12/16/17

Woodpecker Trail

The day was heavily overcast and dark yesterday...on the cold side as well. It got down to 29 degrees last night. We're hoping for warmer weather today, but when we travel south for the winter, we continually remind ourselves that it is nearly officially winter all over the northern hemisphere. The forecast is for warmer weather today and tomorrow. For now, we're bundling up.

Nevertheless, we layered up and headed out for the Woodpecker Trail yesterday.


This part of the world seems to be covered in sand, even when one is far from the beach, and that is what our trail consisted of. Apparently the rangers come in and blow it clean of fallen leaves and pine needles. It was easy to see on our walk.


If the rangers slacked off, however, these red blazes would mark the way, and we saw them every few feet.


In addition to being a "nature trail," this was also a fitness trail with chirpy informational signs and suggestions for what exercises we might like to try here.


We won't be bossed around, however, and so we refused to do any of the suggested activities. We're rebels that way.

Eventually we came to a spur loop. Along the way there, we noticed bird feeders. This would be an excellent birding trail as well. There were plenty of informational signs describing the birds one might see.


Nearby, we spotted this abandoned birds nest. Sorry for the crappy picture. I had to use Mike's phone here because my camera battery went dead. That surprised me. I didn't think I'd used it that much the day before and so I hadn't put in a fresh one. Makes me wonder about the life of my battery.


Anyway...I'll never make a very good birder. Spotting birds takes patience, of which I have always been in short supply. My friend from high school, Judy who came to watch the eclipse with us, is an enthusiastic birder. She also has a PhD in entymology. She knew she wanted to be an entymologist when she was a young child. Imagine approaching a four-year-old and asking, "What do you want to be when you grow up, Little Girl?" And having said little girl respond, "Oh, I'm passionate about entymology!" That's our Judy, the birder.

On the other hand, I do have the patience it takes to do this embroidery piece. Yesterday I filled the latest hooping.


Now, this is all the remains to be stitched.


So I hooped up the next section, and I stitched all of that yesterday too.


You'll have to take my word for it because I didn't take a picture. Now I've moved on to the last of it. It just barely fits in my hoop.


If my patience holds, I might just finish this one before I die.

Okay, now where were we? The hike. (Please forgive that momentary brain fart.) So along with the sandy portions, some of it was boardwalk. This is common in the south where there are a lot of swampy areas.


Eventually, we came to the section we were looking for. There was a platform built out over the spring that gives Magnolia Springs State Park its name.


Looking across from the platform, we could see another bridge.


And that picture above was the last one I took with my camera. (Yes, we doubled back for the bird's nest.) There was a lot of reflection from the sky making it difficult to see below the water's surface. Moving around to a different angle, we were able to see where the spring bubbles up. You can see it where the aquamarine section of water appears in the image below.


Here's the informational sign about it.


I zoomed in on the text so you can read it, if you're interested.


Also here, we could see some fish and some turtles beneath the water. One of the turtles poked his nose above the surface to breathe. I took pictures, but with Mike's phone, it's hard to see anything. We'll head back there and try again with my camera today. It's just a short distance away from our campsite.

We walked around to the bridge on the far side. Looking to the left, we saw this. We hoped we might see some alligators sunning themselves, but without the sun, we saw none. We're hoping for some sunshine today.


Looking in the other direction, we saw this. You can see the platform where we were standing earlier in the upper right-hand portion of the image below.


From there, we walked back along the same trail to where we'd started and then walked along the road to Magnolia Lake, beside our campsite.


There was a platform where one could fish, but the sign admonished us not to fish past 10:00 p.m.
No problem, we thought. We're generally in bed by then. We saw a bird catch a fish while we were here, but without my camera, the pictures were pretty well worthless. Looking off in the other direction, we could see our RV. You can see it in the upper right of the image below. It's a great campsite.


Also, we were warned yet again about the alligators, and we stayed well back from the water's edge.


Speaking of alligator bait, Smitty got out for a couple of walks yesterday. Not Miss Sadie, though. She stayed bundled up in her quilt most of the day. She only came out for kitty treats.


