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A Last Hurrah

In early May, my father and I visited the North Georgia/Tennessee area to hike, relax, and spend some final moments together before I graduated, moved out, and went about my business in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

We began the trip in Atlanta.  After getting off the plane we made our way to one of the fast food staples of the area, The Varsity.  What’ll ya have, What’ll ya have?!” the servers  shouted.  Well, when you’re at an establishment that is recognized for hot dogs, onion rings, and orange creamsicles, you don’t really have much of a choice unless you want your meal with a side of criticism.  After finishing our dinner, we continued on to the North Georgia mountains where we settled into our accommodations for the night.  We turned in early to get some much needed rest.  After all, two days of hiking awaited us in the Appalachian Mountains and we wanted to be ready.

We awoke the next and got our packs and information straight.  The forecast called for a 30% chance of rain for that day.  By the end of the day we arrived at the conclusion that we both wanted to be weathermen.  Any position where you could be that inaccurate and still make a decent salary is a pretty sweet gig.  It rained for the entirety of the day and our raincoats never came off.  We hiked up to the top of Brasstown Bald; an old favorite of ours when we used to call the state our home.  This mountain is the highest in the state and the wind at the top scorched our faces while the valleys below were frosted in a thick haze of fog.  Now I’m no small guy, but the winds blew so hard that my grip on the rails might have left an imprint I was holding on so hard.  It was a tug of war between us and mother nature and it looked like she was winning.  We descended from the summit and went on our way to Amicalola Falls.

I never had the opportunity to make it to this park when I was younger, but I’m glad that I never did.  I might not have appreciated (or remembered) the magnitude and beauty of this waterfall.  Signs suggested that Amicalola Falls was one of the highest waterfalls East of the Mississippi River.  I definitely don’t doubt that statement one bit after our visit.  The pictures in the gallery below do not do it justice and although the steps up the falls might kick your ass, the view at the midpoint is well worth the bowlegged walk you’ll sport for the next couple days.

Our final day took us to the Great Smoky National Park near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  We never had a plan to begin with but based on my week long backpacking trip there just a year prior, I had a few points of interest we could visit in mind.  Unfortunately, the days were still wet, rainy, and ripe with fog so the views from the mountain tops might not be as grand as I remember them.  Scratch that idea!  We both love to view wildlife and at the suggestion of one of the park’s Rangers, we visited the area known as Cade’s Cove.  The area was scorched of plant life centuries ago to make hunting more accessible to the inhabitants of the area.  Since that time, trees are now sparse on the valley floor.  You can see turkey, deer, and other animals grazing in the valley for many months of the year.  Bear were also known to be seen on trails surrounding the area.  This was highly unsettlling to my father and for much of the trip, I could hear his heart pounding as though I was the protagonist in Poe’s Telltale Heart.  We explored the old homesteader cabins, many of which were from the Oliver Family, and we hiked down the Abrams Falls Trail (video of falls above).  Our last stop was the Laurel Falls Trail which took you on an easy ❤ mile round trip hike to yet another beautiful water fall.  We were even treated to a bear sighting.  It was far enough away for my father not to have a heart attack, but close enough for us to have something of a photo session with our camera phones.

I had to leave the next afternoon so we made our way back down to the Atlanta area.  We had time enough for one last visit to one of my favorite childhood haunts.  Stone Mountain.  The same artist who carved the likeness of our Presidents into Mount Rushmore had done the same in earlier years to the rock face of Stone Mountain.  However, the history behind this piece of art is a little less “Patriotic.”  The gentlemen you see on the solid block of granite are leaders of the Confederate Army.  You heard right!

After this short visit, my stay in the southwest came to an end.  I was quickly whisked off to the airport to catch a flight back to good ole’ Chicago, Illinois.  I said my goodbyes and returned back home.  I didn’t have much time left before moving away but the trip I’d just completed was time well spent.  Next stop, graduation.  After that, Grand Teton National Park.

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