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!”

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/9/21 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.

Yesterday, I wrote about Fort Mountain State Park. Cloudland Canyon is just a short drive away, so we took a day trip over. This state park, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee and on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, boasts stunning views of craggy hills and waterfalls along three beautiful trails.

Two features are especially memorable at Cloudland Canyon: waterfalls and lots of steps.

Sometimes there’s a price for beauty. Imminent danger awaited me at every turn …

For some reason (the high altitude?), Robert wanted perfect strangers to take his picture at this state park.

“Robert, look at all the steps up this way! Come on up, slow poke!”

Robert’s response …

Thank you, State of Georgia, for establishing and preserving our Sensational State Parks!

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.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/7/21 Countdown to Christmas: Our Travel Tree and 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 stopped by Reed Bingham, just north of Valdosta, on our way back home from a trip to west Georgia. Named after the man responsible for securing the land to establish the park, it is a feast for nature lovers, with hiking trails meandering down sandy paths and through seemingly never ending waves of saw palmetto and wire grass, all underneath my beloved, scattered Longleaf.

We actually saw a gopher tortoise, but he scooted down his hole before we could take a picture.

Quiet and peaceful.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/6/21 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.

Our first pandemic Georgia State Park trip, back in March of 2020, was a simple weekday excursion an hour and a half up the road to Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen. We reasoned that few people would be around during the week, and we were right. We had the park almost to ourselves.

We liked the park (and getting out of the house) so much that this short venture started our recurring overnight pattern of heading to a park on Monday, renting a cabin and returning before the weekend crowd arrived.

TIB (Truth in Blogging): Today’s countdown post is sorta long, so you might want to grab a snack and change into comfortable shoes. I’m incorporating three Magnolia Springs trips into one post.

The park website: “Beautiful Magnolia Springs State Park is known for its crystal clear springs flowing 7,000,000 gallons per day, and a boardwalk spans the cool water, allowing visitors to look for alligators, turtles and other wildlife near the springs.”

“Yeah, right, they’re just saying that about the big bad alligators,” I thought haughtily, standing in the sun by the springs, staring out at the water, daydreaming about our upcoming picnic lunch and my special sandwich.

Oh. My. Goodness …

Jeff Bezos couldn’t pay me enough to fish, feed or approach.

The Longleaf Pine’s distinctive orangish, peely bark.

As I I have mentioned before, Robert and I love the Longleaf Pine, which excessive logging has cut to the brink of extinction, but is now making a bit of a comeback. Magnolia Springs has quite a number of majestic, mature specimens. (And so unlike with the alligators, I am simply not afraid of the Longleaf.)

I LOVE hiking through a forest replete with the beauty and aroma of Longleaf Pine.

The Longleaf pine cones are huge.

Oh, here’s my new walking stick. I MEAN HIKING STICK!

Our cabin (and the goings-on inside and out) at Magnolia Springs. Come on in.

And looky here, it’s me leading a little impromptu (and free!) “Everyone is Welcome—Morning Yoga and Mental Cleanse Workshop.”

Even Robert didn’t show. He chose (non-supportingly) to sleep in.

But here he is, gay-ly, pridefully starting a fire.

I need to end this post, don’t I? It’s getting out of hand.

We really do love our nearby Magnolia Springs State Park.

Well, most of it.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/5/21 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

Located in northeast Georgia near Elberton, Richard B. Russell State Park borders 26,650 acre Lake Russell.

Lake Russell served as the practice site for rowing during the 1996 Summer Olympics.

A meandering lakeside nature trail leads to one of Georgia’s oldest steel pin bridges. Come on, I’ll show you.

One thing that gets on my last nerve about Robert is that when we are on our daily walks, he will often stop to take yet another picture and forget (?) to tell me that he has stopped. He thinks I should “pay more attention” (uh huh, right) and notice! Isn’t that foolish? As I am often in a blissful world of my own, I continue walking until either A: I hear him yelling somewhere behind me in the distance, “Neal, where ARE you going?” (like it’s odd that I’m actually walking on my walk) or B: I forget that he is with me and have a jolly solo saunter.

I can’t remember when or where we found each other after the above separation at Richard B. Russell. But I do remember what a cool state park it is.

However …

I hear a few of you asking, “Who the heck is/was Richard B. Russell? Well, the story darkens considerably with that question. But it needs to be asked and answered.

Russell served as Georgia’s 66th governor, followed by nearly forty years in the U.S. Senate. He was also “a founder and leader of the conservative coalition that that dominated Congress from 1937 to 1963. He was for decades a leader of Southern opposition to the civil rights movement.” [Wikipedia]

Oh gosh.

Several questions come to me:

* Why does this juxtaposition frustrate me so very much: that I can have such a fun time at this beautiful state park and then be bamboozled by the racist legacy of its name?

* Should Robert and I even hang this named ornament on our Travel Tree?

* Is it possible to love the park yet find its name both negative and problematic?

* How/why on earth do difficult issues of race, equity and historical documentation find their way even onto our Travel Tree?

Such hanging questions.

Posted in Countdown to Christmas

12/4/21 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.

On this fourth day of the countdown, we take a quick look at F.D. Roosevelt State Park. It’s Georgia’s largest state park with 9,049 acres and more than 40 miles of trails. (That made me tired just thinking about it.)

The park’s website explains that “in 1924, FDR came to this part of Georgia to swim in naturally warm springs that offered relief from polio.”

Quite a few of the buildings were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, including the little cottage where Robert and I stayed …

What’s wrong with us?! Who brings cut flowers to a rustic cabin?

What a gorgeous spot in our Peach State.

I experienced abject terror only one time, when we came across Bigfoot lurking near our cabin—although at first I didn’t see him.

After the Bigfoot fiasco, Robert being all state park lovey-dovey …

While FDR was our home base, we also ventured over to nearby Callaway Gardens. We really love the peace of the little Ida Cason Memorial Chapel.

And the garden’s azaleas …

And the butterfly house …

State parks! They allow you to fly away to another world.