Friday, July 21, 2006

Stone Mountain and Cloudland Canyon State Park

This past Monday through Thursday my best friend from high school, Jason, and I camped at Stone Mountain Park in the Atlanta area and Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest Georgia. Jason drove up from southern Mississippi, and we met Monday evening at Stone Mountain. I got there a couple of hours before him, so I went and hiked the bird trail, where the cycling and archery events were held at the 1996 Olympics. I also found a nook of the lake where a goose and duck were poking around for food, as well as a covered bridge.
The Mountain:

The carving of Lee, Davis, and Jackson on it (from the tip of Lee's head down to his boot is 90 feet):

Duck and goose and covered bridge:

Monday night we saw the nightly laser show, which is projected onto the mountain over the carving, accompanied by lights, fire, and music. It's a pretty festive feature.

Tuesday we hit the road and headed toward the Chattanooga area and set up camp at Cloudland Canyon State Park in the northwest corner of Georgia. I must say this is the best state park I've ever visited. The geography is extraordinary with a fine network of trails available for exploring it, and the campground itself is very clean, neat, and organized, as is the office and store. It's truly top-notch; I highly recommend it.

We camped there Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning we explored the trails and hiked all the way to the bottom of the gorge, a descent of about 500 feet. We saw some truly amazing sites, including a pair of 70 foot waterfalls. I didn't carry my camera for most of that (thank goodness; it would really have been in the way), but I caught a few good representative shots from the overlook, which is easy to get to.

Tuesday night we cooked hamburgers and had slaw and beans on the side; Jason brought along some pecan wood salvaged from a tree brought down by Katrina; hate to see the tree lost, but it makes for some great smoking wood. We used some more Wednesday night to cook some steaks, and we had grilled asparagus on the side. Yum!

Wednesday we headed to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga; it's a cavern with an underground waterfall. The tunnel leading to the fall features some pretty spectacular formations, and the waterfall itself was pretty incredible. 145 feet tall, and the really cool thing is the source of the water is unknown!

Upon leaving Ruby Falls we headed off to "See Rock City" as the barns advertise. It was OK, but it's pretty commercialized; I liked Ruby Falls much better.

On my way home on Thursday I took Hwy 136 all the way from Cloudland Canyon until just above Athens. It's not a road to take if you're in a hurry, but otherwise it's great - curvy with lots of elevation changes and fantastic scenery. I stopped a couple of times and took a couple of scenic photos.

One final stop I made was at the J. Strom Thurmond Lake north of Augusta, GA; it's the largest manmade lake east of the Mississippi, constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It looks like a great place for a lazy afternoon with a picnic and a good book.

All my photos can be found here.


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