Our plan for today is to take the Beaver Trail, which is a longer trail. We barely need to leave the campsite for that one. It's still pretty dark outside as I'm writing this, but we're hoping for some sunshine today. Fingers crossed.

As I was finishing up proofreading this post, I noticed a fisherwoman walking along the lake's edge. She sat down there and threw in her line.


We wondered if she has any idea the peril she's in...on the other hand, she could be fishing for alligators. What do you think?

12/15/17

Magnolia Springs State Park, Millen, GA

We arrived at Magnolia Springs State Park around mid-afternoon yesterday. There is no wi-fi, but we do have a pretty good cell phone signal, so yay!


We had reservations here, but they were not site-specific, meaning we had to stop in at the visitor center to register officially. They also gave us a partial refund because of our, um, advanced years. We'd read about the park before making our reservations. What we knew is that the park is known for its crystal clear springs flowing 7 million gallons per day. A boardwalk spans the cool water, and we're hoping to see alligators, turtles and other wildlife near the springs. A small lake is available for fishing. There are also paddle boat and canoe rentals here.

During the Civil War, this site was called Camp Lawton and served as “the world’s largest prison.” Today, little remains of the prison stockade; however, the earthen breastworks which guarded it can still be seen. In 2010, Georgia Southern University archeology teams uncovered the stockade wall and numerous personal articles from soldiers. Their discovery has been heralded as one of the most significant finds in recent history. Artifacts are currently on display at the university and at the Camp Lawton museum located here at the park, and so we'll probably check that out.

As we walked up to the visitor center, we found this sign:


Also, this monument.


Just outside the door was this tree covered in Spanish Moss. We've seen Spanish Moss adorning trees everywhere in the south. This was the first one with enough to show up in a picture.


Also inside, I saw this t-shirt that gave me a chuckle. The marshmallows glow in the dark. It was tempting...I might still go back for it.


We have water and electricity here at our campsite, and it is lovely. The kitties could see right away that this was a place they were going to like.


I always set the catio at the door so that Mike can hang it on the outside wall as he finishes getting us hooked up. Sadie could barely wait for that and she sat inside while it was still inside the RV.


Nothing would do until we got Smitty out for a walk.


And he seems to be getting his land legs under him because he walked, and walked, and walked.


He walked way far away from the trailer and down by the lake.


He would have taken off on one of the hiking boardwalks, but Mike noticed the "Alligators Present" sign and decided it was a bad idea to go walking across with bait on a leash. He curtailed their water-side hike and brought the two of them up closer to the trailer. As a point of interest, the sign also said that American Alligators are not aggressive, nor are they fast on land. However, they can climb trees. (I swear I am not making this up.) It caused Mike to take a look overhead when he read that.

As for me...I had such an urging to bake a pecan pie for two. I'd been looking days earlier for something to bake for our Christmas dinner dessert. I have something else in mind, but in my wanderings, I found this recipe on a new-to-me blog called In the Kitchen with Kath. Just now I read a little more about her, and she lives in Seattle. Geez! We're practically neighbors!


So anyway...I found several recipes for a pecan pie for two, but I liked this one because it uses only natural sweeteners in the form of honey and maple syrup. We're so limited for space in the RV kitchen cupboards, I really didn't want to add a partially used bottle of corn syrup. And I'd never baked a pecan pie of any size before, so what did I know about how this combination would perform. Happily, I'm here to tell you that it was delicious! ("Was" being the operative word in that sentence, because we've devoured it already.)

The recipe includes a pie crust recipe, but in the RV, I'm keeping it simple by using Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts. Also, in my baking adventures I used the heels of some used loaves of bread to make up some croutons. In my packing before leaving home, I made sure to include a small bottle of Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle and one of garlic powder, and I've been making these croutons on the road. They're so tasty, but mainly, I'm just happy for a way to use the heels of my bread. I didn't take a picture this time around, but here are some I baked a while back.


