Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/8/21 Countdown to Christmas: Our Travel Tree & Georgia State Parks

For this blog category, “Countdown to Christmas: Our Travel Tree & Georgia State Parks,” each day between December 1 and 25, I take a pic of a state park ornament on our Travel Tree and briefly highlight that park.

“Fort Mountain State Park sits at the southwestern end of the Cohutta Mountains near the Cohutta Wilderness in northwest Georgia. Sitting at 2,850 feet above sea level, Fort Mountain is a great destination for hiking and history lessons alike. The area in and around the park was home to the Cherokee Indians for hundreds of years, and their legacy is still felt throughout North Georgia today.” (Park website)

This was one of the more beautiful parks we have visited in Georgia, or anywhere.

Soon after we arrived, we hiked over to the Cool Springs Overlook.

Later on, a cool little family told us about the unique Blue-Ghost Fireflies, which live in mature woodlands with high canopies, especially around mountain laurel and rhododendrons. They said to go back up to Cool Springs Overlook about dusk because Fort Mountain was one of the few places in southern Appalachia to find them. “But you have to look carefully; sometimes they show—sometimes they don’t!” Never ones to turn down an adventure, we headed back up to the overlook a little before dark …

After about thirty minutes, Robert started getting a little antsy about being out in the woods after dark. (He had probably seen Deliverance years back.) But I really wanted to see the bluish lightning bugs. Also I had wanted to bring a glass Mason‘s fruit jar to put a couple of them in. But it’s 2021.

Looking all around, scanning every inch of the darkening sky, I became more and more desperate to see a firefly. “Robert! Look, LOOK!” I finally screamed, pointing, so excited.

“Neal, that’s the moon. And please stop yelling.”

We really did see the fireflies when it got completely dark. But it was too dark to photograph them. Google Blue-Ghost Fireflies. They’re fascinating.

*********

Now, listen to this: there’s a HIDDEN HEART at Fort Mountain! Really.

It seems that during the Great depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a fire tower at the very top of Fort Mountain.

Well, one young stone worker named Arnold Bailey missed his love back on the homefront so much that he carved out and sneaked in a heart-shaped stone and placed it smack dab above a prominent window.

And if that story isn’t cool enough, listen to this: Arnold and Margaret were married 59 years until Arnold died. He died from kidney stones.

Okay, TIB (Truth in Blogging): I made up his cause of death. I couldn’t find out ANYTHING about how Arnold passed away, and it seemed just so boring to end the story with “… Arnold died.” Kidney stones seemed to fit the rock theme. Sorry. I know how important it is for bloggers, like politicians, to always tell the truth.

I asked Robert if one day he would do something for me, long lasting and commemorative, like Arnold had done for Margaret. He just stared at me with no expression. But I can read Robert’s expressions, even the blank ones. This particular one said emphatically, “Just putting up with you is a heart-shaped, rocky monument.”

We loved this park. We ate it up.

6 thoughts on “12/8/21 Countdown to Christmas: Our Travel Tree & Georgia State Parks

  1. Good blog Neal. I actually volunteered at Fort Valley back in 2000 or 2001. You obviously know a lot more about the park than I do. But I loved hiking the trails and bird watching on my days off. I saw my first red winged blackbird there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not heard of blue ghost fireflies, so I learned something today. The hidden heart is a beautiful story and the fact that they were married 59 years makes the story a real gem (get it?). No need to kill him off with a kidney stone.

    Liked by 1 person

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