Cheap Field Trips # 3: Bob’s Trail

Cheap Field Trips # 3: Bob’s Trail

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Cheap Field Trips # 3

What’s lush, girded, roaring and peaceful all at the same time?  Well, it’d have to be the Bob Callan Trail, of course.

If you’re up for an interesting twist on nature, take a walk down the Bob Callan.  It’s in the middle of where you are and it’s totally free!  The trail traverses the region at the convergence of Interstate 285, Interstate 75, Cumberland, Akers Mill Road, Rottenwood Creek and the Chattahoochee River.  Remarkably, this diverse trail abounds with natural, architectural, and urban fascination.

I discovered the trail when  I saw a news article featuring a man traversing a newly paved concrete path beneath I-285.  What’s this?  Something natural under the Cumberland Connector?   We’ve got our next cheap trip adventure right here.

 

Thankfully, my youngest is usually game for an adventure, so off we went.

First, literally, the biggest challenge was to find it!  The whole place around there is under construction.  I circled the area for about 20 minutes looking for an access point.  Finally, we gave up,  parked in an office parking lot, and hopped over a silk EPA fence and into the trail.  Hopefully, by the time you read this the trail head parking will have opened.  Here’s what came up on Google Maps:

google map of trail head

Wide and paved, the trail is a fascinating confluence of  highly engineered highways and disordered woodlands. The trail seems to refill dead zones that were inaccessible when the highways came.  As my husband says,” I’ve spent all my time above.  Walking the trail gave me a sense of what’s beneath.”  There’s a hidden treasure down under the concrete canopy.   God’s art meets Man’s Art.  The man-made stuff obstructs; but nature finds its way around.  The trail gives you a glimpse into this battle that rages on beneath the thoroughfare, between the natural and the man-made.  In some places, the man-made is winning the battle; but, as you walk along, you see that nature is winning the war.  Little pockets of handsome purple flowers push up at the trail’s beginning.  A large mill-stone, broken in half by time and wear, is exposed in the creek bed.  A tree busts through a concrete retaining wall.  You know that over time, if left alone, nature would reclaim this strip of land back to its own quiet customs.

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In the meantime, until the apocalypse,  there is a great deal of symmetry and concrete to appreciate.

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We stopped frequently, taking in the splendor of a building’s reflection in the water or the feel of cold, steel  bridge I-beams.  Eventually  we advanced past all the bridges, railings, graffiti, and traffic sounds to the place where Rottenwood Creek deposits itself into the Chattahoochee River.   Even here, the mouth of the creek was buttressed with a concrete hedge.  Yet, the water softened the view and made for a lovely sound as it spilled over into the river.

I looked at my phone while we listened to the water spill into the Hooch! Where had the time gone?  We’d lost an hour here beneath the concrete canopy.   Time to head back.

This place impacted me in a bizarre and wonderful way.  Now I think about that trail and the nature going on there every time we drive over the top.  I can hear the rushing water under the bridges.  The image of my son dwarfed by the massive concrete wall, his colorful clothes contrasting against the grey, stays strong in the back of my mind.

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This trip revealed that there are beautiful, natural places to visit in and around our concrete city.   I’d say “The Bob” is a good destination in and of itself.  But, its also a good stop over place to take a lunch or traffic break and well worth the effort to find.  We’ll be back for sure.

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Cheap Field Trips # 2

Cheap Field Trips # 2

What’s gargantuan, gorgeous and gratuitous?

The Georgia Governor’s Mansion!  That’s right!  The Governor’s Mansion is absolutely free to tour and hosts regular visits throughout the year.  If you live near your state capitol, odds are you have a governor’s mansion to tour.  If not, a local public building or historic home will do. Many places offer free or discounted tours for youth.

In our home state of Georgia, the Governor and his wife throw open their doors and welcome the public to their beautifully decorated home at Christmas.  Living fairly close, we decided to check out the mansion one recent December morning and were pleasantly surprised!

After driving along a fabulous street with enormous and exquisitely landscaped residences, we approached the mansion on the left.  An attractive iron and brick palisade ran along the perimeter of the property.  Just east of the expanse of lawn and trees, we came to a small drive with a gate station attended by GHP officers.  Upon passing a simple inspection of credentials, we parked right on the grounds, close to the home.  It certainly wasn’t your Disney World parking lot with trams and a long wait. Instead, lovely magnolias and large oaks greeted us as we stepped from our truck and ambled past a school bus and a couple dozen vehicles.  The small crowd seemed to be moving toward the front door, and there, after a short wait of about 10 minutes, we saw the Georgia First Lady herself.

My youngest was decked for the occasion.

He looked up at me and asked, “Mom, who is the lady greeting everyone at the door?”

I whispered back, “That’s the Georgia First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Deal.”

“Oh!” he retorted with a goofy, surprised kind of smile.

When it was our time to approach the threshold of the home, my guy looked up and simultaneously, but cautiously shook the hand of the esteemed greeter. As a surprise, the first lady looked down at him and said, “I live in this house. Perhaps one day you will live in this house too.  But you gotta study hard and you can’t be mean, ‘cuz nobody’s going to vote for someone who’s mean.”

That’s a curious thing to say, I thought. But, certainly not untrue.

My boy nodded, smiled and quipped back, “I’m really mean!”

Now, I thought he was going to say something like, “Yes, Ma’m!” However, my children master the art of sarcasm quite early, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I was slightly concerned how she might receive this.

Evidently, she must be familiar with 10 year old boys because in the next second, she started up with a gleeful and endearing sort of laugh that seemed to last a full 20 seconds!