You can read how to do it on the Penzey's website right here. I simply spray them with no stick and then sprinkle them with sandwich sprinkle and garlic powder before baking. I don't even bother with the turning part. You have to decide how crispy you like them, but I let mine bake about 10 minutes before taking them out. Yummy.

So we're camped here for the next three nights. There are plenty of hiking trails, and there's another state park just down the road. We'll probably head down there to take a look and see what's up while we're here. I'm also hoping for a sewing day while we're here. You might have noticed we've slowed our pace significantly. We're well south now...almost as far as we can go without leaving the country...and so we'll be doing a lot more moseying as we go. The most important thing on our minds right now is having a place for Christmas, and we have that whole weekend reserved near Savannah. In between, there is plenty of relaxation on tap.

We got sad news yesterday morning that our dear friend and neighbor had passed away suddenly from a heart attack, and that has been weighing on our minds. She was in her 80's and she'd been in poor health for some time. We had them over for dinner before we left on this trip, worried we might not see her again. She's the same neighbor who picked our plums for jam. The plums seemed always to ripen after we left, and she was happy to get them and always shared a jar of jam with us. We're sure going to miss her. Rest in Peace, dearest Betty.

12/14/17

Stone Mountain Park

It wasn't a "chill day" yesterday, but it felt like one. We started off with a trip to the grocery store. It was notable because we are in Kroger country now, and our own grocery store back home is owned by Kroger (although it goes by a different name). It was kind of nice to walk into a store and have it look at least a little like the one back home. From there, we put away the groceries, had some lunch, took naps, and then went on a little sight-seeing expedition around Stone Mountain Park.

This place was a bit of a surprise upon arrival. We found it on our Good Sam camping app. If you're unfamiliar with Good Sam, it's a network of campgrounds (and other services). We pay a yearly membership to join (although we've now opted for the "lifetime" option), and then we get a 10% discount at member campgrounds...and there are many. Their app works pretty well too. So, I found this place, and we had reservations. We were kind of surprised when we arrived and had to pay $15 just to get through the gate. The campground itself provided us with a pass so that we could go in and out. Nevertheless, the gate fee was unusual...and kind of annoying, if you want the truth. We thought possibly we were in a state park, but this place turns out to be a privately owned theme park.

We're not really complaining. It's lovely here. This was the view from our campsite as the sun was setting on our first day here.


Smitty has been out for several walks. Although we call these "walks," they're really "stands." Only on this particular day, we were on a "sit."


Sometimes he even "sits" facing in the other direction. If you were a lady cat, don't you think your heart would just go pitty-pat looking at this dapper gentleman?


But to get back to the park, it is a major Atlanta-area tourist attraction. Stone Mountain is a massive, bowl-shaped granite formation that formed beneath the Earth's surface some 300 million years ago (around the same time the Appalachians were formed), eventually becoming exposed through a combination of weathering and the passage of centuries.


Toward the bottom of the image below was one of the attractions...a sort of snow slide, and they were in the process of making artificial snow while we visited.

What we really came here to see was the park's namesake and focal point. This massive dome of granite 1,683 feet tall, rises some 825 feet above the surrounding region. Its lower slopes are forested with loblolly pines and Georgia oaks, but the summit is bare, pocked with depressions that give it the look of a lunar landscape.


Carved into the sheer north face is an enormous bas-relief sculpture of three major Civil War figures...Confederate president Jefferson Davis, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and General Robert E. Lee. It's rather an amazing feat of engineering. It's the size of a city block, but still looks small compared to the mountain's massive bulk. It was begun by Gutzon Borglum who later went on to complete the carving at Mount Rushmore. It took 57 years to finish, and that included a 36-year-hiatus.


The work behind this sculpture involved the labors of quarrymen who had to stand on open, wind-whipped scaffolding 33 stories above the ground. Roy Faulkner, the chief carver who finally brought the sculpture to completion, never had a formal art lesson, but displayed a mastery of the thermo-jet torch, which enabled carvers to exact fine details while still blasting away huge amounts of rock. It is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world.

