Posted in Monday Moaning or Monday Marveling?

Monday Moaning or Monday Marveling?

On this Monday after Christmas, I’m still Christmas-ing (and marveling) a bit. Here’s Savannah’s Troup Square near us, all decked out.

Savannah has twenty-two beautifully unique squares in our Historic District, where Robert and I live.

Troup Square is known as “The Jingle Bell Square.”

They even decorate their trash cans.

And benches.

Here’s to Troup!

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/24/21 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.

Mistletoe State Park (isn’t that a cool Christmasy name?) is located north of Augusta on the southern shore of Lake Thurman. The park gets its name from Mistletoe Corners, a nearby unincorporated township where people used to gather (maybe still do) to gather mistletoe during the winter holiday season. (I wonder if there’s a bunch of smooching going on at these gatherings. I’m trying to picture it.)

For some reason or other, which I didn’t have sense enough to really understand, Mistletoe’s Lake Thurman is one of the best bass fishing spots in the entire nation.

The only fishing which I’ve ever done is at those little carnivals or fairs or church basement fund raisers where a bed sheet is carelessly thrown over a makeshift clothesline, and an embarrassed adult stands behind the sheet with some cheap prizes. When the “fisherperson” throws her or his or they—it’s 2020!— fishing line over the sheet, back comes flying a little crackerjack-type prize clothes-pinned to your fishing line! I just LOVE fishing! TMI?

Now be honest, do we look like fishermen? Well, maybe Robert does, a tiny bit. I look like Forest Gump on a pier …

But the hiking was terrific at Mistletoe.

And we found little painted rocks scattered all around!

They excited me as much as anything has in years!

Oops …

The beauty of Mistletoe State Park …

Happy CHRISTMAS EVE!

Go kiss somebody!

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/23/21 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.

Smithgall Woods State Park, near Helen in North Georgia, was acquired by the state in 1994 as a gift-purchase ((for half its value) from Charles A. Smithgall, Jr., a noted conservationist, publisher and philanthropist.

Such beautiful vistas.

“The history of Smithgall Woods speaks of ruin and a new beginning. When first located by gold miners back in 1829, the area was full of wildlife and lush forest. Along Dukes Creek, small towns were crafted to house the miners. For the next few years, the miners feverishly panned for gold. Then, in the 1850s, the gold miners introduced the use of hydraulic mining. With this new technique, the landscape soon transformed from bountiful to desert-like. Due to its destructive nature, hydraulic mining was finally halted.

In the 1940s, a local radio station owner by the name of Charles Smithgall became interested in the land. With the profits from the sale of his media properties, he purchased 5,500 acres and spent over $20 million of his money to help with the restoration. Later, in 1994 he donated the land to the state of Georgia. Since then, the State has concentrated their efforts to preserve and protect the property. This land is known today as the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area.” (Cedar Creek Cabins website)

Pic from Smithgall’s obituary, The Atlanta Constitution

We really do love hiking our terrific Georgia State Parks. Nature is indeed a joyful medicine.

See you tomorrow. Our countdown hike to Christmas is nearly there.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/20/21 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.

Hard Labor Creek State Park near Rutledge east of Atlanta is a 5,804 acre park named after Hard Labor Creek, a small stream that meanders through the park. There is uncertainty about the derivation of the creek’s name—either from enslaved people who tilled the summer fields, or from Native Americans who found the area around the creek difficult to ford.

Hubby Robert took almost all of the pictures in this post. Do you seriously think I could have created the shots below?

Guess which one I took.

In addition to hiking trails, Hard Labor Creek has two youth group camps, Camp Rutledge and Camp Daniel Morgan, both on Lake Rutledge. Another small lake, Lake Brantley, was named for the Brantley family killed by Native Americans in 1813. (On a scale of 1 to 10, how incredibly ironic is that? One white family gets killed by Native Americans … and get a lake named after them!)

Both the camps and the lakes were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Why didn’t those hardworking boys get a lake named after them? Let’s you and me rename Lake Brantley as Lake CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).

A couple of other eerily interesting tidbits:

1. Camp Daniel Morgan was the site for the filming of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

2. Camp Rutledge was examined by the TAPS Ghost Hunters show team to see if the camp and the surrounding forest are haunted by ghosts. The episode’s title? “Camp Fear.”

Finally, here’s Robert on a Hard Labor hike lecturing me and rambling on and on about something or other. If I remember correctly, it concerned the very best strategy to meticulously step over large exposed tree roots (and of course he should know, growing up in inner-city Baltimore) in order to avoid forestation, or something like that. (I often stop listening by telling him I really need to pause for a bit and “meditate.” He knows I have issues with anxiety, so he usually buys it.)

Anyway, when I finished “meditating,” I reeled back in terror at the blood recklessly splattered on the tree behind Robert (see it in the pic above?!) —and started running, expertly jumping over exposed tree roots.

A bad ghost at work perhaps? Jason?

I’m not complaining, but going to that state park was pure, hard labor.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/19/21 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.

We visited Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site in North Georgia in Cartersville while we were staying at nearby Red Top Mountain State Park. As with other state and national parks we visit, I’m both so thankfully happy that we have these physical remnants of Native American culture preserved and so frustratingly sad that we have so few of them left … especially as I contemplate the reason why.

