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

12/18/21 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

12/12/21 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.