Friday, December 31, 2010
Vogel State Park
We, as in Kim, Scott, Carlos, and I went on what started as a two night camping trip to Vogel resulting in an extra night being added. Vogel actually is my favorite park. I used to go there when I was growing up with the family.
It all started as a Christmas present. I gave Scott a dutch oven for Christmas and purchased the camping trip reservations sometime in November. I also got some new hiking boots for Christmas that prepared me well for the trip! It actually snowed in GA on Christmas day, which was sort of a miracle for this part of the country. By the 28th, the snow had melted and we expected clear roads and just a chilly trip. Some mis-happenings occurred trying to get up there but we arrived just as the sun set around 6pm and there was 8 inches on snow on the ground! I was not only pulling the camper for the first time but the first time also with my hitch! Unfortunately my Xterra was caught on a patch of ice and we ended up getting some help from local campers. I ended up reversing maybe 50 ft and high tailing it up the hill to gain the moment to overcome the ice. It was pretty awesome hearing comments from the guys saying, "man she really knows how to drive that thing!"
We got the camper in site 5 rather quickly and started to put things up as quick as we could. I'm not sure the exact temperature but it easily had to be less than 20 degrees F.
After maybe 25 minutes of getting things out of the car and putting the camper up we realize the electricity is not functioning properly AND there was no running water!! At this point I think we were all expecting it to be a long, cold night.
The same guys who helped out with the ice patch came over to see if we could find the problem. Somehow, a connector on the outside of the pop up, near the roof mind you, was disconnected. Scott was the only one tall enough to reach it which fortunately saved us all from a long night! We finished setting up, ate hotdogs over a fire that would almost refuse to start, and basically headed to bed.
The next day was cool still but now quite as windy. The water was still frozen but we were on a mission. The park rangers had finally brought some rock salt to spread on the roads enough to break the ice. Some of the campers were talking about freezing rain that would be approaching that night. We decided to enjoy the morning before making a hasty decision. Breakfast was cooked by me, a delicious omelette with chocolate milk. Then we headed out. Something unknown about the Vogel is that at the back of the 1 mile lake trail they have a beautiful waterfall. It's a mini version of what you would see at Amicalola but with less people. We hiked down there almost slipping a bit due to the slick path.
After the hike we decided to take a short trip to any sites surrounding Vogel. I did not realize how close Brasstown Bald was! Unfortunately we were unable to enter the area due to the roads being iced over but we all agreed on a spring trip to see the highest point in GA! We went about 16 miles to the next closest park, Unicoi (to be told in next posting). After our excursion around the mountains we returned just after 5pm and unanimously decided to stay an extra night regardless of the rain that may lay ahead. The majority of the RVs and campers left leaving only 7 sites occupied.
Afterward we got back to Vogel we headed to straight to the Visitors center. Scott, Carlos, and I purchased matching sweat pants, Scott bought some gloves, and I bought some warm wool socks.
The third day was spent just relaxing around the site. It actually did not rain that night as everyone had predicted. Scott and I ended up knitting and crocheting while Kim and Carlos went on another hike. We had a nice bon fire that night pretty much using the remaining fire wood and just hanging out. Scott and I made some mini pizzas in the dutch oven and had an amazing apple cobbler to end the trip. He bought one of the flame color changing packets and we tried it in our fire. It was supposed to last a couple hours.. I think it was more like 20 minutes. Regardless the blue, purple, and green flames were pretty awesome.
The water never ended up turning on but we never had any more trouble with the electricity. There were several mishaps that kinda through the trip of guard but I think thats what makes the trips more fun and memorable.
The next day we left around 12 not even realizing it was the last day of the year. It was almost surreal coming back to civilization.. A fact none of us really wanted to face.
Unicoi State Park
Drive By on December 28, 2010
In the middle of a camping trip to Vogel we, Scott, Carlos, Kim, and I, decided to check out Unicoi which was roughly 25 minutes away.
