation and bald peaks can make trail temps much colder than in town.
Layers, Layers, Layers…
Be prepared for all conditions. You may work up a sweat going up a steep incline and times but be cold walking a flat section or taking a moment to enjoy the view.  Be prepared for unexpected changes in the weather by bringing layers that offer insulation and wind/water protection.
Pack Safety Equipment
Hiking in the winter can be unpredictable at times. Trails and conditions may not be what you are used to during the warmer months. Make sure that you have the necessary emergency equipment (see our blog post on Outdoor Safety Basics). It is always a good idea to throw a basic first aid kit in your bag and let someone know your planned route and return time.
Start Early and Be Flexible
Because of the limited sunlight during the winter months, you might want to start earlier than usual on your adventure. Plan a turn-around time and stick to it so you can get out of the elements before the sun goes down and the temperature drops.
Invest in Good Gear
With winter hiking, it’s critical to have the appropriate gear when heading out. Avoid cotton, it loses its warmth when wet and takes a long time to dry. Instead opt for synthetic, merino, or bamboo apparel.
A few gear essentials are waterproof or insulated boots, baselayer, something to keep your head warm (hat, balaclava, etc), an insulated jacket, and a weatherproof shell. It is always good to have a change of clothes in your bag or waiting for you in your car!
Treat yo’ self!
After braving the harsh conditions of winter, treat yourself to a nice warm meal and a hot cup of cocoa or tea. It’s always good to have a thermos of something hot waiting for you at your car or in your pack.

Looking for a hike that’s short enough to do in an afternoon, but challenging enough to keep the crowds at bay? You might want to give Frugal Backpacker Greenville Staffer, Marie’s favorite hike a try – Rainbow Falls. Located in Jones Gap State Park, these stunning falls and offer plenty of space to spread out for a picnic or wade around the base (always use caution on slick rocks and around water).

Marie at her fav trail.

Distance: 5 mile out and back

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions: From Greenville, head north on 276 toward Caeser’s Head State Park. Continue 2.6 miles past the park and turn right onto Solomon Jones Road. After 4.6 miles, you’ll see a small parking area on the right. Head back about 10 yards and turn left to to access the trail.

Start out on the blue blazed Jones Gap Trail, then after 3/4 of a mile veer right onto the red blazed Rainbow Falls Trail.