Whoa, what a packed long weekend. We flew down to Atlanta on Thursday, where it was very hot. We got some tasty dinner for my birthday, collapsed on the hotel bed, and then dragged ourselves to the hotel bar. Because it was my birthday and I wasn’t going down easy. On Friday and Saturday we went to the Shaky Knees festival which was a TON of fun, and so many good bands, and it was also oppressively hot and I think I slipped a disc in my back from all the standing and then sitting on the ground. Owwie. On Sunday we woke up way early, pretty hungover, and rented a car, which was not the car we reserved (we reserved an SUV for driving to the mountains, and they gave us a Passat! Pfffft.) First we went to Stone Mountain which is like Mt Rushmore of the South, as it depicts the three “heroes” of the Confederacy (Stonewall Jackson, Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis). Being from the North, I tend to have a different, I wanna say, enlightened view on the Civil War. It *kinda* feels a little like this is a monument… To slavery. Still, it’s the largest bas relief in the world, and it is pretty impressive. BUT, it also has a weird park attached to it, that reminded me a lot of Disney World. We got to the park right when it opened so thankfully didn’t have to deal with any crowds.
Then we went north, mainly through backroads to get to Amicalola Falls State Park where you can hike up a steep set of stairs to get a good view of the Piedmont (which, we didn’t know what the Piedmont was, and I correctly guessed that it meant “Foot of the Mountains” because I took Latin in High School and it’s a really good language to take if you want to deduce the meaning of words later on in life), and you can also continue onto the AT Approach Trail, which then brings you to Springer Mountain, where the Appalachian Trail officially begins its trek north to Maine. Yowza. The first glimpses we caught of the Appalachians as we drove north were from pretty low down, but they were the trademark blue mounds layered against the sky.
It’s impossible to convey the scale of this waterfall. It just goes up and up and up, and the way to get to the top is not hiking as such, just a lot of stair climbing. I will never understand people who use the stair climber at the gym willingly but I can see it is an effective form of exercise. The one merciful aspect of this climb was that it was in the shade.We knew it would be worth it at the top because we could see little teasers of the mountain range through the trees.This is meant to be the scenic overlook, which, don’t get me wrong, is very scenic, but I wonder what the people who gave that designation thought was the most scenic. Standing on a ledge over a rushing waterfall, a mile and a half from the ground overlooking the Appalachian Mountains is *pretty* scenic. But for me, there were too many trees. Up at the top is a little picnic park with bathrooms and a parking lot and vending machines. Ah, nature. We began the walk back down to the main parking lot by the info center where there was refreshment and souvenirs waiting to be bought. Instead of taking the stairs back down, we went down a (extremely) rocky trail full of fallen trees and switchbacks. Ah. Now this is hiking! And THERE was the view I was looking for. I had to enhance these photos just a touch, because the mountains really are that blue in real life, and the camera can only do so much to capture that. I’m grateful that Alan seemed to have a solid basic background on the geology of the area. I asked why these mountains are so round and low compared to say, the Rockies. It’s because they’re super old, said he, and have had thousands of years more erosion, and after long enough time, they become covered in growth. We saw a microcosm of this phenomenon on the island of Hawai’i. The island is newer than the others, which are already effectively rainforests. On the east coast, it’s all green but on the west, it’s still mainly volcanic rock. I love geology. It’s like history for nature. From Amicalola, we took a rather long and winding journey up to the summit of Springer Mountain, the Southern Terminus of the whole Appalachian Trail. We white knuckled it up there, hugging the mountain’s wall as much as we could. When we finally got to the little parking area, we found that we still had basically a whole mile more to walk because we could get to the terminus! This was also done at about 4 in the afternoon, when the sun was beating right down on us. The trail was narrow and rocky and neither of us had proper hiking boots, just trail shoes. I thought about stopping a few times but I thought I can’t come all this way to NOT get to the AT. But we did make it. There’s a really serene, wide open area where there’s a plaque, and there are small trees with wayward branches. You know, I would’ve taken a picture, but there were a lot of people up there. Some thru-hikers, some day hikers, all taking up space and talking loudly at each other, which was extra weird because it’s quiet up there. It made me feel really claustrophobic, to be honest. I’m glad I got to properly test out my new wide angle lens for this trip, but it also made me sort of realize that a more telephoto lens would be good too. Man. I just can’t get anything right.
Oh, it’s so good to travel. It’s hitting the reset button, it’s cultivating new experiences, it’s making you more appreciative of your day-to-day life. Oddly though, now that I’m back, the real huge changes are about to begin, which I’ve been dreading. Last week, right before the trip, this happened. Now my whole world is a little topsy turvy and I need to make some tough decisions. It only makes me want to run back to the mountains and live there. Permanently. C’mon, how hard can it be? With luck, I’ll be going on lots of little trips in the coming months. In the last year I’ve been more restless and wanderlust-y than ever before, and this time I have the means to travel independently and frequently. And I got this camera.
(I don’t think Spotify lets you embed songs anymore! But here’s this.)