I remember driving by the signs of the park as a kid thinking how I didn't like the park name. I always thought it would be ugly and just weird in general. Not really sure where that stereotype came from.. just a weird name I guess. Regardless we decided to visit the park to see exactly how amazing it truly was. I was surprised to see it was only 2 miles from Helen. I had been there so many times and didn't realize how close.
The park itself was sort of weird. I was not really sure where the park boundaries were and we drove around for about fifteen minutes looking for the visitors center. The park entrance is gorgeous and has a beautiful lake tucked away in between two mountains. Due to snow and ice conditions we were also not able to see Anna Ruby Falls.
We finally found the visitors center after driving around the campground. the sites looked to be well up kept, the only downside is the distances to the restroom facilities. For some reason I have yet to understand, RVs always park next to the restroom..
Anyway we were also really amused by the cabins they have. Instead of the usual wood log cabins you would see at other state parks, they have these round barrel looking metal cabins! We weren't able to get too close but I really want to stay in one of those! Carlos thought we were crazy but it just looks so strange!!
Unicoi also had a lodge that could be used for conferences. It was kind of funny seeing as it was the same material and look as the cabins at Vogel but I think it gave it a bit of a natural feeling.
Our travel through the park couldn't have been more than 25 minutes. It was nearly 4pm and the sun was all ready setting. We needed to get to a gas station, a Walmart (for food, promise!!), and back to a park before dark.
My biggest memory.. I spent all day trying to figure out what happened to my brand new pocket knife Scott had given me in the morning.. it fell out of my pocket when we were taking the group photo at the sign.... Yeah one of those trips..
Sunday, December 19, 2010
James "Sloppy" Floyd State Park
December 18, 2010
Today was an eventful sort of day! We, Scott, Carlos, Kim, Megan, Mike, and I decided roughly two weeks ago to go on a roadtrip. It would be a one day event traveling over three hours to eat lunch at James Floyd State Park and stopping in Alabama at the Unclaimed Baggage Center.
The day started pretty gloomy at 8:45am with muggy weather and even a bit of rain to start the day. We took Scott's parents minivan for the most space... the downfall.. wipers didn't work very well! We shared a lot of fun stories and laughed a lot in the car catching up on all the crazy adventures from the semester. We stopped in Kennesaw to pick up Kim and a mini cooler. Two hours later we finally arrived at James "Sloppy" Floyd State Park. The entrance to the park was found after driving two miles down a run down road surrounded by red neck style housing, complete with wild dogs, large trucks, and I swear we heard banjo music!
Once inside the park grounds, it was actually gorgeous. There was a large lake, leaves still everyone on the floor, and these beautiful white trees by the water side. The best part was the quiet and calmness of the whole park. It felt as if we were the only ones there! There were several picnic areas near the lake and swinging chairs. We enjoyed a peaceful lunch and took several pictures at the swings. Though I did not get a chance to check out the campsites, I think it may be a good state park to check out for future camping in this area. Fortunately too, the visitors center, as small as it was, actually had the patches! The only downside from our visit besides it being cold was the bathroom at the visitors center smelled like smoke...
Upon leaving we had a pretty interesting run in with a driver under he influence... Kim couldn't have put it in better words with her note...