“Home to several thousand Native Americans from 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D., this 54-acre site protects six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, borrow pits and defensive ditch. Etowah Mounds is the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast. Artifacts in the museum show how natives of this political and religious center decorated themselves with shell beads, paint, complicated hairdos, feathers and copper ear ornaments. Hand-carved stone effigies weighing 125 pounds still bear some original pigments.” (Park website)

“It is believed that the mounds were the work of a culturally advanced people and that their central metropolis once sat on the site. A culture of mound-builders, the people are said to have used the man-made hills both for burial purposes and as raised platforms for the homes of their elders and respected leaders.” (Atlas Obscura)

“By the time that what many consider to be traditional Native American culture dominated the land, the Mississippians had long since abandoned their city, leaving behind only remnants and mounds to tell their tale.” (Atlas Obscura)

We climbed again, scaling sacred ground.

And similar to our climbing at the Kolomoki Mounds in South Georgia, the air at the top here was old air, swaying with the past. It whispered to me that if I could somehow just adjust my all-that’s-really-important-is-in-the-now sight, my impervious in-the-now knowing, and hearing, I might be able to garner a treasuring, a cherishing of what WAS before. What still is, if I could but see and hear and know.

Looking down, we spotted a small ranger-led field trip of children. Robert quickly snapped their pic. I hope they come up here. And breathe this air.

We saw such beauty along the Etowah River’s Nature Trail.

A few of Robert’s photos …

I grew up about an hour away from these mounds in the tiny Cherokee County town of Ball Ground (so named after a version of baseball played by Native Americans). We were the Ball Ground School Indians. My mother had Cherokee blood in her ancestry and was born and raised in the nearby hamlet of Talking Rock. North Georgia is replete with Native American place names (I suppose most everywhere is). I graduated from Cherokee High School, a rival of nearby Etowah High and Sequoyah High. I rooted for the Atlanta “Braves.” As a young person, I never quite had the vision to see beyond the “cute Indian-ness” of my heritage and geography.

I suppose I simply have to keep looking. For First Nations are surely there to see.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/18/21 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.

At 3,640 feet above sea level on the Eastern Continental Divide, Georgia’s Appalachian Black Rock Mountain State Park near Mountain City is our state’s highest state park and “encompasses some of the most outstanding scenery in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Roadside overlooks provide spectacular 80-mile vistas, and four hiking trails lead visitors past wildflowers, streams, small waterfalls and lush forests.” (Park website)

One very neat feature of this park is that once you walk out the door of the visitors center with your trail maps (and snack and Travel Tree ornament, of course), you are right at the Black Rock Overlook.

One not-so-neat aspect is Robert backing closer and closer to the 3446 feet drop. JUST TO TAKE A SELFIE.

Somehow he cajoled and pressured me into coming down from the safe snack machine at the visitor center to take another life-risking selfie.

Glorious hiking at the Eastern Continental Divide.

And here’s Robert at pier’s end … and obviously very happy! (Robert’s happiness barometer is set fairly low.)

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/17/21 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.

Vogel State Park in North Georgia near Blairsville, “established in 1931, is the second oldest state park in Georgia. Located at 2500 feet above sea level, Vogel sits at the base of Blood Mountain, the highest summit on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, and is surrounded by Chattahoochee National Forest. The North Georgia Mountains around Vogel were linked to Native American people for generations before European settlement.” (Park website)

We arrived on a rainy day and mainly kept inside or on the porch of our tiny cabin situated on a bubbling creek.

Totems in the water are a good sign, right?

Yes, beautiful weather gifted us soon.

But state park hiking can wear you out! Sometimes you gotta just sit.

Here’s a one-minute “pause-in-the-hike video” (I’ll call it) I enjoyed (and filmed) on the Vogel’s Trahlyta Falls hike. Click below to see it.

I’m too tired to finish this post, so here’s Robert. He says, “Thanks for stopping by Neal’s blog. Hope things are falling your way today.”

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/16/21 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.

Providence Canyon State Park in southwest Georgia near Lumpkon is one of our state’s most visually stunning parks. And yet it’s here because of man’s misuse of the land! Often called Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” Providence Canyon “is a testament to the power of man’s influence on the land. Massive gullies as deep as 150 feet were caused simply by poor farming practices during the 1800s, yet today they make some of the prettiest photographs within the state.” (Park website). The geological formations caused by massive erosion are indeed extraordinary to behold.

Robert and I hiked the upper rim trail to start our visit.

Just crazy how close the path was to the canyon edges! I kept yelling at Robert, trying recklessly to snap the perfect photo, to “Get back! Are you crazy?!”

Down at the canyon floor, looking up, the colors were amazing, and the water table produced trickling streams we had to navigate.

For some reason (childhood issues?), Robert wanted to see how far he could back into a crevice in the canyon …

(Sometimes in a relationship, you just have to go with it.)

Man’s Botching Up.

Nature’s Boundless Beauty.

If you’re interested here’s a short article with more about Providence Canyon…

https://lakesidenews.com/2021/05/bad-farming-created-magnificent-beauty-at-providence-canyon-state-park/

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/13/21 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.

The Dahlonega Gold Museum is one of Georgia’s sixteen Historic Sites, all part of the Georgia State Park system.

We visited Dahlonega in July of this year and learned that “twenty years before the 1849 gold rush in California, thousands of prospectors flocked into the Cherokee Nation in north Georgia, marking the true beginning of our country’s first gold rush. Dahlonega thrived and a U.S. Branch Mint opened in 1838, coining more than $6 million in gold before closing in 1861.” (Historic site website)

My primary goal for this trip was gold, the acquisition of gold, much gold.

It didn’t happen. All we gained from our mining and panning in Dahlonega was facts. Many facts, fascinating facts.

And this “golden” bauble.