Sunday, May 22, 2016

Heading East in the Georgia Mountains - Second Day with Blake

Our legs were a little tired from our day on the waterfall stair-master yesterday, but we hit the road again today with our son, Blake. We were headed east from our camping spot in north central Georgia, and our first stop was a business in Tiger, Georgia--"Goats on the Roof." As you can tell from our lovely pointing models, there are truly goats on the roof.

They have comfortable places to hang out on the roof, but the main reason they are there is to be fed. Tourists use several contraptions to send food to the goats. Here Blake is pulling a metal cup of food on a line that will dump in front of the goat waiting on the roof.

This business is so smart that they get tourists to buy the food to feed their goats that got the tourists to stop there in the first place. Genius! They even figured out a way to package the goat food in a container that goats also love to eat.

You can also sit on a bicycle and pedal the food up to the goats. They are so used to this system that they start nibbling the chain before the food even gets there.

There is another goat feeder that cranks the food up to a different section of the roof. The brown goat with horns was the most aggressive, and he is climbing that fence to remind us that we are supposed to be cranking instead of just walking by.

If all those methods of feeding the goats on the roof is not enough, you can even go "old school" and feed them by hand on the ground floor. But we found out that darned brown goat is a bully goat when someone does that.

Mark distracted the bully goat so Blake got to feed one of the little goats. Blake got goat kisses for his efforts.

We have a hard time passing by a picture board, and this one had a charm of its own. So we put on our best goat faces for a family picture. Mark had to do a little cutting and pasting to get us all in the same frame. What a charming family photo!

After exhausting all the things to do with goats, we headed down the road to Tallulah Gorge State Park.

Home to the deepest gorge in Georgia, we wanted to get three of the daily permits to hike to the bottom. The visitor's center gives out only 100 permits per day. We purposefully made this trip during the week, thinking that there would be smaller crowds. But we were amazed at the number of cars in the parking lot. We were also amazed when we saw the signs that there would be no permits issued today. Because of the heavy rains in this area the day before, the rocks were too wet and slippery for gorge floor exploration today.

We were a little disappointed, but we found we could still hike most of the trails into the gorge. That would include ten different overlooks from the rim trail. Of course, we stopped at all ten. We are very thorough tourists. We got a good view of Hurricane Falls from the top of the gorge. There are six different waterfalls in the two mile section of the gorge, as the water continues to tumble lower and lower.

Then we started the trek down into the gorge. There is a sign at the top that says, "WARNING - STRENUOUS TRAIL." Even though our legs were sore from yesterday's 1,000+ stairs, we headed down. 

The sign went on to explain that to walk to the suspension bridge will require 680 steps on the stair case.  That's doesn't sound too bad, and we were at the bridge quickly enough. The bridge has a good amount of sway to it, especially when there are a number of people on it.

The sign at the top goes on to warn, "To walk to the base of Hurricane Falls will require 1122 steps." This reminds us of the signs at the top of the Grand Canyon that say that going down is optional, coming back up is mandatory. That sounds like a challenge, so of course we pressed onward . . . or should we say downward . . . until we got to the final deck at the bottom of the gorge.

If they were issuing permits, we could have continued at this point along a trail beside the water, hopping rocks and crawling over boulders to get to a swimming area under bridal veil falls. But that wasn't to happen this trip. So our only alternative was to head back up over 1,000 steps to the south rim of the gorge. The good news is that the staircase is mostly shaded. Denisa is easily distracted from leg discomfort by the flowers blooming along the staircase. This is one of the first wild rhododendrons we have seen in full bloom.

They form a ball of blooms made up of dozens of flowers clustered together.

The mountain laurels are just beginning to pop open at this higher altitude, but Denisa thinks even the tiny buds are beautiful.

We made it back to the top of the gorge, now on the south rim trail looking across at the 1,000-foot-tall rock wall on the other side. This area is off limits to rock climbers right now because a pair of nesting peregrine falcons have taken up residence here. The fledglings are due to leave the nest any time, and we saw a local with a big lens camera poised to take a picture of their maiden flight. We were thrilled to see the parents fly from the rocks in front of us.

To gain a little perspective on the size of this gorgeous gorge, from the top we could barely see the long suspension bridge that we walked across. It's barely visible as a brown line in the bottom center of the picture below.

Denisa is easily distracted by flowers, but she is really nuts when there are butterflies posing on flowers. This is one of her favorite pictures of the day--a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly drinking the sweet nectar of a mountain laurel bloom. Appropriately, that is the state butterfly of Georgia.

By walking the entire south rim, we eventually crossed the dam that forms Tallulah Lake. We ate our picnic lunch and spent some time sitting on rocks by the water. But what is that tree trunk in the background?

That's when Blake would say, "Dad, do you think you can walk out on that tree?" As if Denisa doesn't have enough trouble keeping Mark on the ground and out of the water, now she has Blake to put ideas in his mind. So of course, he climbed up the broken base and then out on the trunk over the lake.

We have about worn Blake out these past two days with all the steps and hiking.

But like the 25-year-old he is, he rebounded and we continued down the trail. He was even parkouring off the boulders on the edge of the path.

He was posing beside the world's tallest thistle plant. We have seen 2-foot--even 3-foot purple thistles. But this one had to be over 8-feet-tall!

We didn't get to hike on the gorge floor, but we did make it all the way to the lowest observation deck, and made the entire circle around Tallulah Gorge at the top. Our last stop was Inspiration point. Here we were inspired by the Appalachian Mountains rising in the distance, the gorge floor 1,000 feet below us, and the blooming mountain laurels on the rim beside us. We are wandering His wonders today!

This stop would have been enough for the day by our usual standards, but we were keeping up with Blake's schedule today. So we headed toward Toccoa Falls.

On the campus of Toccoa Falls College, it has a vertical drop of 186 feet. Tomorrow is graduation day for this small college, and friends and families were gathering here with graduates today. There was even a rehearsal taking place, preparing for a wedding with a spectacular wedding back-drop the next day. So Mark climbed to the rocks beside the waterfall for a photo op without the other groups in it.

Blake and Mark were both climbing in the mist of the waterfall, while Denisa was reading a memorial board close by. On November 6, 1977, the dam upstream from here broke. In the early morning hours, 176 million gallons of water surged through this valley and into the campus. The memorial at the falls honors the 39 people that were swept to their death. All 39 of the victims were on campus that fateful morning.

Even with that sad story, this is a beautiful place to wander His wonders. After all, Toccoa is the Cherokee word for "beautiful."

When we left Toccoa, we made one more stop at the town of Helen, Georgia. Our campground is only 3 miles from Helen, and we hadn't yet driven through town. After finding one of the few free parking spots in this little touristy village, we walked through downtown.

Known as "Alpine Helen," all the buildings are some version of Swiss mountain architecture.

If a tourist should grow tired of shopping in the little gift shops, or eating at the Bavarian restaurants, there is also tubing. The Chattahoochee River winds its way through the town of Helen, and the Cool Running Tubing company will provide tubes and shuttles to allow people to float from one end of town to the other. This also provides entertainment for the spectators in town, as we watched them get stuck in low water zones and plunge screaming through narrow sections.

So after all those adventures, we headed back to the motor home for a nice meal and games. Have we mentioned how much we are enjoying our time with Blake?

No comments:

Post a Comment