My friends and I planned a day trip to the Unclaimed Baggage Center stopping for lunch at James H. (Sloppy) Floyd GA state park on the way there. We make it to the park for lunch safely, with much better weather than expected! Sunny and chilly enough to know it is fall. When our yummy sandwiches were gobbled up we were off to the Center. Only about 20 minutes into our 50 min drive to the store an indecisive driver turns in front of us too close at a stop light intersection. Seriously people, if you're going to pull out in front of someone that close don't go five miles per hour! So we (Krystal, Scott, Carlos, Me, Megan, and Mike) all get rallied up in his stupidity and honk at him out of frustration. This careless driver now in front of us finally goes down the road but we notice him slightly swerving and didn't think much about it until he almost runs off the road. He corrects himself and now were are all watching him like a hawk... (It's a one lane each direction, winding road). After about 6 more times of the obviously extremely intoxicated driver cutting it close when swerving out of the road (in the grass and almost all the way in the other lane swerve) we decided to call and report him to the police for everyone's safety. About now there are a few cars lined up behind us and it is obvious they have noticed his erratic driving because they are staying a good distance behind. We leave a report and are keeping our eyes out for a cop to wave down. We all start getting antsy because its been a while and there was still no cop. We come to a t-intersection with option to go left or right. You could tell the driver wanted to turn right but his reaction was too slow, he almost runs into the stop sign. Instead of correcting himself and turning from the right turn lane he uses the left turn lane to turn right. Now the road (which is a bridge) is two lanes and we are able to pass and get in front of him as well as one or two other cars. When the long bridge ends, to the left are trees for a couple of yards and then a grassy median where we finally spot a cop! I attempt to jester to the cop as well as the drivers behind us. We are all rallied up now excited and anticipating the cop was stopping him. Because of heavy traffic it takes him a a bit longer than we expected for him to get on the road causing the tension to well up. Finally, when the cop turns on his blue lights we all cheer as if our favorite sports team just scored an amazing play. This is not the end! We are still watching out of curiosity of what is going to happen. To our humor the driver takes for ever to decided where to pull over. He finally gets stopped and we all celebrate once more!!
To say the least it was one of those days... We finally make it to the Unclaimed Baggage Center and spend just over an hour. It was pretty neat to see some of the crazy stuff people leave at airports. Could you even imagine loosing or leaving a wedding dress, a baby stroller, a laptop!? It's mind boggling! I would throw a fit after having spent so much money! Regardless I found a jacket, still with the Macy's tag of $130 and purchased it for $35! Scott and Megan both bought some books and Kim purchased a fairly new Nintendo DS for her niece and $70 with a case too!
Overall it was a fun trip and a nice get away from the normal daily routines. I'll definitely go back sometime to see if there's any more crazy stuff!
Let's see where the next trip takes us.. perhaps it will be camping!!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Fairy Stone State Park, Virginia
July 2 – July 5, 2010
To throw a little twist into our venture, Scott and I went to Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia with my parents and to meet up with some relatives for a mini first annual family reunion. I felt appropriate to add this park from Virginia for various reasons you will see as you continue reading.
Scott and I left Kennesaw Thursday night and met my parents at a KAO in Statesville, NC (roughly 6 hrs away). The KAO itself I can safely say was better suited for RV’s, perhaps those that were cross country traveling and needed a place to park. The KOA was kept clean and even had a pool and a playground, the downside was they had one bathroom at the front of the campgrounds (which is not cool when you have a pop up and no bathroom) and the sites themselves are literally running over each other. Why I say its better suited for an RV… well think about it... all they do is pull in and they never have to leave since there is a bathroom, kitchen, and bed inside!
Regardless, we all woke at 6am and were packed and headed out by 7! I don’t think we’ve stayed at a place any shorter amount of time! Dad stopped in a small town in NC, Mt. Airy. We went in the Walmart for some last minute groceries and left (not knowing this would be the last location for cell service!)
We drove another hour, thru the small town of Stuart and finally made it to Fairy Stone State Park just after noon. Dad got us checked into sites 50 for us and 51 for the Feb’s. We made it to camp and after unpacking in record breaking time all crashed in the hammocks and chairs outside :)
The Feb’s arrived around 4pm and we sat around a fire catching up on what life has brought. Dad grilled some chicken and Scott finished it off with an amazing dessert! We tried something new by placing a piece of aluminum foil splitting the inside of the Dutch oven in two and creating two cobblers at once, apple and strawberry. Both were to die for! Who knew strawberry cobbler could taste so amazing. Turns out that Uncle Earl had purchased a Dutch oven from Walmart (which Scott will invest in shortly!!) that he had just seasoned in order to try out some recipes. Brandon just became a Webelo Scout in BSA and uncle is a leader. Scott and Uncle had a lot of fun talking about scouting.