This formation reminded us a little of the Canadian shield. Even the flat areas around the bottom of the mountain were huge slabs of rock. There was even a small out-cropping in the parking lot.


Okay, so that happened.

There were all sorts of rides and lots of attractions, mainly for children. Our shadow selves were kind of intrigued by the dinosaur footprints that led to the Dinotorium. (Don't ask me.)


We were more interested in seeing other areas of the park, and so we dragged our shadow selves back to the truck and drove on to this covered bridge. We parked the truck at the parking lot and then walked along the road to see it.


It is truly lovely here. This is a view of Stone Mountain Lake. It's the same lake we see from our campsite, but from the opposite shore. There is no swimming here...we don't know why. Alligators? Someone needs to tell the ducks.


Finally, we came to the covered bridge.


Here's some information about it.


As it turns out, it's a bridge to nowhere. We walked through to find a fenced off parking lot on the other side. There is also a nice hiking trail that runs around the lake shore.


Covered bridges are so interesting. This next image was taken holding the camera through the slats so you could see the pegs holding it together from the outside.


Inside, they looked like this.


From the other side it looked like this.


From there, we could see the paddle wheeler across the lake. This was available for rides, but most everything was shut down for this day. We thought we might ride a gondola to the top of Stone Mountain, but it was shut down as well. That was fine because they wanted to extort us for $12 each to ride it. We tend to avoid those steep prices out of protest.


As we walked back to the truck, we could hear a disembodied voice calling to a cat, "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty...Me-ow!" We yelled to the voice, asking if he'd lost his kitty. He yelled back that there was a colony of feral cats living there and he was just out giving them food and water. We met up with him back at the parking lot. It was hard to see the cats through the brambles, but I caught a few of them with my camera. There were perhaps a dozen.


And what a lovely thing to do, taking care of these orphans. We got into a political discussion with him, which started with a question about how the cats ended up there. "Were they dumped here?" And even though we agreed with him about certain politicians, he had some odd ideas about some historical events, bringing them forward to today's world. After a time, we found ourselves plotting our escape. We moved closer and closer to the truck...open the door...put one foot on the door frame..."Nice talking to you!" In and off. Geez. Probably a nice man, but we weren't going to solve all the world's problems standing there in the cold.


So we drove on to the next parking lot and found another grist mill.


It was peaceful there. I was motivated to take a video so you could see the wheel turning. If you can't see the video, then click right here.


Here's some information about it.


Although the grist mill wheel is turning, it isn't actually operational. The door was locked, and so we couldn't go inside, but we walked around the platform that surrounded it. Here's how it looks from the other side.


There is a flume, apparently built after the mill was relocated here. We weren't clear if the intent was to bring it to operation, but it seems it could be. The flume extended off quite a distance in the opposite direction.


We walked on a short distance and located this structure, which Mike believes was a still for making moonshine at one time. The upper portion is made of copper.


We wanted to try to get back and get another view of the whole of Stone Mountain, and we ended up going to a Marriott Conference Center nearby to get far enough away. You can read more about the mountain at its Wikipedia entry right here. This picture was taken from a patio at the rear of the conference center.


From there, we could look across the lake and see our campsite. It's a little hard to see the RV in the picture below, so I've marked where it is with a red arrow.


Walking back through the conference center to the truck, I noticed the carpet on the floor. It looked like feathering on a quilt to me. Heck, I'd quilt that!


So that was our day. We headed back to the campground and got Smitty out for another walk.

Today we're moving along to Magnolia Springs State Park. Originally, we'd wanted to go north and see a waterfall trail in the northern part of the state. There was quite a bit of snowfall there from a recent storm, and all the areas we would be traveling were above 1,000 feet. We were a little nervous about getting into snow up there, and so we decided to go east from here instead. We're on our way to Savannah eventually, but we'll make a couple of stops in between. Our next stop is the state park. As I always say, it's anybody's guess whether we'll be able to get online from there, and so if I'm gone for a few days, you'll know why.