We stepped inside.

Once inside, my son thought a minute and then asked,  “Can we go back and take a picture with Mrs. Deal?”

I guessed that last exchange of dialogue and laughter convinced my boy that the two now shared a sort of bond.

“It couldn’t hurt to ask,” I said, thumbing in my purse for my iPhone.  I love a good photo opportunity and a challenge.

“Would you mind a quick photo?” I asked with slight apprehension, trying to cover my embarrassment.

She grinned. “Why certainly,” was her response.

This is how we began our lovely tour of the mansion!

 

Mrs Deal

 

The Georgia Governor’s Mansion was built in 1967.  It is an impressive, three story Greek Revival home with 30 Doric columns surrounding the porches. Each of the columns is made from California Redwood.  Once inside, we were hosted by volunteers who gave us little tidbits about each of the rooms, furniture and decorations.  In front of one broad fireplace, we ran into two lovely volunteers wearing colonial era clothing.  In the vast dining room, we took in the Federal period furniture and state chinaware.  We soon discovered that each room was decorated according to a different region of the state.  One tree was embellished with popularly grown Georgia products, like cotton, pecans, peaches and peanuts. Another was decked in Coastal Georgia ornaments such as shells and starfish.

After working our way through the first floor, we went down a flight of stairs and into the basement where we were greeted with cookies, punch and a local student choir.  It was a very festive way to spend a December morning.  This is definitely one trip we’d like to repeat!  It was really quite memorable and, best of all, it was free!!!!

Cheap Field Trips # 1

Cheap Field Trips # 1

kiosk

In the spirit of  stop-and-smell-the-roses, we’ve been making an extra effort to take cheap field trips this year.  Cheap could be free, or just cheap!  The best thing…these are fun little outings that get us off our routine and don’t require any preparation or great expenditure of funds.

I will be sharing these experiences in a series called Cheap Field Trips.

Cheap Field Trip # 1:  Visit a local Recreation Area

We happen to live near the Chattahoochee Recreation Area on the “beautiful” Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, GA.  There is a place called Powers Island which is an access point for folks “putting in” their canoes or rafts to float the river. Mr. Powers was a blacksmith and gunsmith here on the edge of civilization in the 1830’s.  He ran a ferry right from this island.

From I-285, I’d seen this parking lot and trail head for decades and never stopped.

“We’re going there today,” I told my youngster, one recent Wednesday in February.

Silence came from the back seat.

“It’s supposed to be in the 60’s today. We are doing something outside,”  I snapped, hoping he would catch the fever.

We pulled into the empty parking lot. The grey lot blended with the barren trees.  A solitary, work truck could be seen in a space by the restrooms, occupied by a man eating a sandwich from a wrapper.  His windows were up. A medium roar could be heard from the interstate a few hundred yards away.

“Hmmm. This does look a bit sketchy,” I thought as we unloaded ourselves from our truck. I grabbed my wallet and shoved it into my camera bag.  Then, I looked westward.  Through the dormant trees, the sparkling, greenish waters of the Hooch drew us thither.

The Chattahoochee

 

For these cheapie trips to be memorable, you’ve got to take a slow pace.  Don’t go on a cheapie trip thinking you’re going to get some exercise.  If you get fresh air, that’s a plus!  These excursions are about slowing way, way down to see and observe.

A rust colored bridge formed the entry point of the trail and drew us toward the island.  There, on the banks of this mighty waterway, we saw our first point of interest.

bridge to Powers Island

 

“What is flotsam and jetsam?” asked my inquisitive boy after I called out the words.

“It’s floating stuff that has come to rest between these downed trees,” I gestured toward the logs forming the clog.

“Flotsam are things which float up…like things that have washed away from the shoreline and into the river.  Jetsam are things which have been flung off boats and float from the river to the shore,” I continued, pulling out my zoom lens.

beauty along the hooch

basketball heaven

“I can sure tell people like to play basketball and tennis in this town,” he deducted.

“What about football?  See that black one over there?” I pointed.  He tip toed lightly across the colorful trash and grabbed it. The treasure secured, he squeezed it, heard the leaky hole and then threw it back into the pile.

This multi hued wedge of trash kept us busy for a good fifteen minutes.  There were a bazillion water bottles, every sort of ball, numerous plastic toys, various sized cups, some milk jugs, and a few unidentifiable things.  A pungent, earthy smell hovered over the place.

plastics

Not far from the trash heap was a rock island that needed exploring.  I took a picture and then my guy said, “Mom, you come out here.”  I hesitated a minute and then this middle aged mamma hopped the swift current to make it safely to the rock, camera equipment and all.

on the rock

Sycamore balls

Then, we saw the trees.  They were mammoth!  Who would think there would be giant trees on an island like this?

“Must’ve been here when Mr. Powers was working the ferry,” I concluded.  We looked up and saw their tips touching the deep blue winter sky.

One had a crevice two feet taller than my child.  A quick flash of the cell phone light illuminated a couple of creepy, glowing eyes.

 

the granddaddy

bat eyes

As we walked the trail, each successive tree seemed to be larger and larger.  Finally, we reached the granddaddy of all the trees!  Easily it was five human wing spans across.  Against the blue sky and with sun shining brightly behind, the size and shape of this gargantuan took my breath away.

“What a great way to spend 60 minutes,” I said as we merged back onto the interstate.

“It was pretty good,” was the recap from the back seat.

This trip cost $3, which was paid at the kiosk by the trail head.   It was a great day.

the granddaddy