Uncle also showed me a journal he had started before Kendall was born of various parks and places he has hiked or camped. I was flipping through looking at all the pictures he drew in, pasted in, and maps of stuff in there. He is very talented! There were some great stories too… like the one about the mouse in the cabin… let’s just say it ended up being the shortest camping trip ever! Also Scott and I decided to start a tradition (taken from a friend). We have created a flag that we made on a thick piece of canvas fabric that has an outline of GA. Yet to be named, it has glued on all the state parks to date we have been to. On the pack will be places elsewhere we have been (but still relating to parks etc). This is cool as it serves as motivation for us to continue, not that we need it, and as something we can display when we go camping to well show off!
Saturday was spent relaxing as well. Kevin woke up almost at 12:30pm as usual. At 1pm we went to the Visitor’s Center for a park activity: Hunt for Fairy Stones. The park had a location at the foot of two mountains were all the eroded rocks settle. This settling ground was the site of the fairy stones. Legend says that when the fairies and elves heard Jesus had died, they cried; their tears became mini crosses made of rock. In actuality, these stones are naturally forming and erode from mica schist (which is also used to create make up by grounding it into fine powder!) We found several cool single column stones and St.Andrew’s style stones. A lot of stuff was really eroded to where you couldn’t distinguish a shape or they had not separated from the original rock yet. I still think the park rangers go every night and place those stones everywhere…..
We, as in our family, went to Walmart yet again for another trip. Mom was definitely going crazy at this point for not having any service. I think it was nice not to have to think about phone calls or emails. I mean yeah it is a worry, what if something was wrong with Hunter (we boarded him) or what if the world was coming to an end.. but as they say, ignorance is bliss :)
The end of Saturday day was more chill time talking around the fire pit. Saturday night was our assigned day to cook dinner. We decided on the spot to create our own recipe of beef stew for the Dutch oven. With ingredients that shall not be mentioned, it turned out to be delicious! AND we had enough for leftovers! It will definitely be something we make again. Scott then used Uncle’s Dutch oven to create a second dessert, pineapple upside down cake. MMMMM, it was so mouth-watering. It was a surprise for Titi Arlene’s birthday. The best part was when we flipped the cake, just after finishing, we put the candles on it and began to sing happy birthday. The problem was that we didn’t give it a chance to cool and as we sang the candles were melting! All of us were starring at the cake singing faster! It was sooo funny. The cake turned out to be amazing!
Sunday, July 4th, we found out that we had missed the fireworks from Stuart. They had celebrated on July 3rd… go figure they couldn’t even celebrate on the right day…
It turned out to be a day for adventures though! Kevin went with the Feb’s and went canoeing. They ended up canoeing for about an hour going down the lake to the Philpot Dam. Mom and Dad stayed back to relax and spend time together. Brandon and my aunt went to the beach to get some rays and play. Scott and I decided to go for a hike :)
I told Scott I wanted to do the Little Mountain Falls Trail, 2.3 mile moderate trail. Funny thing… somehow we ended up doing over 5 miles! Even though the trails don’t cross on the map, we ended up getting on the Mountain View Trail then back onto the Little Mountain Falls Trail. AND to make things crazier it was much more than moderate.. there were parts where we felt like we were rock climbing! As for the falls… Scott and I joke about it being a trickle-fall rather than waterfall. It would have been much prettier if it had just rained. It was definitely strenuous but I did enjoy the hike. The view from the top gave us a glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mtns (where we were), the Appalachian Valley in the middle, and the Appalachian Mountains on the other side. It was definitely worth seeing! I also probably drove Scott crazy with some of the plant stuff. I loved being able to see plenty of Chestnut Oak trees and seeing such a rich soil ecosystem (noted by the ferns and other plants). Not much was in blume but I showed Scott pipsessiwa and some Galax. I think he secretly enjoyed it, especially because it made me happy.
We ended Sunday night with my uncle making a fantastic Chuck wagon Casserole, think of chili with a layer of corn bread on top. MMMMM Fantastic!
The trip overall was amazing. I loved being able to be away from civilization even communication and escape from everything. Scott had 1 bar of signal but he even kept his phone off so that was even better.
Fairy Stone is definitely a park I would go to again, especially with children, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a park to try out.
