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.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/12/21 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.

Panola Mountain State Park near Stockbridge in metro Atlanta is a unique park. Because of its protected status, the park is considered the crown jewel of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, one of just three National Heritage Areas in the state. It’s also a National Natural Landmark.

And “Why is Panola so protected?” you’re undoubtedly asking. Oh come on, you know. Of course you do. Because there’s a MONADNOCK there! And you don’t just find a monadnock in every nook and cranny. What? You don’t know what a monadnock is? Well, my goodness, let me define it for you then. Take out a pen and a piece of paper. It’s like I’m back in the classroom teaching again. Here I go: “Monadnock, students, is an isolated hill of bedrock standing conspicuously above the general level of the surrounding area. Monadnocks are left as erosional remnants because of their more resistant rock composition; commonly they consist of quartzite or less jointed massive volcanic rocks… Do I need to repeat any of that?”

[Robert is annoyingly INSISTING that I tell you I was reading the definition—while mispronouncing many of the words—straight from Brittanica.com.]

It was wet the day we visited.

To keep one foot from getting so wet, I should have stood on one leg, like the ducks. Or as I started calling them, the monaducks.

More info: “Panola Mountain is a 100-acre granite outcrop similar to Stone Mountain, but smaller and much more pristine. Park visitors see the outcrop and its rare ecosystem just as Native Americans did centuries ago.” (Park website)

We hiked along a boardwalk perched above the granite outcroppings.

The granite looks bleak at first glance but is covered with a variety of lichen species, resurrection moss and other rare plants.

We are so lucky to have such an enchanted environment in our state.

If you are interested, here is a link to a fascinating article about the entire Arabia Mountain area:

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/11/21 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.

Red Top Mountain State Park is a lovely densely forested park located on 12,000 acre Lake Allatoona north of Atlanta. The name “Red Top” comes from the high iron-ore content which causes the soil to have a rich red color.

Our cabin (with me trying my very best to figure out how to open the door) followed by the cottage we rejected …

Kidding … t’s the 1869 Vaughn Log Cabin behind the park’s visitors center.

We stayed at Red Top during the height of the pandemic, so we laid low around the cabin for most of our visit. Joyful quietness.

Here I am, looking slightly crazed, but adding to the already existing totems in our cabin’s back area leading down to the lake. Sending healthy thoughts and energy to all.

May we be Happy. May we be Healthy. May we be Safe. May we be at Peace and live our lives with Ease.

And here are some beautiful images Robert captured. (I thought about claiming that I had taken them. But you know my impeccable standards with TIB—Truth in Blogging.)

A perfectly peaceable park.

See you tomorrow.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/10/21 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.

Hi there.

Welcome to the 10th day of my “Countdown to Christmas” series. Today we head over to Chattahoochee Bend State Park, near Newnan, Georgia. We visited on a short day trip in early March of 2020 before Spring made much of an appearance.

Chattahoochee Bend gets its name from, well, a bend in the Chattahoochee River.

Lots of hiking on this day.

The color scheme for this post is brown. But Robert found a few bits of color …

Here’s a riveting short, narrative-driven film, entitled, “Stick Gear: Winding Down by the Bend,” written, directed and filmed by Robert John Smith Jr, choreographed by and starring Neal Saye.

Good day to you! I hope things swing your way.

P. S. Robert says “Friday Hi!”