What I liked about Virginia State Parks… They have a hiker program. You register and you get a pin. You also get a pin after 5, 10, and 20 hikes you complete. If you complete a certain amount of hikes you also get a master hiker pin. I thought that was pretty neat! Wish GA had something similar with parks/hikes. They also provided patches but I think it was like the individual park not necessarily something each park would have. One thing though… they don’t have decent park maps. The map they provided did not have campground sites labeled or the trail maps. That’s one thing GA does right :)
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Lake Richard B. Russell State Park
June 12, 2010
This was a spur of the moment trip.. we were actually on the way to Walmart to get some aluminum foil and a towel for Kim when we saw a sign for this state park. We were in fact camping at nearby Watson Mill Bridge State Park!
Well This trip was Kim, Megan, Scott, Dennis, and I (Dennis took the picture!). It must have been a bad omen from the start with this bee.. well this bee was we thought watching us. It would literally buzz in the same place pointing in out direction as if to say this is my spot. It finally went away when an even larger bee showed up!
We all went into the visitors lodge to get maps and patches. Neither of which was provided by the park! They had been sold out of patches and had no intention of purchasing new ones. We later found out at Watson Mill Bridge that due to funding, parks may actually be getting corporate sponsors, potentially changing some names!
Well we were all very disappointed in not having the patches... thinking about ordering custom ones on ebay or the like.
Anyway, we found a 2 mile trail near the actual lake that looked to be promising. The park itself was humongous containing not only the lake but a golf course and disc golf. We later found it was named after GA's youngest governor who came to office at the age of 33!
The Blackwell Bridge Trail started out beautifully with a trail of recycled tire material laid down by the local detention center. It was really nice to be able to walk on supportive ground. On top of that they had several labels showing various types of trees which was pretty nice as well. Roughly .3 miles in, this trail stopped. It felt like we were going backwoods creating our own trail. The trail was poorly maintained with areas that you could barely tell where the path was. The shrubs were overgrown onto the trail as well. The trail markers were also barely visible until the last stretch of the trail.
We were not impressed with the park at all and unless they purchase some patches, it will be one I will not return to!
I will say, this park is probably more for older visitors. Very quiet place for a Saturday in the summer, even with the boats. The campsites were also pretty small and close together. It seemed to make Watson Mill even more like heaven for us!
Watson Mill Bridge State Park
June 11 - 13, 2010
I was hesitant at first when I reserved a campsite for this park. Scott and I had originally talked about going to Victoria Bryant because it was off of I-85 and fairly close to home. I saw Watson Mill Bridge was maybe 25 minutes from there and ended up booking a site from Friday night to Sunday. The hesitation came from the website showing it was a park focusing on equestrian activity, which is true but it turned out to be so much more. Half the park is for horse trails and horse camping, but the other half.. wow.
Watson Mill Bridge State Park turned out to be beautiful and now I can say it can be ranked in the top of my favorite parks! They had several shorter trails full of rich diversity in plants and sites. One trail led to an old steel bridge, another to a an old power mill from the late 1800's! There were limited pines, several hard woods meaning the forest was a little older than regions we were used to closer to Atlanta that have continuously been cleared away for construction.
Scott, Megan, Kim, and I borrowed my parents pop up camper for the weekend. There were maybe 20 tent/RV sites and 3 pioneer sites. Everything was well maintained and everyone was very friendly. There were several small kids riding bikes, many dogs and hikers, oh and the camp host. He had been there since April and had the most adorable puppy, a poodle/shitsu mix!
Friday was spent setting up, relaxing, then eating some fabulous pizza. Yes pizza! Scott used his dad's dutch oven and made some fabulous homemade mini pizzas using biscuit dough. Scott proved to be an amazing chef and surprised us again on Saturday night!
Friday we actually took a short trip to Walmart to get some last minute food for the weekend. We decided to find a local Walmart close to the park (almost 15 miles away!). Ont the way we found some fascinating findings! First there was this sign (well we found several more) but this sign was very unique. It was a stop sign like no other... there was a street sign stacked up on top literally like lego pieces. I thought it was the funniest thing!
We also some this yard of old cars. The cool part was the way the cars were decorated... Think Disney's Cars! We pulled over and took pics with Lightning McQueen, Mater, Doc Hudson, the Sheriff and a few others. That was pretty neat :)
Check out the pics at the here: http://gastateparkchallenge.shutterfly.com
Saturday was a long day with several plans incorporated. We actually left the park to visit Richard B. Russell State Park for a hike before lunch. We then did two shorter hikes in the afternoon along with splashing around the water near the bridge. The end of the day was met with an amazing dinner/desert combo. I roasted hot dogs in the fire and ate them covered in baked beans... mmmm. Then Scott made this fantastic Apple Cobbler with both real apple and apple filling that just melted in your mouth! We were stuffed by the end of the night and still had more to spare. We took an extra cup to the campground host and random couple we saw. Fortunately, we made a great choice when we chose the couple.. they ended up being part of a dutch oven camping organization and were impressed with the cake. They told us of a group, the Alabama Dutch Oven Society (www.alabamadog.com) that gathers a couple of times a year to just cook with only the dutch ovens. We will definitely be looking into it! They go to various state parks both in AL and GA and they mentioned roughly 30+ members go.
The key feature of the park was definitely the bridge from 1885 used in the local industries to cross the river. A damn was built right under creating a large space for playing in the water. We spent several hours near the maybe 10 foot water fall and walking across the bridge. The was definitely a moment of awe standing in the bridge thinking how they could have engineered such a bridge. Today we have everything made from steel, but the bridge even had its original wood nails and still carries several cars each day (including campers)!
Regardless, we had an amazing weekend and I know I will definitely be returning!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
May 12, 2010
For some reason or another I decided to take a Maymester course, Environmental Anthropology. Not entirely knowing what the class was about I went in with an open mind just because.. well it sounded interesting!
Environmental Anthropology is unique to any geography class I have taken. Instead of looking how humans have affected the environment, the course is looking how the environment affects humans! Well part of the class is focused on field work, being able to distinguish fauna and geology in a certain area. Our teacher planned a field trip to Pine Mountain. I had never heard of Pine Mountain, especially because it was not on our original state park list. Pine Mtn is actually territory owned by the City of Cartersville located adjacent to Lake Allatoona.
I invited Kim to go with me because I knew she would enjoy learning about the rocks and vegetation with me. I was really glad she came. We learned so much. The cool part about it was all the information the anthropology teacher knew! I had never had an anthropology teacher before but he was familiar with a wide range of knowledge from biology, geology, and botany to human history.
The entire hike was roughly a 3 mile loop to the summit of the mountain. We saw so many beautiful plants. It was amazing thinking that I could go through the hike with friends and missed the majority of what we saw. We stopped every 5 minutes or so while he pointed out this and that. I loved the trees! There were many white oaks, red oaks, and chestnut oaks. The forest in that region was secondary succession meaning it had been clear cut years before but was growing back to a mature forest though it still has at least a hundred years to go! We even saw what is believed to be one of the few remaining chestnut trees. It was really upsetting to see the tree was only a sapling and was slowly dying.
I did enjoy one thing he pointed out.. in class he mentioned that due to its geological history, Georgia has the second highest biodiversity spot in the world in terms of its plant and animal species. While on the trip he pointed out the forest diversity in a variety of ways. While hiking the trail we seemed to walk through various zones of forest. Some would have more shrubbery or more pine trees. Others would have less vegetation and trees that would be found in northern states. We saw four different types of pine trees which is very unusual for a forest. We also saw a bunch of beautiful wildflowers. Kim and I were both excited in being able to actually recognize and name some flowers.
It was also pretty interesting getting to learn what kinds of rocks leave various soils that trees prefer. The coolest part about the rocks... Georgia has some of the oldest rocks recorded, 1.6 billion years ago and they are found right next to Pike Mountain at Coopers Branch!
I am truly enjoying this class and tomorrow is set to go to Allatoona Dam :)